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Bible Dictionaries

Charles Buck Theological Dictionary

Ebionites

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Ancient heretics, who rose in the church in the very first age thereof, and formed themselves into a sect in the second century, denying the divinity of Jesus Christ. Origen takes them to have been so called from the Hebrew word ebion, which in that language signifies poor; because, says he, they were poor in sense, and wanting understanding. Eusebius, with a view to the same etymology, is of opinion they were thus called, as having poor thoughts of Jesus Christ, taking him for no more than a mere man. It is more probable the Jews gave this appellation to the Christians in general out of contempt; because, in the first times, there were few but poor people that embraced the Christian religion. The Ebionites were little else than a branch of the Nazarenes; only that they altered and corrupted, in many things, the purity of the faith held among the first adherents to Christianity. for this reason, Origen distinguishes two kinds of Ebionites in his answer to Celsus; the one believed that Jesus Christ was born of a virgin; and the other, that he was born after the manner of other men. The first were orthodox in every thing, except that to the Christian doctrine they joined the ceremonies of the Jewish law, with the Jews, Samaritans, and Nazarenes; together with the traditions of the Pharisees.

They differed from the Nazarenes, however, in several things, chiefly as to what regards the authority of the sacred writings; for the Nazarenes received all for Scripture contained in the Jewish canon; whereas the Ebionites rejected all the prophets, and held the very names of David, Solomon, Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, in abhorrence. They also rejected all St. Paul's epistles, whom they treated with the utmost disrespect. They received nothing of the Old Testament but the Pentateuch. they agreed with the Nazarenes, in using the Hebrew Gospel of St. Matthew, otherwise called the Gospel of the twelve apostles; but they corrupted their copy in abundance of places; and particularly had left out the genealogy of our Saviour, which was preserved entire in that of the Nazarenes, and even in those used by the Cerinthians. Besides the Hebrew Gospel of St. Matthew, the Ebionites had adopted several other books under the titles of St. James, John, and the other apostles; they also made use of the travels of St. Peter, which are supposed to have been written by St. Clement; but had altered them so, that there was scarce any thing of truth left in them. they even made that saint tell a number of falsehoods, the better to authorize their own practices.

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Bibliography Information
Buck, Charles. Entry for 'Ebionites'. Charles Buck Theological Dictionary. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/cbd/e/ebionites.html. 1802.

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