Ebionism, Ebionites (Gospel of the)
See also Ebionism
EBIONISM, EBIONITES (GOSPEL OF THE) ē’ bĭ ə nĭsm, ē’ bĭ ə nīts (אֶבְיﯴנִ֑ים, ̓Εβιωναῖοι or ̓Εβιωναῖται, from the term אֶבְיﯴן, H36, meaning poor, i.e., poor men). A term and an apocryphal gospel used to describe certain Judaeo-Christian groups in the early centuries of Christianity. Although some early sources (i.e. Tertullian) suggested that these sects took their name from an individual with the supposed name of Ebion, it is more likely that the term and title was at first one of reproach indicating their stress upon poverty and asceticism partially as a literal interpretation of
1. Ebionite sects. The origin of these sects is shrouded in mystery; however, from the lit. of the Early Church and esp. Acts, it is clearly observable that certain Judaizing tendencies manifested themselves from the very first in the Jerusalem church. (Cf.
The exact relationship of the Ebionites to the Dead Sea Community and/or the Essenes as well as the older sect known as the Rechabites is still a matter of conjecture, although more recent scholarship has tended to see basic similarities if not some type of direct relationship.
2. Ebionite Gospel. Only Epiphanius (d. a.d. 403) refers to a Gospel of the Ebionites. Sometimes this gospel is identified with or confused with either the Gospel to the Hebrews or the Gospel of the Nazarenes. The meager traces of this gospel in the extant quotations of Epiphanius are peculiar in their stress upon vegetarianism in the NT accounts of John the Baptist and Jesus.
Bibliography W. Beveridge, “Ebionism,” HERE, V (1928), 139-145; old but still very useful; L. Wallach, “The Textual History of an Aramaic Proverb,” JBL, LX (1941), 403-415; H. Hirschberg, “Simon Bariona and the Ebionites,” JBL, LXI (1942), 171-191; H. J. Schoeps, Jewish Christianity (1969). Original sources: Justin, Dial. c. Tryph., 47; Irenaeus, Against Heresies, I. xxvi, 2; III. xxi, 1; V. i, 3; Tertullian, De Praescr., 33; Hippolytus, Haer., vii. 34; ix. 13-17; Epiphanius, Haer., xxx. For a good tr. of Epiphanius’ quotations see M. R. James, The Apocryphal New Testament (1924), 8-10.