Did Jesus Live 100 B.C.?

By G. R. S. Mead

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IT is very certain that the name "Christiani" was not a title given by the early followers of Jesus to themselves. Indeed, we find it still unused by a series of Christian writers of the first half of the second century at a time when it was employed, though perhaps not invariably in its subsequently restricted sense, by Pliny the Younger in 112 A.D., by Tacitus 116-117 A.D., and by Suetonius in 120 A.D. These Christian writers were content to designate the early communities of their co-believers by such expressions as: "brethren," "saints," "elect," "called," "they that believed," "faithful," "disciples," "they that are in Christ," "they that are in the Lord," and "of the way."[l] 

Even in the New Covenant writings which subsequently became canonical, we meet with the designation only three times, and always in a connection which suggests that it was a name given from without, and not as yet adopted from within. The redactor of the Acts (xi. 29) believed—c. 130-150 A.D.—that "the disciples" were first called "Christiani" at Antioch, at

[1] See Schmiedel's article "Christian, Name of," in the "Encyclopaedia Biblica." 


the time of the ministry of Paul and Barnabas in that city, that is, as he supposed, at the time of the founding of the first Gentile church there.

In the same document (xxvi. 28) we also meet with the curious remark attributed to Herod Agrippa, which is translated in the A.V. as: "Almost thou persuadest me to be a Christian," but the imperfect original of which is untranslatable [1]; where it is to be remarked that although Agrippa was not a pure Jew, it is hardly to be supposed he would have used such a term. 

While in the earlier pseudepigraph I. Peter (iv. 16) we read: "But if [any man suffer] as a Christianus, let him not be ashamed, but let him give glory to God in this name," it is not clear what precise meaning should be given to the words "in this name"; but certainly the gloss of the A.V. "in this behalf" is not satisfactory. The followers of Jesus had apparently hitherto been "ashamed" of being called "Christiani"; for the meaning can hardly be that the condemned should give thanks because he suffers as a Christian in the later honourable sense of the term, but rather suggests some such idea as: We are accused of being "Messianists," and therefore revolutionaries against the Roman authority, but in reality it is we who are the true observers of the moral law; our revolution is in morals and not in politics, and therefore let us give thanks to God as His "Anointed" or the "followers of His Anointed," who are unjustly accused.

In any case it is evident that the title "those of the Messiah" was not given to the followers of Jesus by 

[1] See Westcott and Hort's Introduction (Cambridge and London; 1881), p. 100. 


the Jews, for this would have been to admit what they so strenuously denied concerning the founder of the new faith. It is, therefore, highly probable that the name Christiani was first used by the Pagans to signify Messianists of all kinds, and was only finally adopted by the followers of Jesus in their public dealings with the Pagans, presumably first in apologetic literature, where we find it of frequent occurrence from about the second quarter of the second century.

As for the time when the Pagan term "Christiani" arose, it is to be presumed that it came into use with the ever more and more desperate attempts of the Jews to shake off the Roman yoke, that is to say, subsequently to the downfall of Jerusalem, which is generally dated 70 A.D., but which some Jewish authorities give as 68 A.D. Schmiedel is of opinion that the date of origin of its use cannot with any assurance be placed earlier than 79 A.D., that is presumably the first year of Titus.

An answer to this most obscure question can only be found from a critical examination of the history of "Christian" persecutions; but even so, we are still left without any certainty. After a searching examination of the confused data, and a brilliant criticism of the conservative position of Mommsen, Sybel, Neumann and Ramsay, Schmiedel can arrive at no positive conclusion, and finally writes: "On the question as to the date at which Christianity first began to be recognized as a distinct religion, we must confess ourselves completely at a loss. Only this much is certain, that it had come about before the time of Pliny's governorship."

But if the Jews did not know the followers of Jesus 


as Christiani, by what name did they know them?  To the Jews the Christians, when not classed under the general term Minim or heretics, were and are Notzrim.  The writer of the Acts is aware of this when he makes a Jew accuse Paul of being "a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes" (A.V.)—that is, of the "haeresis of the Nazoraei"; and that this was the general designation of the Christians by the Jews is testified to by Tertullian[1] at the end of the second century, and by Jerome at the end of the fourth.[2]  While Justin (c. 145-150 A.D.) tells us that the Jews in their synagogues publicly cursed the "Christians," Epiphanius (c. 375 A.D.) says that this curse was directed against the "Nazoraei."   Jerome, on the contrary, will have it that the curse was pronounced against the Minaei[3]; whereas, as we have frequently remarked before, Minim is not to be taken as identical with Notzrim. Minim is a general term for heretics, not only in a bad but even in a good sense, and Notzrim would therefore come under the term but not be identical with it. 

It is therefore of interest to try to discover, if it be possible, the meaning of this term Notzrim, and to find out why it was that Jesus is generally distinguished among the Jews from others of the same name as Jeschu ha-Notzri. 

[1] "Adv. Marc.," 48. 

[2] Hier., in Jes. ch. v. 18 f.; xlix. 7; lii. 5

[3] Hieron., "Epist. ad August.": "There is to-day among the Jews throughout all the synagogues of the East a heresy which is called [the heresy] of the Minaei, and is even until this day cursed by the Pharisees; these Minaeans are commonly called Nazoraeans, and they believe in Christ, the Son of God. . . . But while they will be both Jews and Christians, they are neither Jews nor Christians."


The accepted Christian tradition, it need hardly be said, is that Jesus Nazoraeus means simply Jesus of Nazareth, his place of origin. It is, however, well known to all scholars that very great difficulties are presented by the contradictory statements of the canonical accounts, and that so far no generally accepted ground of reconciliation between the rival claims of the traditional Nazareth and the prophetically necessitated Bethlehem has been found. 

There is, however, one hypothesis whereby much of the pressure may be relieved, and which is therefore deserving of our closest attention. In the first place it is to be noticed that even in the canonical account there is still preserved the very interesting trace that Nazareth was regarded by some as the "native country" (patriV), not town, of Jesus; and in the second it has lately been argued, not only that Nazareth (or, perhaps, more correctly Nazara) was not a town or village, but a district or country, but, further, most probably this district was Galilee. [1] 

It is therefore suggested that perhaps in the earliest form of the evangelical tradition the term Bethlehem-Nazareth—that is, Bethlehem of (or in) Galilee—was found, and that this being misunderstood, especially by Gentile converts, in course of time some said that Jesus was born at Bethlehem, others at Nazareth. We thus find in the more developed forms of the tradition some incidents woven round Bethlehem, others round Nazareth, and scriptural authority was sought to authenticate either view.

[1] See Cheyne's article, "Nazareth," in the "Enc. Bib., "which elaborates the theory first mooted by the great Jewish authority Grätz. 


May it not, however, be that the whole idea of Bethlehem owed its origin to the "proof from scripture"?  Bethlehem was necessitated by "prophecy";[1] it must have been the place of birth, for in those days, if history did not fit with prophecy it had to go to the wall.  Although, then, the prophecy-fulfilling writer of the first gospel could not have dreamed of giving up the prophetical Bethlehem, nevertheless he inconsistently supports the presumably simple historical Nazareth tradition by further prophecy when saying (ii. 23): "He came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, he shall be called a Nazarene (Nazoraeus)."  This passage, as is well known, has given rise to endless discussion, for no such prophecy is to be found in the Old Testament.  Some earlier commentators, it is true, were of opinion that it refers to the prophetical "shoot" (netzer) which should arise out of Jesse (Isaiah xi. 1); and that this was the explanation put forward by Jewish Christians of the early centuries may be seen from the Talmud passage concerning the five disciples. It must, however, be confessed that a so far-fetched derivation of the name appears little short of fantastic to the modern mind, and quite beneath the dignity of Scripture.[2] 

The whole of this apparently hopeless tangle, how- 

[1] "Micah," v. 2: "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee there shall come forth unto me that is to he ruler in Israel." 

[2] Krauss (pp. 253-255) suggests the derivation of Nazareth from a word meaning "splinter" or "chip," and in this, apparently, would find a reason for the use of the term Jeschu ha-Notzri among the Jews, it being a play on the word "carpenter."  See also Cheyne's art. "Joseph "(§9) in "Enc. Bib." 


ever, begins to unravel itself if we can be persuaded that the simple historical fact was that Jesus was a Galilean; whether so-called because he was actually born in Galilee, or because the chief scene of his public ministry was among that very mixed population, and many of his earliest followers were Galileans,[1] here matters little.  We know further from several sources that the Christians were originally called Galileans,[2] and it is said that Julian the Emperor (360-363 A.D.) desired to have them so called again, and in his own writings he invariably refers to them under this designation. 

Does, then, the general term Notzrim used by the Jews for the Christians mean simply Galileans, and did Jeschu ha-Notzri originally signify simply Jesus of Galilee?

In any case we see that, according to the writer of the Acts, the Christians of Paul's time were called Nazoraei (Notzrim) by the Jews, and we have also the emphatic declaration of Epiphanius that the earliest followers of Jesus were so designated.  In his encyclopaedic "Panarium," in which he most vigorously attacks all heresies, that is, every form of religious belief, or even philosophy, but what he held to be the true teaching of Christianity, the Bishop of Constantia (the ancient Salamis) in Cyprus heads the concluding para- 

[1] See Acts i. 11 and ii. 7. Justin Martyr ("Dial. c. Tryph.," lxxx.), moreover, knows of a pre-Christian sect called Galileans, which, however, most scholars identify with the followers of the Zealot Judas the Galilean, who led a revolt in 6 or 7 A.D. 

[2] For instance, Epictetus, who died about 117 A.D., calls the Christians Galileans ("Dissertatt.," iv. 7); Mani, in the third century, calls the general Christians Galileans (Fabricius, "Bib. Graec.," v. 285); Suidas (s.v. "Christiani") says that the Christians were first called Nazarenes or Galileans.


graph of his first volume, "Concerning the Nazoraeans or Christians" ("Haer.," xx. 4). 

It is somewhat difficult to make out the precise sense of this paragraph; for Epiphanius first of all again identifies the Nazoraeans and Christians, and then goes on to speak of "that which was for a short time called Christianism by the Jews, and by the Apostles themselves, when Peter says 'Jesus Nazoraeus,' etc." (quoting from Acts ii. 22), where we should expect to read, instead of "Christianism," "Nazoraeanism," for he continues: "but was first called Christianism at Antioch."  This was the true religion, but under an improper name, for "there is properly a heresy of the Nazoraei," about which he promises to tell us in its right place in the sequel.

When, however, he comes to deal with these heretical Nazoraeans ("Haer.," xxix. 1), he confesses that he does not really know exactly where to place them, whether before, or contemporary with, or later than some early schools of the end of the first century which he has just been attacking; he says they were all of about the same date and held the same views.  They do not call themselves after the name Christus or Jesus, but simply Nazoraei, and, he adds, "all Christians were at that time in like fashion called Nazoraei."  For a short time, however, the Christians also called themselves Jessaeans (Iessaei).  Whence this name was derived, whether from Jesse, the father of David, or from the name Jesus, which, Epiphanius says, signifies in Hebrew the same as the Greek "Therapeutes," or "healer" or "saviour," he is not sure, but he is very certain they were so called ("Haer.," xxix. 4). 


Whether or not in this, as in much else of his vast heresiological undertaking, the Bishop of Constantia is giving us the speculations of his own "pure phantasy," based on vague hearsay, as Lipsius supposes,[1] or that more credit is to be given to his confusing indications, as Hilgenfeld seems to admit,[2] has not yet been definitely decided by modern scholarship.  We are, therefore, at liberty to enquire for ourselves, not with any hope of deciding the question, for any attempt to do so would require a huge volume even for preliminaries, but with the sole purpose of directing the reader's attention to some points of special interest in the confused Refutation of the over-zealous Church Father. 

Epiphanius is a curious writer, who deserves more attention than has so far been bestowed upon him, and it is somewhat a reproach to scholarship that as yet he has never been translated into any modern tongue. He attacks indiscriminately, and often misrepresents, every school of thought and belief of which he has read or heard; yet here and there, in spite of himself, he lets drop a valuable scrap of information which none of his predecessors in heresy-hunting have handed on to us. We should remember that this "antidote" to the "poison of the hydra-headed serpents of error," as he is never tired of calling the objects of his onslaught, was composed from 374 to 376 or 377 A.D., that is to say, just half a century after the initial triumph of Nicene Christianity, and as far as Epiphanius was concerned, he was 

[1] Lipsius (R. A.), "Zur Quellenkritik des Epiphanios "(Wien; 1865), pp. 122-151.

[2] Hilgenfeld (A.), "Die Ketzergeschichte des Urchristenthums" (Leipzig; 1884), index, s. vocc. Jessaei, Osseni, Nazoraei, etc. 


determined that no mercy should be shown to any dissenter, even though his dissent may have been absolutely unconscious, seeing that most of Epiphanius' "dissenters" had lived and thought at a date when Nicene Christianity was either inchoate, or even nonexistent. The rush of Epiphanius is so furious that we find him not unfrequently over-reaching himself; he sometimes even blindly blunders into his own friends and disarrays their ranks. The "mistakes" of Epiphanius are accordingly nearly always of deep psychological interest directly, and indirectly are sometimes of great historical value. 

Thus there is much to interest us in what is generally considered to be his Issaean blunder. Epiphanius identifies his Issaeans with the Essenes, and of this there can be no doubt, for he tells the "studious reader" ("Haer.," xxix. 5), that if he would know more about them, he will find it in the memoirs of Philo, and especially in the book which that famous Alexandrian had entitled "Concerning the Issaei"; after which Epiphanius proceeds to give the main outlines of this treatise in such a way as to leave no doubt that he is quoting from Philo's famous tractate, "On the Contemplative Life."  In this treatise it is true that Philo calls the very interesting community which had its monasteria on the southern shore of Lake Mareotis, south of Alexandria, as well as all their allied communities in Egypt and elsewhere, Therapeuts; but in his opening words he distinctly informs us that he had already, presumably in another tractate now lost,[1] treated of

[1] For what he tells us of them in his tract, "Quod Omnia Probus Liber," one of his earlier works, most probably written before 

[footnote continued on . 333]

20 A.D., can be regarded only as a summary from some lost treatise.


the "Essaei who followed the practical life," the communities in Palestine and Arabia, who in Philo's opinion did not soar to such a lofty height of philosophic and mystic endeavour as the members of the community near Alexandria with which he was specially acquainted, and which he characterized as "those of the Essaei who devote themselves to the life of contemplation." [1] 

It is, therefore, held that Epiphanius has simply read Essaei as Issaei, and that this explains the whole difficulty. Now it is well known that the name Essene is one of the greatest puzzles of scholarship; upwards of twenty derivations have been given by ancient and modern writers, and the riddle still remains unsolved.  The greatest difficulty is that we cannot find any general term, or even special term, in use in Hebrew or Aramaic for those whom such Hellenized Jews as Philo and Josephus call Essenes.  Philo calls them "Essaei," Pliny the Elder (d. 79 A.D.) speaks of them as "Hessenes," while Josephus (75-100 A.D.) gives the name as "Esseni." [2]   Philo, in "Q. O. P. L.," thinks that the name Essaioi is simply a (? Jewish) corruption of the Greek 'Osioi, the saints, while in "D. V. C." he makes it equivalent to Therapeuts, that is, Healers, or Servants (of God). 

[1] See my "Fragments of a Faith Forgotten "(London; 1900), pp. 66-86, where a translation is given from the critical text published by Conybeare in 1895.

[2] For the most objective article on the general subject, see Conybeare's article in Hastings' "Dictionary of the Bible" (Edinburgh; 1898).


Epiphanius as we have already seen, follows Philo and adopts the latter derivation, but why he has changed Essaei into Issaei is the puzzle. The Bishop of Salamis knew some Hebrew; was it, then, because he thought that Issaei was the preferable transliteration of the Hebrew original, if, indeed, there was a Hebrew original?  Or was it that, having claimed these Essaeans as the first Christians, as he emphatically does (Haer., xxix. 5), he found himself in great difficulty to account for the name, as it evidently, on the face of it, had nothing to do with Jesus, or Christus, or Nazareth, seeing that he knew its variant was Esseni which he plainly gives elsewhere ("Haer.," viii. 9)?  Or can it be that a light had seemed to have come to him to illuminate the dim and puzzling records of the past and that it had suddenly occurred to the worthy Bishop: Of course!  Essaei is a mistake of Philo’s for Jessaei, the followers of Jesus!  Or was it finally that Epiphanius knew of an ancient tradition which declared that the Christians originally derived from the Essenes, that Jesus himself had been an Essene, and that the Church Father wished to safeguard the doctrinal tradition now stereotyped by the ecumenical decisions at Nicaea by working into his treatise an argument against this "heretical" tradition, should it ever have the hardihood to raise its head again.  This supposition may seem to some to cast a slur on the bona fides of our stalwart defender of orthodoxy; but Epiphanius is in all things a theologian and not a historian, and the canons of evidence for these two very different classes of mind are generally poles asunder. Moreover we shall have to show that in several other instances Epiphanius has


for similar reasons dextrously woven into his expositions material of a very different pattern from that of the Catholic tradition, and even with regard to the name Issaei it may be that it hides an ancient trace of deep interest, as we shall see later on in another connection.

Apart from this, however, it is by no means improbable that the name Issaei was not original with Epiphanius, for Abbot Nilus, the renowned ascetic of Sinai, who had previously enjoyed a high reputation at Constantinople, and retired to one of the famous monasteries of the mysterious region of Sinai and Serbal in 390, and died in 430, speaks of the Issaei and says that they were the Jewish philosophers and ascetics who were originally followers of the Rechabite Jonadab.[1] 

Did, then, Nilus get this form of the name from Epiphanius, or did Epiphanius obtain it from the same source as Nilus?  It is not improbable that among such monastic communities as those on Sinai and Serbal, and others with which Epiphanius had come into contact during his travels in Egypt, such a name-theory had been canvassed, may even have been a tradition necessitated in the first place by the same difficulties which Epiphanius had to face. 

It must also be remembered that the Bishop of Constantia was not the first to claim the Essene-Therapeuts of Philo as the earliest Christians. Already, some fifty years previously, we find Eusebius in his "Church History" boldly declaring that these Therapeuts south of Alexandria were the first Christian Church in Egypt,

[1] "Tractatus de Monastica Exercitatione," c. iii.; "S. P. N. Nili Abbatis Opera quae supersunt," in Migne's "Patrologiae Cursus Completus, Patrol. graec.," tom lxxix. (Paris; 1860), vol. i. col. 722.


which Photius asserts later was founded by Mark  We have no space to trace the history of the fierce battle between Catholic and Protestant which has raged round this famous tract of Philo's because of this claim made by the Father of Church History, and the Philologus, or studious reader, as Epiphanius calls him, must be referred to Conybeare's magnificent and exhaustive work on the subject[1]; I can only repeat what I have already written in my "Fragments" (pp. 64, 65), after reviewing the whole matter.

It is convincingly established against the "Pseudo-Philo" speculation of Grätz, Nicolas and Lucius, that the "De Vita Contemplativa" is a genuine Philonean tract.   As to its date, we are confronted with some difficulties; but the expert opinion of Conybeare assures us that "every reperusal of the works of Philo confirms my feeling that the 'D. V. C.' is one of his earliest works" (op. cit, p. 276).  Now as Philo was born about the year 34 B.C., the date of the treatise may be roughly ascribed to the first quarter of the first century; Conybeare puts it conservatively "about the year 22 or 23" (op. cit., p. 290).

The question, then, naturally arises: At such a date can the Therapeuts of Philo be identified with the earliest Christian Church at Alexandria?  If the accepted dates of the origins are correct, the answer must be emphatically, No.  If, on the contrary, the accepted dates are incorrect, and Philo's Therapeuts were "Christians," then we shall be compelled to change the values of many things.

[1] Conybeare (F. C.), "Philo about the Contemplative Life or the Fourth Book of the Treatise concerning the Virtues," critically edited, wit a Defence of its Genuineness (Oxford; 1895). 


But apart from the question of date, the contents of the "D. V. C." are of immense importance and interest as affording us a glimpse into those mysterious communities in which Christians for so many centuries recognized not only their forerunners, but themselves. The Therapeuts, however, were clearly not Christians in any sense in which the term has been used by dogmatic Christianity; Philo knows absolutely nothing of Christianity in any sense in which the word is used to-day.  Who, then, were those Christian non-Christian Essene Therapeuts? The answer to this question demands, in our opinion, an entire reformulation of the accepted history of the origins.

The dilemma is one that cannot be avoided. It is chief of all problems which confront the student of Christian origins.  The Therapeuts have been recognized throughout the centuries as identical with the earliest Christian Church of Egypt.  They were known to Philo at the very latest as early as 25 A.D., and they must have existed long before.  If the canonical dates are correct, they could not have been Christians, in the sense of being followers of Jesus; and yet they were so like the Christians, that the Church Fathers regarded them as the model of a Christian Church.  We are, therefore, confronted with this dilemma; either Christianity existed before Christ, or the canonical dates are wrong.  From this dilemma there seems to me to be no escape.  

Having, then, claimed the Essaeans of Philo as early Christians, and having, as most assume, though perhaps erroneously, changed their name to Jessaeans apparently to clinch the matter, Epiphanius finds himself 


involved in a very great difficulty. What Philo tells us of the contemplative Essaeans or Therapeuts is so similar to what the Christians conceived their earliest communities to have been, that the identification of the one with the other amounted for them to a certainty.  On the other hand, Epiphanius knows from Philo and other sources that there were many things in which the Essaei differed from not only the Nicene Christianity of his day, but from any type of Christianity in canonical tradition.  Moreover, the Essaeans were still in existence, and had their own traditions, as we shall see later on, and Epiphanius knows something of the various "heresies" which still represented some of their teachings.  The difficulty, therefore, which faced him was that these Essaeans were not Christians in any Nicene sense.

Knowing, then, that Josephus, as we have seen, gives (perhaps erroneously) Esseni as a variant of Essaei, Epiphanius hit upon the idea that the Esseni were different from the Essaei, and as he had converted Essaei into the orthodox Issaei, so he changed Esseni into Osseni, and kept this form for all characteristics of the Essenes which he held to be pre-Christian or heretical.  Even so Epiphanius cannot straighten out the matter, for in his Introduction ("Haer.," viii. 9) he tells us that the "Esseni" were the first heresy of the Samaritans, this being the only passage in which he uses the Josephean form of the name; he, however, says nothing further of these Esseni. It must, moreover, be confessed that our Cyprian Bishop is great on this device of name-change, for he has used it in other matters.

It therefore becomes of great interest to learn what


Epiphanius has to tell us of his Osseni.  In his "Contra Ossenos" ("Haer.," xix. 1-5), he informs us that this heresy was interwoven with the heresies of the Nazaraei (not Nazöraei)—of whom more anon—of the Daily Baptists [1] and of the Pharisees, thus classifying them among pre-Christian sects.  The Osseni, he tells us, were, like these other schools,[2] Jews; but, according to the tradition which had come to him, they did not originate in Judaea itself, but came from the regions to the east, south-east and south of the Dead Sea, mostly from Moab and Nabathaea; they were largely of Arabian origin. Are we, then, possibly to seek for the origin of the name Essene in old Arabic?

These Osseni, moreover, Epiphanius tells us, among other things used especially a certain scripture called the Book or Apocalypse of Elxai, which he elsewhere ("Haer.," liii. et al.) asserts to have been held in high esteem by the Ebionaeans and Nazoraeans, and especially by the Sampsaeans, who, he says, are neither Christians, nor Jews, nor Greeks, but as they are midway between all of these, they are nothing. Here Epiphanius makes his Osseni heretical Christians or even still non-Christians.  It, therefore, becomes of importance to learn what were the leading ideas of this Elxai scripture, but to this interesting subject we must devote a separate chapter.

We will next pass to what Epiphanius has to tell us of the Nazoraei ("Haer," xxix. 1-9). After declaring that

[1] Called Masbotheans by Hegesippus (Mazbutha = Baptism). See Bousset, "Die Religion des Judentums," p. 437 n.

[2] The Pharisees, however, were not a school or a sect, but rather the national religious party among the Jews.


in the early days the Christians were all called Nazoraeans, although for a short time they also bore the name Jessaeans, Epiphanius enters into a very curious and deeply interesting digression on the Davidic descent of Jesus, which we shall treat in detail later on, and he then proceeds to tell us that Paul himself was accused of being a Nazoraean and acknowledged the title, confessing, moreover, that in the eyes of the Jews he was a heretic (Min); in all of which Epiphanius is, of course, only repeating the words of the writer of the Acts (xxiv. 5, 12-14).

According to Epiphanius, the Nazoraeans were practically Jewish Christians, that is to say, Christians who still observed the Jewish Law; he is, however, not certain what their views were as to Jesus, whether they took the miraculous view of his birth and worshipped him as God, or regarded him as a simple man who became a prophet.  It was against these Nazoraeans, that is to say, the Christians who remained on the ground of Judaism, he tells us, that the Jews in their synagogues used to pronounce the curse to which reference has already been made, and which his contemporary Jerome assures us was directed against the Minaei (Minim).

These Nazoraeans, even in Epiphanius' time, were numerous, and were scattered throughout Coele-Syria, Decapolis, Pella, the region beyond Jordan, and extended even as far east as Mesopotamia.  And in this connection, he declares that the sect of the Nazoraeans took its rise in and about Pella in Peraea after the fall of Jerusalem, for he will have it that the disciples, in reliance on a prophecy of Jesus, had fled thither to avoid the siege; this is, of course, the Eusebian account as well, 


but neither of these Fathers seem to have considered that it says little for the courage or patriotism of the disciples that they fled, nor does Epiphanius explain why, if the "heresy" of the Nazoraeans began only subsequently to 70 A.D., Paul was called a Nazoraean a generation earlier.

But indeed our heresiologist is ever involving himself in serious contradictions concerning these Nazoraei, for while on the one hand he makes them out to differ from the Catholic Christians only in their continued adherence to the Jewish Law, he elsewhere says that they in many things hold the same views as the Cerinthians, Ebionites, Sampsaeans and Elkesaeans, all of whom he most bitterly attacks because they did not acknowledge Jesus as God, but said that he was either simply a good man, or a man filled with the Holy Spirit of God, or that the Christ was the Great Power, or Great King; in brief they taught the natural birth of Jesus and the doctrine of the mystic Christ, and not the later historicized dogma finally made absolute by the Council of Nicaea.

The historical fact underlying all this contradiction seems to be simply that "Nazoraei'" was a general name for many schools possessing many views differing from that view which subsequently became orthodox. Most of them still remained more or less on the ground of Judaism, but what is of the greatest importance is that they were the direct followers of those earliest Nazoraei of which, according to the tradition of the Acts, Paul was accused of being a leader.

That the tradition (or rather traditions, for they were many and various) of the Nazoraei differed very widely


from any form of Christianity known to canonical tradition, may be seen even in our own day from the complex scripture of their still existent descendants in the marches of Southern Babylonia, the so-called Mandaïtes, from whose Codex Nasaraeus we have already quoted a few pregnant sentences; but the Genza, is a vast storehouse of mixed traditions of all kinds, to which, unfortunately, we have no space to refer in our present undertaking.

Epiphanius, as we have seen, is greatly put to it to extricate himself from the many difficulties which have puzzled many far wiser heads than his own. He feels compelled, on evidence which was doubtless far fuller in his day than it is in ours, to hold to the Nazoraeans as the first Christians, and will have it that they used both the Old and New Testament (xxix. 7), though how the earliest Christians could have used the New Testament, when it was not yet in existence, he does not explain; they differed from the Catholic Christians only in so far that they observed the Jewish Law, the Sabbath and circumcision, the rite of the Covenant; but if so, it is strange that Epiphanius could be so careless as to say they used the New Testament, when so much of it is occupied with the Letters of Paul, who so strenuously withstood circumcision and the "letter (or Law) which killeth."

These Nazoraei, Epiphanius tells us, were exceedingly learned in Hebrew, and all their writings apparently were in Hebrew (or Aramaic). But when he leaves the vague ground of the "New Testament" and comes to documents, he can only name one Gospel which he claims to have been the Hebrew original of the Gospel


according to Matthew, a book which was known to his contemporary Jerome, and a copy of which was in the Library founded by Pamphilus at Caesarea.

It is impossible here to enter into the history of the puzzling controversy concerning this "Gospel of the Nazoraeans," or to determine whether the Hebrew (or Aramaic) Gospel according to Matthew, which is referred to by Epiphanius and Jerome, and which the latter translated into Greek and Latin, but kept back because its striking divergences from canonical Matthew were not profitable to disclose, was different from the "Gospel according to the Hebrews," of which a Greek translation is known to have existed in the early years of the second century.  Hilgenfeld holds that the Nazoraean Gospel (according to the Hebrews) was different from the Hebrew Gospel according to Matthew[1]; while Lipsius, on the contrary, maintains that the two titles refer to one and the same document.[2]

The criticism of the question introduces us to a complicated problem of recensions, translations and retranslations, but in any case we are face to face with such readings as "Joseph begat Jesus," and the positive command, "Call me not 'Good,'" both of which infer a gospel-form which rejected the physical virgin-birth and the equation of Jesus with God.  It is not, however, to be supposed that the literature of the Nazoraei, even on the ground of the New Covenant, was

[1] Hilgenfeld (A.), "Evangeliorum secundum Hebraeos et cet. quae supersunt; Librorum Deperditorum Fragmenta" (Leipzig; 1884, 2nd ed.), pp. 15 ff., 33 ff.

[2] See his article, "Gospels, Apocryphal" (The Gospel of the Hebrews) in Smith and Wace's "Dictionary of Christian Biography" (London; 1880). 


confined to this Gospel and the "Book of Elxai"; on the contrary there must have been many books used by them, gospels and apocalypses of all kinds, both ancient and more recent.

Moreover, in following up the Nazoraei, Epiphanius gets involved in yet another chronological difficulty, which he attempts to solve in the same fashion as that in which he dealt with the Essene problem, namely, by a distinction in names.  The Nazoraei about whom he has been telling us, are not, he says, to be confused with the Naziraei, a term meaning the "Sanctified" or "Consecrated" ("Haer.," xxix. 5); of whom Samson was one, and many after him, and among them John the Baptist.

There was, he says, a sect of the Nasaraei before Christ ("Haer.," xxix. 6); these he has already described ("Haer.," xviii. 1-3), calling them, however, Nazaraei.  He treats of these in connection with the Daily Baptists, who, like the Essenes and allied communities, baptized or washed themselves in water every day; they were Jews, and lived in the same districts as the Essenes.  They observed the law of circumcision, the Sabbath and the appointed feasts, and especially reverenced the ancient patriarchs and sages of Israel, including Moses; they however, rejected the canonical Pentateuch, and said that the real Law was different from the one in public circulation.  They apparently also rejected all the prophets after Moses.  Moreover, they refused to have anything to do with the blood sacrifices of the Temple and abstained from eating flesh.  They contended that the books which laid down the rules of these sacrifices were inventions of later times, and that their true


ancestors from Adam to Moses did not perform such bloody rites; all the accounts of such sacrifice in the popular scripture were later inventions of scribes who were ignorant of the true doctrine.  These Nazars, then, were an extreme school of those dissentient mystics whose sayings had from about 150 B.C. crept into the books which subsequently became canonical, such sayings as: "The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit"; "Sacrifices and offering Thou didst not desire."

This spiritual protest against the grossness of blood-offerings was also a characteristic of the Essenes; and there can be little doubt but that there must have been a very close connection between the ideals of these pre-Christian schools of mystic and humanitarian Judaism and the earliest Christians.

The bringing of the names Nazorai and Nazaraei (and its variants) into such close connection, however, is puzzling.  The Old Testament Nazirs were those "consecrated" to Yahweh by a vow, and their origin goes back to very early times in Jewish tradition.  Now it is to be remarked that in Numbers vi. the word nezer is applied to the taking of the Nazirite vow of separation or consecration.[1]  Knowing as we do how fond the Hebrews, and, for a matter of that, all the ancients, were of word-play, for philology proper was as yet undreamed of, and finding as we do that the name netzer (" branch ") is given to one of the disciples of Jesus in the Talmud,[2] and in one of the Toldoth

[1] See Cheyne's (Robertson Smith's) article "Nazarite" in the "Enc. Bib."

[2] "Bab. Sanhedrin," 43a. 


recensions to Jeschu himself, and that commentators are agreed that this is a play on notzri, the Hebrew for "Nazarene" (or Galilean, if our previous argument holds good); knowing further that some of the earliest followers of Jesus were Galileans, and that the Jews despised all Galileans in general as ignorant people, can it not be possible that some other of the earliest disciples of Jesus were Nazirs, in the later sense of the term, for the Talmud and Toldoth acknowledge that some of the disciples were learned men? It is, we admit, impossible at this late date to throw any certain light on this chaos of conflation of names, but it is not illegitimate to have asked the question.

It may of course be doubted whether there was an order of Nazarites contemporary with Jesus; nevertheless Epiphanius distinctly tells us that the mystics and ascetics of whom he is speaking, went back to pre-Christian times, and rejected the sacrificial and priestly views of the Ezra-Nehemiah redaction of the Torah.  They are thus apparently to be associated with those who sought to revive the ancient "schools of the prophets," and who did revive them in a very remarkable fashion, as we know from the apocalyptic literature of the period.  Such men would naturally have looked back to the Nazirs of old as an ideal, for "from allusions in Amos (ii. 11 ff.) we are led to suppose that at one time they (the Nazirs) had an importance—perhaps even an organization—parallel to that of the prophets."[1]

These Nazarites of Arnos have also a parallel with the ancient Rechabites, a name which in later times

[1] See Cheyne's article, sup. cit.


became synonymous with ascetic,[1] and the early writer Hegesippus tells us expressly (ap. Euseb.," H. E.," ii. 23), that "one of the priests of the Sons of Rechab, the son of Rechabim, who are mentioned by Jeremiah the prophet," protested against the murder of James the Just, the "brother of the Lord."

We have already also seen that Nilus asserts that the Issaei derived their descent from Jonadab the Rechabite, and though we have not space here to go into the matter as thoroughly as we could wish, we can at least see that all these scattered indications hang together, and point to the existence of numerous pre-Christian ascetic communities, who were closely interwoven with the origins of Christianity.

Moreover, the great mythic hero of the Nazirs was Sampson (LXX.) or Samson, a name derived from SMS (Heb. Shemesh, Chald. Samas), or the Sun,[2]  This at once brings us back to Epiphanius and his Sampsaeans. We have already seen that the Bishop of Constantia, in speaking of the Naziraei ("Haer.," xxix. 5), knew that Samson was the great hero of these Nazirs, and yet he fails entirely to understand the significance of the hero's name. And this is strange, for after telling us ("Haer.," liii. 1-2) that the Sampsaeans are to be found in the same regions as the Essenes and Nazoraeans, and that they were also called Elkesaei, of whom we shall treat later on, he goes on to say that Sampsaei means Heliaci, that is to say Solares (Children or Worshippers

[1] See Bennett's article "Rechab, Rechabites" in Hastings' "Dict. of the Bible."

[2] See Budde's article "Samson" in Hastings' "Dict, of the Bible."


of the Sun).  The Osseni, Ebionaei and Nazoraei, he repeats, all use the "Book of Elxai," and especially the Sampsaeans, or as we should prefer to take it, one of the books they all used was this apocalypse.

They were sun-worshippers; not, however, in the gross sense in which Epiphanius would have us understand the term, but presumably in the same sense as the Therapeuts were sun-worshippers, who, as Philo tells us, "twice a day, at dawn and even, are accustomed to offer up prayers; as the sun rises praying for the sunshine, the real sunshine, that their minds may be filled with heavenly light, and as it sets praying that their soul, completely lightened of the lust of the senses and sensations, may withdraw to its own congregation and council-chamber, there to track out truth."[1]

Their teacher was not, as Epiphanius would have it, a man called Elxaios, but some Great Power, as we shall see later on, and those who were illumined were said to be "kin to Him" and born of the "blessed seed."  This reminds us forcibly of the Mind or Shepherd of Men in the Trismegistic treatises, and of much else.  This "Mind of all-mastership," was the Father of the children or disciples in whom the Logos had come to birth; in other words, who had become "Christs."  And Epiphanius tells us that the Sampsaeans and the rest would gladly lay down their lives for any of this "race of Elxai"; moreover, those of this race were believed to have the power of miraculous healing.

Epiphanius further informs us that the Sampsseans would not receive the prophets and apostles (presumably of Petrine and Pauline Christianity), and that they

[1] Phil., "D. V. C.," P. 893, M. 475.


used the term Christus with a signification at variance with that of the later Nicene belief. Epiphanius cannot understand the symbolism of these Children of the Sun, and makes a great hash of it; but it seems to have been simple enough.  The positive and negative aspects of the Divine Logos were symbolized by the Sun (or Fire) and Water, the Light and Life.  The Christ and his sister, or spouse, the Holy Spirit or the Sophia (Wisdom), were the dual Son of God, the true Man.  Those who had reached the consciousness of their at-one-ment with this sexless Man, were Christs or Anointed.  The true spiritual body of the Christ they termed the "Body of Adam," the garment which was left behind in Paradise, when the soul descended, and which it will put on again when it returns triumphant as the Victor; of all of which in this and every other connection Epiphanius appears not to have had the least notion, for he can only ridicule or denounce it.

We next pass on to the Ebionaeans or Ebionites, whom we find in Epiphanius inextricably interwoven with the Nazoraeans and allied sects. The Bishop of Constantia apostrophizes with great vigour a certain Ebion, whom he imagines, as did his predecessors in heresiology, to have been the founder of this widespread heresy. He proceeds to confute this "serpent" at great length by the very simple process of quoting from the canonical books of the New Testament, which of course the good Father held to constitute an infallible historical record, against which there was no appeal.  Epiphanius, like his patristic predecessors, has, of course, not the slightest appreciation of the position of these early "heretics," and begs the whole question with that superb confidence


which has ever characterized the defenders of Catholicism. The position of the followers of these early schools, however, was precisely that they depended upon a tradition which they claimed to be earlier than that of the canonical view; it was an appeal to history, and history has so far never answered the appeal, history's voice has been drowned by the passionate rhetoric of theologians.

The name Ebionaei (Heb. Ebionim) meant simply "Poor," and did not derive from an imaginary eponymous Ebion, as has been now for many years admitted by scholars of every school.  Ebion is a myth begotten of the rhetoric of patristic polemics.  So much is certain; but who the "Poor" originally were, and why they were so called, is one of the innumerable conundrums with which the sphinx of the Christian origins confronts the critical OEdipus.

Already we find Paul in his Letter to the Galatians (ii. 10) referring to the "poor" in such a way that Hilgenfeld takes the term as a general designation of the early Christian communities and not simply the poor of the church of the "pillars" at Jerusalem.[1] We also find the writer of the third Gospel using among his "sources" a form of the Sayings which are held to be of a distinctly "Ebionite" character, that is to say, containing such unqualified declarations as "Blessed are ye poor, for yours is the kingdom of God" (Luke vi. 20), a dark saying, not only for us, but also for the writer of the first Gospel, or his Logia "source," which gives it as "Blessed are the poor in spirit", (Matt. v. 3), where tw pneumati has all the appearance

[1] Hilgenfeld, "Ketzergeschichte," p. 422.


of being a gloss, unless we accept Jerome's interpretation (in loc.,), "those who on account of the Holy Spirit are voluntarily poor"; in which case it might be regarded as the original form of the Saying, and hence as addressed to the members of an already formed community; for the usual interpretation of the Catholic Fathers, that the phrase is a periphrasis for "humble," would be a brusque departure from the simple wording of the rest of the Sayings of the same category.

But even so, if the more elaborate form is the original, it is difficult to explain why the writer of the third Gospel should have dropped the qualifying tw pneumati, a phrase by no means easy of translation, unless it be the literal rendering of some Hebrew or Aramaic idiom.

If, on the contrary, the simple "poor" is the original form, the idea of a community of Poor cannot be entertained, and we must, rather attribute it to some dark saying of the Master preserved by those who falsely imagined that He was preaching some social revolution of poor against rich, for a Master of Wisdom could certainly not have preached that the mere fact of poverty was a virtue, and the mere fact of riches a condemnation.

In our present lack of reliable data it is, then, useless to speculate as to the origin of the name Ebionite; this much we know, that later on those who were so called were not necessarily poor, though some of them were voluntarily POOR; "naked they sought the Naked," as the Gymnosophist of Upper Egypt is reported to have told Apollonius in the first century.[1] 

The point, however, which has proved of greatest 

[1] See my "Apollonius of Tyana, the Philosopher-Reformer of the First Century" (London; 1902), p. 100.


difficulty in all research into this puzzling question of the Ebionaeans, is that while Irenaeus, about 180 A.D., knows only of one kind of Ebionites ("Ref.," i. 22), those who assert that Jesus was born a man as all men, and who reject Paul; on the contrary Origen ("C. Cels.," v. 61.), towards the middle of the third century, speaks of two kinds of Ebionites, both those who say that Jesus was a man, and those who believe in the virgin-birth, as also does Eusebius at the beginning of the fourth century ("H. E.," iii. 27).  Accordingly innumerable hypotheses have been put forward, and attempts made to divide and subdivide the Ebionites, ever since the "Tübingen school" maintained that in them we had the remnants of original Apostolic Christianity; there is, however, no agreement among the authorities.

Perhaps of all the distinctions drawn between the Ebionites, the attempt to separate them by a supposed chronological canon, and to speak of "Ebionism proper" and "Gnostic Ebionism,"[1] is the most misleading, for, as is invariably the case, the comparative lateness of "Gnosticism" is assumed as a firmly-established fact for all questions of Church History.  But the fond presumption of the later Church Fathers that the Church remained a "pure virgin" uncontaminated by "heresy" until the reign of Trajan, is no longer to be maintained in face of the testimony of Paul, our earliest witness to the existence of the Faith.

As I have already stated elsewhere,[2] Gnosticism is

[1] See Fuller's article "Ebionism" in S. and W.'s "Dict, of Christ Biog."

[2] See "Some Notes on the Gnostics" in "The Nineteenth Century" (Nov. 1902), pp. 822-835.


not to be confined to the second and part of the third century; it was flourishing in the first century as well; indeed, Christianity seems to have been in contact with communities of a Gnostic character from its very beginnings.  Setting aside the hotly-debated point whether Jesus himself was a member of one of the Essene communities, there is very little doubt that Paul, whose authentic Letters are the earliest historic records of Christendom, was in some sort of contact with "Gnostic" ideas.  It is generally believed that the Apostle to the Gentiles was in irreconcilable conflict with every sort of Gnosticism, because of his phrase, "Gnosis falsely so called"; but if so, it is an extraordinary fact that some of his Letters are filled with technical terms of the Gnosis, terms which receive ample, elaborate, and repeated explanation in Gnostic tradition, but which remain as every-day words deprived of all technical context in Catholic hands.

To take one instance out of many—one, however, which, to the writer's knowledge, has not been noticed before.  The Authorized Version renders I. Corinthians xv. 8 in the famous and familiar words: "And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time."  What is the meaning of the graphic but puzzling "born out of due time," which so many accept because of its familiar sound without further question?

"And last of all, wsperei tw ektrwmati, he appeared to me also."  "And last of all, as to the ektrwma, he appeared to me also."  "And last of all as to 'the abortion,' he appeared to me also." Notice


the article, "as to the abortion," not "as to an abortion."[1]

Now "the abortion" is a technical and oft-repeated term of one of the great systems of the Gnosis, a term which enters into the main fabric of the Sophia-mythus.

In the mystic cosmogony of these Gnostic circles, "the abortion" was the crude matter cast out of the Pleroma or world of perfection.  This crude and chaotic matter was in the. cosmogonical process shaped into a perfect "aeon'' by the World-Christ; that is to say, was made into a world-system by the ordering or cosmic power of the Logos.  "The abortion" was the unshaped and unordered chaotic matter which had to be separated out, ordered and perfected, in the macrocosmic task of the "enformation according to substance," while this again was to be completed on the soteriological side by the microcosmic process of the "enformation according to gnosis" or spiritual consciousness.  As the world-soul was perfected by the World-Christ, so was the individual soul to be perfected and redeemed by the individual Christ.

Paul thus becomes comprehensible; he here speaks the language of the Gnosis, and in this instance at least it is possible to draw the deduction that the Gnosis in this connection could not, in his opinion, have been "falsely so called."  Paul is speaking to communities who are familiar with such language "He appeared to me just as it were to that well-known imperfect plasm

[1] The reading has never been questioned; but even if it were questioned, the canon that "the more difficult reading is to be preferred to the easier" would decide for the retention of the article. 


which we call ' the abortion,'" he says; "I use a figure familiar to all of you." 

If; then, we accept the main Pauline Letters as genuine, the problem we have to face is this, that we are in them presented with a picture of communities which had plainly existed before Paul's propaganda, not only in Palestine but also among the Diaspora, and that at least some of these communities were familiar with Gnostic nomenclature.  Paul uses language which convinces us that the communities which devoted themselves to the cultivation of "the gifts of the spirit" were not originally founded by himself, but that they had been long established, for he does not speak of these things as new, but as very familiar, not as taught by himself, but rather as to be modified by his own more common-sense teaching.  These communities were not only familiar with Gnostic nomenclature, but also with some sort of undisciplined "prophesying"; whence did they have such things?  It is not sufficient impatiently to set these facts on one side, for it is just such facts which are the fundamental data in any attempt to solve the mystery of Christian origins. 

It is, therefore, somewhat beside the point to assume that "Gnostic Ebionism" must have necessarily been later than "Ebionism proper," especially as it is just this "Ebionism proper" about which we should like to inform ourselves.

The main charge against the Ebionites, as Hippolytus tells us ("Philos." vii_ 34) is that they, like all the earliest "heretics," denied the later doctrine of the miraculous physical virgin-birth of Jesus. They lived according to the Jewish customs, claiming that they were justified 


"according to the Law."  They further declared, so says Hippolytus, that Jesus had been so justified by his practice of the Law; it was for this cause that they called him "the anointed (Christ) of God and Jesus;[1] for none of the other (? prophets) had fulfilled the Law."  They further declared "that they themselves could by doing the same become Christs; for, they said, that he (Jesus) was a man like all men."

We know also that other of the early schools went still further and claimed that members of their communities had already reached this high stage of justification and illumination, as high as Paul or even Jesus himself, and that this could even be transcended —a vain and empty boast, you will say, but then we have no record of their lives, but only the bitter denunciations of the Church Fathers.

Apparently the earliest form of mystic Ebionite Christology was that of "election."  Thus we find Justin Martyr (c. 145-150 A.D.), in his "Dialogue with Trypho" (xlix.), putting the following argument into the mouth of his Jewish opponent: "Those who affirm him to have been a man, and to have been anointed by election, and then to have become a Christ (Anointed), appear to me to speak more plausibly than you," that is Justin, who maintains the physical virgin birth dogma, and who in the previous chapter had said to Trypho: "Even if I cannot demonstrate so much as this [namely, that Jesus was God incarnate in the Virgin's womb], you will at least admit that Jesus is the

[1] Why they called him "Jesus," Hippolytus unfortunately does not tell us; hut we may perhaps get on the track of the reason in the next chapter. 


Messiah (Anointed) of God, in case he can be shown to have been born as a man of men, and be proved to have been raised by election to the dignity of messiah-ship.  For there are . . . some of our persuasion (lit. race) who admit that he is the Messiah, but declare him to have been a man of men."

In the "Shepherd of Hermas," which in the part from which we quote ("Sim." v. 5) is distinctly older than Justin, this doctrine of election or adoption is set forth as follows:

"God made His Holy Spirit, which pre-existed and created all creation, to enter and dwell in the flesh (i.e., human body) which He approved.  This flesh, therefore, in which the Holy Spirit took up its dwelling, served the Spirit well in holiness and purity, having never in any way polluted the Spirit.  Therefore, because it had lived well and purely, and had laboured with the Spirit and worked therewith in every matter, conversing bravely and manfully, God chose it to be participator along with the Holy Spirit.  For the flesh walked as pleased God, because it was not polluted upon earth, having the Holy Spirit.  God, therefore, took into counsel the Son and the angels in their glory, to the end that this flesh, having blamelessly served the Spirit, might furnish, as it were, a place of tabernacling (for the Spirit), and might not seem to have lost the reward of its service.  For all flesh shall receive the reward which shall be found without stain or spot, and in it the Holy Spirit shall make its home."[1]

This election was said to be consummated at 

[1] Conybeare’s translation, op. sub. cit., pp. lxxxix., xc.


"baptism," nay, it was the true Baptism of the Holy Spirit.  As we shall see in the next chapter, the Holy Spirit or Wisdom was the spouse of the Son or Great King.  When this universal mystic teaching became historicized and connected with an actual physical baptism by John the Baptist it is impossible to say, but it is very certain that the "heresy" of "election," and the claim of the early mystics that all men who lived the life of true holiness could become Christs, was the unforgivable sin of the subsequently orthodox Fathers, and that this teaching has been relentlessly crushed out by the Catholic Church wherever found throughout the centuries.[1]

But indeed the question of Ebionism is of a so vast and complicated nature that it would require a whole volume in itself to exhaust the contradictory indications of the Church Fathers and analyse the "Clementine" Literature. There seems to have been every shade of "Ebionism," and if on the one hand the Church Fathers tell us that the Ebionaeans accepted the whole of the Old Testament, on the other we are informed that they submitted its documents to a most drastic criticism, some of them rejecting not only all the Prophets, but even much of the Pentateuch.  Like so many of the Gnostics they had a subjective canon whereby they sorted out the inspiration of the Old Testament as pure, mixed and evil.

This much only is certain, that we are no longer able to assign a precise meaning to the terribly abused

[1] See Conybeare (F. C.) "The Key of Truth, a Manual of the Paulician Church of Armenia" (Oxford; 1898); index, s.vv. "Election" and "Elect," e.g., "Elect regarded as Christs," etc. 


term "Ebionism"; it is as vague as, nay vaguer than, "Gnosticism," for in the latter at any rate there must he a mystic element, whereas with "Ebionism proper" it is mostly confounded with materialistic and limited views, though, as we have seen, erroneously.

We have already seen that these mystic and more liberal ideas flourished especially in districts where the people were of non-Jewish extraction; we are, therefore, not surprised to find that Samaria also, whose inhabitants were almost purely of non-Jewish descent, was a hot-bed of "heresies" of all kinds. For the Jew, then, "Samaritan" stood for a heretic par excellence, and we are therefore not astonished to find that one of the epithets applied by the Rabbis to Jesus was that of Samaritan.

In this connection it is of interest to note that Epiphanius ("Haer.," ix.) tells us that the four principal sects of the Samaritans were (i) the Esseni, (ii) the Gortheni, (iii) the Sebuaeans, and (iv) the Dositheans.

It is very strange to find the Essenes heading the list, for no other writer calls the members of this interesting brotherhood Samaritans.  It may be that the Bishop of Constantia does so, because he found that schools closely allied to them rejected all other of the Jewish scriptures except the Pentateuch.  It may, however, be that as a matter of history the Essenes themselves also rejected much which subsequently became the orthodoxy of Mishnaic Rabbinism, and they may very well have had many adherents in Samaria.

As to the Gortheni, who are also mentioned by Hegesippus (ap. Euseb., "H. E.," iv. 22), who flourished in the latter half of the second century, Epiphanius calls


them also Gortheoni ("Ancorat.," 12) and also Gorotheni ("User.," i. 12), but tells us nothing about them. Theodoret, however, says ("Haer. Fab.," i. 1) that they derived their doctrines from Simon Magus, that is to say, they held the same views as did the mystics associated later on with this semi-mythical "founder" of Christian heresy, according to the Church Fathers.

As to the Sebuaeans, Epiphanius alone mentions them, but tells us nothing about them except that they held certain Feasts on days which differed widely from the dates of the Jews.

With the mention of the Dositheans, however, we come to a subject of greater interest. And here we will leave Epiphanius and follow the data collected in the excellent article of Salmon.[1] The "Ebionite" Clementine "Recognitions" tell us that Simon Magus was a disciple of Dositheus (that is, perhaps, of the school of Dositheus), and that Dositheus (Heb. Dosthai) was the prophet like unto Moses whom Yahweh was to raise up. The Clementine "Homilies," on the contrary, in true legendary style declare that both Dositheus and Simon were co-disciples of John the Baptist. As Jesus, the Sun, had twelve disciples, so John, the Moon, had thirty disciples, the number of days in a lunation, or more accurately 29 ½ , for one of them was a woman. Simon, it is said, studied magic in Egypt, and there is a strange legend of a contest between him and Dositheus, in which Simon proves himself the victor.

The Recognitions also state that Dositheus was the founder of the sect of the Sadducees, which means probably nothing more historically than that Dositheus, as

[1] "Dositheus," in Smith and Wace's "Dict, of Christ. Biography."


was to be expected of a Samaritan, rejected all the subsequently canonical books, and held to the Pentateuch alone. In any case this statement assures us that Dositheus was considered in subsequent times a man of very great importance. And as this statement was also made by Hippolytus in his lost Compendium, the view must have been very widespread. In any case Hippolytus I. gave the foremost place among his pre-Christian sects to Dositheus.

Origen (in Johann. iv.) speaks of books ascribed to Dositheus as being still current among the followers of that then ancient tradition, and of a popular belief among them that their master had not really died.

Epiphanius describes the Dositheans as observers of the Law; they, however, abstained from animal food, and many of them from sexual intercourse.  Epiphanius further adds a story that Dositheus finally retired to a cave and there practised such severe asceticism as to bring his life to a voluntary end.  An exceedingly interesting variant of this story appears in a Samaritan Chronicle, where it is said that the Samaritan high-priest took such severe measures against the new sect, because of its use of a Book of the Law which was said to have been falsified by Dousis (Dositheus), that Dousis was compelled to "fly" to a mountain and hide himself in a cave, where he died from want of food. There is a striking similarity between this and the conclusion of the Shemtob form of Toldoth which we have quoted in the chapter on "Traces of Early Toldoth Forms," where Jesus flies away to a cave on Mount Carmel.

Eulogius, Patriarch of Alexandria, who died 608 A.D.


and who appears to have studied Dosithean books, says that Dosthes (Dositheus) exhibited particular hostility to the Patriarch Judah. That is to say, presumably, that the Dositheans particularly detested a certain Judah. Can this have anything to do with the Judas of the Toldoth, and did the Dositheans give the other side?

Finally, it is very curious to find that Aboulfatah, an Arab historian, who flourished in the fourteenth century, and who was personally acquainted with the adherents of this long-lived Dosithean tradition, places Dositheus 100 years B.C. Dositheus, he tells us, was said to have claimed to have been the Prophet, foretold by Moses, and also the Star, prophetically announced in Numbers.[1]  Dositheus, says Aboulfatah, that is to say, according to the tradition of the Dositheans of his day, lived in the days of John Hyrcanus. who died 105 B.C.[2]

This Dosithean tradition, therefore, appears to me to be deserving of greater attention than has yet been bestowed upon it; it is not satisfactory to dismiss it impatiently with the epithet "fabulosa," as does Juynboll, and those who copy from him. The Simon Magus tradition is interwoven with the Dosithean; the Church Fathers assert with one voice that all the heresies of Christianity sprang from Simon Magus; the Simon Magus legends are interwoven with the Toldoth legends of Jesus.  Baur startled traditionalists with the theory

[1] Num. xxiv. 17: "There shall come a star out of Jacob."

[2] See Juynboll (T. G. J.), "Chronicon Samaritanum, arabice conscriptum cui Titulus est Liber Josuae" (Leyden; 1848), pp. 112, 114.


that the name Simon Magus was simply a disguise for Paul, but the Jewish tradition amazes us still further with the suggestion that Simon Magus in some fantastic fashion is a legend-glyph, if not for Jesus, at any rate for those who followed the earliest tradition of the historical Jesus.

We will next turn our attention to some considerations "Concerning the Book of Elxai."

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