Galatians 2:14, The Ebionite Church and the Judaizers, Part I of II

But when I saw that they are not walking uprightly to the truth of the good news, I said to Peter before all, `If thou, being a Jew, in the manner of the nations dost live, and not in the manner of the Jews, how the nations dost thou compel to Judaize? –Young’s Literal Translation

//These are the words of Paul, criticizing Peter for spreading a Judaic version of Christianity.

You may have noticed in my writings, including my books about Revelation and John’s Gospel, that I appear sympathetic to a second-century strand of Christianity called the Ebionites. Why do I consider this version of Christianity important? Let me explain.

“Ebionite” is Aramaic for “the poor.” It is a title they applied to themselves. They were strict followers of the Law, and kept both the Sabbath and the Sunday observance of the Lord’s Day. They circumcised, they faced toward Jerusalem when they prayed, and they held daily ritual baths (besides the initiation of Christian baptism), so it seems like they did everything wrong by not discarding Judaic customs. To be fair, though, they did oppose Temple worship and sacrifice.

The scriptures we have condemn these practices, as if our writers were putting words on the lips of Jesus specifically to oppose Ebionite thinking.

It gets worse. Ebionites used some form of the Gospel of Matthew, but omitted the account of the virgin birth. They did not believe in Jesus’ divinity, but saw him as a great new teacher endowed with divine power, in opposition to John the Baptist. They hated Paul, considering him an enemy of the faith, though they agreed with Paul’s adoptionist beliefs. They were probably more frustrated with pseudo-Pauline writings than with Paul’s own ideas. Yet Paul’s claim that Jesus died as a sacrifice appalled them.

Why should we pay any attention to these heretics at all? More tomorrow.

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