“Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing. And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law. You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.” Galatians 5:1-4
The Roman destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and the deaths of the Jewish apostles led to a decline in the numbers of Jewish followers of Christ in Israel who held to circumcision and obedience to the Mosaic Law. However, that did not mean the opposition to Paul’s message to Gentiles disappeared. Even though the decision of the apostles at the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) should have ended the opposition to Paul’s apostleship and ministry to the Gentiles, Jewish followers of Christ continued to make trouble for Paul and the Gospel he preached “among the Gentiles (Galatians 2:2).
The Ebionites (possibly from the Hebrew word for “poor” – evyonim) were known as opponents to Paul’s apostleship as early as the 2nd century AD. Irenaeus was a Christian pastor and apologist during that time and wrote about a variety of heresies the Church was facing, including the Ebionites.
“Those who are called Ebionites agree that the world was made by God; but their opinions with respect to the Lord are similar to those of Cerinthus and Carpocrates. They use the Gospel according to Matthew only, and repudiate the Apostle Paul, maintaining that he was an apostate from the law. As to the prophetical writings, they endeavour to expound them in a somewhat singular manner: they practise circumcision, persevere in the observance of those customs which are enjoined by the law, and are so Judaic in their style of life, that they even adore Jerusalem as if it were the house of God.” Against Heresies, Book 1, Chapter 26, 180 AD
Irenaeus also wrote against the doctrine of the Ebionites in chapters 3 and 5 of Against Heresies.
Many other Christian writers and apologists of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th centuries AD warned the Church about the Ebionites, including Tertullion, Hippolytus, Eusebius, Origen and Jerome. The Ebionites opposition to Paul was only one aspect of their warning and concern. Chief among their concerns being what the Ebionites preached about the deity of Christ.
“The Ebionaeans, however, acknowledge that the world was made by Him Who is in reality God, but they propound legends concerning the Christ similarly with Cerinthus and Carpocrates. They live conformably to the customs of the Jews, alleging that they are justified. according to the law, and saying that Jesus was justified by fulfilling the law. And therefore it was, (according to the Ebionaeans,) that (the Saviour) was named (the) Christ of God and Jesus, since not one of the rest (of mankind) had observed completely the law. For if even any other had fulfilled the commandments (contained) in the law, he would have been that Christ. And the (Ebionaeans allege) that they themselves also, when in like manner they fulfil (the law), are able to become Christs; for they assert that our Lord Himself was a man in a like sense with all (the rest of the human family).” Hippolytus of Rome, Refutation of All Heresies 7.22
One of the most prolific writers who sent up warnings about the Ebionites was Epiphanius, a 4th century Christian pastor in Salamis, Cyprus.
“They do not say that he was born of God the Father, but that he was created as one of the archangels, that he rules both the angels and all those things created by the Almighty, and he came and gave instructions to abolish sacrifices as the gospel which they recognize contains the provision that “I came to abolish sacrifices, and unless you cease sacrificing, my anger will not cease from you”. These and such like them are their deceitful conceptions.” Epiphanius of Salamis, Panarion 30.16.4-5
Epiphanius also viewed the Nazarenes as an heretical sect in the 4th century AD. The Nazarenes were similar to Ebionites in that they considered themselves Jews and followed the Mosaic Law, but differed in that they believed in the Lord’s Virgin Birth. The Nazarenes depended on the Aramaic Gospel of the Hebrews rather than the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The Gospel of the Hebrews is counted with the Gospel of the Nazarenes and the Gospel of the Ebionites as part of what’s called the Jewish-Christian Gospels, quoted in writings of many early Christian pastors and apologists (e.g. Epiphanius, Jerome, Origen, Clement of Alexandria, Origen).
Both movements (Ebionites and Nazarenes) lost much of their following after the 5th century AD, but the Jewish-Christian theology and philosophy have seen new interest and rapid growth during the past two hundred years. Many of the Jews who converted to Christianity during the 19th and 20th centuries wanted to worship separately from Catholics and Protestants and started their own meeting services. They continued practicing some of their Jewish beliefs and liturgy while including New Testament teachings to their spiritual experience. That gave rise to the Messianic Jewish movement of the 1960s and 70s and other groups that emphasized Jewish practices in following Jesus Christ. Some of those movements include “Nazarene Judaism,” the “Worldwide Nazarene Assembly of Elohim,” the Two-House theology of the “Messianic Israel Alliance,” the “Union of Nazarene Yisrael Congregations,” the “International Assembly of Nazarene Israelites,” “Assemblies of Yahweh,” “Messianic Jewish Alliance of America,” and the modern “Ebionite Movement.”
Some members of these groups believe there is a difference between Jewish Christianity and Pauline Christianity, going so far as to say that the modern Christian congregation of believers embrace the dogma of pagan Rome, while remaining totally ignorant of what Jesus actually taught (Ebionite/Nazirene Spiritual Restoration – ebionite.com). They go on to say that unless a person is an Ebionite they cannot be a disciple of Christ – that they are the True Spiritual Israel. They claim that the lie of Judaism is that Yeshua/Jesus was not the Messiah, that the lie of Christianity is that Yeshua/Jesus was God Incarnate, and the lie of Islam is that Yeshua/Jesus said another was yet to come.
One of the primary casualties of the Jewish Christian belief system is Paul and his writings.
“Because Pauline theology (Paulism or Paulinism) is a Greek and Gnostic aberration of true Hebraic thought; because it seeks to unilaterally overthrow the true and original Law and Commandments of God; and because Paul utterly contradicts the witness (plural) of the Prophets within the Scriptures. This is not just a modern Ebionite view; this understanding goes all the way back to the first-century Jerusalem Church and it is an understanding that predates the Roman Catholic Church’s later canonization of Paul by more than a century.” Ebionite.net FAQ
Another casualty is Christ’s sacrificial death on the Cross.
“The reason the first-century followers of Yahushua (Ebionites) rejected the Pauline ‘gospel’ was because they knew all too well the loving and gentle Character of Yahweh God who did not at all request nor require a blood sacrifice—let alone a human sacrifice—as the means of His forgiveness. This ‘blood sacrifice’, especially human sacrifice, was solely the purveyance of evil in the eyes of God. Ebionite Hebrews could clearly see Paul’s divergent teachings and could easily see he was a false prophet (meaning one who wasn’t really sent by God).” Ebionite.net FAQ
I will begin answering specific questions and complaints from those who believe Paul to be an apostate in the next part of our investigation into whether Paul was an apostle or a fraud. In the meantime, you may find this document interesting to read. It’s called “The Ebionite Manifesto” and was published online by the Ebionite Community (ebionite.org).
The Ebionite Manifesto
The Ebionite Community is the living continuation of the Jewish religious movement of Jesus. Christianity is the religion of Paul and others, and not part of the biblical faith and revelation of the God of Israel nor is it of Jesus. (Please note that we have used “Jesus” to clarify for our Christian readers. We call him Yeshua or Yahshua, and will use Yeshua from this point on in the site.)
We declare the man Paul of Tarsus, the false teacher against the mark of Covenant and God’s Torah, to be outside of the Way taught by Yeshua, the anointed, son of Maria and Yoseif. The Ebionite Community is the only real “mission to the gentiles.”
We call upon the gentiles to repent, to abandon paganism and the perverse testament, and enter into true covenant through Torah, circumcision, and immersion in order to submit and prepare for the Reign of God as brothers exhibiting good works. (How can you talk about accepting God or His “kingdom” at some future event or time if you reject His rules clearly given now?)
To follow Yeshua, may he rest in peace, you must not worship him or any man, but instead be what Yeshua was, a Jew. Yeshua was a man who died and was buried, and finding his bones does not effect the value of many of his recorded teachings, the core of these still buried beneath Christian additions, alterations, and falsifications. His value to us has nothing to do with fairy tales and miracles, divinity or resurrection. We already have the God of Israel so Yeshua is no replacement for Him nor can Yeshua’s words nullify God’s commandments.
Yeshua is not a god, not a sacrifice for sin, or savior. Such beliefs go against God. God’s commandments have not been “done away with” or “nailed to the cross” but instead make up the single testament and Instructions for life to mankind. We ask you to honestly consider the fruit of other religions without explaining away their sins and failures to deliver a godly world; the millions of people they have murdered for “God” even other denominations of their own religion; and all the unbiblical ways in which they claim to honor their god. Deep down you know that neither God or the man Yeshua can truly be present in these religions. The God of Israel has more to give than Christianity or Islam (both of which are just altered, weakened versions of Israel’s faith). Biblical faith has more to offer than any other religion.
Is your faith based on a god that hates you and wants to burn you? You need to keep seeking for the real God, the God of Israel, Who created you and loves you.
Are you a Jew who has become indistinguishable from your gentile friends and your Synagogue reminds you of a church? Have you apostatized from God to Christianity? Return to God. We will help you.
Yahwism, the faith of the Written Torah of the Bible given by the One God, Yahweh, is a revolutionary system of life with justice that can supersede all other systems of government and ideologies. The Evyonim (Ebionites) are Yahwists above all else. It allows for One Ruler, the God of Israel alone, with none beside Him. God is not man, and no man is divine. No man can make you right with God except yourself, and only you can atone for your sins through repentance and reparation to Him and your fellow man. You will never find God, Yahweh King of the Universe, world within worlds, worlds without end, in a church or shrine, kneeling before statues, sticks, stones, or men. Tear down your church. Take the wood and stones and build houses for the poor; take the sticks for firewood; sell the treasure and idols to buy food and heal the sick; bring all men in love to bend the knee to the God of Israel.
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”