|« Prev||Chapter VI. The Christianity of Jewish…||Next »|
APPENDIX: THE CHRISTIANITY OF THE JEWISH CHRISTIANS.
I. Original Christianity was in appearance Christian Judaism, the creation of a universal religion on Old Testament soil. It retained, therefore, so far as it was not hellenised, which never altogether took place, its original Jewish features. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was regarded as the Father of Jesus Christ, the Old Testament was the authoritative source of revelation, and the hopes of the future were based on the Jewish ones. The heritage which Christianity took over from Judaism shews itself on Gentile Christian soil, in fainter or distincter form, in proportion as the philosophic mode of thought already prevails, or recedes into the background.403403The attitude of the recently discovered “Teaching of the twelve Apostles” is strictly universalistic, and hostile to Judaism as a nation, but shews us a Christianity still essentially uninfluenced by philosophic elements. The impression made by this fact has caused some scholars to describe the treatise as a document of Jewish Christianity. But the attitude of the Didache is rather the ordinary one of universalistic early Christianity on the soil of the Græco-Roman world. If we describe this as Jewish Christian, then from the meaning which we must give to the words “Christian” and “Gentile Christian,” we tacitly legitimise an undefined and undefinable aggregate of Greek ideas, along with a specifically Pauline element, as primitive Christianity, and this is perhaps not the intended, but yet desired, result of the false terminology. Now, if we describe even such writings as the Epistle of James and the Shepherd of Hermas as Jewish Christian, we therewith reduce the entire early Christianity, which is the creation of a universal religion on the soil of Judaism, to the special case of an indefinable religion. The same now appears as one of the particular values of a completely indeterminate magnitude. Hilgenfeld (Judenthum und Judenchristenthum, 1886; cf. also Ztschr. f. wiss. Theol. 1886 H. 4.) advocates another conception of Jewish Christianity in opposition to the following account. Zahn. Gesch. des N.T.-lich. Kanons, II. p. 668 ff. has a different view still. To describe the appearance of the Jewish, Old Testament, heritage in the 288Christian faith, so far as it is a religious one, by the name Jewish Christianity, beginning at a certain point quite arbitrarily chosen, and changeable at will, must therefore necessarily lead to error, and it has done so to a very great extent. For this designation makes it appear as though the Jewish element in the Christian religion were something accidental, while it is rather the case that all Christianity, in so far as something alien is not foisted into it, appears as the religion of Israel perfected and spiritualised. We are therefore not justified in speaking of Jewish Christianity where a Christian community, even one of Gentile birth, calls itself the true Israel, the people of the twelve tribes, the posterity of Abraham; for this transfer is based on the original claim of Christianity and can only be forbidden by a view that is alien to it. Just as little may we designate Jewish Christian the mighty and realistic hopes of the future which were gradually repressed in the second and third centuries. They may be described as Jewish, or as Christian; but the designation Jewish Christian must be rejected; for it gives a wrong impression as to the historic right of these hopes in Christianity. The eschatological ideas of Papias were not Jewish Christian, but Christian; while, on the other hand, the eschatological speculations of Origen were not Gentile Christian, but essentially Greek. Those Christians who saw in Jesus the man chosen by God and endowed with the Spirit, thought about the Redeemer not in a Jewish Christian, but in a Christian manner. Those of Asia Minor who held strictly to the 14th of Nisan as the term of the Easter festival, were not influenced by Jewish Christian, but by Christian or Old Testament considerations. The author of the “Teaching of the Apostles,” who has transferred the rights of the Old Testament priests with respect to the first fruits to the Christian prophets, shews himself by such transference not as a Jewish Christian, but as a Christian. There is no boundary here; for Christianity took possession of the whole of Judaism as religion, and it is therefore a most arbitrary view of history which looks upon the Christian appropriation of the Old Testament religion, after any point, as no longer Christian, but only Jewish Christian. Wherever the 289universalism of Christianity is not violated in favour of the Jewish nation, we have to recognise every appropriation of the Old Testament as Christian. Hence this proceeding could be spontaneously undertaken in Christianity, as was in fact done.
2. But the Jewish religion is a national religion, and Christianity burst the bonds of nationality, though not for all who recognised Jesus as Messiah. This gives the point at which the introduction of the term “Jewish Christianity” is appropriate.404404Or even Ebionitism; the designations are to be used as synonymous. It should be applied exclusively to those Christians who really maintained in their whole extent, or in some measure, even if it were to a minimum degree, the national and political forms of Judaism and the observance of the Mosaic law in its literal sense, as essential to Christianity, at least to the Christianity of born Jews, or who, though rejecting these forms, nevertheless assumed a prerogative of the Jewish people even in Christianity (Clem., Homil. XI. 26: ἐὰν ὁ ἀλλόφυλος τὸν νόμον πράξῃ, Ἰουδαῖός ἐστιν, μὴ πράξας δέ Ἕλλην; “If the foreigner observe the law he is a Jew, but if not he is a Greek”).405405The more rarely the right standard has been set up in the literature of Church history for the distinction of Jewish Christianity, the more valuable are those writings in which it is found. We must refer, above all, to Diestel, Geschichte des A. T. in der Christl. Kirche, p. 44, note 7. To this Jewish Christianity is opposed, not Gentile Christianity, but the Christian religion, in so far as it is conceived as universalistic and anti-national in the strict sense of the term (Presupp. § 3), that is, the main body of Christendom in so far as it has freed itself from Judaism as a nation.406406See Theol. Lit. Ztg. 1883. Col. 409 f. as to the attempt of Joel to make out that the whole of Christendom up to the end of the first century was strictly Jewish Christian, and to exhibit the complete friendship of Jews and Christians in that period (“Blicke in die Religionsgesch.” 2 Abth. 1883). It is not improbable that Christians like James, living in strict accordance with the law, were for the time being respected even by the Pharisees in the period preceding the destruction of Jerusalem But that can in no case have been the rule. We see from Epiph. h. 29. 9. and from the Talmud what was the custom at a later period.
It is not strange that this Jewish Christianity was subject to all the conditions which arose from the internal and external position of the Judaism of the time; that is, different tendencies 290were necessarily developed in it, according to the measure of the tendencies (or the disintegrations) which asserted themselves in the Judaism of that time. It lies also in the nature of the case that, with one exception, that of Pharisaic Jewish Christianity, all other tendencies were accurately parallelled in the systems which appeared in the great, that is, anti-Jewish Christendom. They were distinguished from these, simply by a social and political, that is, a national element. Moreover, they were exposed to the same influences from without as the synagogue and as the larger Christendom, till the isolation to which Judaism as a nation, after severe reverses condemned itself, became fatal to them also. Consequently, there were besides Pharisaic Jewish Christians, ascetics of all kinds who were joined by all those over whom Oriental religious wisdom and Greek philosophy had won a commanding influence. (See above, p. 242 f.)
In the first century these Jewish Christians formed the majority in Palestine, and perhaps also in some neighbouring provinces. But they were also found here and there in the West.
Now the great question is whether this Jewish Christianity as a whole, or in certain of its tendencies, was a factor in the development of Christianity to Catholicism. This question is to be answered in the negative, and quite as much with regard to the history of dogma as with regard to the political history of the Church. From the stand-point of the universal history of Christianity, these Jewish Christian communities appear as rudimentary structures which now and again, as objects of curiosity, engaged the attention of the main body of Christendom in the East, but could not exert any important influence on it, just because they contained a national element.
The Jewish Christians took no considerable part in the Gnostic controversy, the epoch-making conflict which was raised within the pale of the larger Christendom about the decisive question, whether and to what extent the Old Testament should remain a basis of Christianity, although they themselves were no less occupied with the question.407407There were Jewish Christians who represented the position of the great Church with reference to the Old Testament religion, and there were some who criticised the Old Testament like the Gnostics. Their contention may have remained as much an internal one as that between the Church Fathers and Gnostics (Marcion) did, so far as Jewish Christianity is concerned. Their may have been relations between Gnostic Jewish Christians and Gnostics not of a national Jewish type, in Syria and Asia Minor, though we are completely in the dark on the matter. The issue of this conflict in 291favour of that party which recognised the Old Testament in its full extent as a revelation of the Christian God, and asserted the closest connection between Christianity and the Old Testament religion, was so little the result of any influence of Jewish Christianity, that the existence of the latter would only have rendered that victory more difficult unless it had already fallen into the background as a phenomenon of no importance.408408From the mere existence of Jewish Christians, those Christians who rejected the Old Testament might have argued against the main body of Christendom and put before it the dilemma: either Jewish Christian or Marcionite. Still more logical indeed was the dilemma: either Jewish, or Marcionite Christian. How completely insignificant it was is shewn not only by the limited polemics of the Church Fathers, but perhaps still more by their silence, and the new import which the reproach of Judaising obtained in Christendom after the middle of the second century. In proportion as the Old Testament, in opposition to Gnosticism, became a more conscious and accredited possession in the Church, and at the same time, in consequence of the naturalising of Christianity in the world, the need of regulations, fixed rules, statutory enactments etc., appeared as indispensable, it must have been natural to use the Old Testament as a holy code of such enactments. This procedure was no falling away from the original anti-Judaic attitude, provided nothing national was taken from the book, and some kind of spiritual interpretation given to what had been borrowed. The “apostasy” rather lay simply in the changed needs. But one now sees how those parties in the Church, to which for any reason this progressive legislation was distasteful, raised the reproach of “Judaising,”409409So did the Montanists and Antimontanists mutually reproach each other with Judaising (see the Montanist writings of Tertullian). Just in the same way the arrangements as to worship and organisation, which were ever being more richly developed, were described by the freer parties as Judaising, because they made appeal to the Old Testament, though, as regards their contents, they had little in common with Judaism. But is not the method of claiming Old Testament authority for the regulations rendered necessary by circumstances nearly as old as Christianity itself? Against whom the lost treatise of Clement of Alexandria “κανών ἐκκλησιαστικὸς ἣ προς τοὺς Ἰουδαίζοντας” (Euseb. H. E. VI. 13. 3.) was directed, we cannot tell. But as we read, Strom., VI. 15. 125, that the Holy Scriptures are to be expounded according to the ἐκκλησιαστικὸς κανὼν, and then find the following definition of the Canon: κανὼν δὲ ἐκκλησιαστικός ἡ συνωδία καὶ συμφωνία νόμου τε καὶ προφητῶν τῆ κατὰ τὴν τοῦ κυρίου παρουσίαν παραδιδομένῃ διαθήκῃ, we may conjecture that the Judaisers were those Christians who, in principle or to some extent, objected to the allegorical interpretation of the Old Testament. We have then to think either of Marcionite Christians or of “Chiliasts,” that is, the old Christians who were still numerous in Egypt about the middle of the third century (see Dionys. Alex. in Euseb., H. E. VII. 24). In the first case, the title of the treatise would be paradoxical. But perhaps the treatise refers to the Quarto-decimans, although the expression κανὼν ἐκκλησιαστικός seems too ponderous for them (see, however, Orig., Comm. in Matth. n. 76, ed. Delarue III., p. 895). Clement may possibly have had Jewish Christians before him. See Zahn, Forschungen, vol. III., p. 37 f. and 292further, how conversely the same reproach was hurled at those Christians who resisted the advancing hellenising of Christianity, with regard, for example, to the doctrine of God, eschatology, Christology, etc.410410Cases of this kind are everywhere, up to the fifth century, so numerous that they need not be cited. We may only remind the reader that the Nestorian Christology was described by its earliest and its latest opponents as Ebionitic. But while this reproach is raised, there is nowhere shewn any connection between those described as Judaising Christians and the Ebionites. That they were identified off-hand is only a proof that “Ebionitism” was no longer known. That “Judaising” within Catholicism which appears, on the one hand, in the setting up of a Catholic ceremonial law (worship, constitution, etc.), and on the other, in a tenacious clinging to less hellenised forms of faith and hopes of faith, has nothing in common with Jewish Christianity, which desired somehow to confine Christianity to the Jewish nation.411411Or were those western Christians Ebionitic who, in the fourth century, still clung to very realistic Chiliastic hopes, who, in fact, regarded their Christianity as consisting in these? Speculations that take no account of history may make out that Catholicism became more and more Jewish Christian. But historical observation, which reckons only with concrete quantities, can discover in Catholicism, besides Christianity, no element which it would have to describe as Jewish Christian. It observes only a progressive hellenising, and in consequence of this, a progressive spiritual legislation which 293utilizes the Old Testament, a process which went on for centuries according to the same methods which had been employed in the larger Christendom from the beginning.412412The hellenising of Christianity went hand in hand with a more extensive use of the Old Testament; for, according to the principles of Catholicism, every new article of the Church system must be able to legitimise itself as springing from revelation. But, as a rule, the attestation could only be gathered from the Old Testament, since religion here appears in the fixed form of a secular community. Now the needs of a secular community for outward regulations gradually became so strong in the Church as to require palpable ceremonial rules. But it cannot be denied that from a certain point of time, first by means of the fiction of Apostolic constitutions (see my edition of the Didache, Prolegg. p. 239 ff.), and then without this fiction, not, however, as a rule, without reservations, ceremonial regulations were simply taken over from the Old Testament. But this transference (see Bk. II.) takes place at a time when there can be absolutely no question of an influence of Jewish Christianity. Moreover, it always proves itself to be catholic by the fact that it did not in the least soften the traditional anti-Judaism. On the contrary, it attained its full growth in the age of Constantine. Finally, it should not be overlooked that at all times in antiquity certain provincial churches were exposed to Jewish influences, especially in the East and in Arabia, that they were therefore threatened with being Judaised, or with apostasy to Judaism, and that even at the present day certain Oriental Churches shew tokens of having once been subject to Jewish influences (see Serapion in Euseb. H. E. VI. 12. 1, Martyr. Pion., Epiph. de mens. et pond 15. 18; my Texte u. Unters. I. 3. p. 73 f., and Wellhausen, Skizzen und Vorarbeiten, Part. 3. p. 197 ff.; actual disputations with Jews do not seem to have been common, though see Tertull., adv. Jud. and Orig. c. Cels. I. 45, 49, 55: II. 31. Clement also keeps in view Jewish objections). This Jewish Christianity, if we like to call it so, which in some regions of the East was developed through an immediate influence of Judaism on Catholicism, should not, however, be confounded with the Jewish Christianity which is the most original form in which Christianity realised itself. This was no longer able to influence the Christianity which had shaken itself free from the Jewish nation (as to futile attempts, see below), any more than the protecting covering stripped from the new shoot can ever again acquire significance for the latter. Baur’s brilliant attempt to explain Catholicism as a product of the mutual conflict and neutralising of Jewish and Gentile Christianity, (the latter, according to Baur, being equivalent to Paulinism) reckons with two factors, of which the one had no significance at all, and the other only an indirect effect, as regards the formation of the Catholic Church. The influence of Paul in this direction is exhausted in working out the universalism of the Christian religion, for a Greater than he had laid the foundation for this movement, and Paul did not realise it by himself alone. Placed on this height Catholicism was certainly 294developed by means of conflicts and compromises, not, however, by conflicts with Ebionitism, which was to all intents and purposes discarded as early as the first century, but as the result of the conflict of Christianity with the united powers of the world in which it existed, on behalf of its own peculiar nature as the universal religion based on the Old Testament. Here were fought triumphant battles, but here also compromises were made which characterise the essence of Catholicism as Church and as doctrine.413413What is called the ever-increasing “legal” feature of Gentile Christianity and the Catholic Church is conditioned by its origin, in so far as its theory is rooted in that of Judaism spiritualised and influenced by Hellenism. As the Pauline conception of, the law never took effect, and a criticism of the Old Testament religion which is just law, neither understood nor ventured upon in the larger Christendom—the forms were not criticised, but the contents spiritualised—so the theory that Christianity is promise and spiritual law is to be regarded as the primitive one. Between the spiritual law and the national law there stand indeed ceremonial laws which, without being spiritually interpreted, could yet be freed from the national application. It cannot be denied that the Gentile Christian communities and the incipient Catholic Church were very careful and reserved in their adoption of such laws from the Old Testament, and that the later Church no longer observed this caution. But still it is only a question of degree, for there are many examples of that adoption in the earliest period of Christendom. The latter had no cause for hurry in utilizing the Old Testament so long as there was no external or internal policy, or so long as it was still in embryo. The decisive factor lies here again in enthusiasm and not in changing theories. The basis for these was supplied from the beginning. But a community of individuals under spiritual excitement builds on this foundation something different from an association which wishes to organise and assert itself as such on earth. (The history of Sunday is specially instructive here; see Zahn, Gesch. des Sonntags, 1878, as well as the history of the discipline of fasting, see Linsenmayr, Entwickelung der Kirchl. Fastendisciplin. 1877, and Die Abgabe des Zehnten. In general, cf. Ritschl., Entstehung der Altkath. Kirche, 2 edit. pp. 312 ff. 331 ff. 1 Cor. IX. 9, may be noted).
A history of Jewish Christianity and its doctrines does not therefore, strictly speaking, belong to the history of dogma, especially as the original distinction between Jewish Christianity and the main body of the Church lay, as regards its principle, not in doctrine, but in policy. But seeing that the opinions of the teachers in this Church regarding Jewish Christianity throw light upon their own stand-point, also that up till about the middle of the second century Jewish Christians were still numerous and undoubtedly formed the great majority 295of believers in Palestine,414414Justin, Apol. I. 53, Dial. 47; Euseb., H. E. IV. 5; Sulpic. Sev., Hist. Sacr. II. 31; Cyrill, Catech. XIV. 15. Important testimonies in Origen, Eusebius, Epiphanius and Jerome. and finally, that attempts—unsuccessful ones indeed—on the part of Jewish Christianity to bring Gentile Christians under its sway did not cease till about the middle of the third century, a short sketch may be appropriate here.415415No Jewish Christian writings have been transmitted to us, even from the earliest period; for the Apocalypse of John which describes the Jews as a synagogue of Satan is not a Jewish Christian book (III. 9 especially, shews that the author knows of only one covenant of God, viz., that with the Christians). Jewish Christian sources lie at the basis of our synoptic Gospels, but none of them in their present form is a Jewish Christian writing. The Acts of the Apostles is so little Jewish Christian, its author seemingly so ignorant of Jewish Christianity, at least so unconcerned with regard to it that to him the spiritualised Jewish law, or Judaism as a religion which he connects as closely as possible with Christianity, is a factor already completely detached from the Jewish people (see Overbeck’s Commentar z. Apostelgesch. and his discussion in the Ztschr. f. wiss. Theol. 1872. p. 305 ff.). Measured by the Pauline theology we may indeed, with Overbeck, say of the Gentile Christianity, as represented by the Author of the Acts of the Apostles, that it already has germs of Judaism and represents a falling off from Paulinism; but these expressions are not correct, because they have at least the appearance of making Paulinism the original form of Gentile Christianity. But as this can neither be proved nor believed, the religious attitude of the Author of the Acts of the Apostles must have been a very old one in Christendom. The Judaistic element was not first introduced into Gentile Christianity by the opponents of Paul, who indeed wrought in the national sense, and there is even nothing to lead to the hypothesis that the common Gentile Christian view of the Old Testament and of the law should be conceived as resulting from the efforts of Paul and his opponents, for the consequent effect here would either have been null, or a strengthening of the Jewish Christian thesis. The Jewish element, that is the total acceptance of the Jewish religion sub specie aternitatis et Christi, is simply the original Christianity of the Gentile Christians itself considered as theory. Contrary to his own intention, Paul was compelled to lead his converts to this Christianity, for only for such Christianity was “the time fulfilled” within the empire of the world. The Acts of the Apostles gives eloquent testimony to the pressing difficulties which under such circumstances stand in the way of a historical understanding of the Gentile Christians in view of the work and the theology of Paul. Even the Epistle to the Hebrews is not a Jewish Christian writing; but there is certainly a peculiar state of things connected with this document. For, on the one hand, the author and his readers are free from the law, a spiritual interpretation is given to the Old Testament religion which makes it appear to be glorified and fulfilled in the work of Christ, and there is no mention of any prerogative of the people of Israel. But, on the other hand, because the spiritual interpretation, as in Paul, is here teleological, the author allows a temporary significance to the cultus as literally understood, and therefore by his criticism he conserves the Old Testament religion for the past, while declaring that it was set aside as regards the present by the fulfilment of Christ. The teleology of the author, however, looks at everything only from the point of view of shadow and reality, an antithesis which is at the service of Paul also, but which in his case vanishes behind the antithesis of law and grace. This scheme of thought which is to be traced back to a way of looking at things which arose in Christian Judaism, seeing that it really distinguishes between old and new, stands midway between the conception of the Old Testament religion entertained by Paul, and that of the common Gentile Christian as it is represented by Barnabas. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews undoubtedly knows of a twofold convenant of God. But the two are represented as stages, so that the second is completely based on the first. This view was more likely to be understood by the Gentile Christians than the Pauline, that is, with some seemingly slight changes, to be recognised as their own. But even it at first fell to the ground, and it was only in the conflict with the Marcionites that some Church Fathers advanced to views which seem to be related to those of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Whether the author of this Epistle was a born Jew or a Gentile—in the former case he would far surpass the Apostle Paul in his freedom from the national claims—we cannot, at any rate, recognise in it a document containing a conception which still prizes the Jewish nationality in Christianity, nay, not even a document to prove that such a conception was still dangerous. Consequently, we have no Jewish Christian memorial in the New Testament at all, unless it be in the Pauline Epistles. But as concerns the early Christian literature outside the Canon, the fragments of the great work of Hegesippus are even yet by some investigators claimed for Jewish Christianity. Weizsäcker (Art. “Hegesippus” in Herzog’s R. E. 2 edit.) has shewn how groundless this assumption is. That Hegesippus occupied the common Gentile Christian position is certain from unequivocal testimony of his own. If, as is very improbable, we were obliged to ascribe to him a rejection of Paul, we should have to refer to Euseb. H. E. IV. 29. 5. (Σευηριανοὶ βλασφημοῦντες Παῦλον τὸν ἀπόστολον ἀθετοῦσιν αὐτοῦ τὰς ἐπιστολὰς μηδὲ τὰς πράξεις τῶν ἀποστόλων καταδεχόμενοι, but probably the Gospels; these Severians therefore, like Marcion, recognised the Gospel of Luke, but rejected the Acts of the Apostles), and Orig. c. Cels. V. 65: (εἰσὶ γὰρ τινες αἱρέσεις τὰς Παύλου ἐπιστολὰς τοῦ ἀποστόλου μὴ προσιέμεναι ὥσπερ Ἐβιωναῖοι ἀμφότεροι καὶ οἱ καλούμενοι ̕Σγκρατηταί). Consequently, our only sources of knowledge of Jewish Christianity in the post-Pauline period are merely the accounts of the Church Fathers and some additional fragments (see the collection of fragments of the Ebionite Gospel and that to the Hebrews in Hilgenfeld, Nov. Test. extra can. rec. fasc. IV. Ed. 2, and in Zahn, l. c. II. p. 642 ff.). We know better, but still very imperfectly, certain forms of the syncretistic Jewish Christianity, from the Philosoph. of Hippolytus and the accounts of Epiphanius, who is certainly nowhere more incoherent than in the delineation of the Jewish Christians, because he could not copy original documents here, but was forced to piece together confused traditions with his own observations. See below on the extensive documents which are even yet, as they stand, treated as records of Jewish Christianity, viz., the Pseudo-Clementines. Of the pieces of writing whose Jewish Christian origin is controverted, in so far as they may be simply Jewish, I say nothing.296
Justin vouches for the existence of Jewish Christians, and distinguishes between those who would force the law even on Gentile 297Christians and would have no fellowship with such as did not observe it, and those who considered that the law was binding only on people of Jewish birth and did not shrink from fellowship with Gentile Christians who were living without the law. How the latter could observe the law and yet enter into intercourse with those who were not Jews is involved in obscurity, but these he recognises as partakers of the Christian salvation and therefore as Christian brethren, though he declares that there are Christians who do not possess this large-heartedness. He also speaks of Gentile Christians who allowed themselves to be persuaded by Jewish Christians into the observance of the Mosaic law, and confesses that he is not quite sure of the salvation of these. This is all we learn from Justin,416416As to the chief localities where Jewish Christians were found, see Zahn, Kanonsgesch. II. p. 648 ff. but it is instructive enough. In the first place, we can see that the question is no longer a burning one: “Justin here represents only the interests of a Gentile Christianity whose stability has been secured.” This has all the more meaning that in the Dialogue Justin has not in view an individual Christian community, or the communities of a province, but speaks as one who surveys the whole situation of Christendom.417417Dialogue 47. The very fact that Justin has devoted to the whole question only one chapter of a work containing 142, and the magmanimous way in which he speaks, shew that the phenomena in question have no longer any importance for the main body of Christendom. Secondly, it is worthy of notice that Justin distinguishes two tendencies in Jewish Christianity. We observe these two tendencies in the Apostolic age (Presupp. § 3); they had therefore maintained themselves to his time. Finally, we must not overlook the circumstance that he adduces only the ἔννομος πολιτεία, “legal polity,” as characteristic of this Jewish Christianity. He speaks only incidentally of a difference in doctrine, nay, he manifestly presupposes that the διδάγματα Χριστοῦ, “teachings of Christ,” are essentially found among them just as among the Gentile Christians; for he regards the more liberal among them as friends and brethren.418418Yet it should be noted that the Christians who, according to Dial. 48, denied the pre-existence of Christ and held him to be a man are described as Jewish Christians. We should read in the passage in question, as my recent comparison of the Parisian codex shews, ἀπὸ τοῦ ὑμετέρου γένους. Yet Justin did not make this a controversial point of great moment.298
The fact that even then there were Jewish Christians here and there who sought to spread the ἔννομος πολιτεία among Gentile Christians has been attested by Justin and also by other contemporary writers.419419The so-called Barnabas is considerably older than Justin. In his Epistle (4. 6) he has in view Gentile Christians who have been converted by Jewish Christians, when he utters a warning against those who say ὅτι α διαθήκη ἐκείνων (the Jews) καὶ ἡμῶν (ἐστιν). But how great the actual danger was cannot be gathered from the Epistle. Ignatius in two Epistles (ad Magn. 8–10: ad Philad. 6. 9) opposes Jewish Christian intrigues, and characterises them solely from the point of view that they mean to introduce the Jewish observance of the law. He opposes them with a Pauline idea (Magn. 8. 1: εἰ γὰρ μέχρι νῦν κατὰ νόμον, Ἰουδαϊσμὸν ζῶμεν ὁμολογοῦμεν χάριν μὴ εἰληφέναι), as well as with the common Gentile Christian assumption that the prophets themselves had already lived κατὰ Χριστόν. These Judaists must be strictly distinguished from the Gnostics whom Ignatius elsewhere opposes (against Zahn, Ignat. v. Ant. p. 356 f.). The dangers from this Jewish Christianity cannot have been very serious, even if we take Magn. 11. 1, as a phrase. There was an active Jewish community in Philadelphia (Rev. III. 9), and so Jewish Christian plots may have continued longer there. At the first look it seems very promising that in the old dialogue of Aristo of Pella a Hebrew Christian, Jason, is put in opposition to the Alexandrian Jew, Papiscus. But as the history of the little book proves, this Jason must have essentially represented the common Christian and not the Ebionite conception of the Old Testament and its relation to the Gospel, etc.; see my Texte u. Unters. I. 1. 2. p. 115 ff.; I. 3. pp. 115-130. Testimony as to an apostasy to Judaism is occasionally though rarely given; see Serapion in Euseb., H. E. VI. 12, who addresses a book to one Domninus, ἐκπεπτωκότα παρὰ τὸν τοῦ διῶγμοὐ καιρὸν ἀπὸ τῆς εἰς Χριστὸν πίστεως ἐπί τὴν Ἰουδαϊκὴν ἐθελοθρησκείαν; see also Acta Pionii, 13. 14. According to Epiphanius, de mens et pond. 14. 15, Acquila, the translator of the Bible, was first a Christian and then a Jew. This account is perhaps derived from Origen, and is probably reliable. Likewise according to Epiphanius (l. c. 17. 18), Theodotion was first a Marcionite and then a Jew. The transition from Marcionitism to Judaism (for extremes meet) is not in itself incredible. But there is no evidence of this propaganda having acquired any great importance. Celsus also knows Christians who desire to live as Jews according to the Mosaic law (V. 61), but he mentions them only once, and otherwise takes no notice of them in his delineation of, and attack on, Christianity. We may perhaps infer that he knew of them only from hearsay, for he simply enumerates them along with the numerous Gnostic sects. Had 299this keen observer really known them he would hardly have passed them over, even though he had met with only a small number of them.420420It follows from c. Cels. II. 1-3, that Celsus could hardly have known Jewish Christians. Irenæus placed the Ebionites among the heretical schools,421421Iren. 26. 2: III. 11. 7: III. 15. 1, 21. 1: IV. 33. 4: V. 1. 3. We first find the name Ebionti, the poor, in Irenæus. We are probably entitled to assume that this name was given to the Christians in Jerusalem as early as the Apostolic age, that is, they applied it to themselves (poor in the sense of the prophets and of Christ, fit to be received into the Messianic kingdom). It is very questionable whether we should put any value on Epiph. h. 30. 17. but we can see from his work that in his day they must have been all but forgotten in the West.422422When Irenæus adduces as the points of distinction between the Church and the Ebionites, that besides observing the law and repudiating the Apostle Paul, the latter deny the Divinity of Christ and his birth from the Virgin and reject the New Testament Canon (except the Gospel of Matthew), that only proves that the formation of dogma has made progress in the Church. The less was known of the Ebionites from personal observation, the more confidently they were made out to be heretics who denied the Divinity of Christ and rejected the Canon. The denial of the Divinity of Christ and the birth from the Virgin was, from the end of the second century, regarded as the Ebionite heresy par excellence, and the Ebionites themselves appeared to the Western Christians, who obtained their information solely from the East, to be a school like those of the Gnostics, founded by a scoundrel named Ebion for the purpose of dragging down the person of Jesus to the common level. It is also mentioned incidentally, that this Ebion had commanded the observance of circumcision and the Sabbath; but that is no longer the main thing (see Tertull, de carne 14, 18, 24: de virg. vel. 6: de præscr. 10. 33; Hippol., Syntagma, [Pseudo-Tertull, 11; Philastr. 37; Epiph. h. 30]; Hippol., Philos. VII. 34. The latter passage contains the instructive statement that Jesus by his perfect keeping of the law became the Christ). This attitude of the Western Christians proves that they no longer knew Jewish Christian communities Hence it is all the more strange that Hilgenfeld (Ketzergesch. p. 422 ff.) has in all earnestness endeavoured to revive the Ebion of the Western Church Fathers. This was not yet the case in the East. Origen knows of them. He knows also of some who recognise the birth from the Virgin. He is sufficiently intelligent and acquainted with history to judge that the Ebionites are no school, but, as believing Jews, are the descendants of the earliest Christians, in fact he seems to suppose that all converted Jews have at all times observed the law of their fathers. But he is far from judging of them favourably. He regards them as little better than the Jews (Ἰουδαῖοι καὶ οἱ ὀλίγῳ διαφέροντες αὐτῶν Ἐβιωναῖοι, 300“Jews and Ebionites who differ little from them”). Their rejection of Paul destroys the value of their recognition of Jesus as Messiah. They appear only to have assumed Christ’s name, and their literal exposition of the Scripture is meagre and full of error. It is possible that such Jewish Christians may have existed in Alexandria, but it is not certain. Origen knows nothing of an inner development in this Jewish Christianity.423423See Orig. c. Cels. II. 1: V. 61, 65: de princip. IV. 22; hom. in Genes. III. 15 (Opp. II, p. 65): hom. in Jerem. XVII. 12 (III. p. 254): in Matth. T. XVI. 12 (III. p. 494), T. XVII. 12 (III. p. 733); cf. Opp. III. p. 895: hom. in Lc. XVII. (III. p. 952). That a portion of the Ebionites recognised the birth from the Virgin was according to Origen frequently attested. That was partly reckoned to them for righteousness and partly not, because they would not admit the pre-existence of Christ. The name “Ebionites” is interpreted as a nickname given them by the Church “beggarly” in the knowledge of scripture, and particularly of Christology. Even in Palestine, Origen seems to have occupied himself personally with these Jewish Christians, just as little as Eusebius.424424Eusebius knows no more than Origen (H. E. III. 27) unless we specially credit him with the information that the Ebionites keep along with the Sabbath also the Sunday. What he says of Symmachus, the translator of the Bible, and an Ebionite, is derived from Origen (H. E. VI. 17). The report is interesting, because it declares that Symmachus wrote against Catholic Christianity, especially against the Catholic Gospel of Matthew (about the year 200). But Symmachus is to be classed with the Gnostics, and not with the common type of Jewish Christianity (see below). We have also to thank Eusebius (H. E. III. 5. 3) for the information that the Christians of Jerusalem fled to Pella, in Peræa, before the destruction of that city. In the following period the most important settlements of the Ebionites must have been in the countries east of the Jordan, and in the heart of Syria (see Jul. Afric. in Euseb., H. E. I. 7. 14: Euseb., de loc. hebr. in Lagarde, Onomast. p. 301; Epiph., h. 29. 7: h. 30. 2). This fact explains how the bishops in Jerusalem and the coast towns of Palestine came to see very little of them. There was a Jewish Christian community in Beroea with which Jerome had relations (Jerom., de Vir. inl. 3). They lived apart by themselves and were not aggressive. Jerome is the last who gives us a clear and certain account of them.425425Jerome correctly declares (Ep. ad. August. 122. C. 13, Opp. I. p. 746), “(Ebionitæ) credentes in Christo propter hoc solum a patribus anathematizati sunt, quod legis cæremonias Christi evangelio miscuerunt, et sic nova confessa sunt, ut vetera non omitterent.” He, who associated with them, assures us that their attitude was the same as in the second century, only they seem to have made progress in the recognition of the birth from the Virgin and 301in their more friendly position towards the Church.426426Ep. ad August. l. c.; Quid dicam de Hebionitis, qui Christianos esse se simulant? usque hodie per totas orientis synagogas inter Judæos (!) hæresis est, que dicitur Minæorum et a Pharisæis nunc usque damnatur, quos vulgo Nazaræos nuncupant, qui credunt in Christum filium dei natum de Virgine Maria et eum dicunt esse, qui sub pontio Pilato passus est et resurrexit, in quem et nos credimus; sed dum volunt et Judæi esse et Christiani, nec Judæi sunt nec Christiani.” The approximation of the Jewish Christian conception to that of the Catholics shews itself also in their exposition of Isaiah IX. 1. f. (see Jerome on the passage). Bert we must not forget that there were such Jewish Christians from the earliest times. It is worthy of note that the name Nazarenes, as applied to Jewish Christians, is found in the Acts of the Apostles XXIV. 5, in the Dialogue of Jason and Papiscus, and then first again in Jerome. Jerome at one time calls them Ebionites and at another Nazarenes, thereby proving that these names were used synonymously.427427Zahn, l. c. p. 648 ff. 668 ff. has not convinced me of the contrary, but I confess that Jerome’s style of expression is not everywhere clear. There is not the least ground for distinguishing two clearly marked groups of Jewish Christians, or even for reckoning the distinction of Origen and the Church Fathers to the account of Jewish Christians themselves, so as to describe as Nazarenes those who recognised the birth from the Virgin and who had no wish to compel the Gentile Christians to observe the law, and the others as Ebionites. Apart from syncretistic or Gnostic Jewish Christianity, there is but one group of Jewish Christians holding various shades of opinion, and these from the beginning called themselves Nazarenes as well as Ebionites. From the beginning, likewise, one portion of them was influenced by the existence of a great Gentile Church which did not observe the law. They acknowledged the work of Paul and experienced in a slight degree influences emanating from the great Church.428428Zahn, (1. c.) makes a sharp distinction between the Nazarenes, on the one side, who used the Gospel of the Hebrews, acknowledged the With from the Virgin, and in fact the higher Christology to some extent, did not repudiate Paul, etc., and the Ebionites on the other, whom he simply identifies with the Gnostic Jewish Christians, if I am not mistaken. In opposition to this, I think I must adhere to the distinction as given above in the text and in the following: (1) Non-Gnostic, Jewish Christians (Nazarenes, Ebionites), who appeared in various shades, according to their doctrine and attitude to the Gentile Church, and whom, with the Church Fathers, we may appropriately classify as strict or tolerant (exclusive or liberal). (2) Gnostic or syncretistic Judæo-Christians who are also termed Ebionites. But the gulf 302which separated them from that Church did not thereby become narrower. That gulf was caused by the social and political separation of these Jewish Christians, whatever mental attitude, hostile or friendly, they might take up to the great Church. This Church stalked over them with iron feet, as over a structure which in her opinion was full of contradictions throughout (“Semi-christiani”), and was disconcerted neither by the gospel of these Jewish Christians nor by anything else about them.429429This Gospel no doubt greatly interested the scholars of the Catholic Church from Clement of Alexandria onwards. But they have almost all contrived to evade the hard problem which it presented. It may be noted, incidentally, that the Gospel of the Hebrews, to judge from the remains preserved to us, can neither have been the model nor the translation of our Matthew, but a work independent of this, though drawing from the same sources, representing perhaps to some extent an earlier stage of the tradition. Jerome also knew very well that the Gospel of the Hebrews was not the original of the canonical Matthew, but he took care not to correct the old prejudice. Ebionitic conceptions, such as that of the female nature of the Holy Spirit, were of course least likely to convince the Church Fathers. Moreover, the common Jewish Christians hardly possessed a Church theology, because for them Christianity was something entirely different from the doctrine of a school. On the Gospel of the Hebrews, see Handmann (Texte u. Unters V. 3), Resch, Agrapha (1. c. V. 4), and Zahn, l. c. p. 642 ff. But as the Synagogue also vigorously condemned them, their position up to their extinction was a most tragic one. These Jewish Christians, more than any other Christian party, bore the reproach of Christ.
The Gospel, at the time when it was proclaimed among the Jews, was not only law, but theology, and indeed syncretistic theology. On the other hand, the temple service and the sacrificial system had begun to lose their hold in certain influential circles.430430We have as yet no history of the sacrificial system and the views as to sacrifice in the Græco-Roman epoch of the Jewish Nation. It is urgently needed. We have pointed out above (Presupp. §§ I. 2. 5) how great were the diversities of Jewish sects, and that there was in the Diaspora, as well as in Palestine itself, a Judaism which, on the one hand, followed ascetic impulses, arid on the other, advanced to a criticism of the religious tradition without giving up the national claims. It may even be said that in theology the boundaries between the orthodox Judaism of the Pharisees and a syncretistic Judaism were of an elastic kind. Although religion, in those 303circles, seemed to be fixed in its legal aspect, yet on its theological side it was ready to admit very diverse speculations, in which angelic powers especially played a great rôle.431431We may remind readers of the assumptions, that the world was created by angels, that the law was given by angels, and similar ones which are found in the theology of the Pharisees. Celsus (in Orig. I. 26: V. 6) asserts generally that the Jews worshipped angels, so does the author of the Prædicatio Petri, as well as the apologist Aristides. Cf. Joël, Blicke in die Religionsgesch. I Abth., a book which is certainly to be used with caution (see Theol. Lit. Ztg. 1881. Coll. 184 ff.). That introduced into Jewish monotheism an element of differentiation, the results of which were far-reaching. The field was prepared for the formation of syncretistic sects. They present themselves to us on the soil of the earliest Christianity, in the speculations of those Jewish Christian teachers who are opposed in the Epistle to the Colossians, and in the Gnosis of Cerinthus (see above, p. 247). Here cosmological ideas and myths were turned to profit. The idea of God was sublimated by both. In consequence of this, the Old Testament records were subjected to criticism, because they could not in all respects be reconciled with the universal religion which hovered before men’s minds. This criticism was opposed to the Pauline in so far as it maintained, with the common Jewish Christians and Christendom as a whole, that the genuine Old Testament religion was essentially identical with the Christian. But while those common Jewish Christians drew from this the inference that the whole of the Old Testament must be adhered to in its traditional sense and in all its ordinances, and while the larger Christendom secured for itself the whole of the Old Testament by deviating from the ordinary interpretation, those syncretistic Jewish Christians separated from the Old Testament, as interpolations, whatever did not agree with their purer moral conceptions and borrowed speculations. Thus, in particular, they got rid of the sacrificial ritual and all that was connected with it by putting ablutions in their place. First the profanation, and afterwards the abolition of the temple worship after the destruction of Jerusalem, may have given another new and welcome impulse to this by coming to be regarded as its Divine confirmation (Presupp. § 2). Christianity now 304appeared as purified Mosaism. In these Jewish Christian undertakings we have undoubtedly before us a series of peculiar attempts to elevate the Old Testament religion into the universal one, under the impression of the person of Jesus; attempts, however, in which the Jewish religion, and not the Jewish people, was to bear the costs by curtailment of its distinctive features. The great inner affinity of these attempts with the Gentile Christian Gnostics has already been set forth. The firm partition wall between them, however, lies in the claim of these Jewish Christians to set forth the pure Old Testament religion, as well as in the national Jewish colouring which the constructed universal religion was always to preserve. This national colouring is shewn in the insistance upon a definite measure of Jewish national ceremonies as necessary to salvation, and in the opposition to the Apostle Paul, which united the Gnostic Judæo-Christians with the common type, those of the strict observance. How the latter were related to the former, we do not know, for the inner relations here are almost completely unknown to us.432432No reliance can be placed on Jewish sources, or on Jewish scholars, as a rule. What we find in Joël, l. c. I. Abth. p. 101 ff. is instructive. We may mention Grätz, Gnosticismus und Judenthum (Krotoschin, 1846), who has called attention to the Gnostic elements in the Talmud, and dealt with several Jewish Gnostics and Antignostics, as well as with the book of Jezira. Grätz assumes that the four main dogmatic points in the book Jezira, viz., the strict unity of the deity, and, at the same time, the negation of the demiurgic dualism, the creation out of nothing with the negation of matter, the systematic unity of the world and the balancing of opposites, were directed against prevailing Gnostic ideas.
Apart from the false doctrines opposed in the Epistle to the Colossians, and from Cerinthus, this syncretistic Jewish Christianity which aimed at making itself a universal religion meets us in tangible form only in three phenomena:433433We may pass over the false teachers of the Pastoral Epistles, as they cannot be with certainty determined, and the possibility is not excluded that we have here to do with an arbitrary construction; see Holtzman, Pastoralbriefe, p. 150 f. in the Elkesaites of Hippolytus and Origen; in the Ebionites with their associates of Epiphanius, sects very closely connected, in fact to be viewed as one party of manifold shades;434434Orig. in Euseb. VI. 38; Hippol., Philos. IX. 13 ff., X. 29; Epiph., h. 30, also h. 19. 53; Method., Conviv. VIII. to. From the confused account of Epiphanius, who called the common Jewish Christians Nazarenes, the Gnostic type Ebionites and Sampsmi, and their Jewish forerunners Osseni, we may conclude, that in many regions where there were Jewish Christians they yielded to the propaganda of the Elkesaite doctrines, and that in the fourth century there was no other syncretistic Jewish Christianity besides the various shades of Elkesaites. and 305in the activity of Symmachus.435435I formerly reckoned Symmachus, the translator of the Bible, among the common Jewish Christians; but the statements of Victorinus Rhetor on Gal. I. 19. II. 26 (Migne T. VIII. Col. 1155. 1162) shew that he has a close affinity with the Pseudo-Clementines, and is also to be classed with the Elkesaite Alcibiades. “Nam Jacobum apostolum Symmachiani faciunt quasi duodecimum et hunc secuntur, qui ad dominum nostrum Jesum Christum adjungunt Judaismi observationem, quamquam etiam Jesum Christum fatentur; dicunt enim eum ipsum Adam esse et esse animam generalem, et aliæ hujusmodi blasphemiæ.” The account given by Eusebius, H. E. VI. 17 (probably on the authority of Origen, see also Demonstr. VII. 1) is important: Τῶν γε μὲν ἑρμηχευτῶν αὐτῶν δὴ τούτων ἰστέον, Ἐβιωναίον τὸν Σύμμαχον γεγονέναι . . . . καὶ ὑπομνήματα δὲ τοῦ Συμμάχου εἰσέτι νῦν φερεται, ἐν οἶς δοκεῖ πρὸς τὸ κατὺ Ματθαῖον ἀποτεινόμενος εὐαγγέλιον τὴν δεδηλωμένην αἵρεσιν κρατύνειν. Symmachus therefore adopted an aggressive attitude towards the great Church, and hence we may probably class him with Alcibiades who lived a little later. Common Jewish Christianity was no longer aggressive in the second century. We observe here a form of religion as far removed from that of the Old Testament as from the Gospel, subject to strong heathen influences, not Greek, but Asiatic, and scarcely deserving the name “Christian,” because it appeals to a new revelation of God which is to complete that given in Christ. We should take particular note of this in judging of the whole remarkable phenomenon. The question in this Jewish Christianity is not the formation of a philosophic school, but to some extent the establishment of a kind of new religion, that is, the completion of that founded by Christ, undertaken by a particular person basing his claims on a revealed book which was delivered to him from heaven. This book which was to form the complement of the Gospel, possessed, from the third century, importance for all sections of Jewish Christians so far as they, in the phraseology of Epiphanius, were not Nazarenes.436436Wellhausen (l. c. Part III. p. 206) supposes that Elkesai is equivalent to Alexius. That the receiver of the “book” was a historical person is manifest from Epiphanius’ account of his descendants (h. 19 2: 53. 1). From Hipp. Philosoph. IX. 16, p. 468, it is certainly probable, though not certain, that the book was produced by the unknown author as early as the time of Trajan. On the other hand, the existence of the sect itself can be proved only at the beginning of the third century, and therefore we have the possibility of an ante-dating of the “book”. This seems to have been Origen’s opinion. The whole system reminds 306one of Samaritan Christian syncretism;437437Epiph. (h. 53. 1) says of the Elkesaites: οὔτε χριστιανοὶ ὑπάρχοντει οὔτε Ἰουδαῖοι οὔτε Ἕλληνες, ἀλλὰ μέσον ἀπλῶς ὑπάρχοντες. He pronounces a similar judgment as to the Samaritan sects (Simonians), and expressly (h. 30. 1) connects the Elkesaites with them. but we must be on our guard against identifying the two phenomena, or even regarding them as similar. These Elkesaite Jewish Christians held fast by the belief that Jesus was the Son of God, and saw in the “book” a revelation which proceeded from him. They did not offer any worship to their founder,438438The worship paid to the descendants of this Elkesai, spoken of by Epiphanius, does not, if we allow for exaggerations, go beyond the measure of honour which was regularly paid to the descendants of prophets and men of God in the East. Cf. the respect enjoyed by the blood relations of Jesus and Mohammed. that is, to the receiver of the “book,” and they were, as will be shewn, the most ardent opponents of Simonianism.439439It the “book” really originated in the time of Trajan, then its production keeps within the frame-work of common Christianity, for at that time there were appearing everywhere in Christendom revealed books which contained new instructions and communications of grace. The reader may be reminded, for example, of the Shepherd of Hermas. When the sect declared that the “book” was delivered to Elkesai by a male and a female angel, each as large as a mountain, that these angels were the Son of God and the Holy Spirit, etc., we have, apart from the fantastic colouring, nothing extraordinary.
Alcibiades of Apamea, one of their disciples, came from the East to Rome about 220-230, and endeavoured to spread the doctrines of the sect in the Roman Church. He found the soil prepared, inasmuch as he could announce from the “book” forgiveness of sins to all sinful Christians, even the grossest transgressors, and such forgiveness was very much needed. Hippolytus opposed him, and had an opportunity of seeing the book and becoming acquainted with its contents. From his account and that of Origen we gather the following: (1) The sect is a Jewish Christian one, for it requires the νόμου πολιτεία (circumcision and the keeping of the Sabbath), and repudiates the Apostle Paul; but it criticises the Old Testament and rejects a part of it. (2) The objects of its faith are the “Great and most High God,” the Son of God (the “Great King”), and the Holy Spirit (thought of as female); Son and Spirit appear as angelic powers. Considered outwardly, and according to 307his birth, Christ is a mere man, but with this peculiarity, that he has already been frequently born and manifested (πολλάκις γεννηθέντα καὶ γεννώμενον πεφηνέναι καὶ φύεσθαι, ἀλλάσσοντα γενέσεις καὶ μετενσωματούμενον, cf. the testimony of Victorinus as to Symmachus). From the statements of Hippolytus we cannot be sure whether he was identified with the Son of God,440440It may be assumed from Philos. X. 29 that, in the opinion of Hyppolytus, the Elkesaites identified the Christ from above with the Son of God, and assumed that this Christ appeared on earth in changing and purely human forms, and will appear again (αὐτὸν δὲ μεταγγιζόμενον ἐν σώμασι πολλοῖς πολλάκις καὶ νῦν δὲ ἐν τῷ Ἰησοῦ, ὁμοίως ποτὲ μὲν ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ γεγενῆσθαι, ποτὲ δὲ πνεῦμα γεγονέναι, ποτὲ δὲ ἐκ παρθένου, ποτὲ δὲ οὔ καὶ τοῦτον δὲ μετέπειτα ἀεὶ ἐν σώματι μεταγγίζεσθαι καὶ ἐν πολλοῖς κατὰ καιροὺς δείκνυσθαι). As the Elkesaites (see the account by Epiphanius) traced back the incarnations of Christ to Adam, and not merely to Abraham, we may see in this view of history the attempt to transform Mosaism into the universal religion. But the Pharisaic theology had already begun with these Adam speculations, which are always a sign that the religion in Judaism is feeling its limits too narrow. The Jews in Alexandria were also acquainted with these speculations. at any rate the assumption of repeated births of Christ shews how completely Christianity was meant to be identified with what was supposed to be the pure Old Testament religion. (3) The “book” proclaimed a new forgiveness of sin, which, on condition of faith in the “book” and a real change of mind, was to be bestowed on every one, through the medium of washings, accompanied by definite prayers which are strictly prescribed. In these prayers appear peculiar Semitic speculations about nature (“the seven witnesses: heaven, water, the holy spirits, the angels of prayer, oil, salt, earth”). The old Jewish way of thinking appears in the assumption that all kinds of sickness and misfortune are punishments for sin, and that these penalties must therefore be removed by atonement. The book contains also astrological and geometrical speculations in a religious garb. The main thing, however, was the possibility of a forgiveness of sin, ever requiring to be repeated, though Hippolytus himself was unable to point to any gross laxity. Still, the appearance of this sect represents the attempt to make the religion of Christian Judaism palatable to the world. The possibility of repeated forgiveness of sin, the speculations about numbers, elements, 308and stars, the halo of mystery, the adaptation to the forms of worship employed in the “mysteries,” are worldly means of attraction which shew that this Jewish Christianity was subject to the process of acute secularization. The Jewish mode of life was to be adopted in return for these concessions. Yet its success in the West was of small extent and short-lived.
Epiphanius confirms all these features, and adds a series of new ones. In his description, the new forgiveness of sin is not so prominent as in that of Hippolytus, but it is there. From the account of Epiphanius we can see that these syncretistic Judæo-Christian sects were at first strictly ascetic and rejected marriage as well as the eating of flesh, but that they gradually became more lax. We learn here that the whole sacrificial service was removed from the Old Testament by the Elkesaites and declared to be non-Divine, that is non-Mosaic, and that fire was consequently regarded as the impure and dangerous element, and water as the good one.441441In the Gospel of these Jewish Christians Jesus is made to say (Epiph. h. 30. 16) ἦλθον καταλῦσαι τὰς θυσιας, καὶ ἐὰν μὴ ταύσησθε τοῦ θύεὶν, οὐ παύσεται ἀφ᾽ ὑμῶν ἡ ὁργὴ. We see the essential progress of this Jewish Christianity within Judaism in the opposition in principle to the whole sacrificial service (vid. also Epiph., h. 19. 3). We learn further, that these sects acknowledged no prophets and men of God between Aaron and Christ, and that they completely adapted the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew to their own views.442442On this new Gospel see Zahn, Kanongesch. II. p. 724. In addition to this book, however, (the Gospel of the 12 Apostles), other writings, such as Περίοδοι Πέτρου διὰ Κλήμεντος Ἀναβαθμοὶ Ἰακώβου and similar histories of Apostles, were held in esteem by them. In these writings the Apostles were represented as zealous ascetics, and, above all, as vegetarians, while the Apostle Paul was most bitterly opposed. They called him a Tarsene, said he was a Greek, and heaped on him gross abuse. Epiphanius also dwells strongly upon their Jewish mode of life (circumcision, Sabbath), as well as their daily washings,443443It is incorrect to suppose that the lustrations were meant to take the place of baptism, or were conceived by these Jewish Christians as repeated baptisms. Their effect was certainly equal to that of baptism. But it is nowhere hinted in our authorities that they were on that account made equivalent to the regular baptism. and gives some information about the 309constitution and form of worship of these sects (use of baptism: Lord’s Supper with bread and water). Finally, Epiphanius gives particulars about their Christology. On this point there were differences of opinion, and these differences prove that there was no Christological dogma. As among the common Jewish Christians, the birth of Jesus from the Virgin was a matter of dispute. Further, some identified Christ with Adam, others saw in him a heavenly being (ἄνωθεν ὄν), a spiritual being, who was created before all, who was higher than all angels and Lord of all things, but who chose for himself the upper world; yet this Christ from above came down to this lower world as often as he pleased. He came in Adam, he appeared in human form to the patriarchs, and at last appeared on earth as a man with the body of Adam, suffered, etc. Others again, as it appears, would have nothing to do with these speculations, but stood by the belief that Jesus was the man chosen by God, on whom, on account of his virtue, the Holy Spirit—ὃπερ ἐστίν ὁ Χριστός—descended at the baptism.444444The characteristic here, as in the Gentile Christian Gnosis, is the division of the person of Jesus into a more or less indifferent medium, and into the Christ. Here the factor constituting his personality could sometimes be placed in that medium, and sometimes in the Christ spirit, and thus contradictory formulæ could not but arise. It is therefore easy to conceive how Epiphanius reproaches these Jewish Christians with a denial, sometimes of the Divinity, and sometimes of the humanity of Christ (see h. 30 14). (Epiph. h. 30. 3, 14, 16). The account which Epiphanius gives of the doctrine held by these Jewish Christians regarding the Devil, is specially instructive (h. 30. 16): Δύο δὲ τινας συνιστῶσιν ἐκ θεοῦ τεταγμένους, ἕνα μὲν τὸν Χριστὸν, ἕνα δὲ τὸν διάβολον. καὶ τὸν μὲν Χριστὸν λέγουσι τοῦ μέλλοντος αἰῶνος εἰληφέναι τὸν κλῆρον, τὸν δὲ διάβολον τοῦτον πεπιστεῦσθαι ὀν αἰῶνα, ἐκ προσταγῆς δῆθεν τοῦ παντοκράτορος κατὰ αἴτησιν ἑκατέρων αὑτῶν. Here we have a very old Semitico-Hebraic idea preserved in a very striking way, and therefore we may probably assume that in other respects also, these Gnostic Ebionites preserved that which was ancient. Whether they did so in their criticism of the Old Testament, is a point on which we must not pronounce judgment.
We might conclude by referring to the fact that this syncretistic 310Jewish Christianity, apart from a well-known missionary effort at Rome, was confined to Palestine and the neighbouring countries, and might consider it proved that this movement had no effect on the history and development of Catholicism445445This syncretistic Judaism had indeed a significance for the history of the world, not, however, in the history of Christianity, but for the origin of Islam. Islam, as a religious system, is based partly on syncretistic Judaism (including the Zabians, so enigmatic in their origin), and, without questioning Mohammed’s originality, can only be historically understood by taking this into account. I have endeavoured to establish this hypothesis in a lecture printed in MS. form, 1877. Cf. now the conclusive proofs in Wellhausen, 1. c. Part III. p. 197-212. On the Mandeans, see Brandt, Die Mandäische Religion, 1889; (also Wellhausen in d. deutschen Lit. Ztg., 1890 No. I. Lagarde i. d. Gött. Gel. Anz., 1890, No. 10). were it not for two voluminous writings which still continue to be regarded as monuments of the earliest epoch of syncretistic Jewish Christianity. Not only did Baur suppose that he could prove his hypothesis about the origin of Catholicism by the help of these writings, but the attempt has recently been made on the basis of the Pseudo-Clementine Recognitions and Homilies, for these are the writings in question, to go still further and claim for Jewish Christianity the glory of having developed by itself the whole doctrine, worship and constitution of Catholicism, and of having transmitted it to Gentile Christianity as a finished product which only required to be divested of a few Jewish husks.446446See Bestmann, Gesch. der Christ]. Sitte, Bd. II. 1 Part: Die judenchristliche Sitte, 1883; also, Theol. Lit. Ztg., 1883. Col. 269 ff. The same author, Der Ursprung der Katholischen Christenthums und des Islams, 1884; also Theol. Lit. Ztg. 1884, Col. 291 ff. It is therefore necessary to subject these writings to a brief examination. Every-thing depends on the time of their origin, and the tendencies they follow. But these are just the two questions that are still unanswered. Without depreciating those worthy men who have earnestly occupied themselves with the Pseudo-Clementines,447447See Schliemann, Die Clementinen, etc., 1844; Hilgenfeld, Die Clementinischen Recogn. u. Homil, 1848; Ritschl, in d. Allg. Monatschrift f. Wissensch. u. Litt., 1852. Uhlhorn, Die Homil. u. Recogn., 1854, Lehmann, Die Clement. Schriften, 1869; Lipsius, in d. Protest. K. Ztg., 1869, p. 477 ff.; Quellen der Romische Petrussage, 1872. Uhlhorn, in Herzog’s R. Encykl. (Clementinen) 2 Edit. III. p. 286, admits: “There can be no doubt that the Clementine question still requires further discussion. It can hardly make any progress worth mentioning until we have collected better the material, and especially till we have got a corrected edition with an exhaustive commentary. The theory of the genesis, contents and aim of the pseudo-Clementine writings unfolded by Renan (Orig. T. VII. p. 74-l01) is essentially identical with that of German scholars. Langen (die Clemensromane, 1890) has set up very bold hypotheses, which are based on the assumption that Jewish Christianity was an important church factor in the second century, and that the pseudo-Clementines are comparatively old writings. it may be asserted, that in this region everything 311is as yet in darkness, especially as no agreement has been reached even in the question of their composition. No doubt such a result appears to have been pretty nearly arrived at as far as the time of composition is concerned, but that estimate (150-170, or the latter half of the second century) not only awakens the greatest suspicion, but can be proved to be wrong. The importance of the question for the history of dogma does not permit the historian to set it aside, while, on the other hand, the compass of a manual does not allow us to enter into an exhaustive investigation. The only course open in such circumstances is briefly to define one’s own position.
1. The Recognitions and Homilies, in the form in which we have them, do not belong to the second century, but at the very earliest to the first half of the third. There is nothing, however, to prevent our putting them a few decades later.448448There is no external evidence for placing the pseudo-Clementine writings in the second century. The oldest witness is Origen (IV. p. 401, Lommatzsch); but the quotation: “Quoniam opera bona, quæ fiunt ab infidelibus, in hoc sæculo its prosunt,” etc., is not found in our Clementines, so that Origen appears to have used a still older version. The internal evidence all points to the third century (canon, composition, theological attitude, etc.). Moreover, Zahn, (Gött. Gel. Anz. 1876. No. 45) and Lagarde have declared themselves in favour of this date; while Lipsius (Apokr. Apostelgesch. II. 1) and Weingarten (Zeittafeln, 3 Edit. p. 23) have recently expressed the same opinion. The Homilies presuppose (1) Marcion’s Antitheses, (2) Apelles’ Syllogisms, (3) perhaps Callistus’ edict about penance (see III. 70) and writings of Hippolytus (see also the expression ἐπὶσκοπος ἐπισκόπων. Clem. ep. ad Jacob I., which is first found in Tertull., de pudic. I.). (4) The most highly developed form of polemic against heathen mythology. (5) The complete development of church apologetics, as well as the conviction that Christianity is identical with correct and absolute knowledge. They further presuppose a time when there was a lull in the persecution of Christians, for the Emperor, though pretty often referred to, is never spoken of as a persecutor, and when the cultured heathen world was entirely disposed in favour of a eclectic monotheism. Moreover, the remarkable Christological statement in Hom. XVI. 15. 16. points to the third century, in fact probably even presupposes the theology of Origen; Cf. the sentence: τοῦ πατρὸς τὸ μή γεγεννῆσθαι ἐστιν, ὑιοῦ δὲ τὸ γεγεννῆσθαι λεννητὸν δὲ ἀγεννήτῳ ἤ καὶ αὐτυγεννήτῳ οὐ συνκρίνεται. Finally, the decided repudiation of the awakening of Christian faith by visions and dreams, and the polemic against these is also no doubt of importance for determining the date; see XVII. 14-19. Peter says, § 18: τὸ ἀδιδάκτως ἄνευ ὀπτασίας καὶ ὀνείρων μαθεῖν ἀποκάλυψίς ἐστιν, he had already learned that at his confession (Matt. XVI). The question, ἔι τις δἰ ὀπτασίαν πρὸς διδασκαλίαν σοφισθῆναι δύναται, is answered in the negative, § 19.312
2. They were not composed in their present form by heretical Christians, but most probably by Catholics. Nor do they aim at forming a theological system,449449This is also acknowledged in Koffmane, Die Gnosis, etc., p. 33. or spreading the views of a sect. Their primary object is to oppose Greek polytheism, immoral mythology, and false philosophy, and thus to promote edification.450450The Homilies, as we have them, are mainly composed of the speeches of Peter and others. These speeches oppose polytheism, mythology and the doctrine of demons, and advocate monotheism, ascetic morality and rationalism. The polemic against Simon Magus almost appears as a mere accessory.
3. In describing the authors as Catholic, we do not mean that they were adherents of the theology of Irenæus or Origen. The instructive point here, rather, is that they had as yet no fixed theology, and therefore could without hesitation regard and use all possible material as means of edification. In like manner, they had no fixed conception of the Apostolic age, and could therefore appropriate motley and dangerous material. Such Christians, highly educated and correctly trained too, were still to be found, not only in the third century, but even later. But the authors do not seem to have been free from a bias, inasmuch as they did not favour the Catholic, that is the Alexandrian, apologetic theology which was in process of formation
4. The description of the Pseudo-Clementine writings, naturally derived from their very form, as “edifying, didactic romances for the refutation of paganism,” is not inconsistent with the idea that the authors at the same time did their utmost to oppose heretical phenomena, especially the Marcionite church and Apelles, together with heresy and heathenism in general, as represented by Simon Magus.313
5. The objectionable materials which the authors made use of were edifying for them, because of the position assigned therein to Peter, because of the ascetic and mysterious elements they contained, and the opposition offered to Simon, etc. The offensive features, so far as they were still contained in these sources, had already become unintelligible and harmless. They were partly conserved as such and partly removed.
6. The authors are to be sought for perhaps in Rome, perhaps in Syria, perhaps in both places, certainly not in Alexandria.
7. The main ideas are: (1) The monarchy of God. (2) the syzygies (weak and strong). (3) Prophecy (the true Prophet). (4) Stoical rationalism, belief in providence, good works, φιλανθρωπία, etc. = Mosaism. The Homilies are completely saturated with stoicism, both in their ethical and metaphysical systems, and are opposed to Platonism, though Plato is quoted in Hom. XV. 8, as Ἑλλήνων τοφός τις (a wise man of the Greeks). In addition to these ideas we have also a strong hierarchical tendency. The material which the authors made use of was in great part derived from syncretistic Jewish Christian tradition, in other words, those histories of the Apostles were here utilised which Epiphanius reports to have been used by the Ebionites (see above). It is not probable, however, that these writings in their original form were in the hands of the narrators; the likelihood is that they made use of them in revised forms.
8. It must be reserved for an accurate investigation to ascertain whether those modified versions which betray clear marks of Hellenic origin were made within syncretistic Judaism itself, or whether they are to be traced back to Catholic writers. In either case, they should not be placed earlier than about the beginning of the third century, but in all probability one or two generations later still.
9. If we adopt the first assumption, it is most natural to think of that propaganda which, according to the testimony of Hippolytus and Origen, Jewish Christianity attempted in Rome in the age of Caracalla and Heliogabalus, through the medium of the Syrian, Alcibiades. This coincides with the last 314great advance of Syrian cults into the west, and is at the same time the only one known to us historically. But it is further pretty generally admitted that the immediate sources of the Pseudo-Clementines already presuppose the existence of Elkesaite Christianity. We should accordingly have to assume that in the West this Christianity made greater concessions to the prevailing type, that it gave up circumcision and accommodated itself to the Church system of Gentile Christianity, at the same time withdrawing its polemic against Paul.
10. Meanwhile the existence of such a Jewish Christianity is not as yet proved, and therefore we must reckon with the possibility that the remodelled form of the Jewish Christian sources, already found in existence by the revisers of the Pseudo-Clementine Romances, was solely a Catholic literary product. In this assumption, which commends itself both as regards the aim of the composition and its presupposed conditions, we must remember that, from the third century onwards, Catholic writers systematically corrected, and to a great extent reconstructed, the heretical histories which were in circulation in the churches as interesting reading, and that the extent and degree of this reconstruction varied exceedingly, according to the theological and historical insight of the writer. The identifying of pure Mosaism with Christianity was in itself by no means offensive when there was no further question of circumcision. The clear distinction between the ceremonial and moral parts of the Old Testament, could no longer prove an offence after the great struggle with Gnosticism.451451This distinction can also be shewn elsewhere in the Church of the third century. But I confess I do not know how Catholic circles got over the fact that, for example, in the third book of the Homilies many passages of the old Testament are simply characterised as untrue, immoral and lying. Here the Homilies remind one strongly of the Syllogisms of Apelles, the author of which, in other respects, opposed them in the interest of his doctrine of creating angels. In some passages the Christianity of the Homilies really looks like a syncretism composed of the common Christianity, the Jewish Christian Gnosticism, and the criticism of Apelles. Hom. VIII. 6-8 is also highly objectionable. The strong insistance upon the unity of God, and the rejection of the doctrine of the Logos, were by no means uncommon in the beginning of the third century; and in the 315speculations about Adam and Christ, in the views about God and the world and such like, as set before us in the immediate sources of the Romances, the correct and edifying elements must have seemed to outweigh the objectionable. At any rate, the historian who, until further advised, denies the existence of a Jewish Christianity composed of the most contradictory elements, lacking circumcision and national hopes, and bearing marks of Catholic and therefore of Hellenic influence, judges more prudently than he who asserts, solely on the basis of Romances which are accompanied by no tradition and have never been the objects of assault, the existence of a Jewish Christianity accommodating itself to Catholicism which is entirely unattested.
11. Be that as it may, it may at least be regarded as certain that the Pseudo-Clementines contribute absolutely nothing to our knowledge of the origin of the Catholic Church and doctrine, as they shew at best in their immediate sources a Jewish Christianity strongly influenced by Catholicism and Hellenism.
12. They must be used with great caution even in seeking to determine the tendencies and inner history of syncretistic Jewish Christianity. It cannot be made out with certainty, how far back the first sources of the Pseudo-Clementines date, or what their original form and tendency were. As to the first point, it has indeed been said that Justin, nay, even the author of the Acts of the Apostles, presupposes them, and that the Catholic tradition of Peter in Rome and of Simon Magus are dependent on them (as is still held by Lipsius); but there is so little proof of this adduced that in Christian literature up to the end of the second century (Hegesippus?) we can only discover very uncertain traces of acquaintance with Jewish Christian historical narrative. Such indications can only be found to any considerable extent in the third century, and I do not mean to deny that the contents of the Jewish Christian histories of the Apostles contributed materially to the formation of the ecclesiastical legends about Peter. As is shewn in the Pseudo-Clementines, these histories of the Apostles especially opposed Simon Magus and 316his adherents (the new Samaritan attempt at a universal religion), and placed the authority of the Apostle Peter against them. But they also opposed the Apostle Paul, and seem to have transferred Simonian features to Paul, and Pauline features to Simon. Yet it is also possible that the Pauline traits found in the magician were the outcome of the redaction, in so far as the whole polemic against Paul is here struck out, though certain parts of it have been woven into the polemic against Simon. But probably the Pauline features of the magician are merely an appearance. The Pseudo-Clementines may to some extent be used, though with caution, in determining the doctrines of syncretistic Jewish Christianity. In connection with this we must take what Epiphanius says as our standard. The Pantheistic and Stoic elements which are found here and there must of course be eliminated. But the theory of the genesis of the world from a change in God himself (that is from a προβολή), the assumption that all things emanated from God in antitheses (Son of God—Devil; heaven—earth; male—female; male and female prophecy), nay, that these antitheses are found in God himself (goodness, to which corresponds the Son of God—punitive justice, to which corresponds the Devil), the speculations about the elements which have proceeded from the one substance, the ignoring of freedom in the question about the origin of evil, the strict adherence to the unity and absolute causality of God, in spite of the dualism, and in spite of the lofty predicates applied to the Son of God—all this plainly bears the Semitic Jewish stamp.
We must here content ourselves with these indications. They were meant to set forth briefly the reasons which forbid our assigning to syncretistic Jewish Christianity, on the basis of the Pseudo-Clementines, a place in the history of the genesis of the Catholic Church and its doctrine.
Bigg, The Clementine Homilies (Studia Biblica et Eccles. II., p. 157 ff.), has propounded the hypothesis that the Homilies are an Ebionitic revision of an older Catholic original (see p. 184: “The Homilies as we have it, is a recast of an orthodox work by a highly unorthodox editor.” P. 175: “The Homilies 317are surely the work of a Catholic convert to Ebionitism, who thought he saw in the doctrine of the two powers the only tenable answer to Gnosticism. We can separate his Catholicism from his Ebionitism just as surely as his Stoicism”). This is the opposite of the view expressed by me in the text. I consider Bigg’s hypothesis well worth examining, and at first sight not improbable; but I am not able to enter into it here.318
|« Prev||Chapter VI. The Christianity of Jewish…||Next »|