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The Ebionites, or some who went under that denomination, must have received the Acts of the Apostles. * For,
* as s we learn from Epiphanius, they said they were called
*Ebionites, or Poor, because in the times of the apostles,
* they sold their goods, and laid them at the apostles' feet,
* and by that means they had voluntarily reduced them
*selves to poverty. For that reason men called them poor,
* but they gloried in the name.' Manifestly referring to the history in the fourth and fifth chapters of the Acts. They who received that book must have received Paul and all the apostles of Jesus, and very probably all their writings which were received by other christians.
I suppose likewise, that all the Jewish believers in general received the gospel of St. Matthew entire, with the genealogy at the beginning. The testimony of Irenaeus, as seems to me, without searching for any other authority, is sufficient to put it out of question: * Theh gospel accord'ing to Matthew,' he says, 'was written to the Jews; for
* they earnestly desired a Messiah of the seed of David: 'and Matthew, having the same desire to a yet greater de'gree, strove by all means to give them full satisfaction,
* that Christ was of the seed of David; wherefore he began
*with his genealogy.''
Eusebius in a place above cited, says,' that even those
*Ebionites, (or Nazarenes,) who believed Jesus to be born
*of a virgin by the Holy Ghost, did not acknowledge his
* pre-existence, as God the Word.' Nevertheless, 1 presume they did believe Jesus Christ to be the Word, and Wisdom, and Power of God. But they did not believe the pre-existence of the Word as a distinct person, and separate from God the Father; as Eusebius and some Arian
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h Iren. 147. Mass. and see The Credibil. P. 2. Vol. ii. p. 171.
1 As many mistakes have been entertained about the Gospel according to the Hebrews, it may not be unseasonable to observe here, that probably it was an Hebrew translation of St. Matthew's original Greek gospel, with additions from the other gospels: to which possibly might be added some few particulars received by tradition from the early Jewish believers. See Credibility, P. 2. Vol. i. ch. v. and Vol. ii. ch. xxix. Epiphanius therefore says, that the Hebrew gospel of Matthew, used by the Nazarenes, was a full gospel. Ex8<n de To Kara MarQaiov tuayyfXtov TrXj/pe^arov 'E/3|OaiVi. H. 29. num. ix. p. 124. The Nazarenes therefore did not reject the authority of the other evangelists, but owned and acknowledged it. That St. Matthew wrote in Greek, see The Supplement, in this Vol. p. 309. Says Lampe, Synops. H. E. p. 73. Graeca vero lingua omnes ne MatthaeO quidem excepto, usi sunt, ut a Judaeis et Gentibus uterentur.
iz'mg christians of his time did. That I take to be truth, and the ground and reason why Eusebius expresseth himself as he does. And it might be easily shown, thatk the Nazarean christians did not reject St. John's gospel, nor hold any principles that obliged them to reject or dislike it.
Finally, we are assured by St. Jerom, 'that1 in his time < there were many all over the East called Nazareans, 'upon whom the Jews pronounced their curses as heretics. 'They profess,' says Jerom, 'that they believe in Christ, * the Son of God, born of the Virgin Mary, who suffered 'under Pontius Pilate, and rose again from the dead, the 'same in whom we also believe.'
I shallproceed no farther in this argument, nor go any lower. There were for the first four centuries many Jews who professed faith in Jesus as the Christ, notwithstanding the difficulties and discouragements to which they were exposed; for they were in an especial manner the object of the spite and enmity of the unbelieving part of their nation: and, besides, they ra were too much slighted and disregarded by the Gentile christians.
III. I now leave it to my readers to judge, whether the faith of so many Jewish believers, in the early days of the gospel, be not a valuable testimony to the truth of the christian religion.
Some Jews have all along, in every age since, embraced the christian religion, who have joined themselves to the Gentile believers, and have been incorporated with them. These are not now the subjects of my history.
k Vid. Lamp. Prol. in Joh. Evang. 1. 2. cap. i. sect. 1,2, 3, et cap. iii. num. 38—43. * Usque hodie per totas Orientis synagogas, inter
Judaeos haeresis est, quae dicitur minaeonem, et a Pharisaeis nunc usque damnatur; quos vulgo Nazaraeos nuncupant, qui credunt in Christum Filium Dei, natum ex virgine Maria, et eum dicunt esse, qui sub Pontic- Pilato passus est, et resurrexit, in quem et nos credimus, &c. Hieron. ad August, ep. 74. [al. 89.] tom. 4. p. 623.
m See W. Wall, in the preface to his Notes upon the O. T. p. xi. xii.
Of the treatment given to the primitive christians by the unbelieving Jews.
JUSTIN, in his Dialogue with Trypho," speaks to this purpose—' For ye have killed the Just, and his prophets before him; and now you despise, and, as much as in you lies, disparage them who hope in him, and in God Almighty, Lord of the whole world, who sent him, cursing in your synagogues those who believe in Christ. For it is not now in your power to lay hands upon us, being hindered by them who have the chief government of 'things. But whenever you have had it in your power,
'you have done that also For no other people are so
'averse to us and Christ, as you, who are the authors of 'all the prejudices which others have against Him and us :for after that you had crucified Him, that one unblamable 'and righteous Man, by whose stripes they are healed who 'come to the Father through Him; and when ye knew 'that he was risen from the dead, and was ascended into 'heaven, as the prophets had foretold; you not only did 'not repent of the evil that you had done, but you sent out 'chosen men from Jerusalem into all the earth, saying, that 'an atheistical sect, called christians, had arisen among 'you: thus spreading abroad all those evil reports con6 cerning us, which all who are ignorant of us now believe. 'So that you have been the causes not only of your own 'wickedness, but likewise of the wickedness of others.' Eusebius,b rehearsing the works of Justin, has transcribed this passage from his Dialogue with Trypho.
And afterwards, in the same dialogue, or the second part of it—'Notwithstanding0 all that Christ said to you, you 6 did not repent. So far from it, that after he was risen
*from the dead you sent forth chosen men into all the 'world, giving out, that a wicked and atheistical sect was 'risen, the author of which was one Jesus of Galilee, an 'impostor; whom, when you had crucified, his disciples 'stole out of the sepulchre by night, where he had been
*laid after his crucifixion, and that they deceived men,
a Just, M. Dial. p. 234, 235. Paris, sect. 16, et 17. p. 127. Bened.
b H. E. 1. 4. cap. 18. c Dial. p. 335. Paris, sect. 108. p. 202. Bened.
4 saying, that he was risen from the dead and ascended into 'heaven. Moreover you gave out, that he taught those
* wicked and impure and abominable things, which you
* every where charge upon all those who confess Him to < be the Christ, and their master, and the Son of God.
*And though your city has been taken, and your country 'laid waste, you do not repent; but still pronounce curses
*upon him, and upon all who believe in him.'
He has somewhat to the like purpose, once more afterwards, in the samed dialogue; where he chargeth them with hating all who believed in God through Christ, and killing them when they had power, and still continually devoting him and them to destruction.
Tertullian does not expressly say all this; bute he often intimates, that the Jews were the principal authors of the reproaches cast upon the christians: and he speaks of one calumny in particular, which had been then lately forged by them, in his own time.
Origen says much the same that Justin does. Having taken notice of some things in Celsus, he says, ' thatf 'therein he acted much like the Jews of old, who at the 'rise of the christian religion spread abroad calumnies 'against it; as if the christians killed a child, and ate it, 'and putting out the lights practised promiscuous lewd'ness. Which calumnies, though very absurd, were in for
* mer times believed by many.'
And Eusebius, in his commentary upon Is. xviii. 1, 2. 'Weff find in the writings of the ancients,' says he, 'that the priests and elders of the Jewish nation, who dwelt at 'Jerusalem, wrote letters which they sent to the Jews 'abroad in all countries, traducing the doctrine of Christ, 'as a new and strange heresy, and exhorting them not to embrace it.'
d Dial. p. 363. Paris, sect 133. p. 225. Bened.
e Nova jam de Deo nostra fama suggessit. Adeo nuper quidam perditissimus in ista civitate, etiam suae religionis desertor, solo detrimenlo cutis, Judaeus—picturam in nos proposuit sub ista proscriptione, Onochoetes. Is erat auribus canteriorum, et in toga, cum libro, altero pede ungulato. Et credidit vulgus Judaeo. Quod enim aliud genus seminarium est infamiae nostrae? Itaque in tota civitate Onochoetes praedicatur. Adv. Nat. 1. i. cap. 14. p. 59. Vid. et Ap. cap. 16. p. 17. D. et conf. Minuc. Fel. cap. ix. et xxviii.
Dehinc, cum ex perseverantia furoris, et nomen Domini per ipsos blasphemaretur, sicut scriptum est: 'Propter vos blasphematur nomen meum in nationibus:' (ab illis enim ccepit infamia:) et tempus medium a Tiberio usque ad Vespasianum, non poenitentiam intellexissent, facta est terra eorum deserta, civitates eorum exustae igni; regionem eorum sub eorum conspectu extranei devorant. Adv. Marcion. 1. iii. cap. 23. p. 498. B.
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Whether the Jews did send out men in this manner, before the destruction of Jerusalem, to asperse the followers of Jesus, is not quite certain. The question is particularly considered by the Benedictines h in their preface to Justin Martyr. The origin of the early calumnies upon the christians is somewhat doubtful. Some have supposed them to have been occasioned by the absurd doctrines, and vicious lives, of those called heretics. However, I formerly ' proposed some observations, tending to show that they are not to be accounted for in that way.
It is certain that the christians were very early aspersed with crimes of which they were not guilty. When St. Paul was come a prisoner to Rome, he sent for the chief of the Jews of that city to come to him, who say to him— "As for this sect, we know that every where it is spoken against," Acts xxviii. 22. Those words might be spoken in the year of Christ 61, and not far from the beginning of it. And Tacitus, giving an account of Nero's persecution of the christians, which seems to have begun in the year 64, intimates,' thatk the christians were generally hated for
*the crimes imputed to them.'
Whether the Jewish rulers did, before the destruction of Jerusalem, send abroad messengers and letters on purpose to defame the doctrine of Christ and his followers, or not, it must be allowed to be true, which Justin says, that no other people were so averse to Christ and his followers as the Jews. It must be allowed to be very true, which he likewise says of them, that they continued to anathematize Jesus Christ and his followers.
In the authentic account of the martyrdom of Polycarp, at Smyrna, when he was condemned to be burnt, it is said,
*that1 presently the people brought together dried wood, 'and branches of trees from their shops, and from the
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1 Credib. P. ii. ch. xxxix. in Vol. ii.
k Ergo abolendo rumori Nero subdidit reos, et quaesitissimis prenis affecit, quos, per flagitia invisos, vulgus christianos appellabat. Tac. Ann. 1. 15. c. 44.
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Euseb. H. E. 1. 4. cap. 15. 133.-A.