Daily Archives: September 6, 2008

More On The Essenes and the Ebionites

So it seems as though there’s more on this controversy on the link between the Essenes and Christianity. I read the short wikipedia bio on Alvar Ellegard, and he’s another person who saw links between Jesus the Christ and the Essenes’ Teacher of Righteousness. From wikipedia:

Ellegård argues that the original Jesus was identical to the Teacher of Righteousness, who was the leader of the Essenes at Qumran about 150 years earlier than the time of the Gospels, and that it was Saul/Paul who created Christianity through his contacts with the sect that kept the Dead Sea Scrolls. According to Ellegård, the Damascus Document gives support to this theory. The document states that the Essenes moved to Damascus outside Jerusalem, but the word “Damascus” appear to being used symbolically to refer to exile. Ellegård interprets this as one evidence that the “Damascus” that is mentioned in the Acts of the Apostles in fact is Qumran. St. Paul was on his way to Damascus when he had a vision of Jesus.

There’s this strange link between Gnosticism, the Essenes, early Christianity, and Paul. It seems as though if more serious research was put into this link, then we could flesh out a true picture of what happened in Christianity’s early years. But no serious research will be done on the historicity of Jesus because huge institutions have a lot of money and power that goes into whether Jesus was a real person or not.

Again with politics.

John Allegro, Elaine Pagels, and Alvar Ellegard – if we put the writings of these three together, it seems as though Jesus might just be a myth after all. I never considered Jesus Mythicism to have as much legitimacy as mainstream scholarship on the issue, but who knows – if other mainstream scholars weren’t also Christians, they wouldn’t have such an emotional reaction to the issue and would be able to study it objectively. Jesus as solely a myth or Jesus as a historical person doesn’t have any emotional impact on me either way, so in that respect, I’m more open to possibilities about the issue than mainstream Christian scholars.

As for the Ebionites; they were a sect of Jewish Christians who followed the teachings of Jesus but still followed Jewish law. The word “ebion” in Hebrew means “poor”. The Ebionites rejected many of what are now mainstream thoughts on Jesus, like his pre-existence, divinity, atonement for original sin, virgin birth, and resurrection. From wikipedia:

The Ebionites are described as emphasizing the oneness of God and the humanity of Jesus as the biological son of both Mary and Joseph, who by virtue of his righteousness, was chosen by God to be the messianic “prophet like Moses” (foretold in Deuteronomy 18:14–22) when he was anointed with the holy spirit at his baptism.

Of the books of the New Testament, the Ebionites are said to have accepted only a Hebrew version of the Gospel of Matthew, referred to as the Gospel of the Hebrews, as additional scripture to the Hebrew Bible. This version of Matthew, Irenaeus reports, omitted the first two chapters (on the nativity of Jesus), and started with the baptism of Jesus by John.

The Ebionites believed that all Jews and Gentiles must observe the commandments in the Law of Moses, in order to become righteous and seek communion with God, but these commandments must be understood in the light of Jesus’ expounding of the Law, revealed during his sermon on the mount. The Ebionites may have held a form of “inaugurated eschatology” positing that the ministry of Jesus had ushered in the Messianic Age so that the kingdom of God might be understood as present in an incipient fashion, while at the same time awaiting consummation in the future age.

James vs. Paul

James, the brother of the Lord, presided over the Jerusalem church after the other apostles dispersed. Paul, self appointed Apostle to the Gentiles, established many churches and founded a Christian theology, (Pauline Christianity). At the Council of Jerusalem (c 49), Paul argued to abrogate Mosaic observances for his non-Jewish converts, but Paul’s arguments were rejected, and Jewish Law and tradition concerning non-Jewish followers were asserted by refrence to Noahide Law.

Some scholars argue that the Ebionites regarded James, brother of Jesus, the first bishop of Jerusalem, the rightful leader of the Church rather than Peter. James Tabor argues that the Ebionites claimed a unique dynastic apostolic succession for the relatives of Jesus. They opposed the Apostle Paul, who established that gentile Christians did not have to be circumcised or otherwise follow the Law of Moses, and named him an apostate. Epiphanius relates that some Ebionites alleged that Paul was a Greek who converted to Judaism in order to marry the daughter of a high priest of Israel but apostasized when she rejected him.

Emphasis mine. This can also explain Paul’s connection with the Essenes, his assertion that Gentiles didn’t have to follow Jewish laws, why he writes in Greek, and his conception of Jesus. It’s funny how Christians nowadays follow Paul’s Christianity (being “gentiles”, obviously) instead of James and the Ebionite’s Christianity. I guess it’s not really “funny” because what’s known as Christianity today was largely the result of the politics in regards to Eusebius and Constantine I.

Again… politics.

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Posted by on September 6, 2008 in ebionites, essenes, historicity, jesus myth, teacher of righteousness

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