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Ebionites. These sects, though more or less infected with Gnosticisin, were of Jewish origin, and observed the Mosaic Law; and whatever might be the minute peculiarities of their doctrinal views, they also agreed in entertaining Jewish rather than Gnostic conceptions of the Person of Christ'. Ebion, especially, is characterized by his Humanitarian creed; while, on the other hand, his Judaism was so notorious, that Tertullian does not scruple to describe him as virtually the object of the Apostle's censure in his Epistle to the Galatians ?.
The Nazarenes are next to be noticed ;—not for the influence they exercised on the belief of Christians, but as evidencing, with the sects just mentioned, the latent connexion between a judaizing discipline and heresy in doctrine. Who they were, and what their tenets, has been a subject of much controversy. It is sufficient for my purpose—and so far is undoubted—that they were at the same time “ zealous of the Law" and unsound in their theology; and this without being related to the Gnostic families : a circumstance which establishes them as a more cogent evidence of the real connexion of ritual with doctrinal Judaism than is furnished by the mixed theologies of Ebion and Cerinthus'. It is worth observing, that their declension from orthodoxy appears to have been gradual ; Epiphanius is the first writer who includes them by name in the number of heretical sects.
9 Burton, Bampt. Lect., notes 74. 82.
3 For the curious in ecclesiastical antiquity, Mosheim has elicited the following account of their name and sect (Mosheim de Reb. Christ. ante Constant. Sæcul. ii. $ 38, 39). The title of Nazarene he considers to have originally belonged to the body of Jewish converts, taken by them with a reference to Matt. ii. 23, while the Gentiles at Antioch assumed the Greek appellation of Christians. As the Mosaic ordinances gradually fell into disuse among the former, in process of time it became the peculiar designation of the Church of Jerusalem; and that Church in turn throwing off its Jewish exterior in the reign of Hadrian, on being unfairly subjected to the disabilities then laid upon the rebel nation, it finally settled upon the scanty remnant, who considered their ancient ceremonial to be an essential part of their present profession. These Judaizers, from an over-attachment to the forms, proceeded, in coarse of time, to imbibe the spirit of the degenerate system; and ended in doctrinal views not far short of modern Socinianism.
5. Such are the instances of the connexion between Judaism and theological error, previously to the age of Paulus, who still more strikingly exemplifies it. First, we are in possession of his doctrinal opinions, which are grossly humanitarian; next we find, that in early times they were acknowledged to be of Jewish origin; further, that his ceremonial Judaism also was so notorious, that one author even affirms that he observed the rite of circumcision': and lastly, just after his day we discover the rise of a Jewish usage, the Quarto-deciman, in the provinces of Christendom, immediately subjected to his influence.
4 Burton, Bampt. Lect., note 84. Considering the Judaism of the Quarto-decimans after Victor's age, is it impossible that he may have suspected that the old leaven was infecting the Churches of Asia ? This will explain and partly excuse his earnestness in the controversy with them. It must be recollected that he witnessed, in his own branch of the Church, the rise of the first simply humanitarian school which Christianity had seen, that of Theodotus, Artemas, &c. (Euseb. Hist. v. 28), the latter of whom is charged by Alexander with reviving the heresy of the judaizing Ebion (Theod. Hist., i. 4); [while at the same time at Rome Blastus was introducing the Quarto-deciman rule.] Again, Theodotus, Montanus, and Praxeas, whose respective heresies he was engaged in combating, all belonged to the neighbourhood of the Proconsulate, where there seems to have been a school, from which Praxeas derived his heresy (Theod. Hær. iii. 3); while Montanism, as its after history shows, contained in it the seeds, both of the Quarto-deciman and Sabellian errors (Tillemont, Mem. vol. ii. p. 199. 205. Athan. in Arian. ii. 43). It may be added, that the younger Theodotus is suspected of Montanism (Tillemont, Mem. vol. iii. p. 277).
It may be added that this view of the bearing of Judaism upon the sceptical school afterwards called Arian is countenanced by frequent passages in the writings of the contemporary Fathers, on which no stress, perhaps, could fairly be laid, were not their meaning interpreted by the above historical facts 6. Moreover, in the popular risings which took place in Antioch and Alexandria in favour of Arianism, the Jews sided with the heretical party> ; evincing thereby, not indeed any definite interest in the subject of dispute, but a sort of spontaneous feeling, that the side of heresy was their natural position; and further, that its spirit, and the character which it created, were congenial to their own.
Or, again, if we consider the subject from a different point of view, and omitting dates and schools, take a general survey of Christendom during the first centuries, we shall find it divided into the same two parties, both on the Arian and the Quarto-deciman questions; Rome and Alexandria with their dependencies being the champions of the Catholic tradition in either controversy, and Palestine, Syria, and Asia Minor, being the strongholds of the opposition. And these are the two questions which occasioned the deliberations of the Nicene Fathers.
5 Philastr. Hær. § 64. [Epiphanius denies that the Paulianists circumcised. Hær. lxv. 2. It is remarkable that the Arian Whiston looked favourably on the rite. Biograph. Brit. p. 4213.]
6 Athan. de Decret. 2. 27; Sentent. Dionys. 3, 4; ad Episc. Æg. 13; de fug. 2; in Arian. iii. 27, and passim. Chrysost. Hom. in Anomæos and in Judæos. Theod. Hist. i. 4. Epiphan. Hær. Ixix. 79.
? Basnage, Hist. des Juifs, vi. 41.
However, it is of far less consequence, as it is less certain, whether Arianism be of Jewish origin, than whether it arose at Antioch : which is the point principally insisted on in the foregoing pages.
For in proportion as it is traced to Antioch, so is the charge of originating it removed from the great Alexandrian School, upon which various enemies of our Apostolical Church have been eager to fasten it. In corroboration of what has been said above on this subject, I here add the words of Alexander, in his letter to the Church of Constantinople, at the beginning of the controversy ; which are of themselves decisive in evidence of the part, which Antioch had, in giving rise to the detestable blasphemy which he was combating.
“ Ye are not ignorant,” he writes to the Constantinopolitan Church concerning Arianism, “ that this rebellious doctrine belongs to Ebion and Artemas, and is in imitation of Paulus of Samosata, Bishop of Antioch, who was excommunicated by the sentence of the bishops assembled in Council from all quarters. Paulus was succeeded by Lucian, who remained in separation for many years during the time of three bishops. ... Our present heretics have drunk up the dregs of the impiety of these men, and are their secret offspring; Arius and Achillas, and their party of evil-doers, incited as they are to greater excesses by three Syrian prelates, who agree with them ... Accordingly, they have been expelled from the Church, as enemies of the pious Catholic teaching; according to St. Paul's sentence, 'If any man preach any other Gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be anathema .'»
8 Theod. Hist. i. 4. [Simeon, Bishop of Beth-Arsam, in Persia, A.D. 510—525, traces the genealogy of Paulianism and Nestorianism from Judaism thus :- Caiaphas to Simon Magus; Simon to Ebion ; Ebion to Artemon; Artemon to Paul of Samosata ; Paul to Diodorus; Dio. dorus to Theodore; Theodore to Nestorius. Asseman. Bibl. Orient. t. i. p. 347.]