As the first century drew to a close, it became apparent to the
Nazarenes that their problems consisted not only in the antipathy and
animosity between thensleves and their fellow Jews, but also
significantly between themselves and gentile Christians. In brief, by
the year C.E. 100, they realized that the Church of the gentiles had
turned into a non-Jewish religion, one which they regarded as
idolatrous. And to add insult to injury, this gentile Church loudly
proclaimed itself as the True Church, inheritor of the true Apostolic
Tradition, and branded the Nazarenes as HERETICAL SECTARIANS. Hence it
came to be that the Nazraenes, the actual physical and spiritual
descendants of the Mother Church of Jerusalem, were now looked upon as
heretics by both Jews and Christians, and by this time, the word
"Christian" no longer meant a gentile follower of the Jamsian Nazarene
movement, but it had rather taken on the full meaning that it has today.
This is most typified by the appearence of the Gospel According to St.

       The Gospel According to St. John was written about the year 100
C.E., some three and a half generations after the death of Jesus. In
that short space of time, the historical Jewish person, Jesus the
Nazarene, had been transformed into the Divine. Paul had called Jesus
the Son of G-d. The man, writing as John, presents Jesus to his readers
as G-d the Son. The Jesus of John is barely a human being, much less a
Jew. John's Jesus is the Logos, the emanation of the Father made
manifest in flesh, the new Torah as divine man, the very God of the
Christians, dressed up as a Jew, but as gentile and antipathic to Jews
as his worshippers. In his gospel, "the" Jews, not the religious leaders
nor the Romans, have become the chied opponents of Jesus, and as the
very chief opponent of Jesus is Satan, so the Jews of John's gospel
become the agents of Satan (8:44). John has particular animosity for
those Jews who, at one time, believed in Jesus, now no longer believe
(6:66; 8:31). He may here not be refering to Jews in general but to
Jewish Nazarenes. (Revelation, also said to have been authored by John,
refers to them as those claiming to be Jews but who are of Satan's
synagogue; (2:9;3:9)). In passing, we may mention that the "John" of
this gospel is said to be John the Beloved, the son of Zebedee, brother
of James killed by Herod Agrippa. In Christian folklore, this John was
believed to have lived a very long time. According to this belief then,
if he actually had been the author, writing some 70 years after Jesus'
death, he would indeed have been quite an aged man. John, we remember,
was one of the original of the triumvirate leaders, alomg with Peter and
James the Tsaddik. The death of James and of Peter took place a few
years before the war with Rome. Nowhere is John's death alluded to. He
is the last of the first Nazarene leaders and his historical fate is
unkown. Yet it would be ludicrous to believe that this ardent Galilean
"Zionist", with Zealot leanings should have written this last gospel
which contains some of the most virulent anti-semitic statements in the
entire New Testament. The import of this book for us is not so much its
anti-Jewishness as its documentation of how utterly removed from Jews
and Jewishness the gentile Christians had become by this time.

       By the begining of the second Christian century, the Jewish
followers of Jesus, now living mainly in Galilee and the northern
areas of Trans-Jordan, principally in the city of Pella which was
the seat of their "government in exile", forced by rabbinic Jews to keep
to themsleves and worship in their own synagogues, had begun to call
themselves by the name, Evyonim (Ebionites) rather than Nazarenes. This
Hebrew name means "Poor People" and may have been prompted by Jesus's
admonition that the poor are happy (blessed) because to them belongs the
Kingdom of Heaven. They chose this name as a sign of humility as Jesus'
faithful people, persecuted on all sides. As to the name of Nazarenes,
we have pointed out that it implies "secret society", and by this time
Jesus' Jewish followers no longer felt that they constituted such a
society. Certainly their activities were above board and open for all,
Jew and Roman, to see.

       In Erets Yisrael, they were concentrated in Capernaum, Caesarea,
and Sepphoris. In several Tractates of the Talmud, there is mention of
a certain apparently well known Evyon named Jacob of Kefar Sichnin (or
Sechanya) who frequented Sepphoris and tried to engage teh Sages in
religious deiscussions, and that the said Jacob would attempt to teach
them in the name of Yeshu ben Pantera (one of many variations).
Apparently a rabbinic name for Jesus, it was also connected to another
name given him by the rabbis, Yeshu ben Stada (Tractate Shabbat 104b).
The names, ben Pantera and ben Stada are of doubtfull origin. Some have
said that ben Pantera means "son of a panther" and that ben Stada,
connected with the Greek ANASTATOS, "seditious", means "son of sedition"
(against the Romans???). These names certainly suggest someone one who
is agressive, and not at all the pacific figure that later Christianity
has made Jesus out to be. Certainly the name "son of a panther" is very
reminiscent of the name "sons of thunder" given to the sons of Zebedee
Therefore it is not at all surprising that the Talmud itself, in at
Sanhedrin 43a).

       One of the first written indications that there now existed two
opposing "Christianities" comes from the pen of Justin Martyr, a gentile
Christian, born and raised in the Land of Israel. In his Dialogue with
Trypho the Jew, he states that he disagrees with all of his fellow
gentile Christians as to the illegitimacy of the Jewish "Church". Justin
states that he disagrees with the Evyonim's insistence that all
believers, Jew AND gentile, must follow the Law of Moses, but he
nonetheless states that the Jewish believers are entitled to follow
the Law if they so desire. He is quite friendly to the Evyonim and is
ready to associate with them in all things if they are willing to do so.
The reaction of the Evyonim to Justin's overtures is not known.

       But Justin Martyr stands alone in his acceptance of the Jewish
followers of Jesus. All of his contemporaries strongly disagree with
his friendly attitude toward them. Irenaeus, a fellow gentile Christian,
also from the East, is particularly vocal in his condemnation. He scoffs
at them and ridicules them, stating that rightly are they called "Poor
People" since they have a poor opinion of Jesus and a poor understanding
of his message. We learn a few facts about the Evyonim from Iranaeus.

      For one thing, he tells us that the Evyonim were strict
vegetarians and that they were against the system of animal sacrifice.
This of course is moot since at that time the Temple no longer stood.
Yet Iranaeus states that the Evyonim faced Jerusalem when they prayed,
an indication of their religious illogic, since the whole reason for
facing Jerusalem in prayer is that Jerusalem is the place of the Temple
Mount. We also learn that the only gospel that they accepted was that
of Matthew, and Iranaeus explicitly states that the Evyonim maintained
their copy of Matthew in Hebrew. This in consonance with the theory held
by most students of the New Testament, to wit, that Matthew was
originally composed in Hebrew and later translated into Greek. Whether
by "Matthew", Irenaeus means the very same text of what we know as the
current Gospel According to St. Matthew, is open to question.

       We learn from other sources that the Evyonim also possessed a
Hebrew book called MA'ASEI HA-SHLUCHIM, "Acts of the Apostles". This is
NOT the New Testa ent book bearing the same name, but rather a sort of
anti-Paul, pro- James and pro-Peter version of the history of the

       There is a body of literature which stems from this period known
as the Clementine writings, or Pseudo Clementines, ostensibly from the
pen of a certain Clement who received these traditions from a Jewish
"Christian" source. This Clement was supposedly a disciple of Peter
and the third bishop of Rome. These writings contain much important
information regarding Evyon (Nazarene) beliefs and attitudes.

       From them we learn that the Evyonim believed that Jesus had risen
from the dead as messiah of Israel, that he had been the only man to
completely and perfectly fullfilled every commandment of the law and by
virtue of that fullfilment, merited being the messiah. Further, they
belived that Jesus was the Son of G-d but not in the way that
traditional Christianity believed that; their belief was that Jesus
became in "adopted" son of G-d at his baptism, having a special
relationship to G-d but not bieng His literal divine son; they did not
have any belief in Jesus born of a virgin in a natal epiphany; neither
did they impute any Christological meaning to his crucifixion; according
to them, people were not "saved" by accepting Jesus as their "personal
saviour", and therefore, although they practiced baptism, their
understanding of that rite was similar to the Jeiwsh one, namely, that
baptism was a necessary prerequisite for the cleansing of sin and
admittance into the Kingdom of Heaven; likewise when they celebrated the
Last Supper, it was part of their Passover service in which they did it
in memory of Jesus' fellowship with their ancestors. They considered
Jesus, not as saviour, but as messiah and his mission as the man
transformed into the heavenly Son of Man who shall return to usher in
the messianic era. They refused to refer to Jesus as Christ, and
conversely, their usage of the term, Son of Man, caused the gentile
Christians to stop using that as a title for Jesus. The belief in the
ultimate return of Jesus (Parousia) played a more important role in the
religion of the Evyonim than in that of gentile Christianity. It is this
fact, and this alone which alowed the emerging Roman Catholic Church to
survive and which caused Jewish "Christianity" to die out. Without the
return of Jesus bringing the messianic age which was the original imptus
of Nazarenism, there was no strong rationale for it to continue on once
its adherants lost faith that it ever would occur. But that was not to
happen until the begining of the fifth Christian century. It is a
testimony to the strong faith of Jesus' Jewish followers that, as a
explanation ot this is that, to a limited degree, they continued, and
were successful, in proselytizing gentiles to their to their community.
This, of course, implies that they first converted these proselytes to
"Judaism" in which they followed the laws of the Torah. The over-riding
rationale for this is their belief that SALVATION DEPENDS UPON GOOD
WORKS. This is attested to by no less a witness than the famous third
century rabbi, Resh Lakish, who said that hell may have no power over
these MINIM since they are full of good works. Circumcision was a
prerequisite of this conversion. According to the Evyonim literature,
Jesus healed the child of the Syro-Phoenician woman whom he had called a
dog, only after she had converted to Evyonim Judaism.

       From Pella, they supposedly launched an agressive campaign of
proselytization in eastern Syria which was quite successful. They were
enabled in this by the fact that the gentile Christians were not active
in this area for a long time. Of course these "conversions" would not be
acceptable to the nation of Israel because, like the Sadducees and
Essenes before them, they did not accept the Rabbinic (Talmudic)
interpretation of the scriptures. The only legitimate interpretors of
the Torah for Evyonim were the Apostles of Jesus who held the position
of Nazarene "Beth Din" and "Sanhedrin". They did not deny that the
Pharisees had been the original legitimate interpretors of the Tradition
but they believed that by not becoming followers of the messiah Jesus,
the scribes and Pharisees were disinherited as true religious leaders of
Israel and, that this office was handed over to the Apostles, first and
foremost to Peter, and passed down to a succession of Nazarene bishops,
and ultimately to themsleves.

       They continued to hold the Shema, the Jewish confession of G-d's
unity, as a central prayer which means that they had no belief in a
Trinity. They believed that animal sacrifice had come to an end and
would not be restored in the messianic age because sacrifice had been
replaced by cleansing baptism since the time that Jesus himself was
baptized by John. As proof of this, they maintained that G-d Himself had
allowed the Temple to be destroyed as a demonstration that He no longer
wished animal sacrifice as a cleansing atonement. As a corollary to
this, they abstained from eating meat, basing their vegetarianism on the
example of those who lived before Noah and also did not eat flesh, and
they also looked upon their withdrawal from meat as an intensification
of the laws of KASHRUT.

       Regarding the doctrine of the resurrection of the dead, both Jews
and Evyonim believed that the dead would rise but their beliefs were
based on different premises. Jews stated that the belief in a final
resurrection could be found within the Hebrew scriptures while the
Evyonim denied such a basis. THEIR sole basis for belief in a coming
resurrection was that Jesus, by his own resurrection, had established
a PARADIGM for the state of future blessedness of mankind.

       They equated poverty with righteousness as their name implies,
and just as the earliest Nazarenes, they held all property in common.
Apparently they retained much of the synagogue liturgy, praying at the
common times of Jewish prayer, morning and evening. They referred to the
houses of worship as synagogues, refusing to use the Christian
expression ECCLESIA, "church". They also observed all the Jewish fast
days. This in essence represents the major hilights of Evyonim religion.

       As stated, many of the Evyonim lived in Galilee. Eusebius quotes
earlier Christian writers who report that from time to time, during the
second century, the Romans would harrass the family of Jesus who still
lived in Galilee by occaisional interrogations as to their alleged anti-
Roman activities. We have indications from various writers of the time,
both Jewish and gentile, that there were Evyonim enclaves in Neburaiah,
(near the presnt Lebonese border), Caesarea, on the northern
Mediterranean, and, of course, Capernaum on Lake Kinneret (Sea of
Galilee). But there was also an Evyonim "diaspora" in Trans-Jordan,
particularly in the city of Pella, eastward across from Galilee.
Irenaeus indicates that the Pella Evyonim considered themselves living
in Exile (Gallut), and longed for the time that the Parousia might occur
so that they might return to the Holy Land. Hegesippus, an early
Christian writer, quoted by Eusebius, tells that the settlement at Pella
began under Simon Bar Clopas or Cleophas, the cousin of Jesus, and
successor to James as Nazarene leader. This settlement at Pella began to
assume greater and greater importance in the history of Jesus's Jewish
followers as Jewish life in the Holy Land declined over the next three
centuries. Pella, in effect, became a sort of Nazarene Yavneh, the place
where Nazarene, or Evyon, leadership decided religious issues for the
community and developed their traditions. Sometime before his death, Bar
Clopas returned to the Holy Land where, in the year CE 107, as a very
old man, he suffered crucifixion on the charge of messianic subversion
against the government. The Romans were anxious to rid themselves of any
individual claiming to be a descendant of King David, and they used any
pretext, and it is this Davidic lineage which brought about Clopas'

       The lot of the Evyonim was indeed a poor one. Aside from the
harrassment that they had to endure from the Romans, there was the
animosity of the "orthodox" among their own people. Rabbi Tarphon, a
well known Sage of the early second century said of the Evyonim that
"they know G-d but deny Him." Another Sage, Rabbi Ishmael, excoriated
them for causing schism within the Jewish People. Rabbi Akiva, THE great
Sage of the second century was particularly antipathetic towards them
but in his case the reason may have been more political than religious
since Akiva championed the second revolt against Rome, a revolt in which
the Evyonim refused to take part. All social intercourse and discussion
between Jews and Evyonim were forbidden by the rabbis but this
admonition was ignored by the people until after CE 135 when the final
break between Judaism and Jewish "Christianity" took place. Sometimes
apparently it was ignored by certain of the rabbis themselves. The
Evyonim, as other Jews, wrote copies of various holy writings. The
rabbis ordered that these books be burned when found even though they
contained the names of G-d. Tractate Chullin 2:21-22 says that "meat
found in the possession of a sectarian (Evyon) is forbidden to be eaten
... their SHECHITAH (ritual slaughtering) is considered idolatry, their
bread is the bread of Samaritans, their wine is the wine offered to
idols, their fruits are considered untithed, their books are considered
as books of witchcraft, and their children are MAMZERIM (bastards)." As
to this last statement, not only does it imply that intermarriage with
the Evyonim was prohibited but more importantly, it indicated that the
rabbis still considered them to be Jews since a gentile cannot ever have
the hallachic status of MAMZER. The Tractate further states that it is
forbidden to do business with them, to be teachers for them, to engage
in fixing their property, or to have them as either doctors or as
patients (if one is a physician).

       Further, regarding their books, Tractate Shabbat 116a of the
Talmud, addresses those of the BE ABIDAN and of the BE NITSRAFI; it
asks, Do we save their books from the flames or not? It does not answer
but merely reports that certain Rabbis, notably Rabbi Meir, refered to
their books as AVEN-GILYON. No one knows for certain what the meanings
of BE ABIDAN and BE NITSRAFI are. BE is the short form of the Hebrew
word, BET, "house" or "school". ABIDAN appears to be connected with the
Hebrew root ABD, "to destroy" or "to be lost" and the reference may mean
someting like "the house (or school) of those who are lost or
destroyed", although some suggest that it may be a corruption of BE
EVYON.  NITSRAFI appears to be connected with the word NOTSRI,
"Nazarene" and the Hebrew root TSRF, "to unite", and the reference may
mean "the house where the Nazarenes come together". That both of these
expressions point to the Evyonim is clear from the rabbinic pun
AVEN-GILYON upon the greek word for the gospels, EVANGELION. AVEN-GILYON
litterally means "a worthless scroll". Rabbi Meir, who was one of the
first to use the pun, was a student of Rabbi Akiba, one of the fiercest
opponents of the Jewish followers of Jesus.

       Elsewhere (Tractate Eruvin 79b), Rabbi Samuel speaks of the
" ... wine of the BE NITSRAFI, which they drink on the day of their
feast" indicating that the BE NITSRAFI is a worse place in which to find
oneself than the BE ABIDAN because the BE NITSRAFI was a place where
wine was used for religious purposes, a synagogue or meeting place for
religious holidays.

        The Talmud relates incidents involving at least two of the
contemporary Sages, Rabbi ben Dama and Rabbi Eliezer ben Hyrcanos, and
the Evyonim. Ben Dama, a prominent rabbi, apparently wished to allow a
certain Evyon named Jacob (James - a common name amonmg the Evyonim) to
cure him when he became ill and had to be disuaded by his uncle, Rabbi
Ishmael. This same Rabbi Ishmael once had a controversy with an Evyon
which is related in Tractate Nedarim 32b. The Evyon was extolling the
virtues of Melchizedek, the high priest of G-d. Rabbi Ishmael
down-played the importance of Melchizedek by stressing that G-d had
taken away his priesthood and given it to Abraham. No doubt Rabbi
Ishmael was conversant with much of current Evyon thought, in which
Melchizedek is seen as a kind of proto-type of Jesus, as being an
eternal priest of G-d. Possibly the Evyonim had their own version of the
New Testament's Epistle to the Hebrews in which the figure of
Melchizedek, as an archtype and foreshadowing of Jesus, plays a
prominent role.

       More serious was the case of Rabbi Eliezer who was a very
influential collegue of Rabbi Akiva. He associated with Evyonim to such
a degree that he became suspect of being one. At one point in his life,
Rabbi Eliezer was excommunicated on the grounds that he had become an
Evyon. Only after completely disassociating himself from them and
formally declaring that he had never been an Evyon, was the ban of
excommunication lifted from him. Thereafter, Rabbi Eliezer was looked
upon as the Jewish "expert" on Jesus and his Jewish followers, and in
many places in the Talmud, questions concerning Jesus and the Evyonim
are put to him by his collegues.

       Then too there was the animosity from the gentile believers in
Jesus the Christ who condemned them both for holding to the Mosaic Law
and for separating themsleves from the gentile Church. Jerome, a
Christian writer aptly describes them with these words: "As long as they
wish to be both Jews and Christians, they are neither." The greatest
irony in all of this was that whereas James had decreed that althouogh
Torah observance was incumbent upon Jewish followers, it was not so upon
gentile believers, now the gentile Church decreed that Torah
observance was not only not incumbent on anyone, it was a declaration of
a heresy that said that one needed good deeds for salvation more than
one needed the Saviour.

       Thus by the middle of the second Christian century, this group of
Jewish followers of Jesus was beset on all sides by a hostile
environment with nowhere to turn but inward, a path destined to lead to
an eventual weakening and dissolution. It was towards the middle of the
second century that the Evyonim were delivered a very serious blow, one
that they found difficult to recover from. This was during the second
Jewish uprising against Rome, known as the Bar Cochba revolt.

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