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A DIC TIONARY

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GREEK AND ROMAN BIOGRAPHY

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MYTHOLOGY.

EBION.

EARINUS, FLA'VIUS, a favourite eunuch of the emperor Domitian, in praise of whose beauty there are several epigrams of Martial, and a poem of Statius. (Dion Cass. Ixvii. 2 ; Mart. Epigr. ix. 12, 13, 14, 17, 1&; Stat. Stiv. iii. 4.)

EBION ('E&W), the real or supposed founder of the sect of Christians called Ebionites, by which name, at least after the time of Irenaeus, were de­signated all those who, though professing Christ's religion, thought it necessary to continue the ob­servance of the Mosaic law. The Ebionite doctrine therefore was a mere engrafting of Judaism upon Christianity. Generally speaking, the followers of this sect considered our Lord as a man chosen by God to the office of Messiah, and furnished with the divine power necessar}' for its fulfilment at the time of his baptism, which rite was performed by John, as the representative of Elijah. They in­sisted on the necessity of circumcision, regarded the earthly Jerusalem as still God's chosen city, and denounced St. Paul as a latitudinarian and a heretic. (See, for the latter statement, Orig. Jerem. Homil. xviii. 12.) It is, however, very difficult to distinguish accurately the various shades of these opinions, or to state at what time any particular form of them was prevalent. Irenaeus certainly confounded varieties of opinion almost sufficient to constitute their holders two distinct sects, whereas Origen (c. Gels. v. 61) divides the Ebionites into two classes, those who denied our Lord's miracu­lous conception, and those who allowed it; the lat­ter admission of course implying, that the peculiar operation of the Holy Spirit on the man Jesus de­veloped itself from the very commencement of his life, instead of first beginning to act at the parti­cular time of his consecration to the Messianic mission. The first traces of Ebionism are doubt­less to be found in the New Testament, where we recognize this doctrine as that of the Judaizing teachers in Galatia (Gal. iii. 1, &c.), the deniers of St. Paul's apostleship at Corinth (2 Cor. xi. 5, &c.), the heretics opposed in the Epistle to the Colossians, and perhaps of those mentioned by St. John. (Uoh. ii. 18, on which see L'ucke, Commentar iiber die Briefe desEvang. Johannes?) The " Clementines," a collection of homilies embodying these views, is probably a work of the 2nd century; and we find

VOL. II.

EBION.

that the sect was flourishing in the time of Jerome (a. d. cir. 400), though with its opinions much modified and Christianized, inasmuch as it did not desire to force the ceremonial law upon the Gen­tiles, and fully admitted the authority of St. Paul. It is needless to trace its progress farther, for in fact Ebionism is only the type of a system which, in different forms, and adapted to various circum­stances, has reappeared from time to time in almost all ages of the Church. With regard to Ebion himself, his existence is very doubtful. The first person who asserts it is Tertullian, who is followed by Augustine, Jerome, Epiphanius, and Theodoret. The latter, however (Haer. Fab. ii. 218), after saying, ra^rrjs rfjs <pd.Ko.yyos 3p£ev 'E&W, adds, tov tttccxov 8e ovTus ot 'ESpoioi irpo(ra.yop€^ov(nv9 which may be compared with the derivation given for the name of the sect by Origen (contr. Cels. ii. 1), who considers it formed from the Hebrew word Ebion, poor, and knows of no such person as the supposed founder Ebion. Modern writers, es­pecially Matter (ffistoire du Gnosticisme, vol. ii. p. 320) and Neander (in an appendix to his Gene-tisclie Entwickelung der vornehmsten GnostiscJte Sys-teme, Berlin, 1818, and also in his Kircliengescliiclite^ i. p, 612, &c.) deny Ebion's existence; though Lightfoot says, that he is mentioned in the Je­rusalem Talmud as one of the founders of sects. The authorities on both sides of the ques­tion are given by Burton. (Bampton Lectures, note 80.) If we reject the existence of Ebion, we must adopt Origen's derivation, though not with the ex~ planation which he suggests, that it refers to the poverty of the Ebionite creed ; for such a name could not have been chosen by themselves, since it would have been in that sense a reproach; nor given by the Christians of Gentile origin, who would not have chosen a title of Hebrew deriva­tion. It is better to suppose that the name Ebion­ites was originally applied to an ascetic sect, and gradually extended to all the Judaizing Christians. For some of the ascetic Ebionites thought it wrong to possess anything beyond that which was abso­lutely necessary for their daily subsistence, holding that the present world, not in its abuse, but in ita very nature, is the exclusive domain of Satan. This is Neander's explanation. [G.E.L. C.)

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