Articles From The Writings of Vasu Murti

The Gospel of the Ebionites

The apostle Paul and the gnostics who followed him, rejected the Law and the Old Testament, which Jesus himself never denied. In his as of yet unpublished manuscript, Broken Thread: the Fate of the Jewish Followers of Jesus in Early Christianity, secular scholar Keith Akers writes that the early church fathers wrote volumes attacking the gnostic heresy, while hardly paying any attention to the Ebionites, who were arguably the original (Jewish) faction of Christianity.

Christianity remained a part of Judaism even after the death and resurrection of Jesus. From the Acts of the Apostles (2:22), we learn that Jesus' followers believed him to be "a man certified by God..." It was God who made Jesus Lord and Messiah (2:36), and they hoped Jesus would soon "restore the kingdom of Israel (1:6). The first Jewish Christians went to Temple daily (2:46), celebrated the festival of Weeks (2:1), observed the Sabbath (1:12), and continued to worship the "God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob..." (3:13)

These Jewish Christians carried their belief in Jesus as Lord and Messiah from Jerusalem to Judea, Samaria and Galilee (1:4,8, 8:1, 9:31). Their numbers began to gradually increase. The initial 120 members of the Pentecostal assembly in Jerusalem grew to three thousand (2:41), then five thousand (4:4). Their numbers continued to grow; a great number of priests embraced the faith (6:7).

The church enjoyed peace as it was being built up (9:31). There was a strong community spirit; they broke bread and said prayers together (2:42). They shared property (2:44,46) and lived without personal possessions (4:32). Many Pharisees came to believe in Jesus (15:5) and this Jewish messianic movement was on friendly terms with Gamaliel, a powerful and highly respected Pharisee, who intervened on their behalf.

James held a respected position in the church at Jerusalem (Acts 12:17, 15:13, 21:28). According to Albert Henry Newman in A Manual of Church History, "Peter had compromised himself in the eyes of the Jewish Christians by eating with gentiles. (Acts 11:1-3) James thus came to be the leader of the church at Jerusalem. It seems he never abandoned the view that it was vital for Christian Jews to observe the Law. He supported missionary work among the gentiles, and agreed to recognize gentile converts without circumcision (Acts 15:29), but as a Jew he felt obliged to practice the whole Law and require Jewish converts to do the same."


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