What is Ebionism?


Ebionism is a false view regarding the nature of Jesus Christ. This second century heresy denied Jesus' divinity and the virgin birth. They affirmed that Jesus was the Son of God only through adoption by God. They believed that Jesus was a wise man endured with gifts and a descendent of David, but not literally God, or even as great as Moses.

The Ebonites ("the poor ones," Matt 5:3; Psa 69:33; 70:5; 74:21; from the Hebrew 'ebyon) had numerous other theological problems; they believed in salvation by keeping the whole of the Jewish Law (cf. Rom 3:20; Gal 2:16), rejected the epistles of Paul as inspired, and out of the four gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John), only accepted Matthew as having some truth. They actually revised the book of Matthew and called it the Gospel According to the Hebrews.

One can read more about Ebionism in the early church writings of Irenaeus, Justin Martyr, Hippolytus, and Tertullian. Through this heretical sect's origins are shrouded in mystery, the Ebonites were apparent heirs of the Judaizers (Acts 15:1; Gal 1:6-9; 2:16, 21). The Ebionites were also known as the Homuncionites (Greek "Anthropians" or "Anthropolatrians"). There were different sects of the Ebonites: Pharisaic Ebionism (Ebionism proper) and Gnostic Ebionism. This later form of Ebionism is considered similar in some respects to the Essene movement. The movement, especially this later form, lasted approximately 200 years.

Despite all the heresies in the early church (among them, Adoptionism, Albigenses, Apollinarianism, Arianism, Docetism, Ebionism, Gnosticism, Kenosis, Marcionism, Modalism, Monarchianism, Monophysitism, Nestorianism, Patripassionism, Pelagianism, Semi-Pelagianism, Socinianism, Subordinationism, and Tritheism, etc.) the Word of God still abides (1 Pet 1:23). Amidst all these assaults against God and his church by numerous false religions, the church has grown stronger, not weaker. In many ways, the church should be thankful for the gift of opposition!

Related Topics:

Could Jesus Sin?
Christological Heresies?
What is Adoptionism?
What is Albigenses?
What is Apollinarianism?
What is Arianism?
What is Docetism?
What is Gnosticism?
What is Kenosis?
What is Marcionism?
What is Modalism?
What is Monarchianism?
What is Monophysitism?
What is Nestorianism?
What is Patripassionism?
What is Pelagianism?
What is Semi-Pelagianism?
What is Socinianism?
What is Subordinationism?
What is Tritheism?

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).