Back in its day it was called Ebionism.
Ebionism was a “Christian” sect in the early centuries after Christ. History does not give an exhaustive account of Ebionism, unfortunately, but we do know the core tenets of their beliefs.
- Belief that the Mosaic Law still binds believers and is something we must keep (1)
- Jesus was not God, only a perfect man “adopted” by God (2)
- Rejection of Paul – they considered him a heretic and apostate (3) – to their minds Paul’s writings were just his “opinion” (i.e. non-inspired; and not even a very good opinion at that)
- They tended to reject all New Testament writings but the Gospel according to Matthew (4) (except not all of them believed in the virgin birth as recorded in Matthew, though some apparently did).
What do you think, readers? Have you met anyone that sounds like this?
Oh boy, I have.
See, Neo-Ebionism is on the rise. Messianic Jewish circles (particularly the Hebrew Roots Movement) are turning out lots of these folk.* As the Jewish trend catches on, people who once called themselves Christians are playing Jewish dress-up and trying to keep kosher (and all the other Old Covenant laws they can). Since Paul preaches against this, these folks decide that they can’t listen to Paul anymore, because he obviously contradicts what they want to do. Thus, out he goes.
And of course, once you excise more than half of the New Testament cannon, why not keep the scalpel out and continue cutting? Soon John follows, and sometimes Peter as well. Then, you’ve gotten rid of the best witnesses to the Deity of Christ, so out goes that doctrine (and who needs Christ anyway, since we can be justified by our works [that is: as long as we’re good people God will be merciful to us]? Thus Christ just becomes a good moral teacher to show us how to do it.)
It’s a slippery slope, and I personally know folks who have been sliding it for years.
It is heartbreaking to watch, and I DO NOT use that term lightly.
So, to help you guard yourselves against this leaven, brothers and sisters, I am going to release a series of posts in the next few days (God-willing), to give you some tools for dealing with the Neo-Ebionism in our midst.
Peace be with you all as our earthly trials continue.
P.S. If you want to learn about the Ebionites from the earliest sources, click here. As I said, there isn’t exactly a wealth of information about them – only takes about ten minutes to read through. Even so, it pays to be informed.
- Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, Chp. 27
- Irenaeus, Against Heresies 1.26.2
*Not all Messianic Jewish circles end up this way. However, the average Messianic Jewish teachings and practices do certainly tend in this direction. Again, not always (so I don’t want any hate-mail accusing me of libel, got it?).