Extra-Bbilical PerspectivesJewish Christianity: James the Just, Ebionites and Essenes
Extra-Biblical Perspectives

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The writings herein reflect the views of the authors based upon their research into extra-Biblical writings and commentaries.  Some of the comments counter what is written in the Bible, but they do reflect some early Christian and Jewish-Christian thinking and debates over various Christian theology of that time.

Jewish Christianity: James the Just, Ebionites and Essenes
By Frank L. Hoffman

As a follow-up on some of the comments by Michael Shaw and Keith Akers, I came across the following commentary on early Christianity from Will Durant's The Story of Civilization, Vol. III, Caesar and Christ, New York, Simon and Schuster, 1944, 577.

"While Peter carried the Gospel to the towns of Judea, James "the Just," "the brother of the Lord," became the head of the now reduced and impoverished church in Jerusalem. James practiced the Law in all its severity, and rivaled the Essenes in asceticism; he ate no meats drank no wink had only one garment, and never cut his hair or beard. For eleven years, under his guidance, the Christians were left undisturbed. About 41 another James, the son of Zebedee, was beheaded; Peter was arrested, but escaped. In 62 James the Just was himself put to death. Four years later the Jews revolted against Rome. The Jerusalem Christians, too convinced of the coming "end of the world" to care about politics, left the city and established themselves in pagan and pro-Roman Pella, on the farther bank of the Jordan. From that hour Judaism and Christianity parted. The Jews accused the Christians of treason and cowardice, and the Christians hailed the destruction of the Temple by Titus as a fulfillment of Christ's prophecy. Mutual hatred Inflamed the two faiths, and wrote some of their most pious literature.

Thereafter Judaic Christianity waned in number and power, and yielded the new religion to be transformed by the Greek mind. Galilee, where Christ had lived nearly all his life, and where the Magdalene and the other women who had been among the first to follow him were now lost in obscurity, turned a deaf ear to the Preachers who proclaimed the Nazarene as the Son of God. The Jews, who thirsted for liberty, and reminded themselves daily that "the Lord is One," were repelled by a Messiah who ignored their struggle for independence, and were scandalized by the announcement that a god had been born in a cave or stable in one of their villages. Judaic Christianity survived for five centuries in a little group of Syriac Christians called Ebionim ("the poor"), who practiced Christian poverty and the full Jewish Law. At the end of the second century the Church condemned them as heretics."

Of particular interest is the comment on James and the Essenes, in that they both were vegetarian but that James does not appear to be an Essene based on the source(s) Durant used. Note that James is understood to be a Christian "priest", not a Jewish priest; thus, no participation in the sacrifice.  Also, the reference to the Ebionites is that they practiced the FULL Law, which would not rule out continued sacrifices, even though their following of Jesus, as the LAST sacrifice, would have fulfilled that requirement, that is, unless their view of Jesus was somewhat different.   Durant gives no reference for this comment.

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