Bible Myths and their Parallels in other Religions Being a Comparison of the Old and New Testament Myths and Miracles with those of the Heathen Nations of Antiquity Considering also their Origin and Meaning
Page: 84Holy Spirit was the father of Jesus, must have risen among [Pg 134]the Greeks, or elsewhere, and not among the first believers, who were Jews, for the Hebrew word for spirit is of the feminine gender.[134:1]
The immediate successors of the "congregation at Jerusalem"—to which Mary, the mother of Jesus, and his brothers belonged—were, as we have seen, the Ebionites. Eusebius, the first ecclesiastical historian (born A. D. 264), speaking of the Ebionites (i. e. "poor men"), tell us that they believed Jesus to be "a simple and common man," born as other men, "of Mary and her husband."[134:2]
The views held by the Ebionites of Jesus were, it is said, derived from the Gospel of Matthew, and what they learned direct from the Apostles. Matthew had been a hearer of Jesus, a companion of the Apostles, and had seen and no doubt conversed with Mary. When he wrote his Gospel everything was fresh in his mind, and there could be no object, on his part, in writing the life of Jesus, to state falsehoods or omit important truths in order to deceive his countrymen. If what is stated in the interpolated first two chapters, concerning the miraculous birth of Jesus, were true, Matthew would have known of it; and, knowing it, why should he omit it in giving an account of the life of Jesus?[134:3]
The Ebionites, or Nazarenes, as they were previously called were rejected by the Jews as apostates, and by the Egyptian and Roman Christians as heretics, therefore, until they completely disappear, their history is one of tyrannical persecution. Although some traces of that obsolete sect may be discovered as late as the fourth century, they insensibly melted away, either into the Roman Christian Church, or into the Jewish Synagogue,[134:4] and with them perished the original Gospel of Matthew, the only Gospel written by an apostle.
"Who, where masses of men are burning to burst the bonds of time and sense, to deify and to adore, wants what seems earth-born, prosaic fact? Woe to the man that dares to interpose it! Woe to the sect of faithful Ebionites even, and on the very soil of Palestine, that dare to maintain the earlier, humbler tradition! Swiftly do they become heretics, revilers, blasphemers, though sanctioned by a James, brother of the Lord."
Edward Gibbon, speaking of this most unfortunate sect, says:
"A laudable regard for the honor of the first proselytes has countenanced the belief, the hope, the wish, that the Ebionites, or at least the Nazarenes, were [Pg 135]distinguished only by their obstinate perseverance in the practice of the Mosaic rites. Their churches have disappeared, their books are obliterated, their obscure freedom might allow a latitude of faith, and the softness of their infant creed would be variously moulded by the zeal of prejudice of three hundred years. Yet the most charitable criticism must refuse these sectaries any knowledge of the pure and proper divinity of Christ. Educated in the school of Jewish prophecy and prejudice, they had never been taught to elevate their hope above a human and temporal Messiah. If they had courage to hail their king when he appeared in a plebeian garb, their grosser apprehensions were incapable of discerning their God, who had studiously disguised his celestial character under the name and person of a mortal.
"The familiar companions of Jesus of Nazareth conversed with their friend and countryman, who, in all the actions of rational and human life, appeared of the same species with themselves. His progress from infancy to youth and manhood was marked by a regular increase in stature and wisdom; and after a painful agony of mind and body, he expired on the cross."[135:1]
The Jewish Christians then—the congregation of Jerusalem, and their immediate successors, the Ebionites or Nazarenes—saw in their master nothing more than a man. From this, and the other facts which we have seen in this chapter, it is evident that the man Jesus of Nazareth was deified long after his death, just as many other men had been deified centuries before his time, and even after. Until it had been settled by a council of bishops that Jesus was not only a God, but "God himself in human form," who appeared on earth, as did Crishna of old, to redeem and save mankind, there were many theories concerning his nature.
Among the early Christians there were a certain class called by the later Christians Heretics. Among these may be mentioned the "Carpocratians," named after one Carpocrates. They maintained that Jesus was a mere man, born of Joseph and Mary, like other men, but that he was good and virtuous. "Some of them have the vanity," says Irenæus, "to think that they may equal, or in some respects exceed, Jesus himself."[135:2]
These are called by the general name of Gnostics, and comprehend almost all the sects of the first two ages.[135:3] They said that "all the ancients, and even the Apostles themselves, received and taught the same things which they held; and that the truth of the Gospel had been preserved till the time of Victor, the thirteenth Bishop of Rome, but by his successor, Zephyrinus, the truth had been corrupted."[135:4]
Eusebius, speaking of Artemon and his followers, who denied the divinity of Christ, says:
"They affirm that all our ancestors, yea, and the Apostles themselves, were of the same opinion, and taught the same with them, and that this their true doctrine (for so they call it) was preached and embraced unto the time of Victor, the thirteenth Bishop of Rome after Peter, and corrupted by his successor Zephyrinus."[136:1]