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You also say,
Thcodotus was the first who taught the doctrine of the humanity of Christ. You still maintain, without the least shadow of authority for it, that he carried the doctrine further than the Ebionites had ever done; whereas, you cannot possibly produce any evidence whatever of Theodotus having been considered by the ancients in a worse light than the Ebionites.
“ It is very certain," you say, “ that Theodotus maintained the meer humanity of Christ in the grossest sense; in that gross and shocking sense in which it is at this day taught by yourself and Mr. Lindsey. It is not certain that the Ebionites before Theodotus had gone further than to deny our Lord's original divinity. They probably, like Socinus, admitted some unintelligible exaltation of bis nature after his resurrection, which rendered him the object of worship."*
“ I deny that the Unitarian doctrine existed in that time” (the age of the apostles) " in the most obnoxious form. Produce your indisputable evidence. Observe, that by the most obnoxious form I understand that form which excludes the worship of Christ.”+
By the most obnoxious form I meant the belief that Jesus was the son of Joseph as well as of Mary. That such persons existed in the age of the apostles, no person, I believe, except yourself, ever denied; and there is no reason whatever to believe that these Ebionites, or any Ebionites, ever considered Christ as a proper object of worship. Your idea of their entertaining the notion of an unintelligible exaltation of his mere human nature after his resurrection, is the most improbable of all suppositions. According to all the accounts we have of the Ebionites, they were not apt to admit things unintelligible.
The case of Socinus is very different from that of the Ebionites. He had been educated in the habit of praying to Christ, and therefore might not be able to reject the practice; but the Ebionites began with considering Jesus as a mere man, and therefore would no more think of paying worship to him than they had done to Moses, without very express instructions and directions, which it is not in your power to produce with respect either to them, or to Christians in general.
Your notion that the Nazarenes were the orthodox Jews who separated from the church of Jerusalem in the time of Adrian, and settled in the north of Galilee, I and that they
* Letters, p. 131. (P.) Tracts, p. 241. † Letters, p. 87. (P.) Tracts, p. 190.
1 Ibid. pp. 157, 158.
had their name from the place where they then settled, viz. Nazareth, will, I doubt not, be quite new to every reader of ecclesiastical history, and (excepting the first of these particulars, which I suppose you learned of Mosheim, who neither quotes, nor, I will venture to say, could quote any authority for it, *) an invention of your own. The Nazarenes, in the time of the apostles, are well known to have had their name from Nazareth, where Jesus had lived, and from which he had been usually called Jesus of Nazareth; but as to the Nazarenes of the Christian fathers, there is no evidence whatever of their having ever settled at Nazareth, or in any part of Galilee. Jerome places the Nazarenes with whom he was acquainted, (and he was well acquainted with the Nazarenes,) in Peræa, in Syria.t You say
that the Nazarenes were unknown as a sect before the destruction of Jerusalem by Adrian ; # but Epiphanius, in perfect agreement with all the ancients, places their rise after the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus.
After mentioning the places where they resided, viz. Peræa, CæleSyria, Pella and Cocabe, (observe, he says nothing of any of them being in Nazareth, from which you suppose they had their name,) he says, “ There was their origin after the destruction of Jerusalem, when all the disciples lived at Pella; Christ having warned them to leave Jerusalem, and retire at the approach of the siege ; and on this account they lived, as I said, in Peræa. Thence the sect of the Nazarenes had its origin.”S
As to the passage in Jerome, from which I, after Suicer, inferred that the Ebionites and the Nazarenes were the same people, or only differed in some things of little moment, (but which you and Mr. Badcock think is a demonstration that they were fundamentally different,) || I see no reason to be dissatisfied with my interpretation of it. You think it is a proof of my ignorance of Latin; whereas, if I thought myself at liberty to do it, I could produce in my favour as high a classical authority as any that this country can furnish.
Ds. Horsley refers, (Tracts, p. 158,) to “ De Rebus Christianorum ante Constantinum, Sæc. ii. Sect. xxxviii., Note,” where Mosheim refers to “Sulpitius Severus, Histor. Sacr. L. ii. C. xxxi. p. 245.” See Vidal's translation of Mosheim's Commentaries, 1813, II. p. 194.
“ Catalogus Virorum Illustrium, in Matt.” Opera, I. p. 267. (P.)
Tracts, p. 146. και Εκειθεν γαρ η αρχη γεγονε μετα την απο των Ιεροσολύμων μετανασιν, παντων των μαθητων των
εν Πελλη φκηκοτων, Χριςου φησαντος καταλειψαι τα Ιεροσόλυμα, και αναχωρησαι επειδη ημελλε πασχειν πολιορκιαν και εκ της τοιαυτης υποθεσεως την Περαιας οικησαντες, εκεισε, ως εφην, διετριβον εντευθεν η κατα τους Ναζωραιους αίρεσις εσχε την ayu. Hær. xxix. Sect. vii. Opera, I. p. 123. (P.)
supra, pp. 10, 37, Note 1.
· How could Jerome call' these highly orthodox Jews, as you suppose them to be, not Christians, merely because they used the ceremonies of the law of Moses? He might have pitied them for their weakness, but he would hardly have condemned them as no Christians. Your own representation of them is not very unfavourable.
- The Christian Nazarenes had nothing in their conduct that might render them deşerving of this epithet (avquoi, lawless). Their error was, that they feared to use their liberty, not that they abused it.”* You therefore must think his censure very harsh and ill-applied.
I think it probable that the Nazarenes or Ebionites were considered as in a state of excommunication, not merely because they themselves observed the law of Moses, but be.cause many of them would impose the same on the Gentiles, so that in fact they excommunicated themselves; and thus the passage in Jerome will be explained by one in Justin, (who says that he could communicate with those Jews who kept to the law of Moses, but not with those who would impose it on all Christians, which I shall have occasion to quote hereafter.
As to Mr. Badcock's inference from the passage in Austin's letter, in answer to Jerome, I see no force in it at all. He only enumerates all the names that Jerome had mentioned; and whether these differences were real or nominal, great or little, it signified nothing to him. He himself, in his catalogue of heresies, makes a difference between the Ebionites and Nazarenes, but by no means that which you and Mr. Badcock make; and as it was a common opinion, especially in the West, that there was some difference between them, (though the writers who speak of it could never be certain in what it consisted,) it was very natural in Austin to mention them separately, whether Jerome had made them the same or not.
That Austin, in his answer to Jerome, did not consider the Nazarenes in any very favourable light, is evident from his speaking of them as heretics. “Quid putaverint hæretici, qui dum volunt et Judæi esse et Christiani, nec Judæi esse nec Christiani esse potuerunt,” &c., † that is, “ As to the opinion of those heretics, who, while they would be both Jews and Christians, can neither be Jews nor Christians," &c. It is in these very words that Jerome had characterized those whom he had called Nazarenes. What more could Austin have said of the Ebionites? And can it be supposed that he would have spoken of the Nazarenes in this manner, if he had thought them highly orthodox with respect to the doctrine of the Trinity ? especially considering that it was an age in which the greatest account was made of that doctrine; so that soundness in that article might be supposed to have atoned for defects in other things.
* Lelters, p. 49. (P.) Tracts, p. 140.
+ Opera, II. p. 75. (P.)
You say you are not singular, as I had supposed, in asserting the strict orthodoxy of the Nazarenes in opposition to the Ebionites; but you are more nearly so than you imagine. Hugo Grotius," you say,
6. Vossius, Spencer, and Huetius agree that the Nazarenes and Ebionites, though sometimes confounded, were distinct sects, and they maintain the opinion, which I now maintain, of the high orthodoxy of the proper Nazarenes in the article of our Lord's divinity.”
Having examined the most respectable of these authorities, viz. Grotius, I find him entirely failing you, and saying no such thing as you ascribe to him. What he says is as follows: “ Certe Nazaræi illi Beræenses genuina erant propago eorum qui primi ex Palestina Christi fidem erant amplexi. Nam id illis nomen primitus fuisse inditum ex Domini nostri nomine, qui vulgo Nazarenus vocabatur, apparet ex Act. xxiv. 5."'t That is, “ Those Beræan NazaTenes were the genuine descendants of those who first in Palestine embraced the Christian faith; for that this name was originally given them from the name of our Saviour, who was commonly called the Nazarene, appears from Acts xxiv. 5."
This, Sir, is nothing more than I have repeatedly said myself, viz. that the Nazarenes mentioned by the primitive fathers were the genuine descendants of the Nazarenes, in the time of Paul. Grotius says nothing definite about their opinions ; § but if his meaning must be interpreted by his own opinion on the subject, it would, I presume, be in my favour; for it is allowed, I believe, on all hands, that his Commentary on the New Testament is very much Socinian, certainly not Athanasian. But admitting that you may have more modern authorities for the orthodoxy of the Nazarenes than I had imagined, (though I believe that a great majority are with me on this subject,) the only authorities that are of any weight are the ancients, and we are now upon ground that appears to me not to have been sufficiently examined by any of the moderns.
• Letters, p. 38. (P.) Tracts, pp. 128, 129. + Opera, Il. p. 4. (P.) 1“ Dr. Horsley, in Reply, Part i. p. 8, [Tracts, pp. 336, 337,] is extremely offended at this remark of Dr. Priestley, which indeed was incorrect; and is retracted by Dr. Priestley himself in his last Appendix to these Letters. It appears in fact that Grotirs made a wide distinction between the Nazarenes and the Ebionites; the former, as he conceived, believing the miraculous conception and the deity of Christ; the latter denying his miraculous birth, and regarding him as a
How far Grotius was right in this distinction is another question." Mr. Belsham's Note.
A nossari 'ta hern nointed out to me in Grotius, Opera, II. p. 5,) in which
Rather than tax me with ignorance of the sentiments of modern critics on this subject, (which you are sometimes ready enough to do,) you suppose that I was acquainted with them, and had recourse to artifice.
- Your attempt," you say, “ to set it forth in that light I cannot but consider as a stratagem, which you were willing to employ for the preservation of your battered citadel, the argument from the Nazarenes. In this stratagem, if I mistake not, you are completely foiled. In your sallies against the batteries which I have raised, I trust you will be little more successful. But as too much of stratagem is apt to mix itself with all your operations, it will be necessary that I watch very narrowly the manner of your approaches."*
This argument, however, is not so much battered but that it will well hold out against all your efforts to overturn it. The Nazarenes, as well as the Ebionites, the genuine descendants of the old Jewish Christians, and who cannot be proved to have departed from the faith of their ancestors, were all believers in the simple humanity of Christ; and certainly the presumption is, that they learned this doctrine from the apostles. For who else were their teachers ?
At the close of this subject, having, as you think, a manihe speaks of the Nazarenes as “ holding the common faith of other Christians with respect to Christ, which the Ebionites did not." But as the opinion of the Ebio. nites, of which he is there speaking, was, that Christ was the son of Joseph, all that can be inferred from the passage is, that, in his opinion, the Nazarenes differed from the Ebionites, by believing the doctrine of the miraculous conception. By the common faith of Christians in that early age, (supposing him to have had a view to the doctrine concerning Christ more extensively considered,) Grotius, no doubt, meant his own opinion, which was far from that high orthodoxy which Dr. Horsley ascribes to the Nazarenes.
Grotius also says that it is well observed by Sulpitius Severus, that all the Jewish Christians till the time of Adrian held that Christ was God, though they observed the law of Moses," in the passage which I have quoted from him. But the sense in which Grotius understood the term God in this place must be explained by his own sentiments concerning Christ. As to Sulpitius himself, he must be considered as having said nothing more than that “almost all the Jews at Jerusalem were Christians, though they observed the law of Moses." This writer's mere assertion, that the Jewish Christians held Christ to be God, in the proper sense of the word, unsupported by any reasons for it, is even less to be regarded than that of Eusebius. (P.) Appendix to Letters, Pt. ii. 1784.
* Letters, p. 38. (P.) Tracts, p. 129.