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of censure; but that it was the doctrine which he himself had taught. If this apostle had thought as you do with respect to it, why did he not censure it unequivocally, as you do, and with as much severity ?
Tertullian, indeed, maintained that, by those who denied that Christ was come in the flesh, John meant the Gnostics, and that by those who denied that Jesus was the son of God, he meant the Ebionites. * He had no idea that the former expression only could include both. But as the Gnostics maintained that Jesus and the Christ were different persons, the latter having come from heaven, and being the son of God, whereas Jesus was the son of man only, the expression of Jesus being the son of God is as directly opposed to the doctrine of the Gnostics as that of Christ coming in the flesh.
You say, “ It appears, therefore, that' to confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh,' and to affirm that Jesus Christ is truly a man, are propositions not perfectly equivalent. Dr. Priestley indeed has shewn himself very sensible of the difference. He would not have otherwise found it necessary, for the improvement of his argument, in reciting the third verse of the 4th chapter of St. John's first epistle, † to change the expressions which he found in the public translation, for others which correspond far less exactly with the Greek text. For the words - Jesus Christ is come in the flesh,' Dr. Priestley substitutes these: “Jesus Christ is come of the flesh.”” You add afterwards, “ He might think it no unwarrantable liberty to correct an expression which, as not perfectly corresponding with his own system, he could not entirely approve. It would have been but fair to advertise his readers of so capital an emendation; an emendation for which no support is to be found in the Greek text, nor even in the varieties of any MSS.”#
I am sorry, Sir, that my printer, or my own mistake, should have given you all this trouble in consulting MSS. &c. I do assure you I had no knowledge of having made a change in a single word in copying that text, nor should I have wished to have made any change at all in it; thinking that, as it now stands, it is quite as much for my purpose as that which you suppose I have purposely substituted in its place. Had you thought me capable of an attempt of this kind, you should not have ascribed to me, as you have
* De Prescriptione Hæreticorum, Sect. xxxiii. p. 214. (P.) See Vol. XVII. p. 36, Note t; Lardner, IX. p. 234, Note m.
+ Corrected, Vol. V. p. 18. † Charnen (P)
done, the greatest purity of intention in all that I have written on this subject.
I now proceed to remark on what you have observed from Clemens Romanus, concerning the pre-existence of Christ.
You think that, through my excessive zeal for an hypothesis, I make every thing to favour it; but I hardly think that you can find any thing in my attempt to support the Socinian doctrine, that discovers more zeal than you manifest in support of the Athanasian one; and I think that excessive zeal has misled you in as remarkable a manner as you suppose mine to have misled me. I can no otherwise account for your asserting, that the notion of Christ having “had his choice of different ways of coming into the world -is explicitly expressed in a book little inferior in authority to the canonical writings, in the first epistle of Clemens Romanus, in a passage of that epistle which Dr. Priestley, somewhat unfortunately for his cause, has chosen for the basis of an argument of that holy father's heterodoxy. • The sceptre of the majesty of God,' says Clemens, our Lord Jesus Christ, came not in the pomp of pride and arrogance, although he had it in his power.' Clemens, it seems, conceived that the manner of coming was in the power and choice of the person who was to come.'
Of this I have no doubt; but the question is, from whence he was then to come. Clemens does not say that it was from heaven to earth. That is entirely your own interpretation, for which I see no ground at all; since the phrase is so easily explained by his entering upon his commission, as a public teacher; when, being invested with the power of working miracles, he never made any ostentatious display of it, or indeed exerted it for his own benefit in any respect.
Besides Clemens Romanus, you refer to the epistles of Ignatius, for a proof of the early knowledge of the doctrine of Christ's divinity. • The holy father," you say, “ hardly ever mentions Christ without introducing some explicit assertion of his divinity, or without joining with the name of Christ some epithet in which it is implied.”+ All this is very true, according to our present copies of Ignatius's epistles. But you must know that the genuineness of them is not only very much doubted, but generally given up by the learned; and it was not perfectly ingenuous in you to
conceal that circumstance. First prove those epistles, as we now have them, to be the genuine writings of Ignatius, and then make all the use of them that you can.
I am, &c.
LETTER II. Of the Distinction between the Ebionites and the Nazarenes.
DEAR SIR, It has been imagined by some, that there was a difference between the doctrine of the Ebionites and that of the Nazarenes, concerning the person of Christ ; the former disbelieving the miraculous conception, and the latter maintaining it; whereas I have said that I can find no sufficient authority for that difference; that which has been thought to have been the peculiar opinion of the Nazarenes, being expressly ascribed to one branch of the Ebionites, by Origen, Eusebius, Epiphanius, and perhaps other ancient writers,
And, as to any Nazarenes who believed that Christ was any thing more than man, I find no trace of them in history; so that it is highly probable that the Nazarenes of the second century were the same people with those of the first, or the primitive Jewish Christians, and that they were called Ebionites by way of reproach.
To the arguments from Origen and Eusebius you say nothing, but with respect to that from Epiphanius your conduct is very particular indeed. On my saying that
Epiphanius expressly says that Ebion held the same opinion with the Nazarenes, you say, “ The only inference to be made from this assertion is this: that Dr. Priestley hath never troubled himself to read more of Epiphanius's account of the Ebionites than the first eleven words of the first sentence. Had he redde the first sentence to the end, he would have found that Ebion, although he rose from the school of the Nazarenes, and held similar opinions, preached also other doctrines, of which he was the first inventor. Among these novelties, by the consent of all antiquity, though not with Dr. Priestley's leave, we place the mere humanity of Christ, with or without the miraculous conception.”+
I shall not return your offensive language; but had you yourself read the second paragraph in this section, you * See supra, p. 10.
† Charge, p. 77. (P.) Tracts, pp. 79, 80.
would have found that your remark had no foundation whatever. For it there appears, that though, according to this writer, the Ebionites and Nazarenes did differ in some other particulars, it was not with respect even to the miraculous conception, much less with respect to the doctrine of the mere humanity of Christ.
He says, in the middle of the first section, “ that Ebion,” whom in the 24th section he makes to be contemporary with the apostle John, “ borrowed his abominable rites from the Samaritans, his opinion (yuwunu) from the Nazarenes, his name from the Jews,* &c.” And he says, in the beginning of the second section," he was contemporary with the former, and had the same origin with them ; and first he asserted that Christ was born of the commerce and seed of man, namely Joseph, as we signified above,” referring to the first words of his first section, “ when we said that in other respects he agreed with them all, and differed from them only in this, viz, in his adherence to the laws of the Jews with respect to the Sabbath, circumcision, and other things that were enjoined by the Jews and Samaritans. He moreover adopted many more things than the Jews, in imitation of the Samaritans,”+ the particulars of which he then proceeds to mention.
In the same section he speaks of the Ebionites inhabiting the same country as the Nazarenes, and adds that, “ agreeing together, they communicated of their perverseness to each other.” † Then, in the third section, he observes that afterwards some of the Ebionites entertained a different opinion concerning Christ, than that he was the son of Joseph ; supposing that, after Elxæus joined them, they learned of him “ some fancy concerning Christ and the holy spirit.g”
Concerning the Nazarenes, in the seventh section of his account of them, he says that they were Jews in all respects,
* Σαμαρειτών μεν γαρ εχει το βδελυρον, Ιουδαιων δε το ονομα, Οσσαιων δε και Ναζωριων και Νασαραιων την γνωμην -και Χριςιανων βουλεται εχειν την προσηγοριαν. Ηer. XXX. Sect. i. p. 125, I. edit. Paris, 1622. (P.) * Ούτος
γαρ ο Εβιων συγχρονος μεν τουτων υπηρχεν, απ' αυτων δε συν αυτοις όρμαται τα πρωτα δε εκ παρατριβης και σπερματος ανδρος, τουτεςι του Ιωσηφ, τον Χριςον γεγενησθαι ελεγεν, ώς και ηδη ημιν προειρηται, ότι τα ισα τους αλλοις εν απασι φρονων, εν τουτο μονο διεφερετο, εν τω νομο του Ιουδαϊσμου προσανεχειν, κατα σαββατισμον, και κατα την περιτομην, και κατα τα αλλα παντα όσα περ παρα Ιουδαιοις και Σαμαρειταις επιτελειται ετι δε πλειω ουτος παρα τους Ιουδαιους ομοιως τους Σαμαρειταις διαπραττεται. Ιbid. Sect. ii. pp. 125, 126. (P.)
Η Ενθεν αρχεται της κακης αυτου διδασκαλιας, όθεν δηθεν και οι Ναζαρηνοι οι ανομοι προδεδηλωνται. Συναφθεις γαρ ούτος εκεινοις, και εκεινοι τουτο, εκατερος απο της εαυτου μοχθηριας το έτερο μετεδωκε. Ιbid. (Ρ.)
5 Φαντασιαν τινα περι Χριςου διηγειται, και περι πνευματος αγιου. Ιbid. Sect. iii. p. 127. (P.)
except “ that they believed in Christ; but I do not know whether they held the miraculous conception or not. This amounts to no more than a doubt, which he afterwards abandoned, by asserting that the Ebionites held the same opinion concerning Christ with the Nazarenes, which opinion he expressly states to be their belief, that Jesus was a mere man, and the son of Joseph.
I now appeal to yourself whether this does not abundantly justify my quoting the authority of Epiphanius, whatever that may be, in support of the Ebionites and Nazarenes having held the same opinion concerning Christ, though they might differ in other things. Please also to observe, that these Nazarenes were prior to Ebion, who was himself contemporary with the apostle John.
You acknowledge that " in Jerome's time” the Nazarenes were “ declined so far from the pure faith of the first race of Christians,” and “ were become heretical in that degree, that Jerome considered them as a Jewish sect, rather than a Christian.”+ How much earlier this general defection took place, you do not say. It appears, however, as you do not deny, that the unbelieving Jews called all those of their race who were Christians, by the name of Ebionites, in the time of Origen. Indeed, Origen's own words are too express to admit any doubt of this. “ Those,' says he, “ of the Jews who believe that Jesus is the Christ, are called Ebionites.”And these Ebionites, Origen says, were of two sorts, one of them believing the miraculous conception, and the other not; but all of them considering Christ as a mere man.
You say, indeed, “ that the word Ebionite had, in his (Origen's) time, outgrown its original meaning;” for “ at last, it seems, the Nazarenes, whose error was rather a superstitious severity in their practice, than any deficiency in their faith, were included by Origen in the infamy of the appellation.” But for this I must require some other evidence than your bare conjecture ; for then he ought to have made three sorts of Ebionites, and not two only, which he expressly does.
Περι Χριςου δε ουκ οιδα ειπειν ει και αυτοι, τη των προειρημενων περι Κηρινθον και Μηρινθον μοχθηρια αχθεντες, ψιλον ανθρωπον νομιζουσιν' η, καθώς η αληθεια εχει, δια πνευματος αγιου γεγενησθαι εκ Μαριας διαβεβαιουνται. Hær. xxix. Sect. vii. p. 123. (P.)
† Charge, p. 29. (P.) Tracts, p. 29.
Η Εβιωναιοι χρηματιζουσιν οι απο Ιουδαιων τον Ιησον ως Χριστον παραδεξαμενοι. In Celsum, L. ii. p. 56. (P.)
$ Charge 35, (P.) Tracts, p. 35.