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The history of what is known as Christianity and how it survived down to us is interesting indeed. Some believed in one deity, others believed in two, while others believed in thirty or more. Clashes and disagreements followed for three centuries after Yahshua’s resurrection until the present scholarship prevailed.
    Bart Ehrman in his book “Lost Christianities,” goes into detail showing the differences between various dominate religious groups whose doctrines are with us today. With some 300 years having passed since Yahshua’s resurrection, general agreement was reached on the make-up of our present 27 books in the New Testament under the influence of emperor Constantine. It is interesting how so many varied doctrines and teachings come from the same source with each group claiming their understanding is the correct one because their doctrine is based on the very words of the Savior and His Apostles.
    Yahweh did not leave us in the dark for He raised up able Bible scholars such as Origen of Alexandria, Tertullian and others who carefully selected the wheat from the bogus chaff and gave us the New Testament we have today. Mainstream Christianity of today is often referred to by author Ehrman as “proto-orthodoxy.” The following is a study of two Christian groups, each at the opposite ends of the pole, which will deepen the perspective of our faith. First we will examine a group trying to be more Jewish than the Jews.

The Ebionites
The Ebionites were active according to historical believers in Yahshua in the second and fourth centuries, and understood themselves to be Jews who followed Yahshua. There were other groups of Jewish believers but the Ebionites generated the greatest opposition. They believed the Savior was the Jewish Messiah sent by the Jewish Father to the Jewish people and fulfilled the Jewish Scriptures. They also believed that to be the people of the Book one had to be Jewish.
    Consequently, they found much to guide them from the Old Testament such as the seventh day Sabbath, kosher foods, and acknowledging Jerusalem in their worship. However, their insistence on physical circumcision of all males put them at loggerheads with the Apostle Paul who assures us that New Testament circumcision is that of the heart, that one is willfully obedient in following the Savior.
    In addition to being more Jewish than the Jews, the Ebionites did not agree with other believers in who the Messiah was, and did not accept the belief that Yahshua pre-existed. The following are clear Bible examples of who Yahshua was:
    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with Yahweh, and the Word was Yahweh. The same was in the beginning with Yahweh. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1-3 AV)
    No man hath seen Yahweh at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared [him]. (John 1:18 AV)
    Let this mind be in you, which was also in Messiah Yahshua: Who, being in the form of Elohim, thought it not robbery to be equal with Yahweh: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the stake. Wherefore Yahweh also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Yahshua every knee should bow, of [things] in heaven, and [things] in earth, and [things] under the earth; And [that] every tongue should confess that Yahshua Messiah [is] the Savior, to the glory of Yahweh the Father, Phpn. 2:5-11.
    Not only did the Ebionites not subscribe to Yahshua’s pre-existence, but denied His virgin birth. Author Ehrman believes their Aramaic Bibles lacked the first two chapters of Matthew and Luke both of which deal with Yahshua’s virgin birth. They believed the Savior was indeed the son of the Father by adoption and was a real flesh and blood human being just like us. What made Him stand out was that He kept the Father’s laws perfectly and was the most righteous man on earth who died on the stake not for His own sins, but for the sins of the world.
    Because the Ebionites apparently believed the Savior paid for the sins of the entire world, there was no more a need for animal sacrifices. (This was before destruction of the Temple in 70 CE.) Their other doctrines included a heavy reliance on the Old Testament. They rejected all the New Testament writings of the Apostle Paul. Not only did they feel Paul was wrong in a few points, but he was their archenemy and a heretic who had led many astray! The sign of the covenant was circumcision, and now Paul is teaching it was not necessary for a gentile convert to be circumcised.
    An interesting note on their no animal sacrifice view is found in the fragments of Epiphanius against the Ebionites, a disciple asks Yahshua about the preparation of the Passover with the 12, Mark 14:12. He replies, “I have no desire to eat the flesh of this Passover Lamb with you.” In another place more to the point, He says, “I have come to abolish the sacrifices; if you do not cease from sacrificing, the wrath of Elohim will not cease from weighing upon you.” Interesting that these statements are not found elsewhere, but the Temple was destroyed in the year 70 (CE) and the sacrifices ceased. Yahweh enlisted Paul to carry the spiritual truth to the Gentiles.
    It is easy to discern why potential converts among the pagans were not flocking to the Ebionite form of religion, which involved the Saturday being observed as the Sabbath, no pork and carnivorous animals and shellfish were unclean and not to be eaten, and for the men circumcision was required to be Jewish in all phases of life.
Marcionites Spurn All Things Jewish
At the opposite end of the religious New Testament groups were the Marcionites who had a very attractive religion for many pagan converts. There was nothing Jewish about the doctrines of theologian Marcion. In fact a Jew would have difficulty recognizing how Marcion’s religion was an offshoot of his own. Not only were the Jewish Scriptures rejected, but also so was the Jewish Elohim we know as Yahweh. How does Marcion fit Yahshua together with Yahweh?
    Marcion was indeed a shrewd politician and well versed in the Jewish Bible which he later rejected. He was said to be wealthy through being a shipping merchant or ship builder. Reports indicate he had a falling out with his father who was the bishop of the church near the Black Sea. He then journeyed to Rome, the dominant city in the area, where he gave 200,000 sestercese (lots of money). to the church’s mission. He then lay low for five years working out his program. After five years Marcion introduced his program by means of two books. The teaching in them was revolutionary.
    The writings of the Apostle Paul were most intriguing, especially in the book of Galatians and elsewhere where the law of the Jews was distinctly different from the evangel of Messiah. We know that Paul claimed a person was made right by faith in Messiah, not by doing the works of the law. This distinction became fundamental to Marcion. Quoting author Ehrman, “The [evangel] is the good news of deliverance, it involves love, mercy, grace, forgiveness, reconciliation, redemption and life. The bad news that makes the [evangel] necessary in the first place; it involves harsh commandments, guilt, judgment, enmity, punishment, and death. The law was given to the Jews. The [evangel] is given by Messiah.”
    How could the same Deity be responsible for both situations? How could the wrathful, strict, vengeful One of the Jews be the loving, patient, merciful One of Yahshua the Savior? Marcion taught that these attributes could not belong to one Deity, because they stand at odds with one another. He concluded there must be two Deities; one for the Jews and another for Yahshua! {Note the next two paragraphs!}
    The Deity of the Old Testament insisted that people keep His law and penalized them when they failed. He was not evil, but He was rigorously just. Since no one is able to keep all the laws perfectly, penalties were passed out and death was the final result. He was justified in His punishments and sentencing all people to death.
    The Deity of Yahshua and the New Testament came into the world to save the people from the vengeful Deity of the Jews. He was unknown previously to this world and never had any dealings with it. Not even the prophesies of the future Messiah came from this one for these refer not to Yahshua, but to a coming Messiah of Israel, to be sent by the Deity of the Jews, the Creator of this world and the Deity of the Old Testament. Yahshua came completely unexpectedly and did what no one could possibly have hoped for: He paid the penalty for other people’s sins to save them from the Old Testament Deity.
    Marcion spent much time and effort convincing the religious world his concept of two separate deities with one being the Creator of all life and the strict giver of the Law. The other deity was revealed in the New Testament who sent his adopted son (the Savior) to die for the sins of the world’s people.
    The King James New Testament contains 27 books. Marcion’s New Testament consisted of eleven books, ten of which are of the Apostle Paul, the one he could trust to understand the radical claims of the New Testament. But why did not the Savior have His disciples explain more clearly the spiritual comprehension of His mission? He gave Paul special training and insight for his task. Well, the disciples were Jews and did not grasp the deeper understanding. Therefore the Savior gave Paul the task of introducing the New Testament to the world.
    To back up his teaching of two Deities, Marcion was attracted to Yahshua’s saying that a tree is known by its fruit and used the following quote as proof:
    For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. (Lu 6:43-44 AV)
    Good trees do not produce rotten fruit and bad trees do not produce good fruit. When applying this truth to the divine realm, what sort of Deity would create a world with pain, misery, disaster, disease, sin and death? Marcion then would quote the following from the Old Testament:
    Shall a trumpet be blown in the city, and the people not be afraid? shall there be evil in a city, and Yahweh hath not done [it]? (Am 3:6 AV)
Comparing the Two Groups
There is much more author Ehrman has to say about the vast differences between the doctrines of the Ebionites and the Marcionites. Each claims to be followers of Yahshua and through Him, the true Elohim. Ehrman lists the following contrasts between the Ebionites and Marcionites, both claiming to trace their views back to Yahshua through the apostles in the second and third centuries:
The Ebionites were Jews who insisted that being Jewish was fundamental to a right  
  standing before [Elohim]. The Marcionites were Gentiles who insisted that Jewish practice was fundamentally detrimental for a right standing before [Elohim].  
The Ebionites insisted there was only one [Elohim]. The Marcionites maintained there  
  were two.  
The Ebionites held to the laws of the Old Testament and saw the Old Testament as the  
  revelation of the one true [Elohim]. The Marcionites rejected the laws of the Old Testament and saw it as a book inspired by the inferior [Elohim] of the Jews.  
The Ebionites saw Yahshua as completely human and not divine, The Marcionites saw  
  Yahshua as completely divine and not human.  
The Ebionites saw Paul with his teaching of justification by faith in Messiah apart from  
  the works of the law, as the arch heretic of the church. Marcion saw Paul as the one and only true apostle of Messiah.  
The Ebionites accepted a version of Matthew as their Scriptures (without its first two  
  chapters, which show that Yahshua was born of a virgin), possibly along with other books, such as their own [evangel] of the Ebionites. Marcion accepted a version of Luke as his Scripture (again, possibly without its first two chapters, which show that Yahshua was born) along with ten letters of Paul.  
Author Ehrman notes that Ebionite Christianity was “left behind” fairly early in the history of Christianity. Church fathers such as Irenaeus and Tertulian do not see it as a threat at the end of the second century. Had the acceptance of Marcion’s teachings taken place, the Old Testament would be ignored and anti-Semitism of little relevance. Judeo-Christian roots teach us Yahweh is our Creator and Savior through Yahshua.
    Bart D. Ehrman writes in a readable style and gets to the nitty-gritty right away of how things are the way they are and how they got that way. There is much that one can learn about the forgeries and pseudo-history and the struggle to authenticate the writings of the New Testament. One can appreciate the Bible from author Ehrman’s introduction of facts from the past, including docetism which little is said in our enlightened nuclear/space age.
    We can rest assured that Yahweh will not leave us in the dark concerning the “Book of Books,” for He tells us:
    All scripture [is] given by inspiration of Yahweh, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of Yahweh may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works. (2Ti 3:16-17 AV)
-Elder Donald R. Mansager

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