THE EARLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH - VOLUME 1 : by Philip Carrington, Archbishop of Quebec. Published by the syndics of the Cambridge University Press, 1957. Katapi edition by Paul Ingram, 2013.


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The year 100 saw the death of King Herod Agrippa II, the same who had heard St Paul preach in Caesarea forty years before, and had said, 'Do you expect to make a Christian of me so easily?' He ruled on both sides of the Lake of Galilee, where a few very aged people must still have remembered the preaching of Jesus of Nazareth. After his death his kingdom was absorbed into the Roman province of Syria, which included Damascus now, and was being extended eastward towards Palmyra. A Romano-Syrian Hellenism was coming into existence in these regions, based on the increasing trade between east and west.

The years 105 to 108 saw the annexation of the old kingdom of the Nabatean Arabs with its strong cities of Bostra (Bozrah) east of Jordan, and Petra south of the Dead Sea, which were important trading centres on the caravan route which led further south to the Gulf of Akabah, and so by sea to India. The other route to India and farther east passed through Palmyra, which was situated to the north of the great desert which separated the Roman and the Parthian dominions. The Parthian empire, whose capital was at Seleuceia in southern Mesopotamia, was Persian in character, and professed a form of Zoroastrianism which had absorbed some features of the old Babylonian religion; this mixed form of 'monotheism' was accepted in turn by the Syrian cities and principalities, and combined with their own cults to create a tolerant solar monotheism which assumed a Hellenistic form in the second century.

The suppression of the Jewish kingdom completed the severance with the past. The bulk of the Jewish population was now in northern Palestine. The religious authority was vested in the rabbinic sanhedrin under its patriarch Gamaliel II, whose headquarters were at Caesarea, the |411 old residence of the Roman procurator. This sanhedrin had the power to make religious enactments which were binding in the synagogue. This circumstance was adverse to the cause of Jewish Christianity.

It was the fate of Jewish Christianity to be submerged in the deluge of sects which were especially prolific on the eastern side of the Jordan. The researches of Hegesippus, Africanus and Epiphanius give us a picture of small Nazarean communities which acknowledged the leadership of descendants of the Lord's family, but were unduly influenced by erratic teachers, such as the mythical Ebion and the legendary Elkhasai. There were several branches of the family of the Lord, these writers report. Symeon the successor of James the Just was still presiding over the church at Pella when the century opened; but grandsons of Jude were also presiding over churches, Hegesippus says.


We know little or nothing about the sects which are mentioned by Hegesippus, the Simonians, Cleobians, Dositheans, Goratheni and Masbothaeans; but it so happens that we have documentary evidence about Elkhasai, whose name means 'the hidden power': hel khasai. He was an oriental counterpart of the Roman Hermas; for he promulgated a doctrine of a new repentance, on the authority of a revelation from heaven which came to him in the third year of the Emperor Trajan, that is to say A.D. 100; a date which is given in the scriptures of the sect, which were brought to Rome about the year 220 and quoted by Hippolytus. Elkhasai, or perhaps some earlier visionary named Sobiai, had seen the Christus or Son of God, together with the Holy Spirit, descend from heaven, in male and female form respectively, both of them being about ninety-six miles high; an estimate which was confirmed by measuring a foot-print, which proved to be about fourteen miles long.

Elkhasai was thus able to announce that there would be another opportunity for repentance and a new baptism for lapsed Christians, which would wash away sins of even the grossest description. The sinner immersed himself in water, in the name of the Great God the Most High, and of his Son the Great King. He was to be wearing his clothes, and he was to invoke the seven witnesses; the heaven, the water, the holy spirits (or winds?), the angels of intercession, the oil, the salt and the earth. The same procedure would prove effective in the |412 case of sickness or the bite of a mad dog. The ethical element was not absent, however, for there was a promise of good behaviour; 'I call the seven witnesses to witness that I will sin no more; I will not commit adultery, I will not steal, I will not defraud, I will not covet, I will not hate, I will not forswear myself; I will not take pleasure in any evil thing.' Seven commandments in all. The recitation of commandments at baptism was a good Hebrew custom, and is vouched for in the case of the church by Ignatius.

Holy immersions were practised by pious Jews as a means of release from sin or defilement. Evidence for frequent or daily ablutions of a holy character comes in from the Gospels, the Mishnah, the Sibyllines and various quarters. Hegesippus mentions a sect of 'daily-baptists', and it may be that his sect of 'Masbothaeans' practised similar rites; their name might be connected with a verb which means to wash, which is said to appear in the name of a later sect called the Sebuai, the baptizers; « So W. Brandt; but J. Morgenstern suggests a derivation from a word meaning 'seven', which he connects with the calendar; but it could be connected with the word for oath, and the oath mentions seven witnesses. and again in the case of the Mesopotamian Sabians who were recognized by Mohammed; and these sects are possibly represented by the modern Mandaeans.

The religious ferment in the parts of Syria east of the Jordan is a factor of great importance in the history of religion, and Elkhasai played an important role there. Origen knew something about him in the third century, and Epiphanius found that his books were treasured among the various Ebionite sects in the fourth century. The family of Elkhasai was still held in great reverence (like the families of Jesus and Mohammed), and two female descendants, Marthous and Marthana, were venerated as goddesses.
The syllable 'marth' (Martha) is the feminine form of the word 'mara' which means lord: as in the Christian prayer 'maranatha'.


Elkhasai must be accepted as a serious theologian or prophet or religious founder, in spite of the fantastic character of his apocalyptic and liturgical style. He was coeval with John and Hermas, and his book was offered equally with theirs as an inspired contribution to the life of the church. It was a period when it was still natural to express one's |413 religious convictions in this imaginative or mythological style, and there was an accepted language of symbolism which was widely understood. There is more than one connecting link between Elkhasai and Hermas, for instance.

The type of Jewish-Christian heresy known as Ebionism, which began to take form at this time, inherited imaginative concepts of this kind. Indeed, Elkhasai is simply a rather fantastic example of Ebionism. He shares its peculiar christology. The Christus of Ebionism was a divine teacher who had appeared on earth many times, beginning with Adam the first man. He had also come as Moses and as Jesus; and perhaps his last appearance was in Elkhasai himself, who may not have been called the 'hidden power' for nothing. The idea of the recurring world-teacher is widespread in oriental religions, including some varieties of Mohammedanism.

The attitude of the Ebionites to the Law of Moses was also in line with the teaching of Elkhasai. They adhered to circumcision and the Sabbath, with some added superstitions, in the case of Elkhasai, about the moon and certain stars. They turned towards Jerusalem when they prayed, but they rejected the system of sacrifices, a point which had no practical consequences after the destruction of Jerusalem, since they had ceased to be offered. They regarded the fire of the altar as evil and the water of baptism as good. Their emphasis on water as a purifying element was developed in order to replace the sacrifices as a means of absolution and forgiveness. It may be that fire represented the evil power in the cosmos.

They were also ascetics. They refrained from 'animate food', flesh with the soul in it; and in this respect they followed the example of James the Just and John the Baptist; but they differed from the ascetic Essenes in requiring all their membership to marry. The Elkhasaites are said to have practised astrology and magic and the invocation of angelic powers. They predicted the future.

Here is the classical picture of the gnostic or heretical streak in Jewish Christianity. It was an ascetic Judaism, divorced from the Temple cultus though it reverenced Jerusalem, infused with ideas from further east, profoundly conscious of the power of evil in the cosmos, and prone to magic and superstition. It was not the only form of Ebionism. Later writers distinguish a more conservative Ebionism which was orthodox from the Jewish point of view, but regarded Christ |414 as a 'mere man' who received the Holy Spirit at his baptism and so became the Messiah; this type appears to be mentioned in the writings of Justin Martyr and he treats it with sympathy.

At the end of the second century the word was applied indiscriminately, at least in the west, to all the surviving Jewish Christians, with the implication that they were less than orthodox. It is thought that it was once an honourable name. The word ebion is a Hebrew word meaning poor, and it is constantly used in the Psalms and other literature for the religious and devout. It occurs in this sense in the first benediction of the Sermon on the Mount. It is thought that it may be one of the names by which the primitive Jewish Christians called themselves or were called. If so, its origin and meaning were soon forgotten. By the time of Tertullian we find references to a heresiarch named 'Ebion' or 'Hebion', who was regarded as the founder of the heresy. Epiphanius is confident of his historical character, but it is most unlikely that he ever existed.

As time went on the word 'Nazarean' seems to have been appropriated by the formally orthodox Jewish Christians, who believed in the Virgin Birth and accepted the apostle Paul.


One of the sources for our knowledge of gnostic Ebionism is the legends which were incorporated into the Books of Clement, so called from their ostensible author, Clement of Rome, who was regarded as the secretary of St Peter. Their theme is the contest between Simon Peter and Simon Magus, which may originally have been a dramatization of a rivalry between a Jewish gnosis and a Samaritan gnosis; but the figure of Simon Magus has been so treated in successive revisions as to become a mask for St Paul and even for later Gentile heresy.

The association of Clement with Peter is part of the legend which makes Peter the founder of the episcopate everywhere; a Jewish or Syrian view. It suggests that Clement's Epistle made a profound impression in the east at a very early date; its influence may be discerned in the writings of Bishop Theophilus of Antioch about 170-80, and it was accepted in Syria as part of the New Testament for four or five centuries. It is interesting to note that the visions of Hermas did not make a similar impression; the east had more exciting prophets of its own.

|415 In their present form the stories in the Books of Clement represent the view-point of a sophisticated Hellenistic Ebionism of the end of the second and beginning of the third century which was at home in the sea-coast cities from Caesarea to Tripolis. They were further edited in the fourth century, and their value as historical evidence is most uncertain. No doubt they made use of old traditions of some sort, or were obliged to harmonize with the old traditions, such as they were.


The imaginative christologies of Simon or Cerinthus or Elkhasai were based on a simple dramatic or mythological idea, the descent into this dark world of a spirit from the High God; and this was patterned in its turn on a well-known Syrian myth. The idea was very widely accepted and it entered into the gnostic theologies when the time for theologies came; but the poet had his innings first. He had near at hand, in the astral religion of the east, the magnificent picture of the seven spheres or heavens which separated this 'sub-lunary' world from the most high deity, whoever he was; and he pictured the Christus as descending through one heaven after another without being recognized by the angels who guarded their portals. He put off his glory by degrees, and assumed the form of the angels in each successive heaven; just as Ishtar surrendered one veil at each of the seven portals of hell. The lowest of these heavens was the firmament which we see, where Jehovah sat enthroned as the ruler of this 'aeon'; or Satan, in some versions of the myth.

Once arrived on earth, the Christus assumed human form, so as not to be recognized by the hostile powers who control the world. He was born of a virgin; or simulated such a birth; or made himself look like a man; or entered into the mortal man Jesus at his baptism. He selected and trained his twelve apostles. He died or seemed to die. He descended into Sheol, the underworld of the dead; 'but to Hagual, the place of destruction, he did not go down'. He despoiled the angel of death; he brought out the righteous dead; he ascended with them into heaven.

There was consternation in heaven after heaven as they passed upward. How was it that the Lord of Glory had descended and they had not known it? We are reminded of a sentence written by St Paul, |416 'Whom none of the rulers of this world knew, for if they had known, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory.' It has been suggested, indeed, that the ignorance of the heavenly watchers might seem to have been anticipated in certain passages in Ephesians; for this disguised descent and triumphal return could plausibly be described as the mystery which was-hidden from the aeons, a word which may mean either ages or worlds. In any case the poet who originated this Christian myth would seem to have been a student of St Paul.

This part of the myth has music to it, taken from the twenty-fourth psalm; it is oratorio. 'Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors: and the King of Glory shall come in. Who is the King of Glory? even the Lord of hosts, he is the King of Glory.'

The ruler of the aeon is overcome with astonishment and fear as a loud voice breaks upon his ears. He had thought that he was God, and that there was none above him. He adores the Christus as he ascends to his proper place.

A version of this myth was included in the early Christian book called the Ascension of Isaiah. Other versions were woven into the Ophite and gnostic mythologies. Its origin can hardly have been 'theological'; it is psalmody or hymnology or exuberant fantasy. Ignatius of Antioch knew it. The Saviour came into the world unobserved by the devil, he says; the virginity and motherhood of Jesus deceived him. Justin knew this application of the twenty-fourth Psalm and probably knew the Ascension of Isaiah, too. The book had connexions with Samaria, and so had he; it is hostile to Samaritan prophetism, and he is hostile to Samaritan gnosis.
Some scholars think that a similar hostility appears in the Sibylline Oracles, Book III, in which the evil spirit Beliar comes from 'Sebaste', which was the Gentile name of Samaria. The Ascension also uses the name Beliar for the spirit of evil. The hostility to Samaria flows on into the Books of Clement.

The picture we have given is a composite one, based in the main on the Ascension, but enriched from the gnostic myths. It is fundamentally a descent into Hades like the descent of Ishtar. The idea of the seven heavens was not an authentic part of the Christian tradition; but the descent into Hades after the crucifixion is found in 1 Peter.


Such were the dreams and visions and songs of this imaginative eastern world; what we lack is plain contemporary information about events; but we can place the martyrdom of St Symeon between the years 105 and 107 with some confidence. Hegesippus, who preserves the story, gives the name of the 'consular' official who presided at the trial as ' Atticus', and this may be the Sextus Attius Suburanus whose years as a proconsul would fall due at this time. Symeon was accused by the ' sects' of being a member of the family of David and also of being a Christian. He was tortured for several days, till everyone marvelled at the fortitude of an old man of a hundred and twenty years of age. After that he was crucified. Let no one wonder at the hundred and twenty years, for this is simply a Jewish way of stating that he was a venerable elder and patriarch. Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, and so were Hillel and Johanan ben Zakkai and Rabbi Akiba, according to the Talmud. One Jew still says to another, 'May you live to be a hundred and twenty.'

Narcissus, who had become bishop of Jerusalem by 190, claimed to have reached the age of one hundred and seventeen not long before he died; and if so, he was born as early as 100; but centenarians tend to exaggerate their ages, and Narcissus was a fantastic character.

Hegesippus adds that the accusers of Symeon were also members of the family of David, and were arrested themselves in the search which was being made by the Roman authorities. This admission that there were members of the Davidic family among the heretics who informed against Symeon is an indication of the divided state of the Jewish church, and illustrates the realistic character of the sources on which Hegesippus depends. He adds a comment of his own. Up to this time, he says, the heresies in the Jewish church had existed in a subterranean fashion, but now they lifted up their heads and publicly preached an opposition gospel; that is to say, there was an open schism. No doubt there were rival bishops. He adds that the church had formerly been like a pure virgin; now she was corrupted with heresy. He has no further bishops from the family of the Lord. His record ceases.


The church historian Eusebius preserved two statements from a written record (which was doubtless Hegesippus); one was the appointment of Symeon as Bishop of Jerusalem in succession to James the Just; the other was the flight of the Jerusalem church to Pella. They are also found in Epiphanius, who seems to have taken them from the same source. We took the step of placing the former event before the latter and assuming that Symeon accompanied the Jerusalem Christians to Pella. We now have two more pieces of information to consider.

Epiphanius gives a circumstantial account (which we will consider in our next chapter) of a return of disciples from Pella to Jerusalem which he places before the year 117; he took it from an ancient source, though he does not specify what it was. Eusebius has a list of Jerusalem bishops which he says was in the records of the Jerusalem church.

Nothing was more important among the Jews than the question of corporate continuity, and the Jewish-Christian tradition knew of two lines of succession, one in the family of Jesus, and the other through bishops. So far as Hegesippus is concerned, on whom we have depended so far for our information, the succession in the family of the Lord ends with the grandsons of Jude and the martyrdom of Symeon; after Symeon comes the deluge of heresy. But Eusebius tacks on, after James the Just and Symeon, his list of thirteen 'bishops of the circumcision' who officiated in Jerusalem prior to the disastrous war of 131-5. The document from which he copied it went on to give the names of fifteen Gentile bishops who held office after 135. The last on the list is that of the long-lived Narcissus whom we know to have become bishop of Jerusalem by 190. The list is quite obviously the pedigree of Narcissus himself. Eusebius states that he found it in the archives of Jerusalem.

There are two problems with regard to this episcopal list, the first of which is the problem of Jerusalem itself. It seems certain that the old Jerusalem church cannot have survived there, or been reconstituted there, after the destruction in 70; archaeologists support the statement of Josephus and the Mishnah that the city was not inhabited. But some settlement or rebuilding must have preceded the war of 131. Many historians think that nothing was done until 130; but, according to Epiphanius, the Emperor Hadrian sanctioned the rebuilding in 117, and though this narrative is not reliable it is possible that unofficial |419 resettlement was tolerated before 130 and even that official action of some sort preceded that date; and the list of the thirteen bishops is evidence that the Gentile church after the war believed that they were the successors of a Jewish church prior to the war; and they would hardly have claimed descent from a church which had not existed.

Eusebius gives us no information about the re-establishment of the episcopate in Jerusalem. He covers it in the following words, which are quite formal:

And when Symeon had been perfected in the manner described, a certain Jew of the name of Justus, who was one of the ten-thousands of the circumcision who had then believed in Christ, succeeded to the throne of the episcopate in Jerusalem.
(Eusebius, E.H. in, 35.)

The reference to the 'ten-thousands' seems to be lifted from the speech of James the Just in Acts xxi. 20; the sentence is the composition of Eusebius himself. He gives the complete list of bishops in a later chapter of his history (iv, 5, 3). It begins with James and Symeon, who are followed by Justus I, Zacchaeus, Tobias, Benjamin, John, Matthias, Philip, Sennekas, Justus II, Levi, Ephres, Joseph and Judas; such, he says, was the number of the bishops in the city of Jerusalem to the time of which we are speaking.

The second problem about this list is that it has too many bishops for so short a time, and this is an indication that it was not invented for the purpose of filling it up. The difficulty had been felt before the time of Eusebius, and the document from which he took the list had an explanation to the effect that these bishops were very short-lived. Perhaps a more plausible explanation can be advanced. Perhaps the thirteen names are the names of a bishop, Justus, together with twelve elders from whom a successor would be chosen when the necessity arose. And of course the list of fifteen Gentile bishops after 135 would allow room for the Gentile succession to have been started off in this way.

Two examples of this pattern are to be found in oriental legend. Eutychius, who was the patriarch of Alexandria in the tenth century, wrote a book of Annals, in which he said that St Mark had provided the first 'patriarch' of the city, whose name was Hananiah, with twelve elders from whom a successor was to be chosen and ordained by the remaining elders. The Ebionite legends which are preserved in the |420 Books of Clement provide Peter with twelve attendants, whose names are given; the first of these happens to have the name of Zacchaeus, like the successor of Justus in the Jerusalem list. Peter appoints Zacchaeus to be the first bishop of Caesarea, and provides him with twelve elders. He follows the same course in other cities.

At the end of the second century the churches of Alexandria, Caesarea and Jerusalem (then called Aelia) were closely connected, and it looks as if they had a common tradition about the primitive form of the episcopate. Each legend is weak by itself, but they combine to form what looks like a respectable tradition. Now if we look at Anti-och, as we see it in the writings of Ignatius, we find that a similar pattern existed there at this time; for he compares the elders who sit with the bishop to the' council of the apostles'. He does not specify the number twelve, but this was strongly emphasized in the Antiochene Gospel of Matthew. Ignatius is comparing the Syrian ministry of a bishop-and-elders with the pattern created by the Matthaean picture of Jesus and the Twelve, which was thus re-created in every church.


It may have occasioned some surprise to produce a tenth-century legend in favour of our suggestion; but the tradition that there was something unusual about the Alexandrian episcopate is older than that and has been treated with respect by numerous scholars. It was stated by St Jerome in the fourth century, and by Severus of Antioch in the sixth, that the bishop of Alexandria was originally appointed by the presbyters; but neither of them supports the statement of Eutychius that they ordained him. Jerome says that this system of presbyteral election continued into the time of Demetrius and Heraclas; and Demetrius was a contemporary of Narcissus at Jerusalem; he became bishop about 190. Eutychius says that it continued into the time of Bishop Alexander, who died in 328; and it is quite noteworthy that Alexander was succeeded by Athanasius, who was his deacon. Under the system of presbyteral election this would not have been possible. Perhaps the appointment of Athanasius did create a new precedent of some sort; and there is a legend that his enemies reproached him with having been ordained bishop by presbyters. Once more a number of weak legends do add up to something.

|421 Other indications and analogies are to be found which support or explain this evidence; the independent position of presbyters in Alexandria as heads of distinct churches; the statement of Eutychius that down to the time of Demetrius and Heraclas there was only one bishop in the land of Egypt; the fact that the Patriarch of Alexandria had the right to consecrate the other bishops; the civil organization of Egypt, which was highly centralized; and the subjection of the Alexandrian synagogues to the rule of a 'Patriarch'.

We may look on the Alexandrian legend as the continuation, with some degree of tendentiousness, of a memory which existed at the end of the second century of an ecclesiastical pattern which had been dominant at the beginning of it and was not in all respects obsolete. The actual system may not have been so simple or so uniform as the legend made it appear; but it distinctly suggests that the bishop was the head of a closed corporation of presbyters who were jealous of their rights; and this is just what appears in the life-story of Origen under Demetrius. It looks too as if there was no popular election; no deacon could become bishop, as happened more than once at Rome.

This aristocratic form of organization, if it existed, was balanced by the variety and audacity of the intellectual life in the various academies. The church was shot through with heresy, just as the Jewish church was; and doubtless it came from that quarter. We may assign to this period the 'Petrine' school of Glaucias, who was claimed by the Basilidians as their master's predecessor; and the 'Pauline' school of Theodas, who was claimed as the predecessor of Valentinus. Somebody, it is said, was handing down esoteric gospel traditions in the name of Matthias. A peculiar interpretation of the parables of Jesus and of the mysticism of Paul was also coming into existence. The visions of Hernias and the Epistle of Clement were being accepted along with other New Testament material. The church was represented abroad by Cerinthus, with his ingenious theology and his enthusiasm for apocalypse. These at any rate are the names which were invoked in the various traditions.

Eusebius had received a list of Alexandrian bishops, with the length of each episcopate, which works out approximately as follows: A.D. 62 Annianus (Hananiah), 98 Cerdon, 109 Primus, 119 Justus, 130 Eumenes, 143 Marcus, 153 Celadion, 167 Agrippinus, 179 Julian, 190 Demetrius; but Demetrius is the only one of whom anything is known.


A literary work which was produced in the Jewish-Christian church in Palestine, or perhaps in Alexandria, fairly early in the second century, was the Gospel of the Hebrews which was used by Hegesippus. Jerome found a copy of it in the library at Caesarea and was able to compare it with another, which was still being used by the Nazareans at Beroea, the modern Aleppo. It was not a free composition like the mass of apocryphal Gospels and Acts which we shall encounter later in the second century. It should be regarded as a fifth attempt at serious Gospel-making for church purposes. It was written in Aramaic for Aramaic-speaking Christians. It was not the Aramaic document written by the apostle Matthew, if that is conceded to have had a substantial and permanent existence; but it might have used such a document as a source. Nor does it seem that it appeared under the name of Matthew, though the time came when it acquired it.

The Hebrew Gospel has not survived, but there are enough quotations from it in Jerome and others to enable us to form some opinions about it. It was written subsequently to the synoptic Gospels and was dependent upon them; but it had its own characteristic versions of certain Gospel passages, some of which have an interesting mythological colour.

Jerome quotes part of the story of the baptism of Jesus, which describes the descent of the Holy Spirit in the character of divine mother.

And it came to pass when the Lord was come out of the water, that the whole fountain of the Holy Spirit descended and rested upon him, and said unto him: My Son, in all the prophets I was waiting for thee, that thou shouldest come, and I might rest in thee: for thou art my rest, and thou art my first-begotten Son that reignest for ever.
(Hebrew Gospel : in Jerome, Epistle to Hedibia.)

Here is a fanciful elaboration in mythological terms of an older story which we know from earlier sources. Origen gives a sentence from the story of the Temptation, which continues the theme; Jesus is the speaker, 'Even now did my mother the Holy Spirit take me by one of mine hairs, and carried me away even to the great mountain Tabor.'

Another passage describes the resurrection appearance to James the Just, which Paul mentioned in his first preaching to the Corinthians. |423 It appears to be regarded as the first of the resurrection appearances, and this would be natural in the Jewish church, whose patron he was. The story also supplies authority for the paschal fast, from the evening of the Last Supper (at which it is implied that James was present) to the morning of the Resurrection. It may also include the ministry of Jesus to the souls of the departed, which is mentioned in 1 Peter and the Ascension of Isaiah. The quotation has two gaps in it.

Now when he had given the linen cloth to the servant of the high priest, the Lord went unto James and appeared to him. For James had sworn that he would not eat bread from that hour wherein he had drunk the Lord's cup, until he had seen him risen from among the dead. ... Bring ye, saith the Lord, a table and bread. ... He took the bread and blessed and broke, and gave it to James the Just, and said unto him, My brother, eat thy bread, for the Son of Man is risen from among them that sleep.
(Hebrew Gospel : in Jerome, De Viris Illustribus.)

This piece of Jewish-Christian tradition about James may have belonged to the same cycle as his answers to the Jewish authorities in the Temple, and the glorification of his ascetic life, and the Acts of his martyrdom.


Another experiment in Gospel-making was the Gospel which was used by the great anti-Jewish heretic, Marcion. His catholic opponents accused him of fabricating this Gospel himself, and modern scholars seem to accept their word for it. But he strenuously asserted that he found it in existence, and that it was the original 'Gospel of Truth' which was used by Paul. We consider this Gospel at this point in order to do him justice.

Marcion had his predecessors, some of whom appear fairly clearly in the correspondence of Ignatius and Polycarp; they were the Docetists, who believed in Christ as an angel or spirit without a body; and Polycarp accused them of dealing craftily with the 'Logia of the Lord', a phrase which his contemporary Papias used in connexion with the writing of Gospels. They did not accept the birth from a virgin, or the human nature of Jesus, or the reality of his Passion. There was no ancient Gospel which embodied this point of view; so they took the Gospel of Luke, the companion of Paul, who was in all probability the |424 apostle on whom they relied, and cut off its opening chapters. The birth from a virgin and the baptism by John were both rejected. It now began with the preaching of Jesus in Galilee; 'In the fifteenth year of Tiberius he descended into a city of Galilee named Capernaum ... and they were all astonished at his teaching.' He descended 'as a saving Spirit', Marcion says. It is one of the strange paradoxes of Marcionism that the Passion story is retained.

The Gospel of Luke was further cut down until it bore some resemblance to Mark in outline and proportion. A church which had been accustomed to using Mark could easily substitute it, just as the more orthodox churches could substitute Matthew. It omitted a great deal of material which seemed to be of a pro-Jewish character or to be connected with the doctrine of the fulfilment of Jewish prophecy; and it made alterations in the text that it retained; but the work of omission and emendation is not entirely explained by these dogmatic prepossessions. It is hard to see why the good Samaritan or the prodigal son would be omitted on these grounds. It is known to us through the hostile commentary of Tertullian and some detailed notes which were made by Epiphanius, and minor notices in other catholic writers.

It seems to be a sixth attempt at serious Gospel-writing, on anti-Ebionite, and anti-Cerinthian, and anti-catholic lines. We would not venture to speculate as to where it was produced, but we think that it should be considered in the period before Marcion, who may have been born earlier than A.D. 100, and taught in Rome before 140.


So early as the last twenty years of the first century, when the Matthaean gospel was in process of formation, the Jewish Christians were already being squeezed out of the national life, which was expressed locally in the synagogue. This process was in its last stages by now. Synagogue and ecclesia must part, and go their several ways.

The standard synagogue service already contained some of the fixed forms of prayer which are in use today, though their text was still in a plastic condition. It began with the Psalms and with the Kedushah or Sanctus and variations are found. After the prayers called Yotzer and Ahabah, came the Shema : 'Hear O Israel, the Lord is thy God, the Lord is One' and so forth. This text is at once the primary commandment |425 and traditional creed-form of Judaism, proclaiming as it does the unity of the God of Israel and the duty of personal devotion to him. It was followed by the Ten Commandments, which were afterwards omitted from the service, 'because of the heretics'; an obscure phrase which suggests that their presence there was taken advantage of somehow by Christians or heretical propagandists; for Judaism was dealing with the same problem of competing sects which was the bane of the Christian church.

Then came the Emeth-weyazzib, and the important prayer known as the Eighteen Benedictions or Amidah, which preceded the solemn reading of the Law and the prophets. The Law was taken out of the ark with appropriate benedictions and responses and read with great ceremony. This was the central act of the service.

The synagogue service had already taken a Greek form in the Hellenistic synagogues, and its influence on the Christian liturgy can be observed in Clement of Rome and later authors. As late as the fourth century the synagogue prayers, in a Greek form, including the Kedushah and Amidah, are included in a Christian book of Syrian origin, called the Apostolic Constitutions. Christian liturgy develops out of Jewish liturgy under the transforming influence of the gospel and the Spirit.

The following extracts from the Amidah give some idea of the increasingly hostile tone of Palestinian Judaism early in the second century.

XII. Let the apostates have no hope, and may the wicked kingdom [Rome] be soon rooted out, and the Notzrim [Christians] and the Minim [heretics] perish in a moment, and be blotted out from the book of life.

XIII. Have pity, O Lord our God, on Israel thy people, on Jerusalem thy city, and on Zion the dwelling-place of thy glory, and on thine altar, and on thy Temple, and on the kingdom of the house of David the Messiah, thy Righteousness.

XIV. Be pleased, O Lord our God, to dwell in Zion, and may thy servants worship thee in Jerusalem; have pity and restore thy presence unto Zion thy city, and the order of worship to Jerusalem.

The thirteenth and fourteenth Benedictions express the profoundest aspirations of the Judaism of the day, and even, with a difference, of some Christians. The restoration of Jerusalem in all its glory was the ardent hope of the leaders of the nation; but there was no room in these |426 devotions for the Nazareans, with their evangelical faith in Jesus as the Davidic Messiah, and their apocalyptic or gnostic speculations, and their prayers and rituals in the Name of Jesus.


What we have called the second apostolic generation, down to no, is the equivalent of the first rabbinic generation subsequent to the destruction. The end of the first rabbinic generation saw a great change. Johanan ben Zakkai, the successor in the teaching order of St Paul's Gamaliel, had been a broad-minded man with a statesmanlike policy of friendly living. Eliezer ben Hyrcanus, his favourite pupil, had been a man of the same type. It would appear that he became involved in controversy and lost the day. He retired to the seclusion of his academy at Lydda. 'Warm thy hands at the fire of the wise,' he is reported to have said, 'but beware of their glowing coals lest thou be burned.' One of the points which had been brought against him had been his partiality for Jesus of Nazareth, which was by no means tolerable in the eyes of new men like Rabbi Ishmael ben Elishah, who taunted his wife, Imma Shalom, the daughter of the old Gamaliel, with the sin of seeking healing from a disciple of Jesus.

In the new generation, which flourished from about 90 to the war of 131, the greatest name was that of Akiba. He was a proselyte of Arabian origin, a convert to the faith. He set himself to master the precepts of the oral law, and to bring them into order. He spoke at Jamnia in favour of the inclusion of the Song of Solomon among the synagogue scriptures; but he was not one to resort to allegorical interpretations in order to bring such difficult books into line with the teaching of the sages. No doubt there were too many of these imaginative efforts. He resorted instead to artificial deductions (as they seem to be to the Gentile mind) of single words and even single letters in the sacred writings. It all came from the hand of God, and there must be a meaning in the minutest feature of it. Rabbi Ishmael, on the other hand, is said to have preferred a broad literary interpretation. It did not die out in Israel.

Akiba was responsible for the first energetic attempts to arrange and codify the mass of oral traditions which were handed down in the schools, and to impart order and system to the jungle of rulings and |427 precedents and customs. We find references in old rabbinic sources to a First Mishnah, and a Mishnah of Rabbi Akiba, which may have been a written document; but many scholars think that it referred simply to the enterprise of arranging the various legal opinions in accordance with the topics they dealt with. It does not seem credible, however, that this could be done without making any notes or transcripts.

Jerome tells us that Akiba was the tutor of Aquila, another proselyte, who was a native of Sinope in Pontus, like Marcion. Aquila made a new Greek translation of the Hebrew scriptures. The translation known as the Septuagint often followed a different text from that which was favoured by the rabbis; it sometimes translates inexactly or even wrongly; and, worst of all, it had been appropriated by the Christians, who used it to prove the truth of their gospel. The new version of Aquila was painfully literal, representing every word and particle of the Hebrew text, so far as this could be done in Greek. It was intended for use in connexion with the theological methods of Aquila, which depended upon the study of every detail. It must also have involved the formulation of an authoritative Hebrew text from among the various texts which were available.

During the period from 90 to 130 the Christians had no leader who could compare with Akiba; but then, of course, they had no central organization in which such a man could exercise his powers of leadership. He was the St Paul of the New Judaism, the convert who excelled the home-born in energy and zeal and learning; always travelling, organizing, teaching, and even writing; and yet a man of fervent simple faith. He was destined to ruin Israel by his military and political adventures; and yet, by his genius, he laid the foundations of the New Judaism which would survive the disaster for which he was largely responsible.
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