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Of Men of Eminence among the Jewish
HOUGH it is probable, that the
Jewish christians in general were poor, and therefore had no great advantage of liberal education, which might be one means of preserving their doctrine in such great simplicity and purity; yet it appears that there were some men of learning among them. Jerom mentions his being acquainted with such during his residence in Palestine; and there are three persons among them who distinguished themselves by translating the Old Testament from Hebrew into Greek, viz. Aquila, Theodotion, and Symmachus; though the last of them only was a native of Palestine, and born a Samaritan. Eusebius fays, that •f Theodotion and Aquila were both Jewish f proselytes, whom the Ebionites follow
"ing, believe Christ to be the son of "Joseph*." According to Epiphanius, . Theodotion was first a Marcionite, and then, a Jewish convert -j-. Aquila is said to have flourished about the year 130, Theodotion about 180, and Symmachus about 200. Whatever was thought of the religious principles of these men, the greatest account was made of their versions of the Hebrew scriptures by learned christians of all parties, especially that of Symmachus, which is perpetually quoted with the greatest respect by Origen, Eusebius, and others. Jerom, speaking of Origen, says, that " be•« sides comparing the version of the sep*« tuagint, he likewise collated the versions "of Aquila of Pontus, a proselyte, that **. of Theodotion an Ebionite, and that of *« Symmachus, who was of the fame sect; *' who also wrote commentaries on the gospel os Matthew, from which he en
* si; ©£o3b7icv r^nwaxm 0 EpEssic;, xai Aw\j; 0 Ilovlixc;, ap,fokfft Ixaam vfoovstJkt' ot; Kalaxote&ncravie; ot JLGiuvawt, E| lump etulov ycyew&ai famm. Hist. lib. 5. cap. 8. p. 221.
•J- Qeodoliav its Fioak©- Ccko T>!; &oSoxrH Mfls««Bv»} ts au^taxctjXSTa Sawarils, DeMensuris, Opera, vol. 2. p. 172,
"deavoured to prove his opinion*." In so great estimation was Symmachus held, that Austin fays the Nazarenes were sometimes called Symmachians-f*.
I reserve the account of Hegefippus to the last, because it has been asserted that, though he was a Jewish christian, he was not properly an Ebionite, but orthodox with respect to his belief of the trinity. But that he was not only a Jewish christian, but likewise a proper Ebionite, or a believer in the simple humanity of Christ, may, I think, be inferred from several circumstances, besides his being a Jewish christian j though, since Origen fays that none of them believed the divinity of Christ, we ought to have some positive evidence before we admit that he was an ex-* ception.
* Aquilæ scilicet Pontici proselyti, et Theodotionis Hebionei, et Symmachi ejusdem dogmatis, qui in evangelium quoque xotlct MalScuov scripsit commentaries, de quo et suum dogma confirmare conatur. Catalogus Scriptorum, Opera, vol. 1. p. 294.
f Et tamen si mihi Nazareorura objiceret quisquam . quos alii Symmachianos appellant. Contra Faustum Man. Opera, vol. 6. p. 34s.
That Hegesippus was an Ebionite, may be inferred from his giving a list of all the heresies of his time, in which he enumerates a considerable number, and all of them Gnostics, without making any mention of the Ebionites.
He being a Jewish christian himself, could not but be well acquainted with the prevailing opinions of the Jewish christians, the most conspicuous of which, it cannot be denied, was the doctrine of Christ's being a mere man. Now can it be supposed, that if he himself had been what is now called an orthodox christian, that is, a trinitarian, or even an Arian, he would wholly have omitted the mention of the Ebionites in any list of heretics of his time, had it been ever so short a one; and this consists of no less than eleven articles? Also, can it be supposed that Eusebius, who speaks of the Ebionites with so much hatred and contempt, would have omitted to copy this article, if it had been in the list?
Their not being inserted in the list by such a person as Eusebius, must, I think,
satisfy satisfy any person, who has no system to support, with respect to this article. A stronger negative argument can hardly be imagined. As to Hegeflppus himself, we must judge of his feelings and conduct as we should of those of any person at this day in a situation similar to his. Now, did any subsequent ecclesiastical historian, or did any modern divine, of the orthodox faith, ever omit Arians, or Socinians, or names synonymous to them (who always were, and still are, in the highest degree obnoxious to them) in a list of heretics?
Had the faith of the early christians been either that Christ was true and very God, or a superior angelic spirit, the maker of the world, and of all things visible and invisible under God; and had Hegesippus himself retained that faith, while the generality, or only any considerable number of his countrymen, had departed from it, it could not but have have been upon his mind, and have excited the fame indignation that the opinions of the Arians and Socinians excite in the minds of those who are called orthodox at this day. Nay, in his circumstances,