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Christ, was held by Cerinthus, accompanied with all profligacy and sensual indulgence.
The Ebionites, named from Ebion (which in Hebrew signifies poor), were Judaising Christians; but rejecting the epistles of St. Paul, and the whole doctrine of the incarnation, they held the two beings to have been united at the baptism of Jesus; but, in contradistinction to the Cerinthians, they were particularly strict in their morals. Josephus became an Ebionite in the latter part of his life.
Besides the perversion of the Gospel by Judaising admixtures, its purity was adulterated by paganism.
The Essenes had been a numerous sect of the Jews ever since the return from Babylon. They were a sequestered people, living apart from places of public resort; and it is remarkable that they are not once mentioned in the Gospels. Many writers suppose that John the Baptist received his early training among this people, about the eastern bank of the Dead Sea; a notion sanctioned by the simplicity of his food, and the place of his first preaching. This sober and industrious people had all things in common; and, while they strictly observed the moral precepts of the law, disregarded its ceremonial ordinances, except only in regard to bodily purification, a strict Sabbathkeeping, and an annual present to the Temple. They admitted no women into their communities, but adopted and educated children committed to their care, and thus kept up the numbers of their society. The education imparted in their schools was that of pure and strict morality, with admonitions to preserve the books of their masters and a register of the names of the angels. There is much to admire in this contemplative and self-denying sect, who opened a communication with the invisible world, and fled from the temptations of the crowd. A detailed and interesting description of them is given by Prideaux, Connexion, vol. iii. p. 450.
The Essenes were free from the infidelity of the Sadducees, and the rigid legal outside observance of the Pharisees; and consequently came not with these sects under the condemnation of our Saviour: nay, if John were an Essene, he inclines to them by coming to his baptism; though he silently rebuked
them by his encouragement of cheerful entertainments, and rendering himself useful to his brethren by intermingling in the world — a field of zeal to those who are delivered from its evil.
The Essenes deprived themselves of this active utility. They borrowed from the East a transcendent spiritual philosophy, which led to the undue mortification of the body, for the entire purification of the soul from the influence of matter, which in every form was deemed evil. They worshipped angels as mediators; and attributed a mystical sanctity to the number seven. They were the germ of the monastic orders.
These errors, being infringements on the pure doctrines of the Gospel, which was fitted for the walks of public life not less than the solitudes of retirement, are frequently condemned by the apostles ; and particularly the Epistle to the Colossians, and the 1st Epistle to Timothy, are considered as levelled against them. There the superiority of Christ to all angels is insisted upon; while the ultra-rigorous observance of Sabbaths, the forbidding to marry or touch certain things, and the exercise of a voluntary humility, which worships angels, are condemned. While excess in the indulgence of appetite is censured, Timothy is enjoined to use a little wine, for the stomach's sake and frequent infirmities. Bodily exercise, or reduction by fasting, is said to be of little profit (in itself, and except as a means of spiritual discipline) towards the salvation of the soul. The philosophy which inculcated these things is termed false and spoiling; and Hymenæus is delivered over unto Satan for his denial of the resurrection of the body, Colos. ii. 16, xx. to end, 1 Tim. iv. 7, 8, 12, v. 3, 1 Cor. viii. 8, Rom. xiv. 17.
The Gnostics are not mentioned by name in the New Testament; yet their heresy, borrowed from the school of Alexandria, soon infected the purity of the Gospel with a fatal leaven, which produced many errors, mixing up a hash of Judaism, heathenism, and Christianity. The Gnostics taught, as their name implies, that they alone possessed the true knowledge of Christianity; which they corrupted by false notions about the origin of evil and the creation of the universe. They taught that the Supreme Being, who inhabits space, or the aXhpwua, was not the creator of the universe, and that matter was co-existent with him and eternal; that he produced a multitude of eons, or emanations, by one of whom, a demiurgus (operator on matter), the world was created. These emanations are what St. Paul calls genealogies, and against which he warns both Timothy and Titus, 1 Tim. i. 4, Tit. iii. 9. These notions led the Gnostics to deny the divine authority of the books of Moses, who says, that in the beginning God (the Supreme Being) created the heavens and the earth. They taught that evil resided in matter, and that the malignant author of the world sought his own glory rather than the advantage of men. The body, then, as part of matter, they despised, denying its resurrection and reunion with the immortal spirit. They attributed diseases and calamities to evil demons, and applied themselves to magic in order to counteract their influence. They considered Jesus Christ as the Son of God and inferior to the Father; who came into the world for the deliverance of mortals, oppressed by matter and evil beings, the works of the demiurgus; but they denied his humanity as something belonging to matter, and many of them disputed the reality of his sufferings. The Gospel and Epistles of John were directed against their errors; and yet they lauded the introduction of the former, as favouring their phantasies in the phrases the world, life, light, &c. They divided men into three classes, 1st. The material, who were incapable of knowledge, and doomed to perish ; 2d. The spiritual, or Gnostics, who would infallibly be saved; and 3d. The physical, animal, or intermediate, who might be saved or damned, according to their works. From these premises, opposite moral conclusions were derived. Some thought, by rigid abstinence and bodily mortification, to emancipate the soul from the incumbrance of the material frame. Others maintained that there was no moral difference between the (so-called) good and evil actions of men ; and thus gave loose to unbridled licentiousness. Of these last were the Nicolaitans, censured in the Revelations (ii. 6, 15), as belonging to the churches of Ephesus and Pergamos. These derived their name from Nicholas of Antioch, a Gentile, who first embraced Judaism and then Christianity, and grafted on both the extravagant and criminal errors of the Gnostics. Of these, Jude writes (ver. 4), there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ. And St. Paul speaks of another branch of their heresy (1 Cor. xv. 12), Now, if Christ be preached that he rose from the dead, how say some among you that there is no resurrection of the dead ?
145. Supplemental passages in the Pentateuch not written by Moses ;—when, and by whom ?
When it is said in Deut. xxxiv. 5-8) that Moses died in Moab, and was buried there, and mourned for thirty days by the Israelites, it is very plain that this could not come from his own pen, but with the rest of the chapter, stating that no prophet arose since in Israel like unto Moses, &c., must have been attached to the roll by some one after his decease. The ninth verse renders it likely that the writer of this appendix was Joshua — to stamp its authenticity, as added by one full of the spirit of wisdom, and elected to the leadership by imposition of the hands of Moses. But the latter words were probably annexed by Ezra, who wished to shew, under the guidance of inspiration, that (though in the succession of generations many eminent prophets had arisen) the prophet like unto Moses, promised by God in Deut. xviii. 18, was not yet come, no one of the four greater or nine lesser having seen God face to face.
It has been objected by unbelievers, that the occurrence of the words Dan, Hebron, the tower of Edar, in the Pentateuch, discredit its genuineness as the work of Moses, these names having been given to the places after the entrance into Canaan; before which time Dan was Laish, Hebron Kirjath-arba, and the tower of Edar a tower on the gate of Jerusalem. To this it has been answered, that the new name may have been given by a transcriber when the old one had become obsolete, without impeaching the credit of the author : as Bishop Watson instanced concerning Havre de Grace and Havre Marat, in his answer to Paine.
That which is said respecting the translation of a word may be applied to a short parenthesis or explanatory clause, which may, at first, be inserted by a transcriber in the margin of the copy, and subsequently creep into the text, as if originally part of it, and supposed to be the slip of a copyist. This, therefore, may be said of Exod. xvi. 36, an omer is the tenth part of an ephah, with the whole of the preceding verse. Dr. Graves has shewn that the narrative describing the manna terminates at the thirty-fourth verse, with the command to Aaron to preserve a portion of that heavenly food. The two following verses are a subsequent insertion, probably by Samuel; as Graves conjectures that the pot of manna was lost when the ark was taken by the Philistines. Yet he is unwilling to drop the omer as the tenth part of an ephah, since Moses may have had an eye to posterity, as in Num. iii. 46, the shekel is twenty gerahs.
Num. xxi. 3, describing the conquest of the Canaanites, is plainly parenthetical, and added by Joshua. Num. xii. 3 is marked as a parenthesis, and is unconnected with the text : it is a character of Moses, given probably by Joshua, who knew his meekness. But Dr. A. Clarke contends for the word meek being a mistranslation of y, which signifies oppressed, or depressed.
Again, Gen. xxxvi. 31, we read of a king of Edom before a king reigned over Israel ; which, together with Deut. iii. 14, Bashan-havoth-jair is called after Jair, the son of Manasseh, unto this day, must have been written after the time of Moses. Answer:— these passages are manifest insertions, and unconnected with their immediate contexts. Here, as in the manuscripts of the New Testament, explanatory words and clauses (spurious additions) have been written in the margin by some transcriber, and drawn into the text by another. Such explanations, rendered necessary by lapse of time, prove the antiquity of the original. Horne gives two examples, Introd. vol. i. p. 75. Le Clerc made a selection of seventeen such interpolations, cited by cavillers as condemning the genuineness of the Pentateuch ; but Dr. Graves has given a satisfactory solution of them all, vol. i. p. 322. Witsius, Huet, Carpzof, Mildenhawer, Graves, and Horne, have answered the objections of Le Clerc; but the best authority is his own, for he not only abandoned, but refuted them.
Witsius ascribes such trifling nibblings to a prava carpandi