The Ebionites were a sect of Jewish Christians in the early centuries of Christianity. Little is known about them, and it appears that most or all of their texts were destroyed or lost, possibly as a result of efforts by the proto-Orthodox faction to marginalize and eliminate their movement.

The vast majority of what we do know about them is based on the extremely biased accounts of proto-Orthodox Christians, who labeled the Ebionites as heretics and were inclined to paint a very bleak picture of the sect. These sources are dubious at best, and can only tell us what outsiders thought about the Ebionites; they are of little or no use in trying to discover what the Ebionites themselves believed, how they worshipped, and what their religion stood for.

Do we have any accounts of the Ebionites from sources less biased than the church fathers?

1 Answer 1


The answer to your question is: no, there are no surviving unmistakably Ebionite sources. What we know about Ebionites comes entirely from hostile Christian sources.

There is however an early Greek book called “The Homilies of Clement”, a fictitious autobiography of St Clement of Rome. As has been recognised for a long time now, many of the doctrines expounded in this voluminous work have a clear affinity to those which the polemical sources attribute to the Ebionites and other so-called Jewish-Christian sects. Some scholars have maintained that the pseudo-Clementine Homilies (or rather their underlying lost source “G”) are an Ebionite work. However, we do not really have enough reliable information to assign the (proto-)Homilies to any one particular Jewish-Christian sect, or indeed really to know what the difference was between Ebionites, Nazoraeans, Elchasaites and other so-called Jewish-Christians. What we do have is evidence for a wide current in early Christianity which, among other things, maintained the continued validity of the Law of Moses even after the coming of the Christ.

PS.: I have intentionally refrained from giving links to Wikipedia and other such “resources”, as the “information” found there is mostly pasted together from out-of-date and unreliable works. What I have given is a very brief synopsis of current academic discussion.

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    +1 for a well researched answer. -1 for the gratuitous slam on wikipedia; your answer was solid; there was no reason to sling mud at others.
    – MCW
    Commented Aug 16, 2015 at 17:27
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    @MarkC.Wallace. The wikipedia article "Clementine literature" is pasted from the 1913 (!) edition of the "Catholic encyclopedia".
    – fdb
    Commented Aug 16, 2015 at 18:08
  • Stipulated; but not relevant to OP's question.
    – MCW
    Commented Aug 16, 2015 at 19:38
  • @fdb - +1 and many thanks. Have you ever found a good book about the Ebionites?
    – Wad Cheber
    Commented Aug 16, 2015 at 23:39
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    Klijn, AFJ and Reinink, GJ, Patristic Evidence for Jewish-Christian Sects, Brill 1973, has a collection of most of the sources, allowing you to draw your own conclusions.
    – fdb
    Commented Aug 16, 2015 at 23:58

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