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tance.* Now, it is remarkable, that Philo, who has stated this fact, in no where mentions the death of Christ. It must, therefore, have been his belief, as it was that of his brethren, that the death of Jesus had, in itself, no efficacy towards effecting the purpose of his mission, and that it was of importance in the christian scheme, only, as it laid the foundation for a firm and rational faith in a future state. In this view of christianity, God being all perfect in goodness, is most ready, without any compensation, to forgive the sins of his creatures, simply on the condition of forsaking them; and his son appeared in the world to preach repentance and reformation, as the means of reconciliation with God, and as a necessary qualification for a nobler state of being. These were the opinions of the Esseans, and we shall presently see that they received them from Christ and his apostles, as the leading doctrines of the Gospel.
The Greek and Latin fathers of the first four centuries have no where intimated that the Jews, of whom Philo and Josephus are historians and apologists, muder the name of Esseans, were believers in Christ, It cannot be said that they did not know this people to be Christians. How then are we to account for such systematic and stubborn silence in men, who had the strongest motive to act a different part?
The reason was evidently this ;---the Esseans believed in one God, and in Jesus Christ as a
* See Researches p. 138, where the original is quoted, or Philo, Vol. ii. p. 669.
mere man, approved of God. The fathers, therefore, deemed them dangerous heretics, not to be recognized as Christians, not to be acknowledged as brethren. By being passed over in silence, they might sink into oblivion, or, it might not be known, in time, who they were. On the other hand, to acknowledge, as christians, a people so competent and respectable, and to attempt refuting them as adversaries to the divinity and miraculous birth of Jesus, would greatly endanger these doctrines, or lead in the end to their subversion.
However, Epiphanius, who lived in a later period, had the courage to mention the Esseans, and to oppose their opinions as heretical. The following is an abstract of his words:" The curious will find that the Esseans, concerning whose principles, and modes of living, Philo has written a commentary, were no other than CHRISTIANS. This man spent some time in their monasteries, and was much edified by them. They then had the name of Esseans; but in a short time after the ascension of our Saviour, and after Mark preached in Egypt, they followed, some of them, the apostles, (under the name of) Nazarenes, being by nation Jews, and devoted to the law. But some, as if from an eminence, having seen a fire, but not knowing for what cause it was made, kindled one in imitation, and in it consumed themselves. For having only heard the name of Jesus, and seen the signs done by the apostles, they too believed in him. But knowing that he had been conceived at Nazareth, and brought up in the house of Joseph, and that, for this reason, he was
called Jesus of Nazareth, agreeably to what the Apostles say, "Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved by signs and wonders," they chose to be called Nazarenes, and not Nazirenes, which means holy. The reader will hardly be sensible of the dexterity, the malignity, and the effrontery, which are betrayed in this passage. I will make a few observations to assist him to see it in its proper light. The author then allows, that the men, of whom Philo speaks under the name of Esseans, were Christians, though he is compelled to combat them as heretics. While yet called Nazirenes, they changed this name into that of Nazarenes; choosing to be called after their leader, Jesus of Nazareth, as knowing him to be a mere man, approved of God, and to have been conceived and educated in the house of Joseph, at Nazareth. These things they knew, on the authority of the apostles in general, and of Mark the Evangelist, in particular. These are great concessions indeed from an adBut if the Nazarenes knew that Jesus versary. was conceived and educated in the house of Joseph, did they not also know that he was born there? Epiphanius was aware that his reader must necessarily draw this conclusion, yet was afraid expressly to acknowledge it; nor does he yet deny it, but with great adroitness has recourse to equivocation, and to palliating circumstances. Some of them only knew this, and they learnt it merely from report, as having lived in Egypt. But, with Epiphanius's leave, they
* Epiphan. Vol. i. p. 128, 129.
did not live in Egypt, but on the spot, in Palestine. For Philo is express in saying, that the Esseans were inhabitants of the latter country. and calls the first converts in Egypt, by the name of Therapeuta or Healers. This Epiphanius felt a vexatious circumstance, and he could not get over it, but by wilfully misrepresenting the truth. Our Lord and his apostles, it is true, kindled a flame in Judea, which among other countries reflected its lustre on Egypt: and because the Esseans believed Jesus to be a mere man, though a man approved of God, and a native of Nazareth, this unfeeling monk has the hardihood to say, that they burnt themselves in the flame which they caught from the holy men of Palestine. My readers will naturally consider this but a figure of speech. But it is a figure founded on an extraordinary fact. When the Knowledge of Christ was lighted in Egypt, the greater part of the Jews, and multitude of the Greeks and Egyptians opened their eyes to its influence; and it appears from Philo, who has recorded these events, no less than twenty or thirty thousand were consumed by fire, and various other horrible tortures.
Epiphanius acknowledges that the Nazarenes did not believe in the divinity, and the miraculous birth of Christ. "They do not," says he, "differ in any ways from the Jews,* except that
* Epiphanius calls them, Aipirirai, and then adds, τα παντα δε εισιν Ιουδαίοι, και ουδεν ἑτερον. He bears however, a noble testimony to their profound skill in the language and writings of Moses, and the Prophets. Εβραικην διαλεκτην ακριβως εισίν ησκημενοι.
they believe in Christ. They maintain that God is one, and that Jesus is his son." Notwithstanding this acknowledgment, he says, that they are rather Jews than Christians; and he calls them hornets, which inflict pain with their poisonous bites.
Matthew composed his gospel for the use of the Esseans, and composed it too in the Hebrew tongue, or the dialect then used in Judea. The gospel of Matthew, was the only gospel in general use; because, no doubt, it was the only gospel written in their own language. Epiphanius was aware that, if the two first chapters did not exist in the original gospel of Matthew, preserved by the Esseans, he virtually gave up their authenticity. He, therefore, in open violation of the truth, and in direct opposition to his own concession, that the Nazarenes did not believe the divine nature and miraculous birth of Jesus, writes as follows. "The Nazarenes have the gospel according to Matthew, most complete in the Hebrew language; for this is still preserved among them, obviously, as it was written in the beginning, in Hebrew characters. But I know not whether they have taken away the genealogy from Abraham to Christ." As our author did not know this,he could not have ever seen that gospel and if he did not know whether the genealogy was taken away from the Nazarene gospel, he asserts without evidence, that it was most complete. This writer, while in the same breath he betrays his own inconsistency, appears to labour under a conviction of falsehood, and endeavours to repel the charge of falsehood, by a number of emphatic words.