by (((Marcus Eli Ravage)))
The upshot, then, of Jesus’ mission was a new sect in Judea. It was neither the first nor the last. Judea, like modern America, was a fertile soil for strange creeds. The Ebionim—the paupers, as they called themselves—did not regard their beliefs as a new religion. Jews they had been born, and Jews they remained. The teachings of their master were rather in the nature of a social philosophy, an ethic of conduct, a way of life.
To modern Christians, who never tire of asking why the Jews did not accept Jesus and his teachings, I can only answer that for a long time none but Jews did. To be surprised that the whole Jewish people did not turn Ebionim is about as intelligent as to expect all Americans to join the Unitarians or the Baptists or the Christian Scientists.
In ordinary times little attention would have been paid to the ragged brotherhood. Slaves and laborers for the most part, their meekness might even have been encouraged by the solider classes.
But with the country in the midst of a struggle with a foreign foe, the unworldly philosophy took on a dangerous aspect. It was a creed of disillusion, resignation and defeat. It threatened to undermine the morale of the nation’s fighting men in time of war. This blessing of the peacemakers, this turning of the other cheek, this non-resistance, this love your enemy, looked like a deliberate attempt to paralyze the national will in a crisis and assure victory to the foe.
So it is not surprising that the Jewish authorities began persecuting the Ebionim. Their meetings were invaded and dispersed, their leaders were clapped into jail, their doctrines were proscribed. It looked for awhile as if the sect would be speedily wiped out.
Then, unexpectedly, the curtain rose on act three, and events look a sudden new turn.