Updated: Sep 11, 2020
Black Nativity, Yes. Virgin Birth, No. The early church bishop Irenaeus of Lyons (120-203 AD) makes three statements in his book Adversus haereses (Against Heresies) that very few people are aware of: “Matthew also issued a written gospel among the Hebrews IN THEIR OWN DIALECT" (Book 3, Chapter 1).
"The Ebionites ... assert that he (i.e. the messiah) was BEGOTTEN BY JOSEPH" (Book 3 Chapter 21).
"Those who are called Ebionites ... use the gospel according to MATTHEW ONLY and REPUDIATE the apostle PAUL, maintaining that he was AN APOSTATE FROM THE LAW. As to the prophetical writings, they endeavour to expound them in a somewhat singular manner: they practice circumcision, persevere in the observance of those customs which are enjoined by the LAW, and are so Judaic in their style of life, that they even adore Jerusalem as if it were the house of God" (Book 1, Chapter 26).
Now Irenaeus was a hardcore Pauline christian. He believed in the entirety of the Greek New Testament as it has come down to us today. So as far as Irenaeus was concerned the doctrinal beliefs of the "Ebionites" were anti-christ and he attacked them for being a heresy. The word "Ebionite" is the Greek form of the Hebrew word abayon (pl. abayonaym) which means "needy" and which appears several times in the Hebrew Bible. It was the word that the earliest followers of the messiah, all of whom were Ya'ohsharalay (Israelites), used to describe themselves and their movement.
We can safely deduce the following points from Irenaeus' comments:
1. The only legitimate book written about the messiah in the native language that he spoke was one written by the apostle Matthew. None of the other so-called gospels are ever said to have been originally composed in Hebrew or even in Aramaic.
2. The Ebionites believed the messiah was begotten by Joseph.
3. The Ebionites only used the book of Matthew that was originally composed in Hebrew. They could not have used the Greek version of this book because that version clearly says Joseph was not the biological father of the messiah.
4. The Ebionites rejected the entire Greek New Testament and they absolutely despised Paul as a fraud and an enemy of the truth.
5. The Ebionites kept the laws, statutes, and commandments of the Thorah.
Given what they believed and what they stood for, it is no wonder that Irenaeus came out strongly in condemnation of this group. The fact that they believed in the messiah meant nothing to Irenaeus. He put them on blast as heretics because "their" messiah was not the messiah Irenaeus embraced.
We can also deduce a sixth point. The rumors which began to circulate long after the time of Irenaeus which claimed that the Ebionite Matthew did not have chapter one must be false. Without chapter one there would be no detailed record that "Joseph" was of royal descent. So why would Ebionites insist that Joseph was the biological father of the messiah if the Matthew they used did not record his descent link by link all the way back to King Doayd (David)? It is not enough to be from the tribe of Ya'ohdah (Judah). To be the messiah you must demonstrate a direct paternal descent from King Doayd. No book composed with Ya'ohsharalay as the intended target audience, and purporting to identify the messiah, would fail to document his paternal ancestry for public scrutiny and validation.
What we have is a rumor that distorted the truth. The truth is that the Ebionite Matthew did have chapter one but it must not have agreed with the standard Greek version. So christians vehemently opposed to the Ebionites began spreading a rumor that their Matthew was missing chapter one! No. Utilizing Semitic manuscripts such as the Old Syriac Palimpsest from the 4th century AD, and the Hebrew Matthew appearing in Shem-Tob Ibn Shaprut’s 14th century polemical treatise Evan bohan, we can easily reconstruct Ebionite Matthew chapter one accordingly:
These are the generations of Yaohshai, the son of Doayd, the son of Abram (1:1):
Abram begot Yaohtsakhak (1:2), Yaohtsakhak begot Yaohghakab, Yaohghakab begot Yaohdah and his brothers, Yaohdah begot Parats and Zarakh by Thamar, Parats begot Khatsron, Khatsron begot Ram (1:3), Ram begot Ghamaynadab, Ghamaynadab begot Nakhshon, Nakhshon begot Shalmon (1:4), Shalmon begot Ba-ghaz by Rakhab the harlot, Ba-ghaz begot Ghobad by Roth the Moabite, Ghobad begot Yashay (1:5), Yashay begot Doayd, Doayd begot Shalamah by the wife of Or-Yaoh (1:6), Shalamah begot Rakhab-gham, Rakhab-gham begot Ab-Yaoh, Ab-Yaoh begot Asa (1:7), Asa begot Yaohshapat, Yaohshapat begot Yaohram, Yaohram begot Akhaz-Yaoh, Akhaz-Yaoh begot Yaohash, Yaohash begot Amats-Yaoh, Amats-Yaoh begot Ghazar-Yaoh (1:8), Ghazar-Yaoh begot Yaohtham, Yaohtham begot Akhaz, Akhaz begot Khazak-Yaoh (1:9), Khazak-Yaoh begot Manashah, Manashah begot Amon, Amon begot Ya'ash-Yaoh (1:10), Ya'ash-Yaoh begot Yaohyakaym and his brothers, Yaohyakaym begot Yaohyachayn, In the exile of Babal, Yaohyachayn begot Shalthay’al, Shalthay’al begot Zarababal (1:12), Zarababal begot Abay-hod, Abay-hod begot Al-yakaym, Al-yakaym begot Ghazar (1:13), Ghazar begot Tsadok, Tsadok begot Akaym, Akaym begot Alay-hod (1:14), Alay-hod begot Al-ghazar, Al-ghazar begot Mathan, Mathan begot Yaohghakab (1:15), Yaohghakab begot Yaohsap, Yaohsap, the husband of Maraym the ghalmah, begot Yaohshai who is called the mashaykh (1:16).
It came to pass after his mother was married to Yaohsap, before they came together, she was found to be with child by the holy power (1:18). And Yaohsap, a righteous man, did not want to dwell with her, nor expose her by bringing her to shame, nor bind her over to death. He instead wished to conceal her (1:19). And as he thought about the matter in his heart, behold, the angel of YA'OH appeared to him in a dream and said: "Yaohsap, son of Doayd, do not be afraid to take your wife Maraym. For it was by the holy power that she has conceived (1:20). She will bare you a son and you will call his name Yaohshai. For YA'OH will save His people from their sins" (1:21).
All of this was to fill up what was written by the prophet according to the word of YA'OH: "Behold, the ghalmah will conceive and give birth to a son and she will call his name ghamano-al" (1:23).
Then Yaohsap woke from his sleep, and did according to all which the angel of YA'OH commanded him, and took his wife (1:24). But he did not know her again until she bore his firstborn son and he called his name Yaohshai (1:25). ----------------------
The above story is VERY different from the one that appears in the altered Greek version of the Matthew gospel. This story also makes way more sense. It talks about a young girl still below puberty, which is what the Hebrew word ghalmah signifies. There is actually no one word for "virgin" in Hebrew. Physical chastity has to be qualified in Hebrew by saying that a woman "has not known a man". The word ghalmah just means a young girl below puberty whether single or married.
Girls will normally reach puberty in their early or late teens. There is no reason to believe Maraym's husband was any older than she was. This is implied in the statement: "before they came together". This has nothing to do with sex like most people think. In Hebrew if you want to say before sex had taken place you would say: "before he knew her". The phrase "before they came together" just means they were married but they did not immediately live together in the same house.
In other words, we are dealing with a very young married couple and they were still living in the homes of their respective parents until Yaohsap (Joseph) could provide a home for the two of them. This would have been fairly commonplace in that day when people generally married at young ages, unlike today.
The story is simply telling us that Maraym was not expected to conceive on her wedding night because she was a ghalmah and her menstrual cycles had not commenced yet. Everyone in her hometown would have known this about her. In that culture you could not keep things like this private. Everyone had to know because of the laws regarding purity and separation. Therefore, Yaohsap would not have assumed that his wife would become pregnant on their wedding night.
But she did. She did get pregnant on her wedding night and that left Yaohsap wondering that perhaps she began her menstrual cycles subsequent to their wedding night and she was with another man BEFORE THEY CAME TOGETHER and lived in the same house. Notice Yaohsap was not going to divorce her, which is what the Greek version says he was intending to do. The Ebionite Matthew says he was going to "conceal" her, meaning not expose her, which is something a divorce would absolutely have done. You could not do a private or secret divorce in that culture! Yet the Greek Matthew suggests that it could be done and this just proves that the Greek version is a distorted version made for a gentile audience.
Also note that since Maraym conceived before her menstrual cycles commenced, she wouldn't have started her cycles until after giving birth to her son. This means she remained a ghalmah throughout her entire pregnancy, and her son was born while she was still a ghalmah. The story was distorted by gentiles who didn't understand our ways, our laws, and our culture. It's as simple as that. The real story has real substance to it and it is one with an ending that makes a whole lot more sense than the version you've heard your entire life, and that's because the Catholic church censored the Ebionite Matthew. Yaohsap had a dream and an angel tells him that unborn child is in fact his. That child would have grown up with everyone from his hometown knowing the circumstances of his conception and birth. The word on the street would have been this: "Hey I know you! Aren't you that kid whose mother was still ghalmah when she conceived you on her wedding night?" It was a miracle that Maraym conceived with her first sexual experience on her wedding night but the unborn child was still Yaohsap's biological firstborn son. THE END