Faculty Sponsor Name

Dr. Brian Swain

Project Type

Oral Presentation (15-min time slots)

Abstract (300 words maximum)

In 377 AD, Epiphanius of Salamis compiled the Panarion. In this book, Epiphanius condemned eighty different groups as heretical to the Catholic faith. One of these groups, the Nazarenes, were condemned by Epiphanius because they continued to observe the Torah. The Nazarenes believed that Jesus is the Son of God and the Messiah, that the Old and New Testaments are Holy Scripture, and that the dead will be resurrected. He condemned them for their external practices despite their orthodox internal beliefs. This observation becomes more intriguing when, in another section of the Panarion, Epiphanius rejoiced about other Jews who continued to observe the Torah after they came to believe in Jesus Christ. What can account for these two drastically different reactions? This study makes the case that Epiphanius condemned the Nazarenes because their public Torah observance undermined his supersessionist theology which says that the Catholic Church replaced the nation of Israel as God’s chosen people and that the Mosaic Law was superseded by the New Covenant brought by Jesus Christ. In contrast, the other Torah-observant Jewish-Christians were living in a Jewish community and their faith in Jesus was kept secret. Epiphanius saw this as the Catholic message finding victory among the Jewish people and rejoiced in it. The Nazarenes were publicly proclaiming faith in Jesus while observing the Torah that had supposedly been cancelled by Jesus. Epiphanius perceived this as a challenge to the Catholic Church’s supremacy, thus resulting in their condemnation.

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Epiphanius's Condemnation of the Nazarenes: When Orthodox Christian Theology is Threatened by Jewish Practice

In 377 AD, Epiphanius of Salamis compiled the Panarion. In this book, Epiphanius condemned eighty different groups as heretical to the Catholic faith. One of these groups, the Nazarenes, were condemned by Epiphanius because they continued to observe the Torah. The Nazarenes believed that Jesus is the Son of God and the Messiah, that the Old and New Testaments are Holy Scripture, and that the dead will be resurrected. He condemned them for their external practices despite their orthodox internal beliefs. This observation becomes more intriguing when, in another section of the Panarion, Epiphanius rejoiced about other Jews who continued to observe the Torah after they came to believe in Jesus Christ. What can account for these two drastically different reactions? This study makes the case that Epiphanius condemned the Nazarenes because their public Torah observance undermined his supersessionist theology which says that the Catholic Church replaced the nation of Israel as God’s chosen people and that the Mosaic Law was superseded by the New Covenant brought by Jesus Christ. In contrast, the other Torah-observant Jewish-Christians were living in a Jewish community and their faith in Jesus was kept secret. Epiphanius saw this as the Catholic message finding victory among the Jewish people and rejoiced in it. The Nazarenes were publicly proclaiming faith in Jesus while observing the Torah that had supposedly been cancelled by Jesus. Epiphanius perceived this as a challenge to the Catholic Church’s supremacy, thus resulting in their condemnation.