This is Klaus Schilling's summary and translation of Gerardus Bolland's "De Evangelische Jozua" from 1907, available on http://www.radikalkritik.de/Bolland_jozua.pdf. Although Bolland's book lacks chapter divisions and has excursions and repetition, the main thought is quite easy to follow, unlike certain modern liberal theologians of note.
The starting sphere of Christianity was the world of strongly Hellenised Alexandrian Jews and Judeophile Greeks in the early Common Era. Jesus was derived from the Old Testament figure, the son of Nun, an identity that was often disguised by thoroughly inept Bible translators who used different terms for the Old Testament and New Testament Jesus. The leading author of that era was Philo Alexandrinus.
The son of Nun was renamed to 'Jesus' by Moses. This name change is dealt with in detail by Philo Alexandrinus: 'Jesus' means the Lord's salvation. It is Jesus the son of Nun, who completed the work of his forerunner Moses, bringing the people of Israel into the Holy Land. So the expectation of the Salvation by God was attached to the name 'Jesus'.
As shown by Philo, God can more easily take human appearance than man can become God, who can take human appearance for those men who pray for his help. But the earthly Israel, although being the Holy Land, may only be seen as a temporary resting place for Israel. The true resting place (katapausis) is in a realm with God, not in this world. So the expectation of salvation is still pending, in the eyes of Philo's school. This is also reflected in the Alexandrian Letter to the Hebrews.
John 5:46 underlines the identity of Jesus of the Christians with Jesus, son of Nun, who has been mentioned in the Torah. Justin Martyr says explicitly to Tryphon that it was his Jesus who already guided Trypho's people into the Holy Land according to scripture.
The same trumpet was played by Clemens Alexandrinus' Pedagogics 1:7. Tertullian also wrote against Marcion that the son of Nun, renamed into Jesus by Moses, was already the anticipation for the future Jesus who establishes the new empire of God. Eusebius draws a similar line from Old Testament to New Testament Jesus.
Moses brought the law, but only Jesus brought grace and truth. This is the gist of various New Testament passages.
John the Baptist was seen as the last link with the Law. According to Luke 16:16, confirmed by Justin's Dialogue 51, Jewish religion was valid until John the Baptiser, and is superseded by Jesus. Matthew's Judaising revamping disguised this. Moses brought the Law, only Jesus brought truth and grace, according to John. The second letter of Clement, another Alexarinising document, sees Jesus as incarnate spirit, whose body is the Christian church.
Thus the Jesus still pending for first century Alexandrian Jews became a completed fact during the second century for the forming Roman church.
Jonathan's Targuma seems to identify the Old Testament Jesus with the Messiah, a warlord king in Jewish expectation, whereas the Gospel Jesus, according to Justin Martyr, was oiled in order to oil and order the whole world.
An important motive is the role of Jesus as a High Priest, underlined by Zacharias 3:1-6. The High Priest is said to be beyond sin, and to serve as a mediator between God and sinful man, as written by Philo Alexandrinus. The High Priest is thus of a hybrid nature, somewhat human, somewhat divine. Philo prays that the High Priest might live within his soul, and within the whole mankind, in order to overcome all pains and evils.
Philo's ideal High Priest is thus the Jewish parallel to the Wise man according to Hellenic philosophies like the Stoa. Many resigned, like Seneca who rhetorically wondered where one would ever be able to find the perfectly wise man.
Philo switches freely between the sinless person and the superpersonal Logos, stressing their close relation. The letter to the Hebrews underlines this. In Mark, Jesus enters a synagogue, upsetting a spirit in the synagogue who apparently fears Jesus as the envoy of God, come in order to destroy the unclean spirit, who represents zealotic messianism.
Already Hieronymus [of Vulgate fame] figured the great convergence of Stoic and Christian ethics. Was the Christian saviour any more personal and concrete than the abstract ideal of the Stoics? Many apologists use Tacitus' Annals as confirmation of a historical Jesus crucified by Pontius Pilate during the rule of Tiberius. But the whole stuff stinks fishy. The only extant manuscript has been retrieved in Renaissance times, purchased by the Medici clan, pretending to be written in Montecassino in southern Italy in the 11th century.
Hochart correctly recognised the forgery of the related passage, and Arnold smelt even more foul stench than just this one passage. The Neronic proscription of Christians may be safely put on the trash heap of pseudo-historical fairy tales. Neither Seneca nor Flavius nor Plutarch, not even Clemens Alexandrinus knew about such an event.
Philo Alexandrinus showed that the Logos incites prophetic capacity in all noble men, and it is not by themselves, but through instigation by the Logos that prophets speak to mankind. A similar trumpet is played by the Pastor of Hermas, Romanised though of Alexandrian origin. According to Clemens Alexandrinus, the author of the kerygmata Petrou saw in Jesus the true sense of the holy scripture, and without scripture Jesus would not make any sense.
The whole spirit of prophesy is thus manifest in the Gospel Jesus. Justin Martyr and John's apocalypse dance to that same tune. The Gospel Jesus is born through instigation of the spirit of prophesy, the Hagion Pneuma, by a virgin. This virgin is nothing but the people of Israel, who is depicted in scripture often as the virgin bride of Yahveh, see for example the second book of Kings 19:21.
The virgin is named Mary, like one of Moses' sisters, which is again obfuscated by incompetent bible translators and transcribers. The apparent alienation of Jesus and Mary in John's second chapter shows the alienation of Christianity from Judaism, of Jesus- from Moses-cult.
The New Testament principally advocates an abolition of the Jew-gentile dichotomy. Paul thus speaks in Galatians that there is neither circumcision nor uncircumcision of value in the eyes of the Gospel. In Mark, the Jewish commoners are stunned by Jesus preaching a new doctrine in the synagogue. The picture of God is that of a pacifistic loving Father as opposed to the old picture of God as a vengeful judge.
This is the tune whistled by the Epistle of Barnabas and the Kerygmata Petrou, both Alexandrian. Aristides of Athens underlined the universalism of the new doctrine that leads out of and stands above the narrow Mosaic tradition. Jesus is the one in whom the new picture of God is revealed.
On the one hand, Jesus redeems Judaism by cleansing it from the impure spirit of vengeful messianism, on the other hand he redeems mankind from Judaism. The spirit of the Gospel Jesus effectuates a purification from the inside, not on the outside. This is Hellenic-Alexandrian, and no judaisation applied to the Alexandrian UrGospel (resulting in the canonical gospels) may hide that to the competent scholar's eye. The main lesson to be learned is:
The gospel is born from the spirit of Alexandrian Gnosis, and its Jesus is the Logos incarnate coming from within Judaism, in order to supersede it
The Alexandrian UrGospel is the common basis for all later Gospels. In Rome, Matthew was first derived from it, in a thoroughly Judaising manner, then Luke, in a more Hellenising way, then Mark, being neutral in that respect. John is rather to be seen in Ephesian tradition, which nonetheless adopts the same Alexandrian UrGospel.
The derived gospels still stuck with Gnostic tradition in a general sense, by giving metaphorical explanation of salvific facts of faith. This is valid for all miracle tales and other narratives in the Gospels. The Palestinian Netzerim were not present in the original version of Christianity, but became involved later. They had their own Gospels, just fragmentarily quoted by the church fathers, but those are not the first written sources of which New Testament Gospels are derived.
The aramaic Gospels of the Hebrews, just as the epistle to the Hebrews, are nevertheless of Alexandrian Jewish origin, not Palestinian. It is Alexandrian Netzerim (guarded ones) who colonised Palestine with their Gospel, not the other way round. Also the sects of the Naasseni and Sethians is of Alexandrian origin.
Hellenised Alexandrian Jews fixed the gospel material in the so-called Gospel According to the Egyptians, which is quoted occasionally in patristic literature as scripture of various heresies, such as Naasseni. [This Gospel is not to be confused with one of the same name that was discovered in Nag Hammadi after Bolland's death. -ks]
The Chrestian community is essentially a synagogue of Hellenised diaspora Jews practicing allegoretic exegesis of scripture for ascetic and quietist goals. Invented facts are also facts, facts of the mind. This applies to the Gospels. Many scholars fail to consider this.
Many quoted from the Egyptian Gospel, not only acknowledged heretics, but also for example the Paulines, the letter of Barnabas, Clement's second letter, the pseudoclementines, and the Ignatians.
According to Bolland, the most Paulines have been written in early second century by successors of the original Alexandrian gnostics. They subsequently share much of the spirit of the Naasseni and Sethians who excessively made usage of the UrGospel. [Bolland did not examine the text-critical relation between Marcion's and the canonical version, unlike Couchoud and Detering. Interestingly, Bolland sees many Gnostic elements even in passages which Detering showed to be post-Marcionite. -ks]
Many researchers still ridiculously see the Paulines as mid first-century products. They fail to see the impact of the Hellenic apocryphal writings of the Old Testament septuagint, especially the Sapientia Solomonis. The same is true of John and the letter to the Hebrews, which are all Alexandrian or Alexandrinising products.
According to patristic sources, the Paulines were first in usage by the Naasseni and Basilides. Justin the Martyr refused to acknowledge the Paulines as orthodox. For example the Christ is the end of the Law, which underlines the obsoletion of the Mosaic religion by Jesus, a central motive of Alexandrian Gnosis. The Roman community was Hellenistic until third century.
Seneca had a large influence on the Roman community, seen from the bold parallels between Romans and Seneca's letter about wrath. Revenge is severely frowned upon. All of this is thoroughly chrestian (with the letter eta, 'e') not Christian (with the letter iota, 'i'), for while the Messiah of the Tanakh is a wrathful avenger, the Good one of the UrGospel is kind and forgiving. The Paul of the letter to Romans, as much as the Peter of the Alexandrian UrGospel, wrote in the gnostic spirit.
The Roman community came forth from the thoroughly Hellenised pseudo-Jewish synagogue. First Corinthians calls Jesus the wisdom and power of God, which is once more typically Hellenistic-Alexandrian, in the aftermath of the works of Philo Alexandrinus.
The command for rigorous celibacy in Corinthians 7:1, which was also put forth by Marcion, was extremely un-Palestinian but perfectly Hellenistic. This underlines that the origins of the Paulines are not to be sought in the Palestinian world of the eve of the war, but in the Hellenic metropolitan world of early second century.
Corinthians also un-Jewishly establishes Sunday celebration, following the example of the Mithra cult. The letter to the Hebrews still prefers Saturday celebration. The Gospel According to the Egyptians did not abolish Sabbath-keeping, but spiritualised it.
Many other examples for the progressive passage from the Hellenised Jewish synagogue to the Roman church, and their respective images of Jesus, are given subsequently by Bolland. Allegorical interpretation of Old Testament persons and events in Alexandria in the Hellenised spirit built the strong base for the stories at the origins of Christianity, that were adapted stepwise for dogmatic purposes.
According to Plato, the just one should be bound and tortured and fixed to the wood of shame. And the allegorising Alexandrian book of Wisdom plays a similar tune. The New Federation of Hebrews 8:13 between divine Father and chrestian Children is clearly a product of Hellenised Jews or Greeks of Ioudaikos Bios in the urban strongholds of mediterranian civilisation, not the backwoods of Palestine.
Those who fail to see that the Gospel Jesus is the same as the High priest Jesus of Zachary and the successor of Moses will never get anywhere near understanding the origins of Christianity, starting with Alexandrian allegorisation of scripture. According to some ascension of Moses, both Jesus and Kaleb, a semitic term for dog, watched the ascension of Moses. They were witnesses of the same event on a different level: Jesus in the spiritual, Kaleb in the beastly sense.
Clement of Alexandria reports the existence of this writing, and it makes best sense as a work of the Philonic school. It already hints at the distinction between hylics and pneumatics of Christian Gnosticism. According to the Alexandrian theologian Origen there was a tradition of two Moseses: a carnal one and a spiritual one. Those such as Harnack who don't see the line from Philo's school to the Gospel tradition are blind.
Catholic scholar Batiffol denies the tradition of an early Gospel According to the Egyptians, or any Alexandrian Christian tradition prior to the official one. 'Encratism' is the domination of the flesh by the spirit and a corresponding abstinence from the pleasures of the flesh. Batiffol is an enemy of encratism, thus denies the earliness of mentioned Gospel, while accepting an early Gospel according to the Hebrews. [This Gospel according to the Hebrews is frequently seen as a byproduct of the Aramaic Matthean tradition. -ks] That is completely in the sense of conservative Roman apologetics that the canonical Gospels alone are the original documents of earliest Christianity.
For critical scholars, it must be obvious that the formation of Catholic Christianity, starting in mid second century, effected the disappearance of Gospels deemed heretical, such as that according to the Egyptians, although the heretical Gospels were part of a Christianity that predated Catholicism.
The original Christianity, of Alexandrian style, was elitist, and not fit for the ignoble masses. Thus the original version of Christianity had to be eliminated and replaced with the Roman brand of a mass religion for simple-minded people who rejoice in the world instead of escaping it as the Gnostics do. Those who originally started Christianity were subsequently declared to be public enemy #1.
The Gospel According to the Egyptians says that unless you really fast from the world and keep the Sabbath properly, you won't make it into the kingdom. This 'proper Sabbath' is actually symbolic of the process of ego mortification [see Egodeath.com -ks], the typical mystical conversion experience.
So even if the Gospel According to the Egyptians is of second century, it represents the spirit of original Christianity a whole more than the canonical Gospels written by Roman intellectuals from the middle of the second century. The Gospel Jesus is derived from Alexandrian (allegorical) exegesis of the Old Testament Jesus, and that is the necessary way to understand the New Testament Jesus.
Bolland turns to the Naassene sect, who used the Gospel According to the Egyptians. Bolland now describes some of the sayings used by Naassenes, according to Hippolytos, and assigns them to the Gospel According to the Egyptians. [Alas, they are contained in the Gospel of Thomas from the Nag Hammadi Library, which is also said to be of Naassene origin by Hippolytos. This makes the assumption that they were part of the Gospel According to the Egyptians somewhat less likely, but not impossible. -ks]
The most important saying is about the farmer spreading seed that brings various results, according to the various sorts of ground it falls on. In a similar form it is found in the synoptics. It is about the various types of men, some are earth-bound (hylics), some are mental (noetic), some are spiritual (pneumatic).
Their ways of perceiving the Logos are different. Hylics are considered complete prisoners of their matter-oriented thought, thus completely deaf to the Logos. Many others are called -- the Psychics -- but only the Pneumatics are the chosen ones, who have a perfect understanding of the Reason of God. This is still detectible in the New Testament Gospels, albeit Catholically mutilated.
In this atmosphere one was also developing the distinction between the Lord of the Tanakh and the Father of the Gospels. John's gospel is better understood when making the distinction. According to Ireneus, the Gnostics saw the Tanakh God as a liar.
Justin Martyr can't deny his Gnostic roots when chiming in the choir of, for example, the Ophites and Valentinians. Hippolytos assigns that distinction to Zoroastrian impact. The 'overcoming of the evil of creation' means the apocalyptic end of the world. According to Hippolytos, 'the gospel' in the eyes of Basilides means the knowledge of the hypercosmic context. Only after many modifications did the Catholic church arrive at the canonical Gospel according to Mark, which actually originated in the Alexandrian syncretic tradition.
The evidential examples for the Alexandrian-Gnostic origin of the Gospels and many other pieces of early Christian writings have now been counted by the dozen, demonstrating the real origins of Christianity. They are not to be found in history alone. Already Alfred Loisy, the great historian of dogmatics, had to admit this.
All of the original Christian thinking was thoroughly based in Alexandrian Gnosticism: the name of the saviour, the miracles, the parable of the farmer spreading seed, the passion -- plainly everything is to be understood in its Alexandrian origins, the work of Egyptian Minim. Bolland then rants against modern types of thought and society, as is his usual business.
I agree with a variety of observations made by Bolland, such as the origin of the Gospels in the Alexandrian Hellenic-philosophical exegesis of Scripture, in Philonic and/or proto-Gnostic circles, and with the Roman origin of the Synoptics as an adaptation of the Alexandrian writings for the sociopolitical agenda of what became Roman Catholicism, and that a similar reasoning is valid for much of the deuterocanonical literature. This is in essence what was also later worked out by Gustaaf Adolf van den Bergh van Eysinga.
Where I differ from Bolland is his non-observation of basic literary- and text-criticism work, especially in the case of the Paulines. While correctly dissociating the Pauline letters from the first century apostle of naive legends, he ignored their textual disintegrity, which was shown by Wilhelmus van Manen, Allard Pierson, and so on. This can be seen as the result of systematic simplistic assumptions, which is a common fallacy among those who approach the history of Christianity with a modern philosophical concept of history in mind -- in the case of Bolland, this was essentially Hegel's dialectic-historical idealism.
Use of such a systematization is not bad as a starting approach, but it creates Procrustianisms if not used with care. van den Bergh van Eysinga disarmed several such traps in this overall promising and reasonable approach.