The Christ Mystery
H.W.Ph. van den Bergh van Eysinga
This is Klaus Schilling's summary and translation of the work by H.W.Ph. van den Bergh van Eysinga (the older brother of G.A. van den Bergh van Eysinga), "Het Christus Mysterie" from 1917. The original version of the work is not available as an online document. The original can be ordered as a reprint from Jan Boerger's legacy library at http://www.ibizweb.nl/borger. Formatted and copyedited by Michael Hoffman with Klauss' permission, May 15, 2005.
Eysinga was aware that the common people would be upset by such a book. But a few selected ones would always be grateful for being freed from infantile folly, which makes the book worth publishing.
The average scholar today does not doubt the historicity of a Gospel Jesus. Those who do are usually outlawed and declared insane or uncritical. The authority of the academy has replaced that of Scripture, but that's not a progress, for scholars are not trustworthy more than Scripture. First, there's academic partisanship. Second, scholars at the academy are too much specialised and thoroughly lack the necessary artistic and broad philosophical understanding that is required for such a complex topic as the origins of Christianity.
Third, scholars of liberal theology are completely dependant on their picture of a liberal Jewish rabbi Jesus and the mission of the apostles and the like at the beginning of Christianity, and the dogmatics of the church that overshadowed since Paul the honest intentions of that Galilean rabbi. The scholars just are servants of the local preachers of liberal Christianity. Yet it's necessary to build on the results of academic research as building blocks of the general picture we will obtain from early Christianity.
A few outsiders have already doubted or negated the
historicity of Jesus, such as Strauss, Bruno Bauer, and Edwin Johnson. Only in
Bolland is distinguished and outstanding by means of his giant knowledge and brilliant combination. The "Historical-Jesus Mafia" [my expression -ks] of Harnack, Weinel, von Soden, Juelicher, Wernle, Weiss, and Zahn was of course very upset about the radicals. Other radicals appeared worldwide, such as Steudel, Kalthoff, Drews, Lublinski, Kautsky, Promus, Whittacker, Slack, Robertson, Ben Smith, Niemojewski.
It's shown that all the traditional scholarship of biblic origins and church history is blatantly circular due to the limited perspective of the scholars.
The goal of the book is that of giving a picture of the circumstances of the beginnings of Christianity. This requires a larger, global understanding of the Roman world of the era 2000 years ago.
The two authors of antiquity who should know best what happened in the alleged region at the alleged time, Philo Alexandrinus and Justus of Tiberias, are silent about Jesus or any Gospel event.
The latter upset Photius in the middle ages.
Then the two passages in the Jewish Antiquities of Flavius Josephus are shown to be frauds.
The Talmud mentions people that could pass as witness for a
historical Jesus, but it's obvious that the Talmud is dependent and
sarcastically polemising against the Gospel stories.
For example, 'gospel' (evangelion)
is perverted into 'sin register' (aven-gillayon). Jesus ben Pandira is stoned at Lydda, not
Equally absurd are the passages in the three Roman works
often used as testimonies: Suetonius, Tacitus, and Plinius Junior. At
closer view, they all prove to be forgeries, as already discovered by Havet, Hochart,
Not all New Testament writings may be used to support a Jesus that lived and worked in the first decades of the era. For the Apocalypse of John, the Messiah is merely an eschatological, mythical character that is to be expected at the pending end of times in all his glory, based on the oracles of Daniel.
The epistles assigned to Paul rather support a mythical son of God, except in some passages suspicious of interpolation. Paul's Jesus is not of the sinful flesh, but supernatural and alien to corruption. The author already feels that the myth has become fact.
For Hebrews, Jesus is the Son, the ideal high priest, mediator between the Father and the New Covenant.
The Epistle of James names Hiob, not Jesus, as the real example of the suffering righteous.
The gospels appear to present a more human, historical picture of Jesus. But already the prologue of John's clarifies the metaphysical character of the Christ as the divine reason sent from heaven.
The report about the life of Jesus is full of thaumaturgy and other absurdities that make a historical interpretation pointless. Events like the mass infanticide of Herod are easily shown as dogmatic fiction.
Many geographical denominations turned out as misplaced or invented.
The names of many gospel characters are of mythic origin, chosen for dogmatic purposes. The lawsuit against Jesus violates most rules of Jewish and Roman justice.
The logia assigned to Jesus are not subject to the above absurdities, thus many flee into indulging in the picture of Jesus as a great apocalyptic/messianic/wisdom teacher. But this is humbug, as there's nothing original in the supposed teachings of Jesus. van Eysinga lists several pages of parallels between the logia in the gospels and the Old Testament. Also the Talmud is full of parallels. The Talmud writers can't possibly be borrowed from a declared Minim leader and misguider of the Hebrew people, thus the Talmudic logia can't be plagiated from the gospels, but must be from prior Jewish tradition.
One of many listed examples is the Lord's Prayer, found in a similar form, essentially lacking the final doxology, in the Talmudic Sota.
The Sermon on the Mount borrows heavily from a source also used in the Didache whose core is pre-Christian Judaism.
Also the Greek and Roman philosophers are heavily used in the gospels.
The most eclatant [?] impact is by the Stoics, especially Seneca and Epictetus. Also Plutarch is among the sources. The parabola of the man distributing seeds is the major example of Hellenic philosophy found in the gospels. It goes back already to Heracleitos, over Plato and the Stoics. The seeds are those of divine Reason.
Another important source for the gospel teachings is Philo of Alexandria, who already mystically glorified the name of 'Jesus'.
One of the examples listed here is the storm at sea.
Thus not only the thaumaturge and crucified figure of Jesus, but also the teacher, is devoid of any historical base.
For the first epistle of Clement, Jesus is God. Also the second one declares Jesus as pre-existant.
Many scholars think in terms of deification of a man ("Euhemerism"), starting with Paul. But as this is nowhere supported by tradition; this deification only exists in the heads of those scholars who can't give one shred of evidence for the psychological mechanism that would be involved here. Subsequently it will be shown that the converse is the case: the later humanization of a formerly strictly divine figure.
While some might believe that the historical existence of a founder figure is significant for their faith, that's not the case for true religion and wisdom.
Thus Kant, Hegel, Fichte, and Schelling worked perfectly with a superhistorical Jesus, and Meister Eckehart, Scotus Eriugena, Schopenhauer, the Brahmani [one should add especially Angelus Silesius -ks] showed the nothingness of personal existence when compared to superpersonality.
Nonetheless it can't be denied that great movements in history can be derived from great personalities. On the other hand, each person is naturally constrained by its social environment.
As a solution, it is said that whoever came up with the gospel story that is now present in however degenerate a form in canonical scripture must have been a great religious genius, a thinker and poet, able to think beyond the bonds of social encumbrances, but still expressing himself within the bonds and building upon the achievement of his culture.
The world as a whole is flawed, as shown for example by Schopenhauer and the Indian religions. The historical-materialist approach, that assumes that all evils are faults of the society that can be educated away, is rather infantile, at best one-sided. Yet the economical and political state of a given society may be better or worse, and this will influence the religious and philosophical attitude.
The mighty Roman state once started from a village community. The necessity of self-defense led to the construction of military forces. They were also needed for expansion. This led to a social split and impoverishment of the peasant class, while the aristocracy who controlled the military forces profited. New regions were conquered and subdued. The economy was built at the cost of the slaves, often war prisoners, and the peasants. Latifundial structures owned by aristocrats replaced the autonomous farmers who became impoverished and were enslaved.
This disastrous circuit went on and on. In rare occasions
the oppressed people revolted, as in the case of Spartacus' gladiator slaves,
and were bloodily rebutted. And as the expansion approaches its limits, the
potential for slaves stagnates, leading to the decay of the mining and farming
structure. Economical crisis led to a political crisis. Once, the
While Imperial Rome was splendid on the outside, the decay of moral was inflating. The aristocrats, especially senators, lost their political influence, and compensated for this with a lifestyle of excess. Wasteful attitude in gastronomy and architecture, public sexual excesses like polygamy and pedastry, boasting with outer signs of wealth, and so on, determined the life of the aristocrats. Satirists like Juvenalis made fun out of these states.
Even the emperors were all but examples of virtue and morality. Some were insane like Nero and Caligula, others cold-blooded despots like Domitianus, Vespasian was exceedingly greedy, Hadrian was a pedophile, and so on.
Thus it's little wonder that people, disgusted by the empire on earth, were looking for the kingdom in heaven.
The development of religiosity follows the development of culture.
Primitive hellenic religiosity (fetishism etc.) was succeeded by awe of the larger powers of nature, anthropomorphised by Homer etc. With the progress of culture, philosophy appeared. Some pre-Socratics tried to rationalise religion away, claiming it to be the result of elemental fears or an invention of political power-mongers. Socratic philosophy started to take religion seriously.
Hekataios tried to identify gods of various cultures. Euhemeros tried to rationalise gods away by seeing them as posthumously exalted men etc, thus starting the historising treatment of myths. Stoics, extending Plato and Aristotle, identified gods with powers of nature, especially the stars. The development of cults, usually immigrated from barbarians, started already earlier. Two of the most important competitors were the Dionysic cult which emphasised ecstasy, and the Apollonic cult who in turn valued virtue and purification of the soul.
Then Orphism and other mystery religiosity flourished. Orphism sees the soul as fallen into the gaol of fleshly existence as a penalty, and stresses repentance and purification for redemption from it. There's also a soul of the whole cosmos, Dionysios-Zagreus. This involved an afterlife/immortality doctrine - metempsychosis and purgatory - alien to early hellenic religion.
Mystery cults emphasised the participation in the mystery divinity by various means. This often led to various degrees of initiation, especially in the Eleusinian religion. Mystery dramas visualise the destiny of the mythic hero, in which the believers aspire to share. Common archetypes were shared by cults throughout the Mediterranean world. They have to be understood metaphorically.
Often sexual symbols were involved, but this doesn't imply at all that the cults indulged in fornication etc., rather virtues and purity were essential. Also confession of faith and repentance of errors were important and ritualised. Magics was considered seriously, especially in astrological context. While originally magics was aimed for vulgar, secular purposes like fertility, the developed cults used it for higher purposes. Secret names of transcendental powers were seen as magically significant. Also asceticism and ecstasy by means of music, etc. was seen as theophoric. Pessimism was generally assumed.
The building of guilds - eranoi, thiasoi - for merchants, artists etc. in the old Hellenic world also had a religious character, as they were assigned patron deities. In harbour cities, immigrants imported their home deities, who also became guild patrons. The guilds had community rules, a hierarchy, ritual gatherings etc. Original Christian communities may have imitated these structures. While mystery cults emphasise the religious character, the guilds stress the social essence.
Roman religiosity started as animism. With the development of the republic, the deities were more and more personifications of social and public virtues, the Roman state being the centre of religious activity. The decay of the republic annihilated the significance of the individual citizen, and religiosity shifted towards emperor worship, as sketched for example by Martialis.
The rapid changes in society and politics annoyed those with a deeper consciousness. Mystic and secular types reacted differently to this challenge.
Cosmopolitism advanced individualism, and Plutarch listed many venerable heroes. But in imperial times, the significance of the real individual other than the emperor was low, and thus those disgusted by the Caesar had to build on an idealised person. Plato and the Stoics had already developed the picture of the perfect sage. This was most influential for the ethics of Christianity [see especially the sermon on the mount -ks], as acknowledged by later patrists who turned Seneca into a co-worker of the apostles. Emperor Mark Aurelius tried to practice this ethics even in his office.
A common form of teaching was the diatribe. Developed by Cynics like Diogenes and later the Stoics, it also influenced parabolic New Testament teachings. Juvenalis and Seneca made frequent use of it.
The concept of immortality, already celebrated by Plato and
the mystery believers of old
The belief in an expected saviour was firmly established in various religions. For example, Horatius and Virgilius applied this to emperor Augustus. the pacifier of the world.
Also the influence of Jewish thinking increased. Its "transcendental deity" concept
was welcome for those dissatisfied by the emperor cult. Other oriental
religions like cult of
All this shows the high syncretic potential in this critical time.
Roman philosophy was of pragmatic character.
Socrates and Plato established the priority of the ideal over the real, also when combating the sophists. The ideal world exists immutably, while real things are subject to change and corruption.
This had a large impact on Christian metaphysics.
Stoicism is monist. They established an original fire as the source and destination of the world. This influenced Christian apocalyptics. The Logos is the soul of the world and the reason of life. This leads to submissive fatalism.
Epicurians deny magics, mysticism, mythology, oracles, afterlife etc., but ethically are similar to Stoics. The goal is ataraxy.
The Sceptics deny panzoism and establish a doctrine of teleology and predestination.
Finally there was Neopythagoreism, for example Plutarch. It defies Stoic pantheism and establishes transcendental theology. The necessity of purification and virtue is stressed, and, being more mysticist than Platonists, whose divine world is imaginative, for Neopythagoreans it becomes the true reality. This leads to theosophy.
Christian philosophy is result of a popularisation of Stoa and Plato.
A myth is a poetic tale expressing the absolute not in terms of philosophical thought but intuitively.
Primitive man considered the world as all animated.
Navigation and agriculture directed attention towards the stars in the sky, which were useful for orientation. It is little wonder that the stars became the subject of cults. The regular course of the sun across the stellar background reflects in the vegetation cycle, and was considered as cause of it. This lead to many astral myths, especially connected to the Zodiac, a phantastic imagination of the course of the sun.
The sun was the central subject of astral mythology, but many lunar cults existed as well. All seven classical wandering stars were deified, seen as powers and principalities. This is seen in Paul's words about the evil principalities up in the air - the planetary spirits residing in the 'seven heavens' according to astral theology.
The main centres of astrological
thought were the middle east and
Mysticism, scepsis, and fatalism (especially stoic) lead to the intrusion of astral cult into the Roman and Hellenic world.
Especially Plato wrote a lot about it. Christian angel hierarchies follow the pattern of the hierarchy of planetary spirits. The stoa is pantheist. The soul struggles in this world and has to overcome the seven planetary rulers who bar the way back to the divine origin.
We will see that the gospels are thoroughly influenced by astral theology.
After the Babylonian exile,
Jews in the major cities of the Mediterranean world became influential and numerous, as pointed out by Strabo and Philo. Many were the proselytes, some for ethical, others for financial reasons.
Diaspora Jews accepted the Hellenic language. The laws were also smoothened. Strabo saw circumcision as a bastardisation of Mosaic law, and not regularly required from proselytes.
Jews formed their own guilds, the synagogues. Plutarch
compares them with the thiases and eranoi. Each synagogue had, on top of their commission to
It is wagered that Jesus was considered as a patron deity by
some of the syngogues. The New Testament reports
non-Christians exorcising in the name of Jesus, and Jesus is seen as coming of
Messianic-apocalyptic expectations that got universalised in the diaspora, the Messiah being considered not only as the reconstructor of the House of David, the ancient Israelite belief, but as the saviour of the whole world. This is parallel to Iranian saviour figures like Mithra and Saoshyant.
Soteriological expectations are supported with astral mythology. The sun overcomes in spring the powers of darkness who prevailed since autumn. This is reflected in the Book of Daniel, referring to the four beasts for the season and the related stars the sun passes by. Many Roman aristocrats felt threatened by the apocalyptic statements, which lead to a form of antisemitism. Some emperors and governors decreed severe measures. This was accelerated by the envy towards the rich Jews, but also the less wealthy had to suffer from the decrees.
The Sadducees were the aristocracy among the Judeans and dealt with the temple administration. They were greedy and collaborated with heathen occupants, as outlined by Flavius Josephus.
The Pharisees were middle class intellectuals and busy with
the literary custody of the Jewish faith. They mastered as rebbes
the exegesis of the law and the prophets, adding here and there. They frowned
upon the aristocracy and the foreign occupants. They expected the Messiah as
Pharisees also indulged in astral mythology and planetary angel cult. This is condemned in Paul's letters and the kerygmata Petrou who frowns upon veneration of the stoicheia. The stars were seen as inhabited by good and evil forces. This planetary angel worship involved a form of mysticism [mase merkabah?] that later evolved into the Qabalah and left traces in the Talmud. Also numbers and letters were mystified and used for exegesis of Law and Prophets. The Zodiac corresponded to the family of patriarch Jacob etc.
Also ethical progress was controlled by the Pharisees, such as Hillel.
established the golden rule. But ethical disputes used to degenerate into casuistics.
The feeling of being lost in this world lead to personal eschatology and also to antinomianism. It's expressed in the New Testament, such as by Paul. But this is only suited for the few. The broader masses tended towards one or another form of messianic zealotry, reported frequently by Flavius Josephus. The book of Judith is of that tradition.
Essenes tried to escape the
degeneration of society, leading to an ascetic mystery attitude. Nazoreans and Therapeutes are of
a similar brand. The latter flourished around
After the war, Phariseism shunned mysticism increasingly and emphasised solely legalism.
Mystery movements were sent thus underground and subject to conventicles who practiced a syncretism of scriptural exegesis and philosophy. It developed a stern dualism between light and darkness, combining Parsi good-evil dualism with Platonic idealism.
The concrete appearances are seen as evil and darkness, the absolute is sought in the realms of light outside. This is in radical contrast with the ancient veneration of the cosmos, be it Jewish or pagan.
Generally Gnosis sees the real-existing world as an accident that should not be, result of a fall or deviation from the light. Man's soul, or at least a spark of it, is from the light, but fallen into the world, and a saviour is required to return it thereto.
Astromythical speculations play an
important role. The paradise (joyful garden) is seen as the region of light,
often called pleroma.
Thus unlike orthodox Judaism, which is realistic and optimistic, Gnosis is pessimistic and idealistic. This goes hand in hand with a protest exegesis of Scripture, leading to antinomianism. (For example, Cain is seen as good.) As for all mystic movements, outsiders were deemed as ignorant to divine truth. The creator [demiurge] was condemned as inferior. Those people were disappointed by the mainstream Judaist views.
Allegorising exegesis was common also outside Gnosis, such as Philo, who stuck to worship of the Old Testament deity. Various gnostic myths are then shortly described (Book of Baruch, Naasseni, Poimandres, Acts of Thomas/Pearl hymn...)
The closeness of Paulines and Gnosis has been seen early, but has been falsely explained with adulteration of the Paulines by heretics like Marcion, while the contrary is the case: the canonical Paulines are an acute secularisation of formerly Gnostic-Theosophic thought. Celsus still thinks Christianity as gnostic.
Originally the patron deity Jesus was thought as descended straight from the Pleroma to earth, only later it assumes a human life, as in Matthew's and Luke's. In Marcion's, the epiphany gets already fixed in space and time as in the later canonical gospels. With time, the originally Jewish protest movement turned decidedly antijudaist.
The gospel story is based on Gnosticism. Like the typical solar deity, Jesus is coming, suffering, and rising. The significance of the repeated 'I have (not) come to etc.' for solar mystery deities has been outlined by Wetter.
In its semitic
original form, Jesus means YHVH helps, but Jews of the diaspora
and their hellenic friends mistook it for 'Iaoo' (healer) Soter (redeemer).
The Old Testament knows Jesus as leading
Philo invested much in an allegorisation
of these passages on Jesus. The Epistle to the Hebrews supersedes a spiritual
Jesus who guides the seeking soul to heavenly rest over the earthly Jesus who
Solar deities are traditionally seen as victors over darkness and winter. The spring equinox is important. Many solar deity myths of the respective era reflect the symbolism of the current constellation of the spring equinox. Tertullian says that many regard the sun as the god of the Christians. Solar mysteries were preceded by lunar mysteries.
The life of Jesus according to the gospels and Christian feasts have a lot in common with pagan solar deity mystery cults, especially the Dionysos cult. Not only Hellenic cults, also Indian ones chime in.
The gospel story involves a lot of astromythical symbolism from front to back. Dupuis showed that Renaissance time artists related the Virgin Mary to the zodiacal Virgo. Catholic rites silently expose their dependence on old solar astral myths.
The mystery drama was an important element in mystery cults.
The children of the Old Testament character Jacob have been associated with the Zodiac still in the Talmud, as shown by Bisschoff. This is often a key to a deeper understanding of the gospel stories.
[The huge mass of astromythical elements distillable from the gospel story forces us into considering just a small selection, and only roughly].
2000 years ago at midnight in late December, the constellation of Virgo ascended. It's the darkest time of the year, the point from which light is starting to increase.
Mary's assumption is placed in high summer, sun approaching Virgo and engulfing it with light.
Supernatural birth alludes to the traditional fertilisation of Mother Earth by Father Sky. Philo in De Cherub, chimes in.
[Much more could be said about this and other Marys of the gospels. -ks]
Anna of Luke 2:36, later understood as the grandmother of Jesus, is derived from Anna Perenna, a classical deity of spring.
Beth-Lehem means house of the bread. The Virgo is often depicted with a sheaf of wheat. Wheat was often ripe and harvestable with sun in Virgo.
The symbolics of fish in the New Testament is tied to the constellation of Pisces.
The wine miracle is celebrated 12 days after Christmas, and at 12 Jesus teaches at the synagogue.
The passion story is wholly astral. Jesus approaches
Ecliptic and Equator intersect at the astral cross.
Anciently the Milky Way behind the astral cross has been called tree of the
world or wood. The sickle-bearing Kyrenaios of Homer,
a chariot driver, is example for Simon of Cyrene. Canis major and minor are stars
near the astral cross, alluding to the two other criminals on
Jesus is stabbed with a spear, alluding to Orion, also
It's also noted that the solstices and equinoxes form a regular cross. The sun is also thought as a wheel (Ixion, Buddha, Epistula Petri). We have thus an amalgamation of various symbolisms implied by the crucifixion scene.
The canonical gospels are the result of literary evolution. Bolland showed that the starting point was the so-called Gospel according to the Egyptians, assigned to Peter and Mark, a Gnostic metaphysical treatise, possibly by the Naassenes sect [see the previous summaries of Bolland's work -ks].
The Gospel according to the Hebrews was then a Semitic rework of Egyptians, and is the foundation of the canonical life of Jesus. What was added to Gospel according to the Egyptians was essentially the mystery drama, based on the astral mythology elements previously mentioned in part. The God from on High sends his Son in human appearance to earth in order redeem mankind by means of suffering and resurrection, modeled after the seasonal course of the sun that falls in autumn and overcomes darkness in spring. Sun and light, representing virtue and knowledge, are anthropomorphised in the gospel story.
The canonical gospels popularised and exegetised the older gospel tradition. First it was Matthew's gospel that took this path, followed by the rationaliser, Mark, and the universaliser, Luke. John's gospel, of Ephesan origin, is more esoteric and Gnostic than the Synoptics, thus older in essence. Ignat. Philad. identifies the coming, suffering, and resurrection of the Saviour as the content of the Gospel. Marcion's Gospel of the Lord was apparently shorter than the canonical gospels.
The original Christian spirit is encratite,
pacifist, anarchist, communist, and dis-appreciative
of society, economy, and politics. This is easily understandable as an
antithesis to the Imperial cult of
Of course this would be too utopian for a universal mass religion, let alone the later Roman state church. The Christian statements had to be watered and popularised, while Origen and Tertullian still saw it impossible to be a Roman soldier and a baptised Christian at the same time. The Catholified Paulines make marriage acceptable, but that's not original Christianity. Like vegetariacy and aquariacy, celibacy is original Christian doctrine. This ascetism is not enforced, but result of the inner attitude. The Saviour saves from the force of Destiny, symbolised in the stars.
Thus a religious poet put the syncretistic astral theological myth into the form of a human life story. The character of it is theosophic -- that is, a mix of philosophy and mythology.
Catholic Christianity is to be understood as a synthesis between the Antijudaising Gnostics such as the original Paul and the Judaisers who saw the Old Testament as the sole solid base of Christianity, see the Kerygmata Petrou. Yet in its sacraments and customs it maintained much of the gnostic pre-catholic symbolism.
Mystery cults, as the original Christian church, were elitist and strictly distinguished insiders from outsiders. Gnostic conventicles especially differentiated degrees of capacity of divine knowledge. The broad mass of humanity failed the test, and was considered as sarkic [or hylic]. Some were psychic, even fewer were pneumatic. The New Testament reflects such a differentiation when Jesus refuses to talk openly except in parables, or the description of outsiders as dogs and pigs.
Many praise the fraternity and philanthropy of ancient Christianity, but this was only applied inside the small group of initiates. For the outsiders there was left nothing but pity. Many take it that the original Christian view implied humility, which might be the case for the neophyte, but after achieving the gnosis of the corruptness, perversion, and decadence of the world, this humility goes away.
The pious, earnest worker and peasant are receiving respect, but not the capitalist, politician, mainstream teacher, or other abusers of mankind. Slaves, women etc. were welcome. This social revisionism and anarcho-communism attracted much folk.
This conflicted sternly with the Pharisees, who, once open for mysticism, turned right-wing legalist after the war, and then outlawed all forms of mysticism, esp. under Rebbes Tarphon. Minim, Nazoreans, Essenes, Gnostics etc. were thrown out of the synagogues and persecuted especially under Shimeon bar Kohkbah.
Also the Romans were upset. While the correspondence of Traian with Plinius Junior
probably lacks historicity, but the anarchistic attitude of early Christians
was a provocation for
Apologies expose already a watered, bastardised Christianity as a religion more amenable to the masses and the old order. This popularisation led to the historisation of the gospel story. The Catholically adultered gospels and epistles downgrade and marginalise ascetism, flatter politicians, military, capitalists etc.
This implies polemics against those who stick to the more original Christian spirit, especially gnostics. Irenaeus et al. write insane amounts of refutations. The gnosis is naturally unsuited for the masses. The patriarchs also modified previous Christian writings in their own sense. Gnostics are deemed in refutations and interpolations as false teachers, demagogues, sons of Satan etc.
Original Christianity was Hellenised-Jewish theosophy, and many still thought themselves as the proper Jews. Only later did Gnosis turn antijudaist at any cost. The contrast was stern particularly between antinomianist Gnostics and nomianist Ebionim, symbolised by the legendary apostles Paul and Peter.
Apostles were known already in pre-christian religions (Judaism, Mithra etc.). There number and names given in the New Testament is mythically motivated. Wandering evangelists increased the spread of Christianity.
The Pseudoclementines, Judeochristian/Petrinic homilies and recognitions, outline the conflict. The head of their enemies is Simon Magus, who appears as a polemic caricature of Paul. But the Pseudoclementines have a gnostic character, nevertheless. The catholic church tried to downplay the conflict and solve it literarily. Peter and Paul are represented as finally reconciled. On the other side, Paul shows the same rigor against the Petrinic party in Galatians.
Peter is astromythical, Paul's description in the canonical writings is purely determined by tendentious dogmatics, thus of no historical value. The opponent of Peter was turned into his secretary.
Paul's Christ is sent by God in the likeness of sinful flesh. This is allegorical mystery cult. Little wonder Paul was held high first in circles like those of Marcion, Basilides, and Valentinus.
The church rose in
The hierarchical structure was very important: Bishops on top, then presbyters, then deacons, and finally the mass of laymen on bottom. Rich Jews became also very influential in the organisation. While Christianity originally thought of a spiritual aristocracy, that of the church developed increasingly into a secular aristocracy.
In some sense, the fledgling Catholic church
tried to implement Plato's Politeia. The latter was
written in a time when the classical polis went down the drain, and
nostalgically looks back to the good old times when the polis was central for
everyone. The Catholic church was way more pragmatical and realistic in establishing such a centralised community system. Guilds were fused together
under one God and one Christ. This happened in a time when the
The church beheld the strength of organisation
that made it finally possible to take over the power in the state. The City of
The confession articles of faith try to rule out all heresies, especially those of original Christianity. The church considers itself as the continuation of the old covenant, and the Old Testament as the base of its theology. The canon of the New Testament was established as continuation and fulfilling of the oracles of the Old Testament. Of course the Old Testament in its Greek version also had prepared the way for heretical sects like that of Marcion, as much as many heresies try to hide this.
But there's something special about the Old Testament which is not the case for some, such as Plato and Seneca/Epictetus, who contributed a lot to Christian doctrine. Also the Old Testament is build on lunar and solar myths, David and Solomon are solar deities etc. but that's not of much importance here. It's the prophetic authority of the Jewish Scripture which made it useful for the church. The New Testament canon was justified by back-references to the Tanakh. What was announced in the New Testament is fulfilled in the New Testament. Around 400 the canon was established.
Now we will walk through the New Testament canon, as the canonical writings are of rather heterogeneous value.
The Apocalypse of John is chock-full of astrological and numerological symbolism, presenting an Ephesian Gnosis that is not yet antijudaist. It's an old mystery drama, where the Christ is not yet anthropomorphised. It has been reworked antipaulinically around 140.
It's chock-full of evident astrological symbolism. (Eysinga presents
many examples.) For example, the seven
cities and so on correspond to the seven wandering stars,(
Many constellations are involved. The lamb represents Aries, the sign of spring. Sun is exalted in Aries, and at home in Leo, whence the lamb is also called a Lion later on. Invernal constellations are evil powers in chapter 19f, allying against the light. No doubt the Saviour hero is once more a solar figure. 24 elders for a double Zodiac, hours of the day. The horoscope of Paschah night is deducible - Lactantius sees the second coming of the Messiah in the Paschah night. [...] Persian symbols appear like the white-bearded god etc., also Platonic and Pythagorean pictures. [...]
Also Paul's letters are of Gnostic origin. The form of a "letter" is feigned. The epistular genre was quite popular back then. The Catholic church thoroughly adultered the epistles by watering the antinomianism and antijudaism. The epistles are described in a few sentences each (section skipped).
Many ask about the authenticity of the epistles, but the question has become pointless. Paul is just the guild patron of the left wing, estimated highly by Gnostic teachers. Marcion owned a short rescension of the epistles. But the canonical versions are typically Roman Catholic, reworked in antipaulinic sense.
The pretendedly parenetic (hortatory, encouraging, persuasive) yet actually pragmatic Epistle to the Hebrews is a different cause. It is essentially in the trend of Philo, a moderated Gnosis that is not Antijudaist. The Old Testament Jesus is allegorised and spiritualised; mysticism is the perfection of Judaism.
Quite different is the Epistle of James. It's a continuation of the concept that theologians are too much talk and not enough walk, thus having neglected philanthropy and social justice. There's a trace of this in the synoptic logia.
I Peter, from Hadrian's or Antoninian times, also multi-layered, gives consolation in times of repression. II Peter is much later.
John's letters are excessively Catholic works, a moral preaching from a community elder to the community member about orthodox lifestyle and warning against heresies, especially docetism.
The Epistle of Jude is also an orthodox moral drumming, beat on repeatedly.
In the letters we see different genres reworked in the Catholic sense. The later Paulines [the Pastorals?] and some others are purely Roman works. The inclusion of James shows that the Ebionitic branch who apocalyptically expected social justice could never be really denied. Platonism and Stoa are also expressed here, with their qualification of this world as something preliminary, not yet real.
The Apostolic Acts are Roman catholic works through and through from mid-2nd Century, based on various previous Acts and Flavius Josephus. And even historical memories are brought in here and there; a coherent historiography cannot possibly be found in the hodge-podge of Acts.
The syncretic mystery-drama
character of the Gospel story has already been seen. If there was a written
original Gospel, it was never in circulation and was only used by the mystagogues of the Essenes, the Therapeutae, and similar circles. In
Matthew's gospel was the first of the canonical gospels. It
contains most of the traits of the classical mystery game, from annunciation to
resurrection. It's of antijudaist colour
by involving people of the times of Tiberius in
Many other original parables etc. appear, albeit after Roman reworking. The glorification of Peter is typically Catholic. The hostile man (=> Pseudoclementines) and "woe to you, Pharisees" are well of later addition. Matthew's gospel is Hellenist, not quite familiar with Judaism. It tries to enforce the belief in Jesus being the Messiah. Thus it's a mystery drama, in the Catholic sense.
Mark's gospel is rationalising, moderating in the Latin trend. Many mystery elements are lacking. It's the least poetic, and therefore most suited for the Roman public, which was sober and pragmatic.
Luke's gospel tries to universalise the gospel story, under Pauline influence. But it evades much that could annoy the Romans. Its mystery-drama representation differs sometimes essentially from Matthew's.
John's gospel is of Ephesian tradition, the most recent in its canonical form, but much older in origin and concept. The Logos Incarnate is an Alexandrine concept. It's full of Gnostic antijudaism, but it's also full of Catholic adulteration.
The Catholic church represents a secularisation of bastardisation of original Christianity, but, on the other hand, it puts the rough-hewn sentimental poetics of the gospel story into an intellectually consistent form. This is due to the proximity of Catholicism and Neoplatonism. Ammonius Saccas was both. The most important Neoplatonist was Plotinus who saw God as the unknown an unknowable, and man should strive for returning to God by means of virtue. It had much in common with Philo Alexandrinus.
Again, only the Clerics were amenable to philosophy, not the common layman. When the Christian mob murdered a neoplatonist philosopher namend Hypatia, this was not for religious motive, as commonly and falsely supposed, but a mere social conflict.
Once gnosis was thrown out and the euhemerist Christology completed, other heresies as antithesis to the Catholic mainstream theology appeared and caused trouble throughout the early catholic councils, such as Monarchianism, Patropassionism, Arianism, Pelagianism etc.
Medieval and modern times brought more theological evolutions. (Section skipped.)
This chapter mentions some cases (Nietzsche, Western Buddhists) who thoroughly misunderstand Christianity and are unaware of its origins. (Section skipped.)
Here some modern parallels for early Christian thinking are presented such as Tolstoy (section skipped). Christianity, like Buddhism, is essentially a mystic religion that recognises the vanity of timely existence and seeks out the absolute.