The Gnostic Gospels Paperback – Sep 19 1989
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Gnosticism's Christian form grew to prominence in the 2nd century A.D. Ultimately denounced as heretical by the early church, Gnosticism proposed a revealed knowledge of God ("gnosis" meaning "knowledge" in Greek), held as a secret tradition of the apostles. In The Gnostic Gospels, author Elaine Pagels suggests that Christianity could have developed quite differently if Gnostic texts had become part of the Christian canon. Without a doubt: Gnosticism celebrates God as both Mother and Father, shows a very human Jesus's relationship to Mary Magdalene, suggests the Resurrection is better understood symbolically, and speaks to self-knowledge as the route to union with God. Pagels argues that Christian orthodoxy grew out of the political considerations of the day, serving to legitimize and consolidate early church leadership. Her contrast of that developing orthodoxy with Gnostic teachings presents an intriguing trajectory on a world faith as it "might have become." The Gnostic Gospels provides engaging reading for those seeking a broader perspective on the early development of Christianity. --F. Hall
"The first major and eminently readable book on gnosticism benefiting from the discovery in 1945 of a collection of Gnostic Christian texts at Nag Hammadi in Egypt." --The New York Times Book ReviewSee all Product Description
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In her relatively substantial introduction, Pagels goes through a history of the coming into light of the texts of Nag Hammadi, contrasting it with the more popularly known Dead Sea Scrolls. However, the Nag Hammadi texts also had their fair share of intrigue and cloak-and-dagger kinds of dealings, until finally coming into the relatively safe hands of museums and academics.
Pagels proceeds from this background with a brief history of Christian thought in the first few centuries after Christ. She particularly highlights the contrasts between orthodoxy and catholic trends, and how each relates to a gnostic point of view. What are the issues of the resurrection? Why was this taken literally? What authority is conferred upon those who saw the risen Lord, and why was it not so evenly spread (Mary Magdalene, alas, seems to have gotten the short end of the stick authority-wise, despite being listed numerous times as the first witness of the resurrection, and indeed the apostle to the apostles, proclaiming his resurrection to the unbelieving men).Read more ›
It has been said that history is written by the winners. One of the books recently finished, and used by Brown (and possibly also Perdue in Daughter of God) is Pagels' The Gnostic Gospels. What a thought provoking work. In this case, the 'winner' was a unified church. How to summarize what happened? The book itself is only 151 pages - but the intro prior to the main thesis of the book is over 35 pages. The intro lays out the basis for the 151 pages that follow.
As the church was forming, there was an organized group that became the orthodoxy of the 'only holy apostolic and catholic church' (I think that is the wording, I'm not a Catholic). The church was organized along strict hierachical lines. But the 'losers' in the early development were a group that felt that each individual had the knowledge (gnosis) to determine what the right spiritual search/meaning/path was for them - therefore very loosely organized at best.
Much of the work used for this philosophy was writtne down and saved by monks near Cairo and hidden when the church determines that history should be written by the winners, er, wait, when they decided that anything outside the agreement enforced by Constantine was heretical and must be destroyed. The dating on these texts is concurrent or prior to the texts used in the New Testament - ranging from about 60 to 120 AD. These monks hid the scrolls & parchments in large pottery, which was discovered about 60 years ago after 1000 years in hiding.Read more ›
Pagels, a specialist in the Gnostic gospels, presents the story of the find and outlines the philosophy with sympathy and clarity. In six succinct chapters, she reveals the drastic departure from what we know as Christianity today. Although others have questioned the notion of the Trinity, the Gnostics were firmly opposed to the tripartite division of one spirit into three identities. The "resurrection", so firmly entrenched in today's faith, was viewed in a completely different way by the Gnostics. Their writings contest the notion of Jesus as a deity in human form. Furthermore, the Gnostics couldn't accept the restricted group of "observers" of the resurrected Jesus that orthodox accounts relate. Displays of the spirit would occur down through time, they contested, and to all who were prepared to see it. This universal revelation overturned the sort of hierarchical structure that was developing among other Christians and would be endorsed by Constatine. The Gnostics felt relations with the deity should be universally available.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Written back in 1979 it is one of the ground breaking works that paved the way for many following books on the subject. Read morePublished 14 months ago by Big Bill
I should have read this decades ago. Elaine Pagels is a true scholar. Made me want to read more by her.Published on Oct. 31 2013 by Carolyn Snipes-Hoyt
This is a brief but informative introduction to the belief systems known as Gnosticism and their differences with Ecclesiastical Christianity. Read morePublished on Nov. 1 2009 by Peter Uys
This brief but informative study of the cluster of beliefs known as Gnosticism and its differences with Ecclesiastical Christianity is recommended. Read morePublished on Oct. 25 2009 by Peter Uys
This is a sad diversion from the true Gospel. I tried to get in to what was being writen but she lacked evidence and text to back up her wild theories. Read morePublished on July 6 2004 by Chris Schroader
This is not exactly a fun page-turner but it is a good resource for anyone interested in early Christianity. Read morePublished on June 21 2004 by Garry L. Morey
Often the first book read by the aspiring student of gnosticism, Pagel's "The Gnostic Gospels" is a classic for a reason. Read morePublished on June 13 2004 by Nicq MacDonald
Chapter 5 and 6 make this book priceless to me. I love all of Professor Pagels works and own them all. Read morePublished on May 23 2004 by Elizabeth