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The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels

The Gnostic Gospels (original 1979; edition 1989)

by Elaine Pagels

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3,377291,610 (3.89)1 / 56
Title:The Gnostic Gospels
Authors:Elaine Pagels
Info:Vintage (1989), Edition: 1st Vintage Bks Ed, Sept. 1989, Paperback, 182 pages
Collections:Your library
Tags:Christian, Gnosticism, History, Non-Fiction, Theology, Spirituality

Work details

The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels (1979)

  1. 30
    The Essential Gnostic Gospels: Including the Gospel of Thomas & the Gospel of Mary by Alan Jacobs (riverwillow)
  2. 20
    The Gnostic Religion by Hans Jonas (haven1)
  3. 10
    Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew by Bart D. Ehrman (Panairjdde)
    Panairjdde: This is actually a recommendation by Elaine Pagels herself, written inside her book Beyond Belief
  4. 10
    Secret Gospels: Essays on Thomas and the Secret Gospel of Mark by Marvin W. Meyer (Panairjdde)
    Panairjdde: This is actually a recommendation by Elaine Pagels herself, written inside her book Beyond Belief
  5. 00
    The Gospel of Thomas (New Testament Readings) by Rich Valantasis (Panairjdde)
    Panairjdde: This is actually a recommendation by Elaine Pagels herself, written inside her book Beyond Belief

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Showing 1-5 of 28 (next | show all)
Pleasant and greatly informative read about early Christianity. ( )
  ramuneza | Apr 3, 2016 |
This is an exciting read for a work of scholarship. In this book Ms Pagels
does not side with the gnostics, which she manages to define properly, but she devastates the catholic church's abuse of people that disagreed with them, especially on the resurrection and the role of women in the church. She is doubtless correct that the church would not have survived as a gnostic institution, because it needed form and simplicity and structure, which it could only get by destroying all of its enemies. ( )
  annbury | Feb 1, 2014 |
This must have been a very difficult book to write: I know that it was a hard one to read. The twenty-first century is hard enough on any established religion, without doubt being cast from within: on the other hand, the Gnostic Gospels were a time bomb waiting to inflict its damage from the moment, around 400 A.D., when a group of "leading Christians" made the decision to crop the texts to be included within the Bible.

The Gnostic Gospels are a very strange collection of texts; some are not too disparate from their Synoptic cousins but some suggest that Jesus was not human, did not rise bodily from the grave and/or that He did not offer eternal life. These may seem to be odd arguments to make, if one believes Jesus to be the Son of God and I find it almost impossible to read these Gospels with an open mind: however, that does NOT mean that they can, or should, be easily dismissed. These books have as much right to exist as the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John - the latter of whom very nearly met the same fate as Thomas, Mary et al! Elaine Pagels walks the line in an admirable fashion. She gives respect to these works, but at the same time, is understanding to the orthodox view.

The chief reason for the cognoscenti to cull the Gospels was to make a credible, flowing text with everyone pulling in a single direction. Almost inevitably, the chance was taken to remove Mary (a woman claiming to be Christ's favoured disciple, what ever next?) and to hone the life of this maverick prophet into a form acceptable to people of the age. It is undoubtedly true that this sanitised version allowed Christianity to flourish and, with one more compromise (selecting Constantine as leader of the church on earth), Christianity spread to the four corners of the planet. Times change, and views that were normal become staid, it is no longer stretching credulity to think that a woman might have been a significant disciple, to question Christ's status is not punishable by death and, perhaps we need to address these issues.

This is a very good book for someone, such as myself, who knew next to nothing about the Gnostic Gospels. It introduces them, gives an historical backdrop and leaves the reader to make the final decision as to whether these texts have anything to offer. I believe, that anyone believing in God, or with an interest in religion should read both the Gnostic Gospels and also, this excellent explanation of them. ( )
3 vote the.ken.petersen | Apr 19, 2013 |

This is one of the most fascinating books on the history of early Christianity. Although it does contain just quotes and selections from the texts themselves, Pagels does a remarkable job analyzing and giving them a greater historical context.

The Gnostic texts also gave a radical re-evaluation of the history of early Christianity, the nature of God, the figure Jesus, the resurrection, the role of women and whether or not a 'Church' as it exists in the Catholic tradition, was always extant. Some aspects of the Gospels also resemble Eastern traditions of self-knowledge.

On a side note, it also gives an insight into the rewriting of history. Most of these texts were scrubbed from early religious history, as they may have been incompatible with the power structure of the time and the hierarchical church as we know it today.

Fascinating stuff. I'll have to give the gospels themselves a reread. ( )
1 vote HadriantheBlind | Mar 30, 2013 |
The Gnostic Gospels by Elaine Pagels. Epiphany Oviedo ELCA library section 3B: Christianity, General Christianity. On the list of the 100 Best Religion books of the 20th century, this book is about an archeological find in 1945 in Egypt, a collection of 52 papyrus gospels from 35-400 AD written by a sect called the Gnostics.
After the death of Christ, early Christians held a wide variety of beliefs. As Christianity grew, its leaders began to codify it – and the ones who “won” at codifying the religion came to be known as the orthodox church – what we today call the “catholic, or universal, church.” Smaller, less influential sects existed, the Gnostics among them. While the orthodox labeled the Gnostics as heretics, the Gnostics believed in knowing oneself not through scientific or reflective knowledge, but through observation or experience. To know oneself, they claimed, is to know human nature and destiny. To know oneself, believed the Gnostics, was to know God.
While some of these texts offer secret teachings, they all derive from a Jewish heritage. Many refer to OT scriptures as well as the NT gospels, with the same “dramatis personae,” Jesus and his disciples. Yet the differences are striking. The universal church grew to believe that God was wholly other, not human, and that Jesus came to save us from sin. Gnostics believed that god was not wholly other, but that humans and God were one. And rather than Jesus coming to save us, Gnostics believed Jesus came to guide us toward greater spiritual understanding. If the idea of Jesus as a spiritual guide sounds much like Hindu or Buddhist tradition, it ought to – there were Christians in South India (Thomas supposedly evangelized them) who traded with the Greco-Roman world via trade routes that opened up while gnosticism flourished.
These texts suggest that early Christianity was far more diverse and complex than previously thought. If gnosticism had won out rather than orthodox Christianity, would we have had female priests and bishops from Christianity’s birth? Would Christianity have flourished without the early codification of belief in the creeds? Once the orthodox gained military support, that is support from the city-state sometime after Emperor Constantine became Christian in the fourth century, the penalty for heresy escalated, and orthodox Christianity had won out. At Constantine’s first orthodox meeting of Christian leaders, the Council of Nicaea in 325 AD, a special creed was adopted that set down the beliefs of the orthodox church. We know it as the Nicene Creed. ( )
1 vote Epiphany-OviedoELCA | Dec 26, 2012 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Elaine Pagelsprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bergane, TorbjørnTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lehtipuu, OutiTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Quispel, GillesPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Verseput, E.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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To Elizabeth Diggs and Sharon Olds in loving friendship
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In December 1945 an Arab peasant made an astonishing archeological discovery in Upper Egypt.
"Jesus Christ rose from the grave."
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Please do not combine Elaine Pagels' The Gnostic Gospels (in Italian, I vangeli gnostici) with Luigi Moraldi's I vangeli gnostici. Vangeli di Tomaso, Maria, Verità, Filippo (ISBN 8845910091). Thank you.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0679724532, Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:04 -0400)

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"A startling account of the meaning of Jesus and the origin of Christianity based on gnostic gospels and other secret texts, written almost 2,000 years ago, recently discovered near Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt"--Jacket subtitle.

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