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Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas (2003)

by Elaine Pagels

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2,470355,296 (3.67)28
[This book] explores how Christianity began by tracing its earliest texts, including the secret Gospel of Thomas, rediscovered in Egypt in 1945.... [The author explores] historical and archeological sources to investigate what Jesus and his teachings meant to his followers before the invention of Christianity as we know it.... [She] compares such sources as Thomas' gospel ... with the canonic texts to show how Christian leaders chose to include some gospels and exclude others from the collections we have come to know as the New Testament. To stabilize the emerging Christian church in times of devastating persecution, the church fathers constructed the canon, creed, and hierarchy--and, in the process, suppressed many of its spiritual resources. -Dust jacket.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
This was an excellent history of how our scriptures were compiled. In truth, I only give it 3 stars because the title was a misdirect for me. Had hoped the book focused on Thomas. ( )
  JRobinW | Jan 20, 2023 |
Yes, more early Christian history. Pagels presents a fascinating view of early Christian politics and the fight between the authors and followers of the gospels of John and Thomas. If the gnostics had won that particular battle, the course of history would have been quite different. ( )
  villyard | Dec 6, 2022 |
Pagels here describes the differences between the Gospel of Thomas, a gnostic text and the gospel of John, an orthodox text. She puts forth that John is written to combat certain heresies identified by the orthodox bishop Iraneus (or his predecessor, I can't remember right now) -- specifically the heresies in thomas: that God is in us and we are in God.

A fun and easily read romp. ( )
  wickenden | Mar 8, 2021 |
The author argues for an ongoing assessment of faith and a questioning of religious orthodoxy. Spurred on by personal tragedy and new scholarship from an international group of researchers, she investigates the “secret” Gospel of Thomas and breathes new life into writings once thought heretical. As she arrives at an ever-deeper conviction in her faith, she reveals how faith allows for a diversity of interpretations, and that the “rogue” voices of Christianity encourage and sustain “the recognition of the light within us all.”
  PAFM | Apr 20, 2020 |
The title, or maybe it's only the subtitle of this book is misleading, since Pagels' subject is to examine how a diversity of Christian communities with differing practices and sacred writings became a unified whole. Most of the history of the first centuries of Christianity I have read assume what is today the orthodox consensus was in place from the earliest days of Christianity, making any history by default a tale of how divergent teachings arose and were suppressed. Pagels takes a different approach, starting with the reality of diverse communities of Christians and showing something of the way a majority held version of Christianity prevailed and then suppressed competing interpretations of the life and teaching of Jesus. This is intended for a popular readership and it is fascinating. ( )
  nmele | Sep 2, 2019 |
Showing 1-5 of 33 (next | show all)
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On a bright Sunday morning in February, shivering in a T-shirt and running shorts, I stepped into the vaulted stone vestibule of the Church of the Heavenly Rest in New York to catch my breath and warm up.
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There is an invisible world out there, and we are living in it.
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[This book] explores how Christianity began by tracing its earliest texts, including the secret Gospel of Thomas, rediscovered in Egypt in 1945.... [The author explores] historical and archeological sources to investigate what Jesus and his teachings meant to his followers before the invention of Christianity as we know it.... [She] compares such sources as Thomas' gospel ... with the canonic texts to show how Christian leaders chose to include some gospels and exclude others from the collections we have come to know as the New Testament. To stabilize the emerging Christian church in times of devastating persecution, the church fathers constructed the canon, creed, and hierarchy--and, in the process, suppressed many of its spiritual resources. -Dust jacket.

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