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Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

An Incredible Diversity of Beliefs

Pagels presents a history of the evolution of orthodox Christianity from the first century through the fourth century. She portrays The Secret Gospel of Thomas and other gnostic texts as scriptures championed by certain Christians who were opposed by Iraneus in the seco...
Pagels presents a history of the evolution of orthodox Christianity from the first century through the fourth century. She portrays The Secret Gospel of Thomas and other gnostic texts as scriptures championed by certain Christians who were opposed by Iraneus in the second century and later by other Church Fathers. The main difference between the Gnostic Gospels and those of the New Testament canon lies in the former's emphasis on searching for the Divine within ourselves instead of within an exterior God. Although that idea was reinvented in many defferent forms, not only throughout the history of Christianity but also in other religions such as Buddhism, the proponents of orthodoxy ultimately prevailed at the Council of Nicea in 325 C.E. Pagels applauds in particular the evidence she uncovers of an incredible diversity of beliefs within Christianity during its first three centuries of existence.To me the appreciation of diverse Christian beliefs during that early period is the most important benefit I received from reading BEYOND BELIEF.

posted by Anonymous on December 15, 2005

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Most Helpful Critical Review

6 out of 14 people found this review helpful.

a misrepresentation of modern scholarship

There is no definitive proof that the Gospel of Thomas predates the canonical gospels. The text, which most scholars only date to around 200 A.D. (much later than our earliest versions of the canonical Gospel and other sources like the Gospel of Peter)and was utilized b...
There is no definitive proof that the Gospel of Thomas predates the canonical gospels. The text, which most scholars only date to around 200 A.D. (much later than our earliest versions of the canonical Gospel and other sources like the Gospel of Peter)and was utilized by the gnostic sect in Egypt and Syria. The gnostics, who drew on other traditions besides Christianity, were not a peace loving, accepting group. They tended to be elitist, believed that only men could attain the 'true light' and were anti Jewish. Everything that was discovered when the Gospel of Thomas was found was not as earth shaking as it is portrayed. Fragments of Thomas, about a third, had been available since the late 1800's and all of these arguments were made than as well. The author should have done more historiographical research before writing. This is all old news and much of it is incorrect or misrepresented. Buy Phillip Jenkins book 'The Hidden Gospels' instead.

posted by Anonymous on August 1, 2003

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2004

    The Gospel of Thomas is still secret!

    This is interesting reading for those of us who are not well acquainted with early Christian history. The main focus of the book is historical reasons that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John became the four gospels of today's New Testament and why other first century writings were not included. There is an excellent historical review of second and third century events that affected the early church and caused church leaders to accept or reject competing 'gospels'. Curiously, the gospel of Thomas really is not examined very extensively. Only a few short fragments of Thomas are discussed and mainly in comparison to the gospel of John. Dr. Pagels does us the favor, though, of pointing out that 'denominationalism' existed even in the early church and shows that Christians searching for the early, untaintedand original teachings of Christ really will find what Paul found; that is, that believers followed early human personalities as much as they did Jesus (much as they do today). The author also shows the same rigid skepticism that I've noted in other religious academics when they evaluate Biblical historical accuracy. She notes that most academics agree that we know little about the birth of Jesus which seems a very odd conclusion. Historically, we know that Mary and the brothers of Jesus outlived Jesus and were active in the early church. We know that Paul (and his doctor, Luke) met with leaders of the early church. Mary, the mother of Jesus, by tradition lived and died in Ephesus (there's even a site there that they show the tourists)and Paul traveled to Ephesus. Luke records the geneology of Joseph, the family ties of Mary to John the Baptist, the leaders of Rome and local politicians at the time of his birth and the reason that Jesus was born where he was i.e. Bethlehem. OK, we do not have a birth certificate to show an academic but who better to get birth information from than the mother. Dr. Pagels recites personal anecdotes about her own family in the book and I suspect they are pretty accurate-she and the other academics should give Luke and Mary the credence they deserve.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 21, 2003

    not what i was looking for

    it is beautifully and scholarly written but i found it more argumentative than informative or belief sustaining. what i was looking for was what the holy apostle thomas said or believed from info that was found in the dead sea scrolls and other ancient sources. what i found was more a dissertation on what and why certain things were left in in the bible and others taken out.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2003

    Thesis A Bit Weak

    Not a bad reed, but as an argument for Thomas' view of Jesus as opposed to John's, it was ultimately unconvincing. Were I setting the NT canon today, I'd probably have to side with the Church Fathers. I tend to doubt if Christianity would be more than a historical footnote today if the opposite decision had been made.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2003

    I COULD WISH...

    that this was as good as her other books, but it is not. She is wonderful in sharing with the reader some of her own experiences with the consoling, helping, aspects of religion, and seeing in religious gatherings certain qualities that she needs after the death of her son. This part of the book is sweet and moving. The problem is that she has a couple of points to make, and determines to make them no matter what. This is what makes a large part of her book more a polemic than a considered history. One example: she says that only John, of the gospel writers, asserts that Jesus is the Son of God. The others, she says, like Thomas, treat him as a rabbi, teacher, and Messiah, but not the Son of God. She finds John's assertion radical. In context, she argues that early Christianity, only a few decades after the death of Christ, was full of gnostic impulses, sanctioned, she suggests, by the synoptic gospel treatments. But to pursue this line of argument, she has to ignore all of St. Paul, who repeatedly references the 'Son of God.' One senses that her need to find other ways to believe Christianity than the officially-sanctioned 2,000-year doctrine is related to her personal loss. In the end, this reader sympathized with her loss, but could not assent to her readings of the texts, which seem, frankly, eccentric. The book should have been terrific, given the subject matter and the writer. Unfortunately, it is not.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 7, 2014

    Reading Pagels is always a pleasure

    I was hoping to learn more about the Gospel of Thomas.

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    Posted February 8, 2010

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    Posted October 13, 2009

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    Posted December 15, 2008

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    Posted January 2, 2010

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    Posted April 8, 2010

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