The Gnostic Gospels

The Gnostic Gospels

3.6 40
by Elaine Pagels
     
 

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Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time

The Gnostic Gospels
is a landmark study of the long-buried roots of Christianity, a work of luminous scholarship and wide popular appeal. First published in 1979 to critical acclaim, winning the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award,…  See more details below

Overview

Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time

The Gnostic Gospels
is a landmark study of the long-buried roots of Christianity, a work of luminous scholarship and wide popular appeal. First published in 1979 to critical acclaim, winning the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, The Gnostic Gospels has continued to grow in reputation and influence over the past two decades. It is now widely recognized as one of the most brilliant and accessible histories of early Christian spirituality published in our time.

In 1945 an Egyptian peasant unearthed what proved to be the Gnostic Gospels, thirteen papyrus volumes that expounded a radically different view of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ from that of the New Testament. In this spellbinding book, renowned religious scholar Elaine Pagels elucidates the mysteries and meanings of these sacred texts both in the world of the first Christians and in the context of Christianity today.

With insight and passion, Pagels explores a remarkable range of recently discovered gospels, including the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel of Mary Magdalene, to show how a variety of “Christianities” emerged at a time of extraordinary spiritual upheaval. Some Christians questioned the need for clergy and church doctrine, and taught that the divine could be discovered through spiritual search. Many others, like Buddhists and Hindus, sought enlightenment—and access to God—within. Such explorations raised questions: Was the resurrection to be understood symbolically and not literally? Was God to be envisioned only in masculine form, or feminine as well? Was martyrdom a necessary—or worthy—expression of faith? These early Christians dared to ask questions that orthodox Christians later suppressed—and their explorations led to profoundly different visions of Jesus and his message.

Brilliant, provocative, and stunning in its implications, The Gnostic Gospels is a radical, eloquent reconsideration of the origins of the Christian faith.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"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 Review

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781588364173
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
06/29/2004
Series:
Modern Library 100 Best Nonfiction Books Series
Sold by:
Random House
Format:
NOOK Book
Pages:
224
Sales rank:
80,910
File size:
2 MB

Meet the Author

ELAINE PAGELS earned a B.A. in history and an M.A. in classical studies at Stanford, and holds a Ph.D. from Harvard University. She is the author of Adam, Eve, and the Serpent; The Origin of Satan; and the New York Times bestseller Beyond Belief. She is currently the Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion at Princeton University, and she lives in Princeton, New Jersey, with her husband and children

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The Gnostic Gospels 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 40 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book, as well as Gnosticism as a subject, is something to digest, not sample and rebuke when it doesn't concur with your average tastes. Gnosticism does make sense, and each variance on it has some sort of valid point. Orthodox Christianity may not have faith in these points, and may even believe the opposite, but that doesn't discredit the matter at hand, only the reader and sect's ability to consider other opinions. No one knows for certain exactly what went down so many moons ago. We have our gut instincts, logical conclusions, and maybe even a little evidence but in the end there will always be loose ends to tie up in this or any belief system. I think Pagels and the Gospels themselves do a fair job of posing possible scenarios, and fresh (albeit ancient) ideas are certainly needed in a perhaps stale field. My belief is that texts such as this, along with the ideas they convey, will increase in number, even if not in quality. They pose questions that must be answered, if that means breaking our piggy bank of spiritual coinage to see what we've really been rattling at for two thousand years, then so be it. May not be fun, may not be pretty, but thoughts are unstoppable, so we might as well read things like The Gnostic Gospels with a grain of salt. I really liked the book's format, as well the text seemed chronological, but varied enough for prolonged interest. Pagel's vault of knowledge has also been dilligently concentrated and made accessible to the layperson in a similar manner to The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene. There are certainly things missing in our collage of information regarding Gnosticism it is very likely some key pieces have been long converted to dust, and I think Pagels has artfully painted in the gaps with good reason and scholarly prudence. All in all, the main point of distaste for this book so far has been the topic, so I must ask this: If you by nature have an inclination toward rejecting an idea, why commit so much time to reading about it?
Guest More than 1 year ago
Most of the reviews for this claim that this book as well as other Gnostic writings are inaccurate because the bible which is 'truthful' says something different. Don't believe them, Gnostics were not pagans, they were a sect of christians that had a different interpretation of Christ and who were declared evil by the early church for it. If you want to get a different perspective don't blindly follow, read, learn, think for yourself.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book is an excellent and enlightening book; however, I recommend before purchasing this book you choose another introductory book or source about Gnosticism. It is imperative you have a good, basic understanding of who the Christian Gnostics were and how they differed from the early Christians. Once you have that understanding, purchase this book and keep it permanently in your library. This book delves into the fascinating specifics of why these two groups held opposing opinions about Jesus' mission, teachings, and life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Elaine Pagels deserves all the kudos she won with her 1979 study of early Christianity. Her research into the many documents comprising the Nag Hammadi Library is marvelously thorough and perceptive. Mentioning her own involvement via personal comments adds another dimension to the enjoyment of the book. What emerges is a revelation of just why the followers of gnosis and self-realization were branded as heretics and why these original texts were excluded from the 'orthodox' Christian canon. Seekers of the true, or 'lost' Christianities, will be rewarded. Pagels wonders in print whether perhaps gnosticism was influenced by Hindu teachings, by the spiritual science of yoga, but never asks where Christ was between the ages of 14 and 30. The answer to that question is revealed in a new book from Self-Realization Fellowship, see below.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When I first heard of the Nag Hammadi find, in the Egyptian desert in 1945, I was entranced. It was as significant as the Dead Sea scrolls, because of the determined attempt to destroy all evidence of the Gnostics and their literature by the Constantinians.

So, I was delighted to have the opportunity to meet with Dr. Pagels briefly, in 1981, in New York, accompanied by my friend Dr. John Kiley.

I highly recommend this book. The scholarship and research is evident, and yet it is clearly written so that any interested person can enjoy it without being burdened by the jargon of academia.

A fascinating book, which will increase your knowledge of the Gnostics exponentially.

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The_hibernators More than 1 year ago
Pagels objectively introduces the subject of the Gnostic Gospels—she describes the history of the texts, some basic differences between Gnostic beliefs and Orthodox beliefs, and then summarizes by saying that Christianity would have developed quite differently (or perhaps even fizzled out like other mystic fad religions) if Gnosticism had survived. She supports neither Orthodoxy or Gnosticism in this book, but provides an objective historian’s view on the two faiths. This is a fantastic introduction to Gnosticism, and it lacks the sensationalism of many Gnostic scholars today. Highly recommended.
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A must read for anyone curious about the books that did not make it into the Bible.
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