The Gnostic Gospels [NOOK Book]

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 ...
See more details below
The Gnostic Gospels

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 7.0
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK 10.1
  • NOOK HD Tablet
  • NOOK HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK eReaders
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$10.99
BN.com price

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.
Read More Show Less

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
Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781588364173
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 6/29/2004
  • Series: Modern Library 100 Best Nonfiction Books
  • Sold by: Random House
  • Format: eBook
  • Sales rank: 64,652
  • File size: 2 MB

Meet the Author

Elaine Pagels
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
Read More Show Less

Table of Contents

Introduction xiii
I The Controversy over Christ's Resurrection: Historical Event or Symbol? 3
II "One God, One Bishop": The Politics of Monotheism 28
III God the Father/God the Mother 48
IV The Passion of Christ and the Persecution of Christians 70
V Whose Church Is the "True Church"? 102
VI Gnosis: Self-Knowledge as Knowledge of God 119
Conclusion 142
Notes 153
Index 175
Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 40 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(18)

4 Star

(6)

3 Star

(4)

2 Star

(8)

1 Star

(4)

Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Noble.com Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & Noble.com that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & Noble.com does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at BN.com or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation

Reminder:

  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & Noble.com and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Noble.com Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & Noble.com reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & Noble.com also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on BN.com. It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

 
Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 40 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2006

    Different Doesn't Mean Wrong

    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?

    10 out of 11 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 8, 2006

    A great read

    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.

    10 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 9, 2006

    The Resurrection and the New Testament

    The Gnostic Gospels is mainly a summary of what the gnostics believed about various subjects, such as the resurrection of Jesus, salvation, martyrdom, and spiritual maturity. Throughout the book Pagels compares the gnostics with ¿the orthodox,¿ whom she interprets as the catholic church in the late first and early second century. Pagels is well informed on the topic and an engaging writer. However, while Pagels claims to be interested in Christianity and not promoting one view over the other (p.150-151), the focus of her book and her conclusions indicate otherwise. Though her analysis of the gnostics is thorough, there are some problems with her interpretations of the New Testament writers. Her treatment of the resurrection of Christ is most critical. She is right to acknowledge that Christianity considers this to be ¿one unique historical moment¿ (p.3). Yet she portrays the New Testament writers as giving different views of Jesus¿ resurrection. In her opinion, some insist on a bodily resurrection while others indicate a ¿spirit¿ resurrection. This is simply not the case. The gospels and Paul emphasize the bodily resurrection throughout their writings. According to Pagels, Mark and Luke report that Jesus appeared ¿in another form,¿ meaning something other than a human body. Luke 24:16 says that two disciples were kept from recognizing who Jesus was at first. But this does not prove that Jesus¿ appearance was something other than human, rather something was done to the disciples to keep them from truly seeing him. Later in the passage it says that ¿their eyes were opened and they recognized him¿ (24:31), not that Jesus¿ appearance changed. Only Mark uses the phrase ¿in another form¿ in a passage which does not appear in the earliest manuscripts. Mark 16:12-13 is a brief summary of the events Luke describes in more detail (Luke 24:13-35). Given these facts, it seems warranted to interpret Mark in light of Luke and not the other way around. She also uses the incident with Mary in John 20:11-17 as another example of a gospel writer describing something other than a bodily resurrection. Pagels states that Jesus commanded Mary not to touch him. However, the Revised Standard Version (which Pagels uses) does not say this. Jesus actually says, ¿Do not hold me,¿ (New Revised reads, ¿Do not hold on to me¿). She was clinging to him and Jesus was telling her to let go because he wanted her to report to the other disciples. Other passages Pagels sites are the two accounts of Paul¿s conversion recorded by Luke (Acts 9:3-9 Acts 22:6-11). ¿One could suggest that certain people, in moments of great emotional stress, suddenly felt that they experienced Jesus¿ presence. Paul¿s experience can be read this way¿ (p.6). But this does not make any sense for Paul. He was not under ¿great emotional stress ¿ the Christians he was hunting down and persecuting were the ones under stress. Paul was imprisoning the people who believed Jesus was the Son of God, so he had no predisposition to have hallucinations of Jesus. Pagels notes the apparent contradiction in the two passages mentioned above in reporting the incident with Paul. However, in both reports the men with Paul did not see a person as Paul did. As far as the voice, Acts 9 says that they ¿heard the voice¿ and in Acts 22 Paul says they ¿did not hear the voice of the one speaking to me.¿ Acts 9 does not claim that they actually heard what was said to Paul, which is the point Paul is trying to make in Acts 22. Paul¿s companions heard and saw something indistinguishable, so they were not able to give testimony as to what or who it was. Paul¿s dramatic life change is best explained by the fact that he did encounter someone on the road to Damascus. Would Paul, a learned Jewish leader, be willing to be persecuted, imprisoned, ostracized, and executed for something he hallucinated or for a feeling of Jesus¿ presence? Finally, Pagels¿ treatment of Paul¿s writings on the resurrection gre

    9 out of 29 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2007

    Gnostic Gospels reveal true Christianity

    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.

    8 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 4, 2002

    This is an excellent and enlightening book

    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.

    7 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 18, 2006

    Be forwarned

    The value of this book from a cultural standpoint is outstanding, however, one should keep in mind that gnosticism, often refered to as part of the 'roots' of christianity, started off as a sect apart from the christians. It wasn't until later when a lot of christians decided to join the gnostic sect that it began to have a 'semblance' of christianity. The gnostic writings in of themselves are only valuble in providing us with what the gnostics believed, nothing of historic accuracy. They pretty much took existing christian writings and re-wrote them to fit in with gnostic views. Hence, if you want to learn about the history of early christianity, don't look here, it doesn't have it. Rather read The history of the Church by Euesibius, who actually wrote his history before the Catholic Church was even organized.

    5 out of 13 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 17, 1999

    A very scholarly, interesting work

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

    5 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 9, 2006

    Fraudulent

    This book claims that second century A.D. gnosticism is just as valid as (or more valid than) historic 'orthodox' Christianity. Many of Ms. Pagels' criticisms of institutional Christianity are valid. However, her effort to privilege second century gnosticism over historic first century Christianity collapses like a house of cards--by her own admission. Nearly all scholars, before and after Nag Hammadi, agree that the second and third century gnostic writings are historically inferior to the New Testament writings. Gnostic texts were written over 100 years after Christ lived, rather than 20 years or less, which is the case of the earliest New Testament writings, many written by actual eyewitnesses of the events. Ms. Pagels can only find one scholar to give tenuous support to her position: 'Recently Helmut Koester of Harvard University has suggested that the collection of sayings in the Gospel of Thomas, although compiled c. 140, may include some traditions even older than the gospels of the New Testament' (p. xvii). But even this scholar can give only superficial support--notice the words '_may_ include', '_some_ traditions', '_suggested_'. Ms. Pagels tries to deflect criticism by creating a big conspiracy theory of the church's 'suppression' of gnostic writings. Though the catholic church did become suppressive centuries later, the simple fact is that the second century church had no power to suppress anything. Her claim that Irenaeus 'suppressed' gnostic documents in 180 A.D. is fraudulent. Though the gnostic and consumerist desire to worship self and turn oneself into a god sounds really appealing these days, it neglects a true knowledge of self, which reveals the dark and hopeless evil inside of us and our need for the death of Jesus to liberate us from sin. Instead of reading a secondhand work like this, interested readers should read for themselves the New Testament and the Gospel of Thomas, compare them, and make up their own minds about who Jesus is.

    3 out of 25 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 27, 2000

    Eye-Opening Look into the Days of Christ!

    The New Testament as we know it contains some of the stories about Christ's time on earth, these gospels give more accounts. It is easy to see how they could have been banned by the early Christian hierarchy -- Christ is more like us here. There is also discussion about our goal to be not just like Christ, but to obtain the spirit of the Christ.

    3 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted December 28, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    enlightening

    This is the third book I've read regarding the Gnostic Gospels and is my favorite thus far. The author is well learned & explores some esoteric Gnostic concepts in easy to grasp terms. However, the book is quite a short read and does not cover Gnostic Philosophy & writings in totality so this is definitely supplemental reading.

    As an ex-Catholic, Gnostic teachings have renewed my faith but in a different way. As the originals Gnostics taught, I agree that Gnosticism is a mature form of spirtuality (many of the teachings are similar to other philosophical religious thought - Buddhism is one example). Thus, this book would definitely not appeal to literalist Christians who blindy follow archaic scripture

    Overall, it was a great read!

    2 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2006

    Old news

    Even before copies of the Gnostic gospels were found in Nag Hammadi, Christians knew of there existence because of the writings of early Church fathers such as Clement of Alexandria and Ireneous of Lyons, who being disciples of the apostles, had already refuted the teachings of the gnostics. I find it incredulous that one who claims to be a scholar would accept gospels written 200-300 years after Christ as being more credible than the ones written by eyewitnesses, i.e. Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

    2 out of 16 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 26, 2012

    Relief in Written Form

    Pagels offers great insight for those who find themselves "at the edge of orthodoxy" but still hold fast to the pursuit of self- and divine-knowledge. Gnosticism offers plenty of food for thought.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2012

    Interesting and Informative

    Pagels writes in a way that is both scholarly and approachable. You don't have to be a doctoral student to read this book, yet her work is at that level. Sound scholarship, and well-written.

    1 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2012

    Great intro ti Gno Great Intro to Gnostic Scripture

    A must read for anyone curious about the books that did not make it into the Bible.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2006

    get the facts straight

    The Gnostic Gospels is certainly interesting, however they hardly have a direct effect on anyone today! The Bible itself is a book of FAITH ( I do not need to see to believe!) Lets get one historical fact correct. Luke WAS NOT an eyewitness, he interviewed others , then wrote his gospel, he was Greek, not Judean.

    1 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 1, 2006

    Purely Disgusting!

    The 'scholarly work' of Elaine Pagels is purely disgusting when one considers that the Gnostics, the producers of the Gnostic Gospels, were a cult of pagans infatuated with ritual orgies and other heathen practices.

    1 out of 25 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2002

    Only a veneer of substance

    This book is recommended for those who wish to get a superficial understanding of gnosticism.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 12, 2000

    A wonderful read

    A wondefuly informative book with much to offer on the subject of the Nag Hammadi Library.

    1 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted May 22, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    Pagels objectively introduces the subject of the Gnostic Gospels

    Pagels objectively introduces the subject of the Gnostic Gospels&mdash;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&rsquo;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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 13, 2001

    Just a guy reading top 200 books of 20th Century

    The book jacket and the introduction are intriguing - but the rest of the text becomes repetitive and dry. The alternative view of Christ's life and death, and the disparate account of his teachings make for good points to quote and discuss with friends; but the efforts to sustain that interest failed with this reader.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 40 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)