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".
©1979 Elaine Pagels; (P)2006 Random House, Inc. Random House Audio, a division of Random House, Inc.
"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)
There is so much to know about Christ, the origins of the Christian faith, and how it turned out the way it has.
Unfortunately for a great many reasons the contents of these and probably many other texts have been hidden from the world for hundreds of years and its great to have these particular ones set out so well in their greater context.
This book introduces and suggests things that most Christians (or anyone for that matter) would never consider a possibility, enhances many pieces of understanding and severely challenges others.
There's no new religion here, but the one you had is supplied with some interesting additions!
Dr Pagels' extensive subject knowledge of the texts of the Nag Hammadi library as well as other historical, political and religious sources, brings up some key questions and facts, attempts to answer them in light of a far wider body of evidence and leaves the reader wanting to continue the study...
Which is possibly the best thing a book like this can do
Interesting, enlightening and intense: the listener learns about another side of Jesus, one that encourages his disciples to find the truth within themselves.
The issues before the early church are discussed and you come to understand why the church rejected these gnostic teachings. They felt that Jesus intended to be accessible to more than an educated, elite few. That's hard to argue, but the idea of self-knowledge is also appealing, at least to me.
Dr Pagels refrains from editorializing, which I appreciated. She tells you what the manuscripts say, develops some of the concepts, and leaves it to you to decide what you believe.
This book is so packed with information that I think I would have preferred the printed form, so I could re-review particular passages. I also found the reader's voice to be rough and raspy, unlike Dr Pagel's voice which is smooth and pleasant (as seen on TV).
Overall, very worth the effort, and you'll probably want to listen to it more than once.
Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
Elaine Pagels is a Professor of Religion at Princeton University. She has a Ph.D. in religion from Harvard University. Modern Library calls Pagels’ book, “The Gnostic Gospels” one of the 100 most important books of the twentieth century.
For all religious organizations and particularly the Christian church, “The Gnostic Gospels” shakes the foundations of institutional religion. Like the beginning of a story of adventure and mystery, Pagels recounts the discovery of a fifty-two text collection of papyrus sheets recounting the beginnings of the Christian church.
Frustration remains at the conclusion of “The Gnostic Gospels”, even after reading Pagels’ insightful interpretation, because gnostic documentation is, like every written document of the time, removed from “witnesses to the truth”, i.e. people who lived in Jesus’ time.
However, the Coptic text shows that in the near-beginnings of the Christian religion there were questions about who Jesus was and what he was about; i.e. was he simply a prophet or the Son of God, was he preaching for the creation of a religion or were historical facts manipulated to create a religious hierarchal institution, was Mary Magdalene a conjugal companion or disciple?
Pagels’ interpretation in “The Gnostic Gospels” suggests that Jesus was a prophet; that his life story was manipulated to create a religious hierarchal institution, and that Mary Magdalene was a disciple.
The more fundamental issue in “The Gnostic Gospels” is the idea of the “Kingdom of God” being present within every human being, then and now, and that self-knowledge is the source of admittance to grace. If one believes this teaching, it does not necessarily require abandonment of organized religion but it suggests that church institutions’ only role is to aid personal revelation; not to ritualize admittance to the “Kingdom of God” by christening mankind or bludgeoning all who do not accept a church’s vision of religion.
I enjoyed this book, as the author presented a very clear account of the strives between Christian Orthodoxy and Gnostic Christianity. It is no wonder that this book has stood as an authoritative work on the subject.
The topic was interesting, well written and well read but I was expecting a reading of Gnostic Scriptures and that I did not get.
Information is presented in a logical manner which the listener can then research on their own.
The documents found shed light on the early formation of christinality. it leaves the listener wondering what was lost in the burning.
I highly recommend this book. The listener will likely need to listen over and over in order to fully comprehend the facts presented.
This has become a prized audio book in my collection. Those who purchase will likely feel the same.
Lastly, Lorna does a remarkable job reading for the listener. Her pauses, change in tone and other skills show that she is a consummate professional to which I must say "thank you".
This is a must read if your on your quest to learn; to move forward, to form a closer relationship with God.
I was looking forward to this book, and was disappointed. The author spends more time talking about what is referred to as the catholic church and/or the "Orthodox" Christian church, and "Orthodox" christianity, rather than on what the Gnostic Gospels reveal, the story behind them etc.
For the first time in my life, I feel like I understand Christianity. I wish the Gnostics had prevailed.
it is a great overview of the gnostic gospels and historicity. Not an in-depth look at any one thing but a panoramic look at all early gnosticism and early Christian conflict with itself.
This gives one a different impression of who Jesus really was.
Beyond Belief, by Elaine Pagels.
Elaine Pagels does a very good job at presenting the unknown Jesus. He's more alive, more of a mystic and deeper than the orthodoxy. I've been familiar with her work since I was in university. She's so very thorough in her research and complete in her narrative. I wish we would have gotten some Gnostic scripture from this, but her other books do provide that. I've also independently researched Gnosticism so it wasn't necessary for me to have that contain in her book. I'd recommend it without hesitation.
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