A provocative study of the gnostic gospels and the world of early Christianity as revealed through the Nag Hammadi texts.
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We always knew that orthodox believers frequently denounced gnostic ideas. The discovery of the gnostic texts has revealed how gnosticism defended itself and in turn attacked orthodox beliefs.
The othodox position was that the generations of Christians who lived after the time of the apostles could not possibly have the same access to Christ as the apostles did during Christ's lifetime. Therefore these later Christians would have to look to the church and its bishops for teaching and leadership. The gnostic attitude was that access to God was available to any believer and some church elders themselves may not yet have had
this same God experience. Many gnostics believed that all who had received this gnosis had transcended the authority of the church's hierarchy. People received gnosis when they came into contact with the living Christ.
The main benefit I have received from reading THE GNOSTIC GOSPELS has been a greater appreciation of the early development of Christianity. I was able to see for the first time the other side of the story - a view of a contentious debate among early Christians from the losing side.
As for the winning side, it had never occurred to me before reading Pagels' book that the structure of the Roman Catholic church was based on an organizational model of the Roman army.
The book also explains what Gnosis is, is God male or female? Is there more than one God, proven in the Bible? It talks of how the two Christian Churches were formed in the beginning and how and why the present version won out. Also of interest is a chapter on the Christians suffering under the Roman Empire.
This book was thought provoking and kept my interest throughout. It touched on a lot of subjects for such a short project. While I don't think this book should be considered the final word on any debate about Christianity or the Gnostic Religion I believe that it certainly should be on any list when it comes to understanding Gnostics.
Read with an open mind and this book will lead you down paths you had not considered. Explain an alternate way to read some of the versus in the Bible. Talk of recently found teachings from the days of Jesus and before. Don't miss this one.
In her relatively substantial introduction, Pagels goes through a history of the coming into light of the texts of Nag Hammadi, contrasting it with the more popularly known Dead Sea Scrolls. However, the Nag Hammadi texts also had their fair share of intrigue and cloak-and-dagger kinds of dealings, until finally coming into the relatively safe hands of museums and academics.
Pagels proceeds from this background with a brief history of Christian thought in the first few centuries after Christ. She particularly highlights the contrasts between orthodoxy and catholic trends, and how each relates to a gnostic point of view. What are the issues of the resurrection? Why was this taken literally? What authority is conferred upon those who saw the risen Lord, and why was it not so evenly spread (Mary Magdalene, alas, seems to have gotten the short end of the stick authority-wise, despite being listed numerous times as the first witness of the resurrection, and indeed the apostle to the apostles, proclaiming his resurrection to the unbelieving men).... Read more ›
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