Trade in your item
Get a £1.28
Gift Card.
Have one to sell?
Flip to back Flip to front
Listen Playing... Paused   You're listening to a sample of the Audible audio edition.
Learn more
See this image

The Secret Books of the Egyptian Gnosis: Introduction to the Gnostic Coptic Manuscripts Discovered at Chenoboskion Paperback – 9 Oct 1986


See all 5 formats and editions Hide other formats and editions
Amazon Price New from Used from
Paperback
"Please retry"
£25.35 £2.75


Trade In this Item for up to £1.28
Trade in The Secret Books of the Egyptian Gnosis: Introduction to the Gnostic Coptic Manuscripts Discovered at Chenoboskion for an Amazon Gift Card of up to £1.28, which you can then spend on millions of items across the site. Trade-in values may vary (terms apply). Learn more

Product details

  • Paperback: 446 pages
  • Publisher: Inner Traditions Bear and Company; American ed edition (9 Oct 1986)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0892811072
  • ISBN-13: 978-0892811076
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.6 x 22 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 2.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 960,267 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Discover books, learn about writers, and more.

What Other Items Do Customers Buy After Viewing This Item?

Customer Reviews

2.0 out of 5 stars
5 star
0
4 star
0
3 star
0
2 star
1
1 star
0
See the customer review
Share your thoughts with other customers

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By calmly on 25 Oct 2007
Format: Hardcover
This book was published before the Dag Hammadi texts were widely available. So, with the availability of translations of the Dag Hammadi texts, the one third of this book that closely describes the contents of the texts become considerably less valuable. One can read the translations themselves.

Although Jean Doresse was involved early on with the manuscripts, he was, as described on the back jacket, a "French scholar and archaelogist". He was, apparently, familiar with Coptic, the language of the manuscripts, and he had some background as a historian, as he says he was in Egypt as the time of the disocvery of the manuscripts to research ancient Coptic monasteries. I didn't see mention of having had a professional background in religious studies including comparative religion. I didn't see mention in a professional background in early Christian history. Now that the manuscripts have available for a half century, undoubtedly many professionals with a background in early Christian history and/or comparative religion have had a chance to analyze and write about the texts. Being first, as Doresse was, may not be an advantage, especially considering the superior professional background that others since have had for this subject. Elaine Pagels ("The Gnostic Gospels") is one example.

Doresse seems an enthusiastic and knowlegeable writer, but how much faith can one put in his assessments of the history of Gnosticism and the religious problems it posed, given his background. Perhaps his judgments seem on the mark, but I have reservations. What I found most troubling was the possible impacts his biases may have had. I'm also troubled that his bias was largely hidden throughout almost all of the book.
Read more ›
Comment Was this review helpful to you? Yes No Sending feedback...
Thank you for your feedback. If this review is inappropriate, please let us know.
Sorry, we failed to record your vote. Please try again

Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 12 reviews
82 of 83 people found the following review helpful
More than a Scholarly Appraisal of the Nag-Hammadi Texts 16 May 2000
By Bernhard W. Hoff - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Jean Doresse's book was originally published in 1958 as the first authoritative description of the now famous cache of Egyptian Gnostic writings known as the Nag-Hammadi Library or, as Doresse calls it, the Chenoboskion Library. Despite the forty plus years since publication, a more readable and thorough introduction to the material is not to be found.
Until the Nag-Hammadi discovery, the Gnostics were thought to be no more than a heretical splinter group of early Christianity with particularly bizarre cosmologies and licentious sexual practices. Hardly surprising given that most of what we knew about the various sects of Gnostics came from their rivals, the Christians. Doresse thoroughly reviews what was known of Gnosticism before these writings of theirs were unearthed. As one of the original discoverers of these texts, his first person account of their unearthing, acquisition, and identification is quite engaging. A physical description of the books then is given. Finally he launches into a discussion of the texts themselves, and what they reveal to us of Gnostic belief and practice.
Doresse's excitement over these discoveries is palpable and renders the book lively and engaging to read where it easily could have been dry and academic. He outlines and discusses each of the texts with evident joy and wonder at now having so many ancient writings previously known only by title, if at all, and long thought to be lost. Part of his astonishment is due to the broad range of sources the Gnostics relied on. The library includes, Hermetic, Egyptian (of course), and Persian (Zoroastrian) material as well as a great deal of the expected, but previously lost apocryphal Christian material with Hebrew influence. This leads Doresse to wonder whether much of what we call Gnosticism is older than Christianity, perhaps being a component of the "soil" of ancient belief into which the seed of Christianity was planted. This would also explain some of the more obscure, Gnostic sounding passages of the New Testament that Doresse points out.
Some of the Nag-Hammadi writings were previously known to scholars, although no one expected that these texts would show up in a Gnostic collection. It was also a surprise to find adaptations of earlier known works selectively edited for Gnostic use, renamed, and attributed to authors with more authority. This practice does make it difficult to take at face value the Library's apparently Christian works attributed to the Apostles and even Jesus. At the same time, it also makes me wonder how much of the same thing went on when the "official" New Testament was put into its final form. Some things we may never know!
This is a book *about* the Nag-Hammadi Library, not - with one exception - a translation of the Library itself. It might be useful to keep a copy of the library at hand while reading the book. (The Library is available on line.) The single text from the Library included in this book is the sayings of Jesus titled the "Gospel of Thomas", which is accompanied by a table comparing each saying from "Thomas" with the sayings from the canonical Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke & John). I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in understanding the religious milieu of the early Christian era.
35 of 36 people found the following review helpful
Enlightening 14 April 2000
By Donald de Mont - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The secret words of Jesus, as spoken to his disciples, are fascinating in that the ideals and parabels of Christ are given an enhanced meaning. Christ teaches that spiritual knowledge is gained through prayer, meditation, and of course faith. For Gnostics, faith is just the beginning, whereas for "traditional" Christians, faith in Jesus is the end. The Gnostics also accepted the spiritual equality of women and many were early leaders of congregations. This, to the orthodox, is heresy! Yes Gnosticism is poison to the Vulgate (all works accepted as legitimate by the Catholics), but a necessary poison. This is an eye opening book, and is heartily recommended to anyone who seeks not to limit their spiritual knowledge.
24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
A Very Good Book 28 Sep 2003
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
This is possibly the best book on Gnosticism out there, along with Gnosis by Kurt Rudolph. But it should be made clear that this author was a Christian and was not trying to undermine Christianity or present any alternative form of it. He did not believe in the spiritual authority of the Gnostic scriptures; he was simply presenting them as what they are -an incredible scholarly find.
As already stated in another review, Doresse's enthusiasm makes this book an enjoyable read. With the yearly on-slaught of books being written to deride Christianity and claim the superiority of Gnosticism, this is a book written by someone who was instrumental in the first study of the Nag Hammadi library, who can appreciate the value of the writings with no ulterior motives behind his interest.
There is also no polemic against Gnosticism. He makes it plain that there are a lot of Gnostic ideas to be found in the New Testament. This author goes far to show his objectivity and allows the reader to see the beauty of these writings with no anti-Christian diatribes. If only more authors writing on this subject would do the same.
15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
Doresse's Exploration of Coptic Gnostic Wonderlands 29 Mar 2004
By Didaskalex - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Doresse's Exploration of Gnostic Wonders:
A masterful entery to Gnosticism; Doresse's book was the first insider's authoritative description of the Egyptian Gnostic writings known as the Chenoboskion Library, discovered near today's Nag-Hammadi, in upper Egypt. This is, no doubt, the best book on rediscovering the roots of Gnosticism in Chenoboskion. Doresse's enthusiasm makes this book an enjoyable reading, even with all the complicated Gnostic thought and philosophical terms. He studied with Togo Mina, a Coptic scholar, then director of the Coptic Museum, under Prof. Pueuch, and was one of the first few with whom Mina consulted. Doresse got the finesse to lead the reader to appreciate the beauty of these writings, explaining their underlying thought clearly, and without bias.
Despite the forty five years since its publication, its masterful introduction to Gnosticism and elaborate account of the discovery, and re-acquiring of the smuggled codices keeps it still very vivid. A detailed description of the codices is given, before he starts a discussion of the texts themselves, and what they reveal to him of Gnostic belief and practice, with a special emphasis on the Gospel of Thomas.
Previously known to scholars?
Before unearthing Chenoboskion library, almost all existing original references on Gnosticism were written in Coptic; including the Askew codex, the Bruce fragments, codex Berolensis that no one knows where did it disappear after the fall of Berlin. These gnostic writings were previously known to scholars, but no one would have expected that such a Gnostic collection, could show up in this great variety. Doresse's personal experience, and excitement over his early participation in these discoveries renders the book brisk and engaging, even if the subject could have been academic and monotonous. Given that most of what we knew about the various sects of Gnostics came from the surviving writings by early Christians Church fathers like Iraeneus, Tertulian, Clement and Origen, the core reality of gnosticism was not distorted but only partly understood, in the light of these apologies. Doresse thoroughly reviews what was known of Gnosticism before these writings were recently unearthed.
Doresse analysis of Chenoboskion Marvels:
Outlining and discussing those texts previously known in ancient writings, only by title or through brief quotations from writings that has been long thought to be lost, is part of his amazement. He is overwelmed due to the broad spectrum of sources the Gnostics relied on. The library includes, Hermetic Egyptian and Persian manuals as well as a great part of vaguely known but long time lost apocryphal Christian writings and Apocalyptic books. This leads Doresse to confirm his mentor Professor Pueuch theory of Judaic roots of Gnosticism, and would also explain how some scholars comment on the 'more Gnostic sounding passages' of the New Testament.
It was also an amusing surprise to find adaptations of earlier known works selectively edited for Gnostic use, renamed, and ascribed to more authorititive writers. This practice does make it difficult to take at face value the Library's outstanding pseudo-Christian works attributed to the Evangelists, Apostles, and even Jesus Christ Himself. At the same time, it also makes some scholars wonder if any of the same sayings infelterated into Christian doctrines or even included within the canonical books of the New Testament in its final form. (authorized by St Athanasius in his paschal letter of 367).
Secret Words of Jesus:
The words of Jesus, secretly revealed to his disciples, his teachings given an enhanced meaning are fascinating in that these ideals are so poetic. No doubt, that the Gnostics adapted some Eastern Church teachings, including descent into Hades, Christ teaches that spiritual knowledge is gained speculatively through meditation on Gnostic scripture, a merit of the few, through a knowing faith, and contemplative prayer. For Gnostics, faith is just the beginning, following the lead of Easterners, whereas for some western Christians, faith in Jesus is their only forensic justification goal.
Epilogue: Savior Descent into Hades:
'Here, the Chenoboskion manuscript presents a lacuna which the Berlin Codex enables us to fill: the Savior recalls the descent into the lower world by which he is coming to deliver the human creature enslaved to the Archons. "I have struck off the chains...I have broken down the doors of the pitiless and humiliated them...I have revealed to you the name of the Perfect and the whole desire of the mother of the angels. I came to reveal to you that which exists since the beginning. I came because of the pride of the archigenitor and his angels, who say, ' We are gods!' to condemn them by revealing to everyone the God who is above the universe. Trample under foot their sepulchers! let their yoke be broken, that mine may be exalted?" (page 200)
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
enlightening 14 April 2000
By Donald de Mont - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
The Gnostic Christians contrasted the early Catholic Christians in that Jesus's teachings are explained to be relating to the innate human soul, and not the animal body. Jesus said "If you bring forth what is within you, what is within you will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what is within you will destroy you". Christ's teachings show that faith is just the beginning of his doctrine, not the end as many orthodox theologians would have us believe. Faith is a necessary precursor to gaining "gnosis". Gnosis is essentially an understanding of the "true" words of Jesus and the application of His way in your personal life. In Genesis, Adam and Eve are prevented by God from consuming fruit from the tree of life. Gnosis of and through Jesus represents a spiritual consumption of that fruit! Also, Gnostics in general were nondiscriminatory in regards to women, and many were early church leaders. This is an excellent book!
Were these reviews helpful? Let us know


Feedback