The Gnostic Gospels

The Gnostic Gospels

A New Account of the Origins of Christianity

Book - 1979 | First edition
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Publisher: New York : Random House, [1979]
Edition: First edition
Copyright Date: ©1979
ISBN: 9780394502786
Characteristics: 182 pages
Alternative Title: Gnostic Gospels


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Jun 21, 2019

An interesting introduction to Christian gnosticism and the conflicts within the early church. Short and more readable than you'd think religious scholarship could be.

As a side note, I disagree with critics who claim the book wholly demonizes the "orthodox" church: at the end in particular, Pagels points out how the orthodoxy appealed to the masses by emphasizing the humanity of Jesus. Considering that she points out the socio-political deficiencies of gnosticism as well (ex. their viewpoints on women were not always positive, their revulsion towards sexuality and the flesh, their inability to ever really organize, etc.), I see the book's ultimate stance to be more "the winners write history" than anything else.

Aug 27, 2017

Very interesting read for the uninitiated; doesn't speak well for the Catholic Church. A fair amount of redundancy. Religion has created quite a vocabulary for itself.

Mar 14, 2015

When the Nag Hammadi codices were discovered in the Egyptian desert in 1947 nobody could have dreamed they contained 'lost' scriptures believed by many Christians before a few men canonized a few texts and labelled them New Testament, thereby defining canon and by default, Christianity. Whatever one believes about Christianity, this book will offer a different perspective worth pondering.

Feb 21, 2015

I Have been reading the books, "Gnostic Gospels," "Revelations," and "Beyond Belief" by Elaine Pagels (

Why? Through various sources, including other references and citations for Pagels, but also via Ken Wiber (the mystic, psychologist, genius, etc) I came to know that the *Structure* of "the Church" was determined in the 1st 350 years after the birth of Jesus, a time of great spiritual search for direction and intense philosophical conflict among the followers. And this was essentially between the more left-brained focused followers of Jesus, and the more right-brained. The result, much to do with Emperor Constantine, initiated events that led to the structure, not only of the Church -- and the many events we know about from history, including the crusades and critical interactions in the Middle-East -- but of the formation of Europe as a nation.

I took up "The Gnostic Gospels" to find out more about that, have been intrigued with it -- in spite of Pagels' multiple ways to tell about each aspect, which do, in the end, put things in a most complete context! I became curious to see if and how she also addressed those noted 4th century aspects, and was gratified to find that "Revelations" has a chapter, "Constantine's Conversion"; "Beyond Belief" has "Constantine and the Catholic Church". The later has been hard to put down at times.

Ok, so... What have these to do with anything of current relevance? In a word... no make it three: *Structure,* *Balance,* and *Extremism* -- not just as far as religion, but critical events that involve the political powers that be.

Because while Constantine's facilitation -- in forming the those structures as noted above -- may have been the most and best that could have been managed AT THE TIME, all things considered... As it turns out, we are now in big trouble, because like any COPING MECHANISM, it eventually gets in the way - especially as we try to mature in relationship with others. And that's what I go into at the Chalice Art page (


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