Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas
Shortly after Elaine
Pagels two-and-half-year-old son was diagnosed with a rare lung disease,
the Princeton religion professor found herself drawn to the church again for the
first time in many years. In Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas
Pagels wrestles with her own faith as she struggles to understand when--and why--Christianity
became associated almost exclusively with the Trinitarian doctrine of the fourth-century
Nicene Creed. In her exploration, she uncovers the richness and diversity of early
Christianity. At the center of her book is an early Christian document, The
Gospel of Thomas (rediscovered in Egypt in 1945); it reflects the view that
Jesus is not God but, rather, a teacher who seeks to uncover the divine light
in all human beings. But its "secret teachings" were driven underground
by early church fathers, emerging once again in the work of Pagels and other contemporary
scholars. As Pagels argues, the rediscovery of documents like the Gospel of
Thomas may transform our understanding not only of early Christianity, but
of the Christian faith itself.
From the publisher ...
In Beyond Belief,
renowned religion scholar Elaine Pagels continues her groundbreaking examination
of the earliest Christian texts, arguing for an ongoing assessment of faith and
a questioning of religious orthodoxy.
Spurred on by personal tragedy and
new scholarship from an international group of researchers, Pagels returns to
her investigation of the secret Gospel of Thomas, and breathes new
life into writings once thought heretical. As she arrives at an ever-deeper conviction
in her own faith, Pagels reveals how faith allows for a diversity of interpretations,
and that the rogue voices of Christianity encourage and sustain the
recognition of the light within us all.
From the reviews ...
has accomplished a very rare thing, an examination of early religious writings
that is a good read, accessible, and at times even dramatic and poignant.
The Columbus Dispatch
This remarkable book will stir and provoke
thought. It offers rewards to any reader concerned with the promise and power
of faith, and the hunger for spiritual discovery. The Christian Science
Lucid . . . a spiritual as well as an intellectual exercise.
. . . [Pagels] seems to rejoice that in the earliest years of Christianity there
existed these strange, dissident doctrines. Frank Kermode, The New
York Times Book Review
"With the winning combination of sound scholarship,
deep insight and a crystal clear prose style . . . [Beyond Belief] portrays the
rich and beautiful heritage that was lost when champions of religious orthodoxy
turned on many of their fellow Christians and declared them 'heretics'."
Los Angeles Times
Brilliantly lucid, elegantly written . . .
[Pagels] book is so readable you cant put it down. Providence
Just as topical today as it was nearly two thousand
years ago. . . . Pagels is great at pulling together the details that allow us
to understand not only what people were arguing about but why. San
Jose Mercury News
Majestic. . . . Exhilarating reading, Pagels
book offers a model of careful and thoughtful scholarship in the lively and exciting
prose of a mystery writer. Publishers Weekly
and accessible history of early Christian thought offers profound and crucial
insights on the nature of God, revelation, and what we mean by religious truth.
As relevant as today's front page. The
Washington Post Book World
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
Gnostic Gospels, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National
Book Award. She is currently the Harrington Spear Paine Professor Religion at
Princeton University, and she lives in Princeton, New Jersey, with her husband