Friday, 4 March 2011

Book Review: The Gnostic Gospels (E. Pagels)

Actually the title of this post should better read "Audiobook Review" because it is in this format that I "read" it. The book is about the secret live of Jesus and about the alternative forms of Christianity that were existing c.a. 50-150 A.D. 
The author of the book is a historian. The content of the book is an analysis of the so called "Gnostic gospels".
You might know that the gospels of Matthew, Marc, Luke and John where not the only gospels written in the period 100-400 A.D. Several others gospels (e.g. Mary, Thomas, Truth, Philip, Judas) also date from this period. They are authentic documents that were discarded by the church when compiling the New Testament.
Here are a few differences between the canonical version of the New Testament and some of these Gnostic gospels:
  • Jesus was not resuscitated in flesh but in spirit only,
  • The god of the ancient testament is not the same as the god of the new testament: the god of the ancient testament is "the creator", a kind of artisan who wrongly wanted to believe that he was the only god. Actually he had a "mother", i.e. the ultimate cause of everything and "father/mother" of Jesus,
  • The Orthodoxs are praying the "creator" while the Gnostics are praying his "mother",
  • The Christian god was a woman or had both sexes intermingled within him/her,
and so on...

In a nutshell, the author indicates that there was a conflict between an orthodox Catholicism which was in a process of strengthening itself and which was quite dogmatic, and a Gnostic Christianity which was rejecting the authority of the bishops and was much more open to an evolving and therefore changing Christianity.

This book gave me a better idea of how the church became what it is and why it resists so much the ordination of women for instance (the Gnostics were in favor of woman preachers)...

For those who wonder: No, it did not convert me to anything.

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