When her infant son was diagnosed with fatal pulmonary hypertension, award-winning author Elaine Pagels was moved to explore her faith. In Beyond Belief, her spiritual journey becomes a springboard for an intellectual and professional re-examination of early Christian faith. Controversial and thought-provoking, this international bestseller ...
When her infant son was diagnosed with fatal pulmonary hypertension, award-winning author Elaine Pagels was moved to explore her faith. In Beyond Belief, her spiritual journey becomes a springboard for an intellectual and professional re-examination of early Christian faith. Controversial and thought-provoking, this international bestseller investigates the politics of Christianity and how the church crafted a Bible and a faith far more stringent than previously thought. In her search for meaning, Elaine Pagels discovers that the history of the Church and therefore the history of the Western world could have been significantly different. This moving testament to history, faith and humanity, Pagels will challenge and transform everything you know of Christianity. 'Those who are moved by religion but who find that they can no longer accept the official doctrines of their church will find this marvellous book a source of inspiration and hope' Karen Armstrong 'This is writing about religion of the first order: enlightening, intelligent, inclusive and humane' Peter Stanford, Independent
New in New jacket. Hardcover 1st edition, later printing. NEW AND UNREAD. Just a touch of shopwwear otherwise pristine. From the publisher: "Elaine Pagels, one of the world? s most important writers and thinkers on religion and history, and winner of the National Book Award for her groundbreaking work The Gnostic Gospels, now reflects on what matters most about spiritual and religious exploration in the twenty-first century. This bold new book explores how Christianity began by tracing its earliest texts, including the secret Gospel of Thomas, rediscovered in Egypt in 1945. When her infant son was diagnosed with fatal pulmonary hypertension, Elaine Pagels? s spiritual and intellectual quest took on a new urgency, leading her to explore historical and archeological sources and to investigate what Jesus and his teachings meant to his followers before the invention of doctrine? and before the invention of Christianity as we know it. The astonishing discovery of the Gospel of Thomas, along with more than fifty other early Christian texts unknown since antiquity, offers startling clues. Pagels compares such sources as Thomas? s gospel (which claims to give Jesus? secret teaching, and finds its closest affinities with kabbalah) with the canonic texts to show how Christian leaders chose to include some gospels and exclude others from the collection we have come to know as the New Testament. To stabilize the emerging Christian church in times of devastating persecution, the church fathers constructed the canon, creed, and hierarchy? and, in the process, suppressed many of its spiritual resources. Drawing on new scholarship? her own, and that of an international group of scholars? that has come to light since the publication in 1979 of The Gnostic Gospels, Pagels shows that what matters about Christianity involves much more than any one set of beliefs. Traditions embodied in Judaism and Christianity can powerfully affect us in heart, mind, and spirit, inspire visions of a new society based on practicing justice and love, even heal and transform us. Provocative, beautifully written, and moving, Beyond Belief, the most personal of Pagels? s books to date, shows how? the impulse to seek God overflows the narrow banks of a single tradition. ? Pagels writes, ? What I have come to love in the wealth and diversity of our religious traditions? and the communities that sustain them? is that they offer the testimony of innumerable people to spiritual discovery, encouraging us, in Jesus? words, to? seek, and you shall find. ? ? "
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I usually do not find Pagels' books very useful. She is obviously an expert on the fields she writes about, but her books drift around too much. In the present book, relatively little is about the gospel of Thomas. I was looking for more info on how it compares to the canonical gospels, but what I found was ramblings about Christianity. To be fair (?) I have somewhat the same complaint about Karen Armstrong.
Mar 10, 2011
Beyond Belief describes the events and discussions during the apostlic age, particularly the views of the gnostics and their differences with latter accepted cannon. Very interesting, especially if you have no background information on the contents of the scrolls and books found at Nag Hammadi. This is a comfortable, friendly book to read, as it also presents the information from the view of the author's journey into religion.
Apr 16, 2009
I love Elaine's work. She's done all the research for me so I don't have to dig in all those dusty old tomes and piece together history. It's so enlightening to have a more wholistic view of the origins of Christianity as well as an understanding of the political and social structure of that time.
Jun 14, 2007
Pagels does it again !
The fourth of her series is as enlightening as the others. She takes you back in time, before the "church' and illuminates early Christians and Jews, their turmoil, their beliefs, and their strange new fellowship. A must read for anyone seeking answers to their personal spirituality.
Publishers Weekly, 2003-04-14 In this majestic new book, Pagels (The Gnostic Gospels) ranges panoramically over the history of early Christianity, demonstrating the religion's initial tremendous diversity and its narrowing to include only certain texts supporting certain beliefs. At the center of her book is the conflict between the gospels of John and Thomas. Reading these gospels closely, she shows that Thomas offered readers a message of spiritual enlightenment. Rather than promoting Jesus as the only light of the world, Thomas taught individuals that "there is a light within each person, and it lights up the whole universe. If it does not shine, there is darkness." As she eloquently and provocatively argues, the author of John wrote his gospel as a refutation of Thomas, portraying the disciple Thomas as a fool when he doubts Jesus, and Jesus as the only true light of the world. Pagels goes on to demonstrate that the early Christian writer Irenaeus promoted John as the true gospel while he excluded Thomas, and a host of other early gospels, from the list of those texts that he considered authoritative. His list became the basis for the New Testament canon when it was fixed in 357. Pagels suggests that we recover Thomas as a way of embracing the glorious diversity of religious tradition. As she elegantly contends, religion is not merely an assent to a set of beliefs, but a rich, multifaceted fabric of teachings and experiences that connect us with the divine. Exhilarating reading, Pagels's book offers a model of careful and thoughtful scholarship in the lively and exciting prose of a good mystery writer. (May) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
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