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.
- New York Times Notable Books of the Year
As Pagels shows, the Church's decision to reject the Gospel of Thomas-which calls on all of us to seek the divine light within-had profound consequences for Christianity. Copyright 2003 Cahners Business Information. -- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY.
Showing 1-1 of the 1 most recent reviews
1 . Somewhat dissatisfied
Posted January 01, 2011 by Ric , JoshuaI bought this book due to the title. The title lead me to believe that the book was about the "Gospel of Thomas". Call me crazy but is that not what the titles says? Never the less I read this book and found a very informative book more on the "Gospel of John" than anything else. There were a few areas where the Gospel of Thomas was mentioned but never was there any detailed information nor any quotes that made a lasted impression. So because I wanted to discover Secrets of the Gospel of Thomas when I purchased this book, I feel like I have been taken both monetarily and educationally.
December 31, 2002
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Excerpt from Beyond Belief by Elaine Pagels
FROM THE FEAST OF AGAPE
TO THE NICENE CREED
On a bright Sunday morning in February, shivering in a T-shirt and running shorts, I stepped into the vaulted stone vestibule of the Church of the Heavenly Rest in New York to catch my breath and warm up. Since I had not been in church for a long time, I was startled by my response to the worship in progress -- the soaring harmonies of the choir singing with the congregation; and the priest, a woman in bright gold and white vestments, proclaiming the prayers in a clear, resonant voice. As I stood watching, a thought came to me: Here is a family that knows how to face death.
That morning I had gone for an early morning run while my husband and two-and-a-half-year-old son were still sleeping. The previous night I had been sleepless with fear and worry. Two days before, a team of doctors at Babies Hospital, Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, had performed a routine checkup on our son, Mark, a year and six months after his successful open-heart surgery. The physicians were shocked to find evidence of a rare lung disease. Disbelieving the results, they tested further for six hours before they finally called us in to say that Mark had pulmonary hypertension, an invariably fatal disease, they told us. How much time? I asked. "We don't know; a few months, a few years."
The following day, a team of doctors urged us to authorize a lung biopsy, a painful and invasive procedure. How could this help? It couldn't, they explained; but the procedure would let them see how far the disease had progressed. Mark was already exhausted by the previous day's ordeal. Holding him, I felt that if more masked strangers poked needles into him in an operating room, he might lose heart -- literally -- and die. We refused the biopsy, gathered Mark's blanket, clothes, and Peter Rabbit, and carried him home.
Standing in the back of that church, I recognized, uncomfortably, that I needed to be there. Here was a place to weep without imposing tears upon a child; and here was a heterogeneous community that had gathered to sing, to celebrate, to acknowledge common needs, and to deal with what we cannot control or imagine. Yet the celebration in progress spoke of hope; perhaps that is what made the presence of death bearable. Before that time, I could only ward off what I had heard and felt the day before.
I returned often to that church, not looking for faith but because, in the presence of that worship and the people gathered there -- and in a smaller group that met on weekdays in the church basement for mutual encouragement -- my defenses fell away, exposing storms of grief and hope. In that church I gathered new energy, and resolved, over and over, to face whatever awaited us as constructively as possible for Mark, and for the rest of us.
When people would say to me, "Your faith must be of great help to you," I would wonder, What do they mean? What is faith? Certainly not simple assent to the set of beliefs that worshipers in that church recited every week ("We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth...") -- traditional statements that sounded strange to me, like barely intelligible signals from the surface, heard at the bottom of the sea. Such statements seemed to me then to have little to do with whatever transactions we were making with one another, with ourselves, and -- so it was said -- with invisible beings. I was acutely aware that we met there driven by need and desire; yet sometimes I dared hope that such communion has the potential to transform us.