78 of 93 people found the following review helpful
An excellent review of the politics of early Christianity,
By A Customer
This review is from: The Gnostic Gospels (Paperback)This book is an easy, engrossing read, with a good balance between scholarly and popular appeal. Despite many reviewer's comments, it is evident that Pagels is not entirely objective in her treatment of both orthodox and gnostic Christianity, and clearly sympathizes with the latter. Perhaps to redress this imbalance, her last chapter falls short of embracing a return to gnosticism. Nevertheless, a revisionist history of early Christianity is necessary to restore the voices of the few, which have been drowned out by the many.
This book does a great deal to point out that the most significant problem with gnosticism, from the point of view of the orthodox, is that the gnostics refused to vest the church hierarchy with spiritual authority. The gnostics were not at all concerned with how early or authentic their scriptures were, but with how much they reflect the truth, as individually experienced. The orthodox claims that the canonical Gospels contain the truth, and all others are heresy, rely upon circular, unprovable arguments (i.e., the Holy Spirit made us choose them!).
The God of the gnostics was and is the Unknown God, the Fullness of Being, and supreme good, dwelling within the Universe and in Man. The God of the orthodox was and is the Father Almighty, Maker of Heaven and Earth, jealous, cruel, and blind, and diametrically opposed to His creation and His children. The venomous attacks on this book by some on-line reviewers betrays the old, perpetual intolerance of the orthodox in the face of anything which threatens their narrow, fragile, and increasingly irrelevant belief system. The gnostics of old could not mistake these modern day followers of the Demiurge.