The Gnostic Gospels

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The Gnostic gospels have been the subject of much debate for centuries, especially regarding the Orthodox Church’s opposition to the validity of gospels outside of those canonized gospels of the New Testament. Author Elaine Pagels consolidated her research on this topic in the book titled The Gnostic Gospels. This text provides some insight into the struggles that helped shape beliefs of the Gnostics and the early Orthodox Church as they responded to attacks of heresy from one another. The purpose of this review is not an all-inclusive review of the entire book, but a focused look at two important chapters: one that addresses various interpretations of the resurrection of Christ and another that deals with the question of which church should …show more content…
As she points out, in the quest for answers one may be tempted to look at the long line of Christian tradition presented by the Orthodox Church for nearly 2,000 years as proof that they have a claim to the title of “true” church. However, the recent discoveries of Gnostic Gospels in Egypt, called the Nag Hammadi Library, have opened up the topic for further discussion and exploration. The discovery of these writings revealed how the Gnostics counterattacked their adversaries by also denouncing the teachings of the Orthodox Christians as heretical. Gnostics believed the Orthodox Church’s practice of requiring their followers to adhere to “earthly representatives” rather than the creator and was evidence they were an imposter church mimicking the truth found only through gnosis. Similarly, some texts of the Nag Hammadi also criticize fellow Gnostics for following immature teachers of the doctrine who pretended to have gnosis. The Gnostics also claimed that their membership exclusivity was preferable over the Orthodox practice of open inclusiveness for the masses. It was the close-knit fellowship afforded by such small groups, as well as their level of understanding that Gnostics believed set them apart as the “true” church. In contrast, the Orthodox Church believed its members needed to forge a personal relationship with the clergy. Consequently, it was this antisocial behavior that often left the Gnostics labeled as dissenters in the community. In the end, each group ultimately claimed to have superior and secret knowledge revealed only to them, making them the enlightened ones and the “true” church destined to teach the message of

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