To ask other readers questions about The Gnostic Paul , please sign up. Lists with This Book. Community Reviews. Showing Rating details. More filters. Sort order. Dec 24, BlackOxford rated it it was amazing Shelves: biblical , american. The Secret Sharer Paul of Tarsus, that Moses of the Christian religion, is a persistent intellectual pain for many, including me. He is contradictory, opaque, and elusive. But Pagels book goes a long way to dispersing the Pauline conceptual mist and suggesting why he was so successful.
One of the earliest crises in Christianity, the Gnostic Controversies, occurred about a century after The Secret Sharer Paul of Tarsus, that Moses of the Christian religion, is a persistent intellectual pain for many, including me. One of the earliest crises in Christianity, the Gnostic Controversies, occurred about a century after Paul wrote his very influential letters to the congregations he founded throughout the Roman Empire.
A group of Christian heretics so subsequently determined began using a somewhat older and distinctly un-Jewish theological approach called Gnosticism to interpret the traditions and writings about Jesus. For Christianity, a religion grounded in ideas, Gnosticism, an established cult of ideas, presented an obvious threat. Gnosticism had several strands but all of these converged on a view of the physical world as a creation of an evil Demiurge. Within this world, the spirits of human beings had become trapped.
The mission, as it were, of Gnosticism was to provide the secret knowledge, the inside dope, which would allow these spirits to escape their material emprisonment. Most of what is known about the Gnostics is available only from these Church Fathers since their attack was successful and most of the original Gnostic writing was destroyed. However the mid-twentieth century discovery of the Nag Hammadi manuscripts, largely Gnostic, provoked a re-consideration of the history and real substance of the entire second century dispute.
The issue around which Pagels centres her analysis is fascinating. In their attack on the Gnostics the Church Fathers relied heavily on the letters of Paul to argue against their opponents. Strangely, however, the Gnostics also used Paul extensively to support their case. Before Nag Hammadi it appeared that the Gnostics were merely being tendentious and the orthodox interpretation of the Fathers obvious.
But by examining each of the Pauline letters in terms of a more complete knowledge of the Gnostic position, Pagels makes a compelling case that Paul had been heavily influenced by Gnostic thought.
The Gnostic Paul: Gnostic Exegesis of the Pauline Letters
In fact many of the apparent contradictions and confusions contained in these documents are the result of Paul addressing two audiences simultaneously: the psychics , or Christ-followers uninitiated into the sacred Gnostic mysteries; and the pneumatics , those relatively few elect who were spiritually prepared to understand the esoteric truths about what salvation really meant.
View all 13 comments. Mar 09, Steve Cooper rated it it was amazing. This Gnostic interpretation of the Pauline letters provides, among many other things, a framework to reconcile the Old and New Testaments. It has been argued that it is heresy and an exercise in wish fulfillment - selectively choosing whom Paul intended as the audience on a case-by-case basis, and completely ignoring Acts and the Pastoral Letters in order to support the Gnostic position. But this comprehensive exegesis Valentinian, for the most part finally succeeds in making a compelling case This Gnostic interpretation of the Pauline letters provides, among many other things, a framework to reconcile the Old and New Testaments.
The Gnostic Paul (Gnostic Exegesis of the Pauline Letters)
But this comprehensive exegesis Valentinian, for the most part finally succeeds in making a compelling case for Paul's 'Gnosticness' Gnosticity? What are the implications? The religious controversy that Paul's letters provoked in the 2nd century as persecution and in-fighting fatefully directed the evolution of the Christian community, resembled the current political debate between libertarians and nanny-staters.
But the Gnostic's claim of immunity from Abrahamic law and superiority to his ecclesiastical brethren was never going to go down well with ecclesiastics. And of course, the institutional logic of religious and political players has never supported the self-abnegation a libertarian agenda obliges. So quite a bit of effort was expended by early church fathers like Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Origen you can practically hear boos and hisses whenever they're mentioned in a Pagels book even though she maintains a strict scholarly objectivity , to de-gnostify these Pauline letters.
Their efforts were rewarded with success, and their orthodox view of Paul continued to predominate in Christian circles when this book came out, and I suspect it still does.
- The Gnostic Paul: Gnostic Exegesis of the Pauline Letters by Elaine H. Pagels - PDF Drive;
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It brings an inviting depth to what I've always considered to be a flat, impenetrable thicket of words And it appeals to a deep vein of intuition in 1 its identification of the Old Testament God as the demiurge - lord of the material world only, 2 its position that some people need religious laws and others don't, and 3 its incorporation of the female principle in a more intrinsic cosmological role.
So 5 stars to you, Elaine Pagels, for distilling libraries of forgotten writing into this book, and for shedding light on a controversy whose outcome fundamentally shaped Western culture. View all 3 comments. Aug 04, Ken rated it really liked it. I don't think Pagels fully understands what the Gnostics and Paul are saying here--or at least didn't when she wrote the book. She fails to interpret some of the gnostic exegesis, itself clearly non-literal.
She also shies away from drawing in bold strokes the rather obvious conclusion: Paul was a gnostic. The articles of Christian faith--the virgin birth, the crucifixion--were intended as metaphors, as parables, not as historical fact. Nonetheless, there was enough here for me to divine clear I don't think Pagels fully understands what the Gnostics and Paul are saying here--or at least didn't when she wrote the book. Nonetheless, there was enough here for me to divine clearly what Paul's intention was.
To see Christianity--the original Christianity--as a derivative of the pagan tradition. To see all of mankind's mystical explorations as a continuum. The world makes more sense to me because of this book, and for that I will be forever grateful. Note: it's a bit obtuse, not an easy read, and will take some time to wrap your head around. Aug 07, Frankie rated it liked it Shelves: religion , nonfiction , history.
Another Elaine Pagels' goody but this one is written very academically with a lot more attention to technical detail.
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Apr 29, Bohdan Pechenyak rated it it was amazing Shelves: history , spirituality-religion. A fascinating journey through the epistles of Paul interpreted from the perspective of Valentinian Gnosticism. Ultimately, interpreting Paul either as hyperorthodox or hypergnostic would be reductionist and anachronistic, for he wrote before such debates emerged in the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE.
I started reading Pagels in college in preparation for a thesis on theories regarding the origins of "gnosticism. She was kind enough at that time to allow me the liberty of composing a dictionary entitled, cleverly, "On the Procession of the Hieresiarchs of Gnosis" even tho the course was ostensibly about Genesis.
The other contact I had with Pagels was my roommate at I started reading Pagels in college in preparation for a thesis on theories regarding the origins of "gnosticism. The other contact I had with Pagels was my roommate at the time, a student at Barnard College where she taught. That connection was good enough to get me invited along to her apartment for a party or two. Beyond that, I've read several of her books and will pick up anything written over her name. There has only been one disappointment, viz. Much of this work was initiated by J. Robinson and H. Koester in their book Trajectories Through Early Christianity.
The French scholar M. Tardieu, for example, has analyzed gnostic myths; 66 Professor L. Schottroff has investigated gnostic accounts of the [ xxxiii] Introduction powers of evil. Professor P. Perkins has investigated both genre 68 and imagery; 69 Professor George MacRae has contributed to our understandings of gnostic metaphors, 0 myth, 71 and literary form; 72 he and others, including Quispel and Professor B. Pearson, have shown how certain gnostic myths drew upon material traditional in Judaism.
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