Beyond Belief

  • by Elaine Pagels
  • Narrated by Cassandra Campbell
  • 6 hrs and 9 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook

Publisher's Summary

Spurred by personal tragedy, Elaine Pagels turns to a consideration of the Gnostic Gospels, in particular, the Gospel of Thomas. As opposed to the Gospel of John, which asserted that Jesus was an eternally existing aspect of God who came to earth to save humankind, the "secret" Gospel of Thomas agrees that Jesus was in some sense divine, but says that a streak of divinity can be found in all of us. The Church Fathers did not like Thomas' ideas, and attempted to suppress his Gospel as heretical. Pagels believes that Thomas' words lead to a more open, welcoming, and equitable kind of Christianity. If Beyond Belief is at odds with conservative theological certainties, it nonetheless speaks to Jesus' humanity, and to our own.

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What the Critics Say

"Exhilarating reading, Pagels's book offers a model of careful and thoughtful scholarship in the lively and exciting prose of a good mystery writer." (Publishers Weekly)
"A fresh and exciting work of theology and spirituality." (Booklist)
"With the winning combination of sound scholarship, deep insight and crystal-clear prose style that distinguishes all her work, Pagels portrays the great variety of beliefs, teachings and practices that were found among the earliest Christians." (Los Angeles Times)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

Gospel of Thomas is somewhat a misnomer

The book is less an exploration of the Gospel of Thomas than an exploration of the competing movements and ideas that were present in the early Christian Church. It begins by comparing the gospels of John and Thomas using a unique, to this listener anyway, hypothesis but moves quickly to a broader view of the first three centuries of Christianity. It is none the less an excellent representation of the impeccable research and sensitivity of Elaine Pagels.

The listener is brought to see the importance of the Nag Hammadi texts to the understanding of First-Third Century "Gnosticism" and what would have been lost had these documents not been hidden some 1600 years ago. The question occurs: What documents might not have been preserved and thus lost from these formative years of Christianity? Based on the importance of the Nag Hammadi texts, we are intellectually poorer for any that might have been lost.

The book is very easy to follow. The narrator does an excellent job in reading the text with authority and understanding. It is, technically speaking, a very good presentation.

I certainly recommend it to those who have interests in this area of historical research.

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- Buford

Dr. Pagels hits a home run (almost a grand slam)

I am not sure why she did not include the full text of Thomas, perhaps in deference to her friends who have published the Gospel of Thomas already. I am sure her book has led to many purchases. I was expecting the Gospel of Thomas to be a part of the book, based on the title. She compares and contrasts Thomas to the Gospel of John. So, read these books first and keep them by your side as you read or listen to this book. I found the book a great read, with some pretty good insight into the mind and culture of early Christians and the way they approached and developed the canon. Her creativity and style are very engaging and you forget you are actually reading one of the very top scholars of pre-orthodox Christianity. She seems to also have a spiritual grasp of her subject and shares some of her own spiritual trials. This book is more than a history lesson, it is a spiritual lesson which should leave you with a deeper sense of connection to your Higher Power. I can't wait for her next book, it should be a grand slam!
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- James

Book Details

  • Release Date: 05-18-2004
  • Publisher: Books on Tape