[Lireing] ➵ Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas ➼ Elaine Pagels – Terrapin-info.co.uk

Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas Shortly After Elaine Pagels Two And Half Year Old Son Was Diagnosed With A Rare Lung Disease, The Religion Professor Found Herself Drawn To A Christian Church Again For The First Time In Many Years In Beyond Belief The Secret Gospel Of Thomas Pagels, Best Know For Her National Book Award Winning The Gnostic Gospels, Wrestles With Her Own Faith As She Struggles To Understand When And Why Christianity Became Associated Almost Exclusively With The Ideas Codified In The Fourth Century Nicene Creed And In The Canonical Texts Of The New Testament In Her Exploration, She Uncovers The Richness And Diversity Of Christian Philosophy That Has Only Become Available Since The Discovery Of The Nag Hammadi TextsAt The Center Of Beyond Belief Is What Pagels Identifies As A Textual Battle Between The Gospel Of Thomas Rediscovered In Egypt In 1945 And The Gospel Of John While These Gospels Have Many Superficial Similarities, Pagels Demonstrates That John, Unlike Thomas, Declares That Jesus Is Equivalent To God The Father As Identified In The Old Testament Thomas, In Contrast, Shares With Other Supposed Secret Teachings A Belief That Jesus Is Not God But, Rather, Is A Teacher Who Seeks To Uncover The Divine Light In All Human Beings Pagels Then Shows How The Gospel Of John Was Used By Bishop Irenaeus Of Lyon And Others To Define Orthodoxy During The Second And Third Centuries The Secret Teachings Were Literally Driven Underground, Disappearing Until The Twentieth Century As Pagels Argues This Process Not Only Impoverished The Churches That Remained But Also Impoverished Those Irenaeus ExpelledBeyond Belief Offers A Profound Framework With Which To Examine Christian History And Contemporary Christian Faith, And Pagels Renders Her Scholarship In A Highly Readable Narrative The One Deficiency In Pagels Examination Of Thomas, If There Is One, Is That She Never Fully Returns In The End To Her Own Struggles With Religion That So Poignantly Open The Book How Has The Mysticism Of The Gnostic Gospels Affected Her While She Hints That She And Others Have Found New Pathways To Faith Through Thomas, The Impact Of Pagels Work On Contemporary Christianity May Not Be Understood For Years To Come Patrick OKelleyCHAPTER ONEFROM THE FEAST OF AGAPE TO THE NICENE CREEDOn 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 Progressthe 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 Dont 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 Couldnt, They Explained But The Procedure Would Let Them See How Far The Disease Had Progressed Mark Was Already Exhausted By The Previous Days Ordeal Holding Him, I Felt That Ifmasked Strangers Poked Needles Into Him In An Operating Room, He Might Lose Heartliterallyand Die We Refused The Biopsy, Gathered Marks 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 Thereand In A Smaller Group That Met On Weekdays In The Church Basement For Mutual Encouragementmy 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 Earthtraditional 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, Andso It Was Saidwith 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.I Am A Historian Of Religion, And So, As I Visited That Church, I Wondered When And How Being A Christian Became Virtually Synonymous With Accepting A Certain Set Of Beliefs From Historical Reading, I Knew That Christianity Had Survived Brutal Persecution And Flourished For Generationseven Centuries Before Christians Formulated What They Believed Into Creeds The Origins Of This Transition From Scattered Groups To A Unified Community Have Left Few Traces Although The Apostle Paul, About Twenty Years After Jesus Death, Stated The Gospel, Which, He Says, I Too Received That Christ Died For Our Sins According To The Scriptures That He Was Buried, And That He Was Raised On The Third Day ,it May Have Beenthan A Hundred Years Later That Some Christians, Perhaps In Rome, Attempted To Consolidate Their Group Against The Demands Of A Fellow Christian Named Marcion, Whom They Regarded As A False Teacher, By Introducing Formal Statements Of Belief Into Worship But Only In The Fourth Century, After The Roman Emperor Constantine Himself Converted To The New Faithor At Least Decriminalized Itdid Christian Bishops, At The Emperors Command, Convene In The City Of Nicaea, On The Turkish Coast, To Agree Upon A Common Statement Of Beliefsthe So Called Nicene Creed, Which Defines The Faith For Many Christians To This Day.Yet I Know From My Own Encounters With People In That Church, Both Upstairs And Down, Believers, Agnostics, And Seekersas Well As People Who Dont Belong To Any Churchthat What Matters In Religious Experience Involves Muchthan What We Believe Or What We Do Not Believe What Is Christianity, And What Is Religion, I Wondered, And Why Do So Many Of Us Still Find It Compelling, Whether Or Not We Belong To A Church, And Despite Difficulties We May Have With Particular Beliefs Or Practices What Is It About Christian Tradition That We Loveand What Is It That We Cannot Love From The Beginning, What Attracted Outsiders Who Walked Into A Gathering Of Christians, As I Did On That February Morning, Was The Presence Of A Group Joined By Spiritual Power Into An Extended Family Many Must Have Come As I Had, In Distress And Some Came Without Money In Rome, The Sick Who Frequented The Temples Of Asclepius, The Greek God Of Healing, Expected To Pay When They Consulted His Priests About Herbs, Exercise, Baths, And Medicine These Priests Also Arranged For Visitors To Spend Nights Sleeping In The Temple Precincts, Where The God Was Said To Visit His Suppliants In Dreams Similarly, Those Who Sought To Enter Into The Mysteries Of The Egyptian Goddess Isis, Seeking Her Protection And Blessings In This Life, And Eternal Life Beyond The Grave, Were Charged Considerable Initiation Fees And Spentto Buy The Ritual Clothing, Offerings, And Equipment.Irenaeus, The Leader Of An Important Christian Group In Provincial Gaul In The Second Century, Wrote That Many Newcomers Came To Christian Meeting Places Hoping For Miracles, And Some Found Them We Heal The Sick By Laying Hands On Them, And Drive Out Demons, The Destructive Energies That Cause Mental Instability And Emotional Anguish Christians Took No Money, Yet Irenaeus Acknowledged No Limits To What The Spirit Could Do We Even Raise The Dead, Many Of Whom Are Still Alive Among Us, And Completely Healthy.Even Without A Miracle, Those In Need Could Find Immediate Practical Help Almost Anywhere In The Empire, Whose Great CitiesAlexandria In Egypt, Antioch, Carthage, And Rome Itselfwere Then, As Now, Crowded With People From Throughout The Known World Inhabitants Of The Vast Shantytowns That Surrounded These Cities Often Tried To Survive By Begging, Prostitution, And Stealing Yet Tertullian, A Christian Spokesman Of The Second Century, Writes That, Unlike Members Of Other Clubs And Societies That Collected Dues And Fees To Pay For Feasts, Members Of The Christian Family Contributed Money Voluntarily To A Common Fund To Support Orphans Abandoned In The Streets And Garbage Dumps Christian Groups Also Brought Food, Medicines, And Companionship To Prisoners Forced To Work In Mines, Banished To Prison Islands, Or Held In Jail Some Christians Even Bought Coffins And Dug Graves To Bury The Poor And Criminals, Whose Corpses Otherwise Would Lie Unburied Beyond The City Walls Like Irenaeus, The African Convert Tertullian Emphasizes That Among Christiansthere Is No Buying And Selling Of Any Kind In What Belongs To God On A Certain Day, Each One, If He Likes, Puts In A Small Gift, But Only If He Wants To Do So, And Only If He Be Able, For There Is No Compulsion Everything Is Voluntary.Such Generosity, Which Ordinarily Could Be Expected Only From Ones Own Family, Attracted Crowds Of Newcomers To Christian Groups, Despite The Risks The Sociologist Rodney Stark Notes That, Shortly Before Irenaeus Wrote, A Plague Had Ravaged Cities And Towns Throughout The Roman Empire, From Asia Minor Though Italy And Gaul The Usual Response To Someone Suffering From Inflamed Skin And Pustules, Whether A Family Member Or Not, Was To Run, Since Nearly Everyone Infected Died In Agony Some Epidemiologists Estimate That The Plague Killed A Third To A Half Of The Imperial Population Doctors Could Not, Of Course, Treat The Disease, And They Too Fled The Deadly Virus Galen, The Most Famous Physician Of His Age, Who Attended The Family Of Emperor Marcus Aurelius, Survived What People Later Called Galens Plague By Escaping To A Country Estate Until It Was Over.But Some Christians Were Convinced That Gods Power Was With Them To Heal Or Alleviate Suffering They Shocked Their Pagan Neighbors By Staying To Care For The Sick And Dying, Believing That, If They Themselves Should Die, They Had The Power To Overcome Death Even Galen Was Impressed For The People Called Christianscontempt Of Death Is Obvious To Us Every Day, And Also Their Self Control In Sexual Matters They Also Include People Who, In Self Disciplinein Matters Of Food And Drink, And In Their Keen Pursuit Of Justice, Have Attained A Level Not Inferior To That Of Genuine Philosophers.

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