Sunday, June 25, 2006

Speaking of Historical Christianity...

...Which I was doing two posts ago, here's an interesting write-up of a talk, given by Elaine Pagels, that touches on the multi-sourced development of early Christianity, and how it was shaped into the orthodox sourced version we are all familiar with today, by early Church leaders.
Pagels talked about the dust-up over Mary Magdalene, the rivalries among Christ's disciples, and what made the gnostic gospels so threatening to early Christianity.

Why did church leaders cover up the struggles of the first Christians? Why did they single out four gospels as truth and destroy (or so they thought) other accounts of Jesus's life?

"What really happened?" Pagels said. "It's an intriguing question."

Pagels and others have come to interpret the Nag Hammadi texts as "advanced-level teaching" that Jesus communicated to a select group of disciples.

"In the Gospel of Thomas, there's a passage that says 'these are the secret words of Jesus,' things he said privately," said the scholar, who threads her speeches with examples from the gnostic gospels as well as Luke, John, Matthew and Mark.

The texts "were copied and loved by some of the most devout Christians of the ancient world," Pagels said, including monks at the Monastery of St. Pachomius, located near Nag Hammadi.
Pagel's contention is that one reason that the Da Vinci Code is proving so popular is that reading this book is the first time many people gain a sense that Christianity was initially, in the late first and second centuries, far broader, more fluid and encompassing than it became later on; and that the early Church leaders chose the sources they wanted, in order to build Christianity as they saw it, disparaging contemporaneous elements we have since come to regard as heterodox.

[Hat Tip: Paleojudaica]


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