Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Elaine Pagels on The Spirit of Things

Following on from my previous blog entry, a quick look around that Spirit of Things web site shows up some other interesting things too. You can read presenter Rachel Kohn's essay Who is a Fundamentalist? And why does it Matter?, which features some critical comments on The Passion of the Christ, and there is the entire transcript, again, for this episode of the programme:

The Suppressed Christian Tradition
In the late 1970s Elaine Pagels published The Gnostic Gospels, putting into the public domain a suppressed Christian tradition, which the church regarded as 'heretical'. They were the Gospels of Mary, Philip and Thomas, found at Nag Hammadi, Egypt, in 1945. Now a world-famous scholar, Pagels argues against the term "Gnostic," which was a term of reproach, and reflects on the gospels' similarities to Kabbalistic and Buddhist thought.
Like the L├╝demann programme, it is very interesting reading. Just one excerpt touching on her recent work on the Gospel of Thomas and its relationship to John:
what I realised as I was reading the Gospel of Thomas, is that there is teaching there, that is shared with the author of the Gospel of John. Other scholars have pointed out the strong similarities between John and Thomas. They’re both written for someone who already knows the basic story, they’re both written as supplemental and advanced teaching, they’re both written speaking about the Kingdom of God not as something coming at the end of time, but as the present spiritual reality, and they both have what you might call mystical elements to them.

But as I read that, and looked at the work of those scholars who’ve observed the enormous similarities between the two, I came to the conclusion, and to me it was a surprise, and it was unwelcome and it seemed very strange, but I realised that the only way one can make sense of the relationship between these Gospels is to see that whoever wrote the Gospel of John knows the kind of teaching you find in Thomas, and thinks that it’s been taken there in the wrong direction.

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