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John Barton, 16 March 1989

The Body and Society: Men, Women and Sexual Renunciation in Early Christianity 
by Peter Brown.
Faber, 504 pp., £32.50, February 1989, 0 571 15446 8
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Adam, Eve and the Serpent 
by Elaine Pagels.
Weidenfeld, 189 pp., £14.95, September 1988, 0 297 79326 8
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Heaven: A History 
by Colleen McDannell and Bernhard Lang.
Yale, 410 pp., £16.95, November 1988, 0 300 04346 5
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... ancient and modern ideas of heaven, however, is related to the theme of two more weighty studies, Elaine Pagels’s Adam, Eve and the Serpent and Peter Brown’s The Body and Society. This theme is human sexuality. Until very recently, almost all Christians assumed without question that this would have no place in the world to come, where ‘they neither ...

Christianity’s Doppelgänger

C.H. Roberts, 17 April 1980

The Gnostic Gospels 
by Elaine Pagels.
Weidenfeld, 182 pp., £7.95, March 1980, 0 297 77709 2
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... of the discovery for early Christianity since publication of the texts was completed. Professor Pagels, who has been closely associated with the work on the manuscripts, gives us here a fascinating account, with quotations from the texts, of Gnostic beliefs, of the conflict with the Church authorities and its consequence for the development of the social ...

Judas’ Gift

Adam Phillips: In Praise of Betrayal, 5 January 2012

... disciples whom Jesus could use to transform himself, or to be transformed by. ‘The betrayer,’ Elaine Pagels writes in Reading Judas, ‘always intrigues us more than the disciples who remain loyal’; she is intimating, perhaps, that we get a certain kind of pleasure from stories about betrayal that we can’t get from stories about loyalty – more ...


Mary-Kay Wilmers, 10 November 1988

The Faber Book of Seductions 
edited by Jenny Newman.
Faber, 366 pp., £12.95, June 1988, 0 571 15110 8
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Journeys to the Underworld 
by Fiona Pitt-Kethley.
Chatto, 226 pp., £10, October 1988, 9780701132231
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... promote the idea of Original Sin on which the Christian interpretation of the Fall is based, or so Elaine Pagels argues in her study of the ‘politics of paradise’, Adam, Eve and the Serpent. But even St Augustine took sexual desire to be the evidence for the Fall, not its cause or its chief consequence. One doesn’t have to be a Freudian or, for that ...

O How Unlike the Father

Frank Kermode: Bad Father, Good Son, 15 October 1998

The Alternative Trinity: Gnostic Heresy in Marlowe, Milton and Blake 
by A.D. Nuttall.
Oxford, 282 pp., £40, July 1998, 9780198184621
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... of this rival form of Christianity by a politically well-organised Church has been much regretted. Elaine Pagels calls it ‘an impoverishment of Christian tradition’. Nuttall says its defeat ‘is of some interest because in one respect orthodox Christianity seems philosophically more vulnerable than Gnosticism’. He means that none of the Christian ...

Bats on the Ceiling

James Lasdun: The Gospel of St Karen, 24 September 2020

Veritas: A Harvard Professor, a Con Man and the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife 
by Ariel Sabar.
Random House, 401 pp., $29.95, August, 978 0 385 54258 6
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... on Coptic script thought the writing ‘looked like 21st-century handwriting’. The historian Elaine Pagels questioned whether the fragment, even if real, merited the sensational title King had given it: ‘When you call it “The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife”, I just think, “What are you talking about?” At least 99 per cent of this text is missing ...

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