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Paperback The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Gnostic Gospels Book

ISBN: 1592573886

ISBN13: 9781592573882

The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Gnostic Gospels

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Book Overview

"The birth of the Christian Churchand what it means for modern religion and philosophy." This engaging guide presents an accessible overview of the birth of the Christian church, using the historical... This description may be from another edition of this product.

Customer Reviews

5 ratings

Great Gnostic Primer

I was a bit hesitant to purchase a "Complete Idiot's Guide" to anything, because an idiot I certainly am not. However, I'm quite pleased that I chose to take a chance on this one. The layout of these Guides is great! They don't assume that you know anything about the subject, so all terms that may be new to the reader are explained. The text is full of cross-referencing so that you can refer back in the event that something didn't stick in your mind on the first read through. For anyone who has a beginning interest in Gnostic beliefs or the Gnostic texts, this is a great place to start. If your interest continues after reading this book, it will serve as a great reference to refer back to while exploring deeper literature on the subject. An appendix is included to guide you in selecting further reading as well as finding web-based sources. This book also gives some interesting insight into the early development of Christianity from an unbiased perspective.

Excellent survey of the Gnostic texts

In addition to details on individual Nag Hammadi texts as well as some other Gnostic texts, Matkin presents keys players within early Chistianity on the orthodox and on the gnostic side. He also discusses those early times, later gnostic movements, and modern interests in gnosticism. The book is nicely chunked: twenty chapters each divided into sections and subsections that makes it easy to finish one piece, put the book down, and return to it later so as not to be overwhelmed by all the complex mythologies of the Gnostics. Matkin steers a middle road, neither a proponent of Gnosticism nor eager to dismiss it. While acknowledging Elaine Pagel's contribution to making the early Gnostics accessible, he doesn't refrain from criticizing her. While open to what made the Gnostics tick, he presents critics. For example, he he includes the comment of Frederica Mathewes-Green, an Eastern Orthodox writer, that Gnostic schemes to directly experience God were "so wacky". The one real problem I face after reading this book is that it leaves me with no excuse not to read the Nag Hammadi texts again themselves ( The Nag Hammadi Library ) which, without Matkin's guidance, may overwhelm me, as they did the first time I read them. Even the second time I read them (in 2005), I can see now I missed a lot due to less preparation. I am rereading Matkin's summary of each Nag Hammadi text as I read the texts themselves. Along with other background reading in Gnosticism, Matkin has prepared me for what I hope to be a really inspiring reading of the Nag Hammadi Library. So I am grateful to Matkin for his efforts and delivery.

Good for understanding

If you are looking for a great book to understand the who what when where and why about these gospels, this is a good book for you. If you're needing a Cliffsnotes version of what goes on in the books and what they could be alluding to, this is NOT the book for you. But, I found the research good, intelligent and at times, humorous. This is a great read if you are curious about the gnostic gospels and want to know more, in a general sense, about what the gnostics were all about.

The Irony Is Many Of The Gnostic Works Were Not Written For A Wide Audience

I like to make up my own mind about things, and I knew early on in my life I'd one day read the so-called "Gnostic Gospels". What fanned the fires of my curiosity were all the occasions as I was growing up when my teachers in religious school would tell us there was "nothing of any value" in those books, and that was why the Church excluded them from its canon. So, naturally, I gravitated toward this pseudo-forbidden reading list. The Gnostic Gospels tell stories that are at once familiar to those modern individuals who have some background in the books included in the Bible, but there is also a lot that represents challenges to the supposed accepted version of Biblical events. After poking around over the years in the subject of the Gnostic writings, I found little of deep interest there and moved on to other areas. When I happened across this Idiot's Guide to the topic, I pounced on it and found it to be a fine overview that could teach almost anyone about these writings that date to some of the earliest decades of Christianity. Are the Gnostic Gospels valid? If the question is "are they authentic?" then the answer would be yes. They are writings from antiquity. They contain many of the same figures from Sunday School classes and offer plenty of good-natured parables and anecdotes, histories and grains of hard-won wisdom. They, do, however, at times offer claims that stand in direct contradiction to much of what is taught as ecclesiastical truth in nearly all present-day branches of the Christian faith. Who is right? Who knows. Is that even really important? I found this Guide to be colloquial, authored by contributors with solid knowledge of the field, and it informed me about probably all I need to know regarding this subject, whether or not I ever again go on to read the actual Gnostic works.

Informative Overview of Gnosticism

If you are interested in Gnosticism you are probably not an idiot; with that said, idiots (and the rest of us) will find this book to be a detailed overview of the origins, texts, and views of the present-day and old-world Gnostics. As with all Idiot's Guides, the information in this book is very well presented for readers of any age or background. The author's wording makes the text easy to read and, most importantly, easy to comprehend. J. Michael Matkin, the author, does not just give a one sided view of Gnosticism. Rather he provides distinct differences in viewpoints along with research to help the reader make his or her own decision. This book is an admirable accomplishment. Many existing books on Gnosticism use an almost "Shakespearean" tone that leaves much interpretation to the reader. This is highly recommended for those readers who don't want to have to stop and contemplate each sentence. Chapters: (1) Why Read the Gnostic Gospels? - The Gnostics deserve a hearing. In this chapter, reasons why we should take the time to examine the Gnostic teachings. (2) Are You in the Know? - A fast and furious overview of the general Gnostic beliefs. The Gnostic fascination with the cause of pain, suffering, and evil in the world. A look at what they thought would solve it all. (3) Fighting for the Right - What we know about the Gnostics primarily comes from the writings of their enemies. An introduction to the principal orthodox Christian writers of the second and third centuries. (4) The Gnostic Lineup - Who where the Gnostic teachers? A brief biography of Simon the Magician, Basilides, Valentinus, and Marcion. (5) Death and Resurrection - Gnosticism receded after the third century, but continued to exist in many forms. Throughout Western history there have been occasional revivals of Gnostic thought. The discovery of new Gnostic writings, especially the groundbreaking find at Nag Hammadi. (6) The Gospel of Thomas - An introduction to the most famous and infamous of the Gnostic Gospels. Meet the Apostle Thomas and his missionary whirlwind tour through Syria, Persia, and India. The big question: is it really Gnostic? (7) The Gospel of Mary - A look at the only gospel named for a woman. Who was Mary of Magdala? (8) The Gospel of the Egyptians - The first of many speculative histories written by the Gnostics. This one is a preparation for baptism. (9) The Gospel of Truth - This one may have been written by Valentinus himself. We'll see a master Gnostic teacher in action. (10) The Gospel of Philip - More of a collection of quotations than a narrative. It gives us a Gnostic reimagining of the process of intimidation. (11) The Revelations of the Apostles - Experiences of the Divine were very important to the Gnostics. These texts are all revelations supposedly received by certain apostles. (12) Acts and Letters - A hodge-podge of texts supposedly written by or about certain apostles. Also, the strange discovery of another version o
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