B. Cobbey Crisler (review date 3 December 1979)
SOURCE: "Gnostic 'Books'," in The Christian Science Monitor, December 3, 1979, p. B6.
[In the following review, Crisler describes The Gnostic Gospels as a lucid history of the Gnostic movement.]
The shattering of two ancient jars, one in December, 1945, near Nag Hammadi in Egypt and the other, almost a year later, in a Dead Sea cave, still reverberates in the alcoves of Biblical scholarship.
Although the extraordinary manuscript discoveries in the Dead Sea area have been widely examined, published, and commented upon (with certain notable exceptions), the "gnostic" library found hidden in the Nag Hammadi jar remained "for eyes only", (except for the "Gospel of Thomas") among scholarly initiates until the end of 1977. Then the 52 tractates in 13 codices appeared in a full facsimile edition and a simultaneous English edition, both under the general supervision and editorship of James M. Robinson, director of the Institute of Antiquity and Christianity at Claremont Graduate School in California. Said Professor Robinson at the time. "The floodgates have just opened."
Random House is in the sluiceway early with this book by Elaine Pagels, a member of Professor Robinson's translation team. As a book, it is the logical and inevitable outcome of her close association with the Nag Hammadi material. She writes for the layman, which is refreshing and she does so lucidly, which is a challenge, especially when "gnosticism" was regarded by its own adherents to be for the initiated only.
But as a title The Gnostic Gospels is inappropriate and was probably an editorial choice—the word "gospel" has market appeal. Certainly there is no indication in the introduction or in the text that the author ever intended to isolate the so called "gospels" of truth,...
(The entire section is 763 words.)