Alibi V.12 No.26 • June 26-July 2, 2003 

Art Article

Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas

Elaine H. Pagels
Random House
hardcover
$24.95

Back in the 300s when a bunch of Christian big wigs got together to compile what we now call the New Testament, they had plenty to choose from. The choosers eventually decided to include the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, while excluding a large number of other gospels, including one attributed to the apostle Thomas. The choice was interesting largely because the Gospel of Thomas, which consists largely of the sayings of Christ, doesn't emphasize the divinity of Jesus. The gospel instead asserts that there's a divine spark located in each of us. In other words, all of us, deep down, are the sons and daughters of God just like Jesus was himself. Pagels' book explores the conflict between Thomas and John, the gospel which most vociferously argues for Jesus' unique godly status, and in doing so she has put together a book that readers have praised for being both scholarly and readable. (How's that for an oxymoron?) If you're interested in the early history of Christianity or in spiritual themes in general, this book might be well worth your time.