The Politics of Paradise

The attitudes and values we associate with Christian tradition, particularly attitudes toward sexual matters, evolved in Western culture at a specific time—during the first four centuries of the Common Era, when the Christian movement, which had begun as a defiant sect, transformed itself into the religion of the Roman Empire.

Born Again

“What was it like to become and be an ordinary Christian in the first century?” The question that opens Professor Wayne Meeks’s impressive new book seems an obvious starting point for understanding the early Christian movement. How did this foreign cult, which Roman leaders prosecuted as an “atheistic” and illegal …

The Defeat of the Gnostics

There is only one fact on which nearly all accounts about Jesus of Nazareth, whether written by persons hostile or devoted to him, agree: that, by order of the Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate, he was condemned and crucified in c. AD 30. The aristocratic Roman historian Tacitus (c. 55-115), who …

The Suppressed Gnostic Feminism

Unlike many deities of the ancient Near East, the God of Israel shared his power with no female divinity, nor was he the divine husband or lover of any.[^1] He can scarcely be characterized in any but masculine epithets: king, lord, master, judge, and father.[^2] Indeed, the absence of feminine …

The Threat of the Gnostics

Some thirty years ago, near Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt, an Arab peasant discovered about fifty-two ancient papyrus texts, including gospels and other secret writings attributed to Jesus and his disciples. In addition there were sayings, poems, myths, philosophic treatises, and instructions for magical or mystical practice—all of them Coptic …

The Discovery of the Gnostic Gospels

In December 1945, in the Upper Egyptian desert, an Arab peasant made an astonishing discovery of thirteen papyrus books—a discovery that is radically changing our understanding of the early Christians, their church, and their beliefs. The circumstances of this find were for years obscure, perhaps because the discovery was accidental, …