Gnostic Paul Summary

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Elaine Pagels, a professor of religion at Princeton University and a prominent Gnostic scholar, is the author of the 1975 book The Gnostic Paul: Gnostic Exegesis of the Pauline Letters. Her other publications, The Gnostic Gospels, Adam, Eve and the Serpent, The Origin of Satan, and Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas are some of the most substantial works in Gnostic studies to date. Similarly, her Gnostic Paul does not disappoint in the provocative nature of its content and her thorough treatment of its sources. By constructing a Valentian exegesis of Paul, drawing upon several Nag Hammadi texts and references from early church fathers, Pagels demonstrates how evidence from so-called “gnostic” sources may challenge the assumption that…show more content…
Her distance from the text in one way allows the sources themselves to take full focus, but in doing so individual points of interest within the Valentian exegesis are lost as they are never touched upon by her for further analysis. Never outside of the introduction or conclusion does Pagels offer the reader her own insights, and only in abridged summary form in relation to the idea of the “gnostic Paul” as a whole. Although she does briefly introduce common theories concerning Paul’s own gnostic/anti-gnostic allegiances (pp.161-4), she herself never provides her own judgment. Furthermore, she never formally addresses the fact that much of the evidence she utilizes to demonstrate the “gnostic” view on many of these passages does not come from Valentian exegetes themselves. More often than not, these gnostic readings are transmitted in the form of a church father’s argument against a certain interpretation (usually Irenaeus’ Adversus Haereses). Therefore, even with her wide-ranging use of all other Nag Hammadi sources, what is put forth as a seemingly comprehensive collection of the interpretations of several Pauline letters is in fact a patchwork of interpretations from first hand exegetes, alongwith their polemic adversaries, who no doubt were prone to inaccuracies or exaggerations in their discussion gnostic

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