Friday, August 26, 2016

What are the best Christian criticisms of Elaine Pagels?

What are the best Christian criticisms of Elaine Pagels?
This is a partner question to: What are the best Christian criticisms of Gnosticism?

Let's first note that Elaine Pagels is a distinguished academic who has specialized in the Nag Hammadi Library finds. Pagels has written provocatively titled books for a middle-brow educated audience—among them, Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas, The Origin of Satan: How Christians Demonized Jews, Pagans, and Heretics and Adam, Eve and the Serpent: Sex and Politics in Early Christianity. Her books tend to discredit the established facile impressions of early Christianity held by pious believers unfamiliar with scholarship older, newer and deeper than Pagels' own.

For this reason, a number of Protestant fundamentalists and orthodoxy monitors of other Christian leanings find Pagels' work annoying and even "anti-Christian." However, her writings and their actual implications do not automatically disqualify nor discredit the Christian faith. I am not aware of any particular anti-Pagels "school" of worthy critics, but I am aware of criticisms, some of which are valid.

In my opinion, Pagels books tend to overcredit herself and undercredit those on whose shoulders she stands. Pagels became interested in Nag Hammadi as a graduate student and was a minor assistant in a team working on the texts. The principal scholar on Nag Hammadi is James M. Robinson, the principal translator of the codices to English, not Pagels.

This is a repost from my replies to questions posted on Quora, a question-and-answer site where questions are asked, answered, edited and organized by its community of users, at The questions in italics and their subtexts are not mine.