Monday, September 26, 2011

Five best books about religious cults in antiquity

Mary Beard is a classics professor at the University of Cambridge and author of The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found and The Roman Triumph.

For the Wall Street Journal, she named a five best list of books on religious cults in antiquity.

One title on the list:
The Gnostic Gospels
by Elaine Pagels (1979)

The early-Christian "Jesus cult" was very different from the organized Christianity of our own age, as Elaine Pagels showed in this classic study of the so-called "heretical" traditions of Christianity in the first few centuries after Jesus' death—that is to say, all those diverse traditions that the church establishment later took care to brand as wrong. Some of the most vivid evidence for these alternative Christianities comes from the Nag Hammadi library, an extraordinary cache of religious texts written in Coptic in the third or fourth centuries and unearthed near Luxor, Egypt, in 1945. Placed center-stage in Pagels's account, they offer an unsettling version of Christianity—one in which Jesus is the lover of Mary Magdalene and ideas such as the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection are treated as na├»ve fantasies.
Read about another book on the list.

The Page 99 Test: The Roman Triumph.

The Page 99 Test: The Fires of Vesuvius.

--Marshal Zeringue