Bible Review 20:2, April 2004

Bible Books

Searching for Something More

When and how did being a Christian become synonymous with accepting a certain set of beliefs? One might suppose that it was always thus. But as an historian, Elaine Pagels knows that it was not. She knows that people in the first two centuries of Christian history chose to involve themselves in Christianity for a number of reasons. Some came seeking community, even family. Others found in their gatherings an egalitarian spirit that was attractive, especially to women and slaves, who were not used to receiving an equal share. Others came looking for practical help from a group known for its care of widows and orphans. Others came fearing death and believing that baptism could shield them from the plague and other ancient threats. Others came for miracles—and mystery. It was not creed that held the church together in those early years. It was the experience of being part of an alternative community of care, friendship, solidarity and deep mystery.

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