In 1945 an Egyptian peasant unearthed what proved to be the Gnostic Gospels, the sacred books of one of the earliest Christian sects. This landmark study, a winner of both the National book Award and the National book Critics Circle Award, draws on those texts to illuminate the world of the first Christians and to examine the different ways in which both Gnostics and the orthodox constructed God, Christ, and the Church. Did Jesus literally rise from the dead? Was there only one God, and could He be both Father and Mother? Whose version of Christianity came down to us and why did it prevail? Brilliant, provacative, and stunning in its implications, The Gnostic Gospels is a radical yet accessible reconsideration of the origins of the Christian faith.