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There was a time when people still believed that gods walked among us. In the 4th Century AD there lived a woman with such beauty that there were those who believed she was a goddess in human skin. She knew better, and wanted only to live her life unmolested by the cataclysmic forces that were upending and would soon destroy the ancient world. Worse for her, she unintentionally became a symbol of the dying Gnostic sect of Christianity at the very moment when Christianity was becoming the official religion of the Roman Empire and the bishops were destroying all traces of what many early Christians believed. And making things even more complicated, in the face of the rapid, worldwide conversion to Christianity, she became ever more skeptical of all religions? This is the backdrop of “The Secular Gospel of Sophia.”
Sophia lived in the turbulent 4th Century, when the crumbling Roman Empire adopted Christianity as its official religion and the bishops promptly began suppressing other faiths. Perhaps the first faith eliminated by the newly ascendant Church was the Gnostic branch of Christianity. Gnostics were killed and their books destroyed to such an extent that until some 52 gospels were discovered in an earthenware jar in a cave in Upper Egypt in 1945, we knew little about what these early Christians taught and believed. Sophia is the (fictional) person who put those books in the jar 1500 years earlier, not because she believed in the faith the books expressed, but because she felt compelled to preserve what others would destroy. “The Secular Gospel of Sophia,” tells the story of this remarkable woman.
“Sophia” covers a 67-year period, 324 – 391 AD, when the newly empowered Catholic Church first decided what being Christian meant and then set about enforcing its newly minted orthodoxy. This is a story of romance, bravery, intrigue and intellect. It is rich in historically accurate detail, without sacrificing prose or plot. For the title character, it is a story of finding her voice and growing brave enough to confront the most powerful forces of her age.
With the discovery of “The Nag Hammadi Library” in 1945, interest in Gnosticism as an early branch of Christianity has exploded and hundreds of (mostly) non-fiction titles have been published to meet the demand for explanation. “The Secular Gospel of Sophia” tells the story of the age in which that faith was banned and extinguished, but how, through Sophia’s strength and bravery, their gospels were preserved. The novel illuminates what was perhaps the most consequential time in the history of Western Civilization, in which the secular role of Christianity was cemented, the destruction of the Roman Empire was set in motion, and the forces behind the dark ages that followed in Europe took shape.