Elaine Pagels explores the surprising history of the most controversial book of the Bible. In the waning days of the Roman Empire, militant Jews in Jerusalem had waged an all-out war against Rome’s occupation of Judea, and their defeat resulted in the desecration of the Great Temple in Jerusalem. In the aftermath of that war, John of Patmos, a Jewish prophet and follower of Jesus, wrote the Book of Revelation, prophesying God’s judgment on the pagan empire that devastated and dominated his people. Soon after, Christians fearing arrest and execution championed John’s prophecies as offering hope for deliverance from evil. Others seized on the Book of Revelation as a weapon against heretics and infidels of all kinds. Even after John’s prophecies seemed disproven—instead of being destroyed, Rome became a Christian empire—those who loved John’s visions refused to discard them and instead reinterpreted them—as Christians have done for two thousand years. Brilliantly weaving scholarship with a deep understanding of the human needs to which religion speaks, Pagels has written what may be the masterwork in her unique career.
Elaine Pagels is the Harrington Spear Paine Foundation Professor of Religion at Princeton University. She is the author of several books, including Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity, the New York Times bestseller Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas, and The… More about Elaine Pagels
"Revelations is a slim book that packs in dense layers of scholarship and meaning . . . One of [Elaine Pagels’s] great gifts is much in abundance: her ability to ask, and answer, the plainest questions about her material without speaking down to her audience . . . She must be a fiendishly good lecturer." — The New York Times
"One of the significant benefits of Pagels’s book is its demonstration of the unpredictability of apocalyptic politics . . . The meaning of the Apocalypse is ever malleable and ready to hand for whatever crisis one confronts. That is one lesson of Pagels’s book. Another is that we all should be vigilant to keep some of us from using the vision for violence against others." — The New York Times Book Review (Editors’ Choice)
"Pagels is an absorbing, intelligent, and eye-opening companion. Calming and broad-minded here, as in her earlier works, she applies a sympathetic and humane eye to texts that are neither subtle nor sympathetically humane but lit instead by fury." — Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker
"Any book in the Bible that can be cited simultaneously by deeply conservative end-of-times Christians who see the Apocalypse around the corner and by Marxist-friendly Christians looking forward to justice at the End of History must have a compelling back story. That back story is told well and concisely by Elaine Pagels in her new book, Revelations." — The Boston Globe