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Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  1,391 ratings  ·  227 reviews
A startling exploration of the history of the most controversial book of the Bible, by the bestselling author of Beyond Belief. Through the bestselling books of Elaine Pagels, thousands of readers have come to know and treasure the suppressed biblical texts known as the Gnostic Gospels. As one of the world's foremost religion scholars, she has been a pioneer in interpreti ...more
Hardcover, First Edition, 246 pages
Published March 6th 2012 by Viking (first published January 1st 2012)
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The Name of the Rose by Umberto EcoRevelation by C.J. SansomRed Dragon by Thomas HarrisApocalypse by D.H. LawrenceSe7en by Raven Gregory
The Book of Revelation
49th out of 49 books — 23 voters
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A Study Of Apocalypse
14th out of 104 books — 9 voters

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Mark Russell
I gave Revelations five stars, not only because it is a good book, but because it is an important book. No other book in the Bible has as much impact on our way of life as the Book of Revelation. It influences our nation's religion, worldview and foreign policy in a way that the gospels do not, and perhaps never have. So you'll be interested to know that we've been getting it wrong this whole time.

The Book of Revelation is not, as Pagels points out, and as scholars have known for centuries, a pr
Author Elaine Pagels includes here discussion of not only John of Patmos's Book of Revelations, so well-known from the New Testament, but also discussion of the numerous revelation texts found at Nag Hammadi in Upper Egypt in 1945. These are the so-called gnostic or apocryphal texts expunged by order of Egyptian bishop Athanasius in the 4th century C.E. Because of the range of her sources she's able to give us a picture of Christian revelatory thinking and mindsets through the ages.

For instance
I suspect a hardcore "everything in the Bible is literally true and divinely related" Christian would consider pretty much everything in this book to be heresy. If you've got a somewhat more open mindset regarding the political jostling that created the modern Bible, this is a fascinating read.

Pagels goes into depth on what we know about the historical period in which Revelations was written, and points out the parallels that make a lot of the bizarre imagery from the book make a great deal mor
Lee Harmon
Look. If Pagels writes a book, go buy it. You don't need a review, you just need a reminder that it's ready for purchase. But then I'd feel like I wasn't doing my job, so ...

I’ve been looking forward to Pagel's new book, hoping I would read her views on how to interpret Revelation, but this wasn't her focus. Pagels begins by discussing the apocalyptic writings of the early Christian period. The title, Revelations, is not a misspelling of the final book in our Bible; she really does mean "revelat
Mar 08, 2014 Jason rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Serious Bible Studiers
Don't know much about the Book of Revelation? Convinced that we'll never figure out all of its mysteries? I recommend first reading the Book of Revelation and as you read, try to cleanse your mind of all the futuristic implications you learned from films, video games, literature, and your wide-eyed, biblically illiterate uncles. Then, read the first chapter of Pagels's REVELATIONS. In this chapter she summarizes the occasion, devices, and purpose of John of Patmos' work. After that, you'll be go ...more
Steven Peterson
I have read Elaine Pagels' work before (Gnostic Gospels) and have admired her work. I am not an expert in this aspect of history, but her works read well and she shows much knowledge of the material. She also places the issues addressed in an historical context.

Here, she explores the Book of Revelation, written, she says, by John of Patmos (an island off the coast of Turkey). She asks a number of questions in this book and strives to answer each (Page 3): "Who wrote this book? Why--and how--do s
Ron Charles
The remarkable thing about the End of Times is how timeless it is. Harold Camping, the subject of mockery last year with his ever-shifting predictions about the Apocalypse, was only the latest in a long line of hectoring prophets, but every age, every culture, possibly every person endures that existential panic, a vision of the final high-stakes conflict.

Those visions didn’t start with the Book of Revelation, but for almost 2,000 years, the trippy images and fiery rhetoric that blaze away at th
Clif Hostetler
Whenever I refer to the Book of Revelations in the presence of my wife, she corrects me by reminding me that it's a singular revelation, not plural. As usual she is correct. But I don't appreciate being corrected, so I was glad to see, at first glance, what appeared to be Elaine Pagels agreeing with my use of the plural form of the word. As it turns out, Pagles is writing about multiple revelations. The book describes the literary (as well as political and social) contexts within which the canon ...more
Elaine Pagels, who has done so much to expand our understanding of early Christianity, in part by including sources that the Church itself discarded or sought to eliminate, in part by reading the canon with a close eye, here takes on that last and most enigmatic book of the New Testament, Revelations. The book itself stands at the end of the New Testament, and with its vision of justice as eternal vengeance. its imagery looks backward to the righteous anger of the Jewish prophets. But it was als ...more
With _Revelations_, gifted scholar, professor, and storyteller Elaine Pagels has published yet another compelling, concise, and enjoyable work of scholarship easily accessible to lay readers and non-scholars. Pagels argues her points clearly and persuasively and provides extensive endnotes citing works of many other respected and influential scholars with similar as well as differing opinions. Pagels stands on the side of a growing majority of contemporary critical scholars who have come to an u ...more
Thomas Tutt
This book is a must, must read (or in my case, must-listen, since I read it on Audiobook). Pagels approach to The Revelation of John is scholarly but approachable, laying out the historical and cultural context of Revelation. The title is actually a little misleading: although the book of Revelation (and similar books of revelation that were suppressed as heretical) serves as a common thread, the focus is less on the particulars of this apocalypse than on the people and practices that created th ...more
Chungsoo Lee
Prof. Pagels at Princeton University convincingly assesses the remarkable role the Book of Revelation played in the time of Roman persecution of Christians and during the time of Roman conversion to Christianity thereafter. What a fine study of the Book! Pagels makes it clear what John of Patmos (who is not to be equated with John of Zebedee, the beloved disciple) meant and referred to by his symbolic figures in his Revelation such as by "666" which stands for Nero and by other symbols referring ...more
I have enjoyed reading the glowing reviews of other writers here. I just want to add that what struck me most about Pagels' narrative is to what a large extent the disputes among the early Christians were never really settled but are still on-going to this day. Regarding the struggle between the followers of Paul, for whom belief in the Resurrection was both necessary and sufficient for being the "right kind of Christian," and the followers of the church in Jerusalem--led by Peter, and James the ...more
Of all the Books of Revelation that have been written since the time of Christ (and apparently, there were many, some discovered in Egypt in the 40s), Elaine Pagels suggests that the version which endured did so likely because it was the one most easily exploited for political gain and centralization of power. Instead of other revelations with more mystical bents or those perhaps more pantheistic in their vision, this version was canonized precisely because of its take-no-prisoners and us.vs. th ...more
James (JD) Dittes
Finally a book about The Revelation of John that puts the book in its historical and political context!

Just like bad dreams are inexplicable the morning after one awakes, John's dream seems to become more and more contorted the more people try to spin it for the present day (or near future). When one realizes that this book has been read with such fearful, breathless expectations ever since it's writing in 90 AD, the book loses much of its ardor.

Pagels points out many key events leading up to th
I work with schizophrenics who can get quite religious minded. Much of their thought content seems to have been inspired by the imagery and overall thrust of the Book of Revelations. I've always thought it kooky and not as well written as much of the rest of the New Testament, but I could understand why people who suffer from paranoia and hallucinations would find some congruency with its vision. I wanted to learn more about it so that I might be able to find some common ground with my patients. ...more
I've been a big fan of Pagels since I read a couple of her earlier works in the '90s. I've long been impressed by her ability to offer a generally dispassionate interpretation of early Christian history. It's hard for me to gauge how important she might be to that scholarship, since there is always certainly a divide between the academics who actually move the needle and those who write popular books for mass consumption, but my favorite thing about her work is that she was the first author to e ...more
An interesting history of the Book of Revelation. It tells how the book has been interpreted in different ways throughout history. It starts with a likely interpretation of John of Patmos in the context of war between the Jews and Rome and the conflict between Jewish and gentile followers of Jesus during the first century.

With the persecution and slaughter of Christians between 160 and 165 Justin believed he was seeing the end times as foretold by John's revelation. In the late 160's the “new p
A leading Biblical scholar and expert on the Gnostic gospels, Pagels narrates a brief and compelling look at the process by which the book of Revelations came to be in today's New Testament. Citing writings of contemporaries of the Nicene Creed and following a trail of Scriptural texts from early in the first century CE, she recreates a setting alarmingly unfamiliar to the everyday Christian. Whether a believer, a historian, or both, this book will fascinate you, and cause you to question what w ...more
Chad Kettner
Professor Elaine Pagels, who teaches on the History of Religion at Princeton University and is renowned for her studies and writings on the Gnostic Gospels, has written a remarkable book which places the Biblical "Revelation" into its original context along with other early-Christian revelations and historicity.

According to Pagels, the Book of Revelation was not intended to be a prediction of events thousands of years in the future, but rather the visions of John of Patmos (not the apostle) who
As a 1960's-raised Catholic from the Northeast, and now burgeoning atheist, I have gone from Christoper Hitchens to 'Jesus Interrupted' to try and figure out the whole 'bible as literal truth' thing. Given the influence of evangelicalism, a movement well off my radar until middle-age, I still am mystified at the whole dark-ages vibe to it all.
Elaine Pagels is more a specialist, however, than what I might have been looking for. In this richly researched book, she is true to her sub-title: she f
Rosemary Mont
Interesting book, a bit on the brief side for such a complicated topic. I would have liked to know how other modern scholars interpret Revelations. I find that the tone is so matter-of-fact, that it does not suggest alternative points of view.
Pagels writes here of the historical context of John of Patmos's Revelation, and about how that text has been used through the centuries, often for political applications. I didn't engage with this as I did years ago with The Gnostic Gospels and Adam, Eve, and the Serpent, but maybe only because I was looking for a point by point analysis of Revelation. Pagels's scholarship is above reproach, of course.
I greatly admired Elaine Pagels's first book--The Gnostic Gospels. Since then it seems she keeps talking about the gnostic books discovered at Nag Hammadi in the mid-20th century, always from a slightly different angle. This time she compares them to the Biblical book of Revelations. It becomes very clear in this book as with her others that her real interest and sympathy is all with the gnostic books. Mine is not, especially, and I'm finding Diarmaid MacCulloch's A History of Christianity: the ...more
Tatiana Gomez
This book suffers from a large problem: the disparity between the title and the content. It's one of those books where the cover makes it seem a lot cooler than it is, and almost misleads you as to what is inside.

It was really hard to get any cohesive argument or thesis from this book, except maybe to enlighten me to the fact that there were other contemporary writings at the time of John's that also called themselves "revelations." This was disappointing because I was expecting in-depth litera
Bryan Lambert
A well written book explaining the christian new testament book of Revelations. The parts I found most interesting related to the original audience. Many modern Christians do not know the history of the early church well enough to catch that the author, John of Patmos (not John the apostle), wasn't a fan of Paul's teaching. It is pretty clear he thinks Paul's gentile compromises and church plants are heretical. His writing is much more in line with the direction James and Peter were going with t ...more
Frank Terry
I really, really liked this book. It was written very well and presents the information very well, too. Elaine Pagels pretty much stays out of the way for the whole book and more or less just explains and explores the history and development of the Book of Revelation from its origins and then its development throughout mostly the first three hundred years of Church history.

The only time Elaine takes out her razor is during her discussion of Athanatius (sp?) and the way he co-opted the book to se
This is an interesting and scholarly book. Pagels is one of the world’s primer historians of religious texts, including the National Book Award for The Gnostic Gospels. Here she describes the New Testament book of Revelations, attributed to John of Patmos, and not the apostle John as is often believed. She decodes the vivid, war-like imagery of the book in terms of the destruction of Israel by the Romans, explaining that the Whore of Babylon is actually Rome, because if John said it was Rome, th ...more
Pagels, as usual, uses her expertise in the "Gnostic Gospels" of the Nag Hammadi collection and in the history of early Christianity to shed light on the Book of Revelations and how it became part of the Christian canon, despite good reasons for it not to have been included.

Books like this one leave me hankering for an alternate history in which Origen won over Augustine; in which Athanasius didn't come back from one of his exiles; in which Constantine lost the battle at the bridge. I've heard
John Lucy
While I don't always agree with Pagels' methods (as evidenced in the footnotes... but most readers won't care about footnotes, so it's all good?), this book is fascinating, learned, and well-argued. Though I have been to seminary--I admit I never learned much about Revelation anyway--Pagels does an excellent job of teaching: what John's revelation is about, what John's revelation is REALLY about, and why it all matters.

The "why it all matters" is what this book is truly about. Pagels puts Revela
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Elaine Pagels is a preeminent figure in the theological community whose scholarship has earned her international respect. The Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion at Princeton University, she was awarded the Rockefeller, Guggenheim & MacArthur Fellowships in three consecutive years.
As a young researcher at Barnard College, she changed forever the historical landscape of the Christian r
More about Elaine Pagels...
The Gnostic Gospels The Origin of Satan: How Christians Demonized Jews, Pagans and Heretics Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas Adam, Eve, and the Serpent: Sex and Politics in Early Christianity Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity

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