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

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3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  929 ratings  ·  198 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 Adult (first published January 1st 2012)
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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...more
William
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...more
Rebecca
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...more
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...more
Jason
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...more
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...more
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
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
Sharon
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
Aektare
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...more
Martin
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
Matt
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
Jerry
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...more
Richelle
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...more
Elmwoodblues
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...more
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.
Jon
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
Marian
I found this book while rambling through the library. This is one reason why i hope that bookstores and libraries never go away. The discovery process is nothing like what’s possible on an online store. I have read other books by Elaine Pagels, so picking up this book was not a complete mystery.

Elaine Pagels begins with an overview or the book, Revelations, and the works that she believes influenced the author. As she does this, she also gives context for the history of the book. Much of this wa...more
Daniel Gullotta
Pagels' "Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelations" is simply the most engaging, easy to follow, and still scholarly work on the Book of Revelation I have ever come across. Pagels' scope is detailed and wide, beginning with the origins of Revelations itself and moving onto the second, third, and fourth centuries in which its influence grew, changed, transformed, and even at times shrunk and waned, until it was ultimately recognised within the canon of the New Testam...more
Melanie
Main takeaways: John of Patmos (JP) and Paul wouldn't have been friends; JP's revelation was written in the wake of war; there are many other Christian apocalypses; JP's inclusion among accepted holy texts was long disputed; Constantine's patronage was a major game-changer, for JP and for Catholic Christianity; Athanasius was ruthless.

As a result of the official strong-arm canonization of JP's apocalypse, and the campaign of extermination carried out by apostolic Christian authorities against re...more
Molly
Mar 03, 2012 Molly marked it as to-read
from wompo: "'Adam Gopnik discusses Pagel's section "on what must be the single most astonishing text of its time, the long feminist poem fount at Nag Hammadi in 1945 and called 'Thunder, Perfect Mind,'-- a poem so contemporary in feeling that one would swear it had been written by Ntozake Shange in a feminist collective in the nineteen-seventies,and then adapted as a Helen Reddy song.'"
Michael Dearman
I spent a portion of a seminar on the Book of Revelation reading Pagels' book alongside other commentaries and articles from historical-critical scholars of Revelation. In comparison to the other scholars we read, Pagels ranked pretty low on everyone's list (the class was comprised of evangelical Christians, non-religious, a Jew, and a few liberal Christians). Pagels is prolific, very popular with the media and with a certain segment of Christians. Her work on the gnostic gospels is very interes...more
Adam
A decent book that was surprisingly NOT an in-depth study of Revelation. Pagels quickly gives a synopsis of Revelation and then the other 3/4 of the book is devoted to the early Christian church history, gnosticism, the Roman empire, Martyrdom, protestant movement, etc. I think her main point is that Revelation is a book that has conformed to fit the needs of almost any down-and-out group who needs some hope for the future.
It was a good listen. The narrator is female (not sure if it's Pagels he...more
Daniel Kukwa
A fascinating look at a subject that gets a great deal of fantastical press, but not enough sedate academic/historical analysis. I enjoyed what I read, but it fails to reach ultimate greatness for two reasons. The first is that, while paying lip service to the contemporary impact of the Revelation, it fails to offer a deeper examination; its analysis closes with the dying embers of the Roman Empire. The second reason is that it eventually becomes too bogged down in the details of early church po...more
M. J.
Will likely offend Biblical "fundamentalists," but a fine analysis of John of Patmos' (definitely NOT the work of John the Evangelist) strange work.
T Fool
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Troy
I will happily read this again, and I can only say that about a handful of books.
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Elaine Pagels is a preeminent figure in the theological community whose impressive scholarship has earned her international respect. The Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion at Princeton University, Pagels was awarded the Rockefeller, Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellowships in three consecutive years.
As a young researcher at Barnard College, she changed forever the historical landscape of the...more
More about Elaine Pagels...
The Gnostic Gospels Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas The Origin of Satan: How Christians Demonized Jews, Pagans and Heretics Adam, Eve, and the Serpent: Sex and Politics in Early Christianity The Gnostic Paul: Gnostic Exegesis of the Pauline Letters

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