Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation” as Want to Read:
Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  1,288 ratings  ·  221 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
Hardcover, First Edition, 246 pages
Published March 6th 2012 by Viking Adult (first published January 1st 2012)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Revelations, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Revelations

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
45th out of 45 books — 21 voters
The Road by Cormac McCarthyA Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.Holy Bible by AnonymousWaiting for the End of the World by Madison Smartt BellEvery Knee Shall Bow by Jess Walter
A Study Of Apocalypse
13th out of 103 books — 8 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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
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
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
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
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
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
Sarah Woodbury
A lively read, and an unusually successful crossover between academic and popular audiences. Pagels gives a fascinating early "biography' of the book of Revelation and its role in the formation of Orthodox Christianity. Chapters 1 and 2 frame the book as "wartime literature" written by a Jewish follower of Jesus in the aftermath of the Roman destruction of Jerusalem, opposed to emergent Pauline Christianity as well as Roman rule. Chapter 3 situates the text in relation to non-canonical apocalyps ...more
Good popular history of the first three centuries of interpretation of the Book of Revelation. I wish she'd delved more into the Origenist controversy, though, since she hints a few times that the contested interpretation of Origen's writings was crucial to her main topic, but never goes into it. But that's due to my personal/academic interest in the controversy. On the other hand, I'm less interested in the codex of apocrypha (Gnostic gospels) that is so close to Pagels' heart (as well as centr ...more
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.'"
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount
  • Evolution of the Word: The New Testament in the Order the Books Were Written
  • When Time Shall Be No More: Prophecy Belief in Modern American Culture (Studies in Cultural History)
  • Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth
  • High Risk: An Anthology of Forbidden Writings
  • Evil: Inside Human Violence and Cruelty
  • The Teachings of Don B.
  • 60 Greatest Conspiracies Of All Time - History's Biggest Mysteries, Cover-ups, And Cabals
  • Matthew (Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible)
  • The Unseen Hand: An Introduction to the Conspiratoral View of History
  • The Civil War as a Theological Crisis
  • The Age of the Spirit: How the Ghost of an Ancient Controversy Is Shaping the Church
  • The Rise and Fall of the Bible: The Unexpected History of an Accidental Book
  • Short Stories by Jesus: The Enigmatic Parables of a Controversial Rabbi
  • The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle
  • The Gnostic Bible
  • Saving Paradise: How Christianity Traded Love of This World for Crucifixion and Empire
  • The Collected Writings Of Ambrose Bierce
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 H. 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

Share This Book