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 2,000 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.
©2012 Elaine Pagels (P)2012 Random House Audio
Of the books that were accepted into the New Testament canon, Revelations was the most controversial. Elaine Pagels traces the early history of Revelations in the context of the other controversial books that did not make it into the canon, most particularly the books deemed heretical and which were lost until copies were found in the Egyptian desert in 1945 at Nag Hammadi.
Pagels traces the changes in how each generation in the early centuries of Christianity interpreted Revelations, and how these interpretations were used in the politics of the early church. It was these political issues that caused Revelations to be included in the canon, whereas other, similar books of prophesy were declared heretical.
Pagels brings broad research to bear on her subject, producing a fascinating, illuminating, and comprehensible history that's a must-read for anyone interested in the history of early Christianity.
The narrator sounds like someones 75 year old grandmother who smokes 3 packs of cigarettes a day for the past 50 years, . Never could get used to her narration and the narrator seem to me to have read the book with a sort of disdain or contempt for Christianity, which I don't believe the author intended. It was in a sort of sarcastic tone. Hard to explain.
The book however, is very enlightening on the history of Christianity. I have learned a great deal about early Christians and the initial movement. Loved the descriptions of the early monastic life of many christian sects, very moving.
I got this book because I have always been fascinated at people's interpretations to the book of Revelations. This book does a thorough job of detailing the history of the book to the point of it's inclusion in the bible. But what I was looking for was what has happened since then. The description of the book seemed to hint that this would be discussed but sadly it was not. If you looking for an examination of Revelations and some of the early history this will definitely fit the bill.
I was looking for a book that could potentially explain Revelations, so I was a little disappointed, yet curious, when I realized this book was more about the political context related to the writing and inclusion of Revelations in the bible. Still, it is very interesting stuff, especially the part about "secret books" of the bible. Will certainly be looking up the gnostic gospels in the future. Worth a listen for context sake.
Faced with mindless duty, when an audio book player slips into a rear pocket and mini buds pop into ears, old is made new again.
Elaine Pagels is a Professor of Religion at Princeton University. One can draw different conclusions from Pagels’ history of religion but end times holds a high place in Pagels’ research and opinion about “Revelations”.
“Revelations” is the second Elaine Pagels’ book reviewed in this blog. From her chosen profession and the previous quote, one presumes Ms. Pagels is a spiritual person but a review of her work seems to challenge bed-rock Catholic beliefs. The first review in this blog, “The Gnostic Gospels”, shows Catholic religion and its hierarchical organization as more man-made than divinely inspired. That sentiment is equally drawn from her history of “Revelations”; which is not to diminish Pagels’ spirituality but to infer that her scholarly histories of religion are interpretations of mankind’s divine belief rather than manifestations of a supreme being.
Are Pagels’ books an endorsement of humanism or religion? One draws their own conclusion; however, her scholarly pursuit of religious’ history is, at the very least, fascinating and informative.
Note first of all that the title is plural. This is not primarily an exposition or commentary on the book of Revelation. Instead, it is a history of so called revelatory writings, both Apocalyptic and Apocryphal throughout ancient history and the early Church age. Little is offered to the modern reader but a history lesson. And to the faithful, Pagels only offers a deconstruction that undermines canonical unity. I had hoped for a critical reading of John's Apocalypse that would give light to modern interpretations which have largely failed to inspire the Church toward her purpose and mission. There's none to be found here.
Elaine Pages does an excellent job at explaining Revelations as it pertained to the time in which it was written, as well as how how pliant its visions have been to those looking for relevance in their own time. More than just pointing out common misconceptions of authorship, Pagels' goes into detail about the historical and political circumstances leading to the inclusion of Revelation to John in the Christian canon. As in her book, The Gnostic Gospels, we are presented with a picture as to why other texts didn't make it into the canon. Good read for those interested in early Christian history.
Topic was very interesting. Narration was also done well. Interesting to make the connection of what was going on during the period when it was written and some of it's meaning.
Excellent scholarship and well presented. The narrator's deep voice was a bit irritating, but the CONTENT of the book was fascinating. Of course, if one is a bible-literalist, this will not be the book for you. I can see myself reading (listening?) to this book again, and still getting something out of it, it is so packed with information and dates, etc.
Yes, I would listen again. There is so much information that requires reexamination of other sources. The author (one of my favorite biblical scholars) puts John's book into a historical context and demonstrates how the author drew upon the Hebrew Bible. i found myself wanting to study the Book of Daniel.
Only criticism is that later chapters that go into early Church history, It was a good brief overview for people not that familiar with such history. For myself, I had just read several books and listen to lectures on early Church history, Thus to me those chapters did not contain any new insights or information. But well worth the listen.
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