Elaine Pagels on Book of Revelation

August 7, 2011

Renowned religious historian Elaine Pagels says the Book of Revelation is the Bible's most controversial book and she explains its enduring appeal.  Pagels is the award-winning author of "The Gnostic Gospels."  She digs into the history of the Book Revelation and speculates on why this book became part of the Biblical canon.



I enjoyed the interview. I'm am a medieval historian and the author of THE REAL HISTORY OF THE END OF THE WORLD, Berkley 2010, I cover Revelations, the Maya, the Hindu Day of Bhrama, the book of Daniel, Joachim of Fiore, the Millerites, the Cherokee Ghost Dance, the Fifth Monarchy, Y2K, Heaven's Gate and many more. Each entry is footnoted and referenced but it is intended for a general audience. In their infinite wisdom, the chains put it in "metaphysics" instead of history. I am happy to discuss these and other topics.

I agree with Pagels that Revelation is an attempt by Athanasius & friends to define Christianity as narrowly and restrictively as possible. The Christianity we know today is essentially the invention of Paul, Irenaeus, Athanasius, and Augustine, and is a mockery of what Jesus lived and died for. The Nicene and Apostles' Creeds -- which literally defined Christianity, at least until the Reformation -- jump straight from his birth to his death, as if his life, ministry, and teachings were meaningless. It is a cult of personality elevated to divinity.

If our knowledge of Jesus were limited to Mark (the first written canonical gospels) and Thomas (the first written non-canonical gospel), we would see him simply as a radical rabbi and healer, who proclaimed the loving and inspirational God of Psalms, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes over the fire-and-brimstone God of Moses. In those two foundational gospels, there is absolutely nothing about a virgin birth, Jesus as God's only and literal son, or his proxy atonement for the sins of others. Thomas never mentions the resurrection at all, and Mark treats it like a suspicious rumor, advanced by a scary stranger in an empty tomb. And yet these are supposedly the four pillars of "Christian" belief!

The other gospels, Paul's epistles, and Revelation are attempts to expand and redefine Jesus as an anti-Jewish Jew, and as the message itself, rather than the messenger. Look for my book on this theme in a year or two, if I can interest a publisher, or self-published as an ebook, if not. The working title is "Immortality: Christian Myths, The Gospel of Thomas, and a Rationalist's Search for God."

Would be interested to know if you feel a revision of Christianity closer in alignment with what is definitely historically known of him could help us find hegemony with Islam. Please write me at marquetteIa@yahoo.com. Our journeys are very similar. 56