Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation
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A profound exploration of the Bible's most controversial book—from the author of Beyond Belief and The Gnostic Gospels
The strangest book of the New Testament, filled with visions of the Rapture, the whore of Babylon, and apocalyptic writing of the end of times, the Book of Revelation has fascinated readers for more than two thousand years, but where did it come from? And what are the meanings of its surreal images of dragons, monsters, angels, and cosmic war?
Elaine Pagels, New York Times bestselling author and "the preeminent voice of biblical scholarship to the American public" (The Philadelphia Inquirer), elucidates the true history of this controversial book, uncovering its origins and the roots of dissent, violence, and division in the world's religions. Brilliantly weaving scholarship with a deep understanding of the human needs to which religion speaks, Pagels has written what may be the masterwork of her unique career.
circumcision is a matter of the heart—spiritual, not literal. Such a person receives praise not from human beings, but from God.84 Much of what Paul wrote, in fact, could be read—and has been read ever since—to mean that God disinherited the Jewish people in favor of Gentile believers, whom Paul calls the “spiritual Israel,” by contrast with those whom he calls “my kindred according to the flesh, who are Israelites,”85 who belong “to Israel according to the flesh.” In his Letter to the
followers in Ephesus for having met them with suspicion, first testing them, then rejecting them as frauds and “evildoers”: “I know that you cannot tolerate evildoers; you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them to be false.”98 John may have suspected that such wouldbe apostles were coming from Pauline circles, where believers called apostles often presided, trying to enter established groups and take them over. Ignatius, for his part, knew of groups like
asked a key question: “How would someone have written this kind of dialogue?” As our work progressed, we suggested that Christians then, like many today, struggling to understand Jesus’ teachings, imagined themselves as Jesus’ earliest disciples. Some sought through prayer and meditation to engage in “dialogue with the savior” as they questioned what certain sayings and parables meant. The Dialogue of the Savior suggests that they also engaged in discussion with one another, perhaps recalling
and who has been loved everywhere. I am the one whom they call Life, and you have called Death … I am godless, and I am one whose God is great.64 The poem praises a power manifested in both “the whore and the holy one,” a presence found not only in palaces but also where one least expects it: “cast out upon the dung heap … among those who are disgraced … among those violently slain.” The voice claims to speak through the spirits of every man who lives with me, and of women who
of texts labeled ‘apocalypses’ … for the most part these revelation-discourses have little literary connection with the traditional apocalyptic form,” in “Faithful and True: Early Christian Apocalyptic and the Person of Christ,” in Robert J. Daly, S.J., Apocalyptic Thought in Early Christianity (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2009), 114. Many scholars would agree with him that these are “partial heirs of the apocalyptic tradition, rather than its authentic representatives,” 115. Most of those