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.
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Overview of early Christian writings and figures
My interest in the Bible, its writers and interpreters and the author's coverage of the enigmatic Book of Revelation. Also the brief coverage of each of the ancient writings discovered at Nag Hammadi and why the early Church fathers decided to reject them.
Elaine Pagels' other books, e.g. The Gnostic Gospels and Beyond Belief. However, I think Revelations focuses more on John's writing of the Revelation of Jesus Christ, accompanied by the writer's interpretations - a little like a Bible study or a Church sermon. In Revelations, Pagels also spends a good deal of time on early Christian personalities and powerbrokers.
The voice was a little hard to take at first, but I got used to it as the book progressed. Lorna Raver speaks very distinctly and with appropriate intonation and animation. Bit croaky for my liking.
No extreme reactions!
The book provides a good, brief coverage of developments in the early Christian Church, and the powerful characters who influenced the composition (canon) of the Bible we read today.