Elaine Pagels Seminar Media

Posted on Thursday, September 6th, 02012 by Austin Brown
link Categories: Announcements, Seminars   chat 0 Comments

This lecture was presented as part of The Long Now Foundation’s monthly Seminars About Long-term Thinking.

The Truth About the Book of Revelations

Monday August 20, 02012 – San Francisco

Video is up on the Pagels Seminar page for Members.


Audio is up on the Pagels Seminar page, or you can subscribe to our podcast.


War in heaven – a summary by Stewart Brand

“The Book of Revelation is war literature,” Pagels explained. John of Patmos was a war refugee, writing sixty years after the death of Jesus and twenty years after 60,000 Roman troops crushed the Jewish rebellion in Judea and destroyed Jerusalem.

In the nightmarish visions of John’s prophecy, Rome is Babylon, the embodiment of monstrous power and decadence. That power was expressed by Rome as religious. John would have seen in nearby Ephesus massive propaganda sculptures depicting the contemporary emperors as gods slaughtering female slaves identified as Rome’s subject nations. And so in the prophecy the ascending violence reaches a crescendo of war in heaven. Finally, summarized Pagels, “Jesus judges the whole world; and all who have worshipped other gods, committed murder, magic, or illicit sexual acts are thrown down to be tormented forever in a lake of fire, while God’s faithful are invited to enter a new city of Jerusalem that descends from heaven, where Christ and his people reign in triumph for 1000 years.”

Just one among the dozens of revelations of the time (Ezra’s, Zostrianos’, Peter’s, a different John’s), the vision of John of Patmos became popular among the oppressed of Rome. Three centuries later, in 367CE, Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria confirmed it as the concluding book in the Christian canon that became the New Testament.

As a tale of conflict where one side is wholly righteous and the other wholly evil, the Book of Revelation keeps being evoked century after century. Martin Luther declared the Pope to be the Whore of Babylon. Both sides of the American Civil War declared the opposing cause to be Bestial, though the North had the better music—“He hath loosed the fateful lightning of His terrible swift sword.” African-American slaves echoed John’s lament: “How long before you judge and avenge our blood on the inhabitants of the earth?”

But like many Christians through the years, Pagels wishes that John’s divisive vision had not become part of the Biblical canon. Among the better choices from that time, she quoted from the so-called “Secret Revelation of John”: “Jesus says to John, ‘The souls of everyone will live in the pure light, because if you did not have God’s spirit, you could not even stand up.’

“The other revelations are universal, instead of being about the saved versus the damned.”

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  • Observer

    Indeed Josh…Garbage in, Garbage out. Allergories vs History. Reverse Engineering is a specialty of Christianity. After all the REAL christians were Gnostics with a trinity of the Word, Wisdom, Knowledge….and other philosophies such as the Cathars etc. They all were slaughtered by the same Hooliganism that burned the Library of Alexandria and took power to produce the Holy Roman Empire which is still alive kicking in the clergy and people like Elaine Pagels. When one person is delusional it is called Insanity when billions are delusional it is called Religion.
    There is no historic fact Jesus of today’s christianity ever existed. Which puts into question the existence of all the other names used to build up their card house. When you put the ducks in row for the great woman hater St Paul/aka Saul travelling from Rome to Damascus on horseback would give anyone a sun stroke…why didn’t he take the boat? Put his travels on a timeline you discover the guy must have had a space shuttle to get around at the speed he was preaching. Weren’t scriptures written over a cup of Mushroom tea? Did John of Patmos exist? To do away with knowledge, Satan and Witches became xian inventions. The distemper of Religion is killing us while the garbage grows mountains, a horrific manifestation of mass mental diseases in dysfunctional societies, dominated by the Patriarchy that maintains the unbalance between the feminine and masculine. When El lost his wife, things went wrong and the Common Error was born. Nobody questions the rubbish that is being imposed on the children.

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