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Elaine Pagels

Religion scholar and best-selling author

Elaine PagelsElaine Pagels is a preeminent figure in the theological community and is known for her role in disproving the myth that the early church was a unified movement. She is the Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion at Princeton University where she has taught since 1982. The recipient of Rockefeller, Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellowships, her works have earned international acclaim.

As a young researcher at Barnard College, Pagels’ groundbreaking findings were published in her signature text, The Gnostic Gospels. Considered one of the top 100 nonfiction books of the 20th century by Modern Library, the best-selling The Gnostic Gospels analyzed 52 early Christian manuscripts unearthed in Egypt and won both the National Book Critics Circle Award and National Book Award. The New York Times called it “The first major and eminently readable book on Gnosticism benefiting from the discovery in 1945 of a collection of Gnostic Christian texts at Nag Hammadi in Egypt.”

New York Times bestseller and editors’ choice Revelations: Visions, Prophecy and Politics in the Book of Revelation explores the New Testament Book of Revelation. Pagels analyzes John of Patmos’ Book of Revelation along with similar Jewish, Christian and Pagan books written around the same time. She considers Patmos’ Book of Revelation as wartime literature, investigating the theory that throughout history the powerful have sought to force “God’s enemies” to submit or face death.

In her upcoming book, Why Religion?, Pagels uses her own life as a case study to rethink our connection to the spiritual dimension of the human experience. The book is slated for a 2018 release.

Pagels is also the author of The Origins of Satan, which chronicles the evolution of Jewish and Christian concepts of evil. Her other books include Adam, Eve and the Serpent and The New York Times bestseller, Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas. She co-authored Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity with fellow scholar Karen King in 2007.

She has written numerous scholarly articles and book reviews and has been profiled by Time, The Atlantic, Vogue and The New Yorker and has appeared in Newsweek’s “Women and Power” issue. Possessing a working command of Greek, Latin, German, Hebrew, French, Italian and Coptic, Pagels holds a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s degree in classical studies, both from Stanford University, and a doctorate in religion from Harvard.