Elaine Pagels – Price Lecture

About Elaine Pagels

Religious scholar and best-selling author Elaine Pagels was brought up in a family of scientists and was taught from an early age that scientific discovery had made religion obsolete and irrelevant. Naturally curious, Pagels became an intensely inquisitive and thorough historian on the subject. Over the course of Pagels professional career, her impeccable scholarship has won her immense International respect and has made her a preeminent figure in the theological community as well as one of the country’s leading scholars of religion. She forever changed our understanding of Christianity by exploding the myth of the early Church as a unified movement. Pagels 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 impressive body of work has earned international acclaim. As a young researcher at Barnard College, Pagels’ groundbreaking findings were published in her signature text and best-selling book, The Gnostic Gospels. Considered one of the best books of the 20th century by Modern Library, the best-selling The Gnostic Gospels analyzed 52 early Christian manuscripts unearthed in Egypt, winning both the National Book Critic’s 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”. Expanding on questions raised in The Gnostic Gospels, Pagels wrote Adam, Eve and the Serpent, a book that explores the Genesis creation stories and their role in the development of sexual attitudes in the Christian West–as well as the conviction, fundamental to American political life, that “all men are created equal”. Pagels has written numerous highly acclaimed and best-selling works including, Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity co-authored with fellow scholar Karen King. The book is the first to illustrate how the newly discovered Gospel of Judas provides a window into understanding how Jesus’ followers understood his death, why Judas betrayed Jesus, and why God allowed it. The New York Times best-seller Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas wherein Pagels focuses on religious claims to possessing the ultimate “truth”. She contends that, as Christianity became increasingly institutionalized, it became more politicized and less pluralistic and The New York Times best-seller and Editors’ Choice Award winner Revelations: Visions, Prophecy and Politics in the Book of Revelation in which Pagels analyzes John of Patmos’ Book of Revelation along with similar Jewish, Christian, and Pagan books written around the same time. Elaine Pagels earned a B.A. in history and a M.A. in classical studies from Stanford University. In 1970 she earned a Ph.D. with distinction from Harvard University and has taught at Barnard College and Columbia University in addition to her current position at Princeton. She has written numerous scholarly articles and book reviews and has been profiled in such national publications as TIME, The Atlantic Monthly, Vogue, Mirabella, The Washington Post, The New York Times Magazine and The New Yorker.

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