Synopses & Reviews
A startling exploration of the history of the most controversial book of the Bible, by the bestselling author of Beyond Belief.
Through the bestselling books of Elaine Pagels, thousands of readers have come to know and treasure the suppressed biblical texts known as the Gnostic Gospels. As one of the world's foremost religion scholars, she has been a pioneer in interpreting these books and illuminating their place in the early history of Christianity. Her new book, however, tackles a text that is firmly, dramatically within the New Testament canon: The Book of Revelation, the surreal apocalyptic vision of the end of the world . . . or is it?
In this startling and timely book, Pagels returns The Book of Revelation to its historical origin, written as its author John of Patmos took aim at the Roman Empire after what is now known as "the Jewish War," in 66 CE. Militant Jews in Jerusalem, fired with religious fervor, waged an all-out war against Rome's occupation of Judea and their defeat resulted in the desecration of Jerusalem and its Great Temple. Pagels persuasively interprets Revelation as a scathing attack on the decadence of Rome. Soon after, however, a new sect known as "Christians" seized on John's text as a weapon against heresy and infidels of all kinds-Jews, even Christians who dissented from their increasingly rigid doctrines and hierarchies.
In a time when global religious violence surges, Revelations explores how often those in power throughout history have sought to force "God's enemies" to submit or be killed. It is sure to appeal to Pagels's committed readers and bring her a whole new audience who want to understand the roots of dissent, violence, and division in the world's religions, and to appreciate the lasting appeal of this extraordinary text.
is a slim book that packs in dense layers of scholarship and meaning . . . One of [Elaine Pagels's] great gifts is much in abundance: her ability to ask, and answer, the plainest questions about her material without speaking down to her audience . . . She must be a fiendishly good lecturer."
The New York Times
"One of the significant benefits of Pagels's book is its demonstration of the unpredictability of apocalyptic politics . . . The meaning of the Apocalypse is ever malleable and ready to hand for whatever crisis one confronts. That is one lesson of Pagels's book. Another is that we all should be vigilant to keep some of us from using the vision for violence against others."
The New York Times Book Review (Editors' Choice)
"Pagels is an absorbing, intelligent, and eye-opening companion. Calming and broad-minded here, as in her earlier works, she applies a sympathetic and humane eye to texts that are neither subtle nor sympathetically humane but lit instead by fury." Adam Gopnik, The New Yorker
"Any book in the Bible that can be cited simultaneously by deeply conservative end-of-times Christians who see the Apocalypse around the corner and by Marxist-friendly Christians looking forward to justice at the End of History must have a compelling back story. That back story is told well and concisely by Elaine Pagels in her new book, Revelations." The Boston Globe
Praise for Silence
“Silence has all the spark of Christianity. . . . In MacCullochs hands, reading about Christianity often feels as soulful, as silently consuming, as prayer itself.”
—Tom Bissell, Harpers Magazine
“Silence is excellent: a beautifully written, factually dense, intellectually sophisticated look at the theological uses and abuses of silence, from the spirituality of quiet to the Catholic Churchs horrifying reticence about child abuse and the Holocaust.”
—Kathryn Schulz, New York Magazine
“A stimulating and sweeping overview.”
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Enjoyable and intelligent . . . MacCulloch is a gifted scholar and his ideas are always worth hearing.”
“In the first part of his compelling new book, Diarmaid MacCulloch explores the use of silence in spiritual practice, but it is in the second part that he constructs his main challenge. Here he speaks not of the lovely silence of that which cannot be spoken, but of the ugly silence that cloaks evil. . . . MacCullochs account is peppered with the kind of delicious asides that make him such a compulsively readable historian.”
—The Times, Book of the Week
“Silence is intellectually robust, and without the prevarications and self-qualifications that sometimes stymie academic prose. . . . MacCulloch is by turns precise, poetic and righteously indignant.”
“MacCulloch is a superb raconteur, full of imagination, wit, irony and fun, who entertains, challenges, enlightens and occasionally enrages his readers. But beyond mere storytelling and the skilful display of his strength of learning, he also takes a strong ethical stance in telling the truth and revealing some of the darker sides of Christian history.”
—The Times Higher Education
“Unfailingly interesting and readable. . . . MacCulloch the sleuth historian enjoys nothing more than digging beneath this silence to reveal the smothered stories of variously disreputable Christian heroes.”
—The Times Literary Supplement
“This is a specialist book for non-specialist readers—by which I mean that it is made highly accessible to anyone seriously interested by excellent and lively writing . . . It is great fun . . . a rich engaging book. Read it.”
The instant New York Times bestseller interpreting the controversial long-lost gospel
The recently unearthed Gospel of Judas is a source of fascination for biblical scholars and lay Christians alike. Now two leading experts on the Gnostic gospels tackle the important questions posed by its discovery, including: How could any Christian imagine Judas to be Jesus' favorite? And what kind of vision of God does the author offer? Working from Karen L. King's brilliant new translation, Elaine Pagels and King provide the context necessary for considering its meaning. Reading Judas plunges into the heart of Christianity itself and will stand as the definitive look at the gospel for years to come.
A provocative history of the role of silence in Christianity by the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author
In this essential work of religious history, the New York Times bestselling author of Christianity explores the vital role of silence in the Christian story.
How should one speak to God? Are our prayers more likely to be heard if we offer them quietly at home or loudly in church? How can we really know if God is listening? From the earliest days, Christians have struggled with these questions. Their varied answers have defined the boundaries of Christian faith and established the language of our most intimate appeals for guidance or forgiveness.
MacCulloch shows how Jesus chose to emphasize silence as an essential part of his message and how silence shaped the great medieval monastic communities of Europe. He also examines the darker forms of religious silence, from the churchs embrace of slavery and its muted reaction to the Holocaust to the cover-up by Catholic authorities of devastating sexual scandals.
A groundbreaking work that will change our understanding of the most fundamental wish to be heard by God, Silence gives voice to the greatest mysteries of faith.
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.
A New York Times bestselling and widely admired Catholic writer explores how we can retrieve transcendent faith in modern times
Critically acclaimed and bestselling author James Carroll has explored every aspect of Christianity, faith, and Jesus Christ except this central one: What can we believe aboutand how can we believe inJesus in the twenty-first century in light of the Holocaust and other atrocities of the twentieth century and the drift from religion that
What Carroll has discovered through decades of writing and lecturing is that he is far from alone in clinging to a received memory of Jesus that separates him from his crucial identity as a Jew, and therefore as a human. Yet if Jesus was not taken as divine, he would be of no interest to us. What can that mean now? Paradoxically, the key is his permanent Jewishness. No Christian himself, Jesus actually transcends Christianity.
Drawing on both a wide range of scholarship as well as his own acute searching as a believer, Carroll takes a fresh look at the most familiar narratives of allMatthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Far from another book about the historical Jesus,” he takes the challenges of science and contemporary philosophy seriously. He retrieves the
power of Jesus profound ordinariness, as an answer to his own last questionwhat is the future of Jesus Christ?as the key to a renewal of faith.
A provocative meditation on the role of silence in Christian tradition by the New York Times bestselling author of Christianity
We live in a world dominated by noise. Religion is, for many, a haven from the clamor of everyday life, allowing us to pause for silent contemplation. But as Diarmaid MacCulloch shows, there are many forms of religious silence, from contemplation and prayer to repression and evasion. In his latest work, MacCulloch considers Jesuss strategic use of silence in his confrontation with Pontius Pilate and traces the impact of the first mystics in Syria on monastic tradition. He discusses the complicated fate of silence in Protestant and evangelical tradition and confronts the more sinister institutional forms of silence. A groundbreaking book by one of our greatest historians, Silence challenges our fundamental views of spirituality and illuminates the deepest mysteries of faith.
About the Author
Diarmaid MacCulloch is a fellow of St. Cross College, Oxford, and professor of the history of the church at Oxford University. His books include Suffolk and the Tudors, winner of the Royal Historical Society's Whitfield Prize, and Thomas Cranmer: A Life, which won the Whitbread Biography Prize, the James Tait Black Prize, and the Duff Cooper Prize. A former Anglican deacon, he has presented many highly celebrated documentaries for television and radio, and was knighted in 2012 for his services to scholarship. He lives in Oxford, England.