September 15, 2011

Professor talks about enduring Revelation

WATERVILLE -- A Princeton University religion professor pulled back the veil on the visions, dreams and nightmares in the Book of Revelation, the final book in the New Testament.

Elaine Pagels, a bestselling author currently penning a book titled "Revelations," addressed a packed house Wednesday evening in Ostrove Auditorium in the Diamond Building at Colby College.

Pagels invited the audience to take a mad dash through the Book of Revelation -- a CliffsNotes version, if you will -- and examine why it is still so appealing 2,000 years after it was written by St. John of Patmos.

John, she said, was "in the spirit" when he heard a voice, turned to see a terrifying angelic being and was invited to go through an open door in heaven to see the throne of God.

John also witnessed a slaughtered lamb, angels sounding trumpets, four horsemen, giant locusts, a dragon stalking a pregnant woman, beasts with horns and multiple heads, angels with golden bowls full of wrath, and the Whore of Babylon drinking the blood of innocents. He saw vultures summoned to feast on the corpses of those killed in the final, cosmic war when Satan is thrown into a pit and Jesus Christ judges the living and dead.

Pagels said to understand the Book of Revelation, it's necessary to understand the time in which John lived.

John, she said, was a Jewish prophet writing anti-Roman propaganda in code as the Roman army had destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70.

The Book of Revelation, Pagels said, gave hope to the persecuted followers of Jesus that good would prevail in the end.

The Princeton University Harrington Spear Paine Foundation Professor of Religion said that in 367, Bishop Alexander of Alexandria put a different spin on, or reinterpreted, the Book of Revelation. It wasn't about Rome, he said; it was about heresy.

"People don't have to take it literally to take it seriously," Pagels said.

The Book of Revelation, she said, presents a powerful message about wicked versus good and the damned versus the saved.

Interestingly, she said, other Revelations written at the same time present the human race not as divided, but as a whole species.

"They present a very different kind of picture," she said.

Beth Staples -- 861-9252

bstaples@centralmaine.com

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