September 26, 2013

Renowned Book of Revelation scholar to deliver Cole Lectures

Elaine Pagels, author of “Revelations: Visions, Prophecy and Politics in the Book of Revelation,” will deliver the 2013 Cole Lectures at Benton Chapel Oct. 3 and 4.

Pagels (Courtesy of Elaine Pagels)

Religious historian Elaine Pagels, author of Revelations: Visions, Prophecy and Politics in the Book of Revelation, will deliver the Vanderbilt Divinity School’s 2013 Cole Lectures at Benton Chapel Oct. 3 and 4.

Video of the two lectures will be live-streamed at

Pagels is the Harrington Spear Paine Foundation Professor of Religion at Princeton University and the recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship.

Her first lecture, “Art, Music and Politics in the Book of Revelation,” will be at 7 p.m. Oct. 3. Pagels will explore questions about the author and the circumstances under which the Book of Revelation was written. She will also examine the range of ways Christians have read the text from the seventh century to the present.

“New Reflections on Gospel Traditions: The Gospel of John and the Gospel of Thomas” is the title of Pagels’ talk at 10 a.m. Oct. 4. Twenty-five years after the publication of her book The Gnostic Gospels, Pagels will address the scholarly arguments on the relationship of the Gospel of Thomas to the New Testament Gospel of John.

The Gnostic Gospels was honored as one of the best 100 English-language nonfiction books of the 20th century by the Modern Library. The book explores 52 ancient texts unearthed in Egypt that some early church leaders had deemed heretical and suppressed from the standard biblical canon.

Pagels has done numerous interviews about her views on The DaVinci Code, a fictional book written by Dan Brown and made into a 2006 film directed by Ron Howard. Brown had said that part of the inspiration for his story was Pagels’ writing.

In an article Pagels wrote for the Perspective section of the San Jose Mercury News, she said, “… But what is compelling about Brown’s work of fiction, and part of what may be worrying Catholic and evangelical leaders, is not the book’s many falsehoods. What has kept Brown on the bestseller list for years and inspired a movie is, instead, what is true—that some views of Christian history were buried for centuries because leaders of the early Catholic Church wanted to present one version of Jesus’ life: theirs.”

Pagels also wrote The Origin of Satan, Adam, Eve and the Serpent, and Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas.

The Cole Lectures are free and open to the public. Philanthropist Edmund W. Cole, president of Nashville & Chattanooga Railroad and treasurer of the Vanderbilt University Board of Trust, endowed the annual Cole Lecture Series in 1892 “… for the defense and advocacy of the Christian religion.” Cole’s gift provided for the first sustained lectureship in the history of Vanderbilt University.

Previous Cole Lecturers include: Harry Emerson Fosdick, George Buttrick, H. Richard Niebuhr, Paul Tillich, James Barr, Gustavo Gutierrez, James Cone, Edward Farley, Don Beisswenger, Gene TeSelle, David Buttrick, Jim Wallis and James Lawson.

For more information, email Sha’Tika Brown or call 615-322-2776.