One of the pre-eminent scholars of early Christian history, Dr. Elaine Pagels presented research from her most recent book Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation as part of the 7th annual Emerson-Wier Liberal Arts Symposium on March 7.
In her keynote address, Pagels offered a vision of the Book of Revelation as a kind of war-time literature informed by the long-standing tradition of Jewish apocalyptic writing as well as tumultuous events of the 1st century that saw the Temple at Jerusalem burned to the ground and Jews expelled from their holy city.
She has been on the forefront of religious scholarship since her work with the Nag Hammadi library manuscripts (discovered in 1945) that gave voice to early Gnostic Christian communities hitherto only known by early Christian writers who condemned them as heretical.
Her first book The Gnostic Gospels (1979) placed these writings in a historical and theological context with other Christian writing of the same period and underscored the diversity of Christian communities in its earliest period.
Her research and writing on the Nag Hammadi library earned her worldwide acclaim and numerous awards and fellowships including a Rockefeller Fellowship (1978); a Guggenheim Fellowship (1979); a MacArthur Fellowship (1981); the National Book Critics Circle Award (1979), and the National Book Award (1980).
Since, Pagels has written numerous books on the Christian faith including Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas (2003) and Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity (2007).
Pagels participated in a panel discussion earlier in the day about the role of spirituality in history and art. Dr. Zach Simpson (PhD, Claremont Graduate University, 2009), assistant professor of interdisciplinary studies, who occupies the Brad Ableson Religious Reconciliation Chair, moderated the panel.
Joining Pagels were Dr. Sandra Mayfield, professor of English and director of the women’s studies minor at the University of Central Oklahoma; Lyle Novinski, professor emeritus of art at the University of Dallas, and Dr. Michael Thompson, endowed professor of religious studies at Oklahoma State University.
USAO’s Emerson-Wier Liberal Arts Symposium series is sponsored annually by the USAO Foundation and was inspired by endowment funds created by Oklahoma College for Women alumni Gladys Anderson Emerson and Nance Foules Wier.