The Princeton professor is world-famous for her early Christianity studies
By
Adam Grybowski
02/16/2015

National Book Award winner Elaine Pagels will deliver the 22nd annual Emanuel Levine History Lecture on Feb. 18.

Princeton University professor and National Book Award winner Elaine Pagels will deliver the 22nd annual Emanuel Levine History Lecture on Wednesday, Feb. 18, at 7 p.m. in the Sweigart Auditorium on Rider’s Lawrenceville campus.  

Pagels’ talk, “Visions, Prophecy, Politics and the Book of Revelation,” will examine the extended influence of the Book of Revelation in Western culture, society and politics up through the wars in Iraq.

“This is a rare opportunity to hear from a world-renowned scholar of this early formative period of Christianity of this kind of scholarship in a way that’s intended for the intellectually curious public,” says Anne Osborne, chair of Rider’s Department of History, which is presenting the lecture.

Pagels won the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award for The Gnostic Gospels, her 1988 study of the 50 ancient Greek texts discovered and translated into Coptic in Upper Egypt in 1945.

“Her extraordinary gifted scholarship is one of the things that sets her apart,” says Osborne, “but her books aren’t just written for specialists. Anyone with intellectual curiosity will find her work interesting. These are enriching ideas that people should have access to.”

Osborne, who teaches Asian history, with a special focus on China, Japan, and Vietnam, says she has used Pagels books as texts in her world history. “The students really respond to her, and reading her books has personally been a really enriching experience for me.”

A MacArthur Prize Fellowship recipient, Pagels joined the faculty at Princeton University in 1982 where she’s now Harrington Professor of History of Religion. Besides continuing to write scholarly articles, she has published other books accessible to a wider audience, including Adam, Eve, and the Serpent; The Origin of Satan: How Christians Came to Demonize  Jews, Pagans, and Heretics; Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas and most recently, Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation.

“From its inception, The Book of Revelation has been a political text and its interpretation has been bound up with various political agendas,” Osborne says. “The way religion is used for political purposes today is very relevant. Pagels will look at some of the roots of this and see how it has changed over time.”

The Levine Lecture Series began in 1991 in honor of Dr. Emanuel Levine, who was a member of the Department of History for nearly 40 years. He specialized in ancient history and archaeology. His wife, Harriet, established the annual lecture series. Now in its 22nd iteration, the series kicked off with James McPherson, the Civil War historian and Princeton professor who won the Pulitzer Prize in 1989 for Battle Cry of Freedom, a one-volume history of the Civil War era.

Previous lecturers have included classical archaeologist Dr. Joan Breton Connelly discussing women’s leadership roles in the religious life of the ancient Greek city; historian Robert Gerwarth discussing “Hitler’s Hangman,” Reinhard Heydrich; and historian Kenneth E. Marshall ’91, who discussed masculinity in the time of slavery.

Pagel’s lecture is free and open to the public.

For more information, contact Anne Osborne at [email protected] or 609-895-5455.