The art of Kevin Blythe Sampson



"Revelations": The Bible's scariest book - Nonfiction -


“Revelations”: The Bible’s scariest book

Elaine Pagels explains that the Book of Revelation has always been more politics than prophecy

A detail from Arnold Böcklin's Der Krieg

A detail from Arnold Böcklin's Der Krieg (Credit: Wikipedia)

Hallucinogenic and ominous, the Book of Revelation has inflamed the Western imagination for over 1,500 years, inspiring everything from cheesy horror movies to panics over bar codes (the Number of the Beast!). By citing the final book of the New Testament, doomsaying Christian cranks have blamed hurricanes on sex and labeled President Obama the Antichrist, but they’re only the book’s most extreme fans. Revelation, the preeminent apocalyptic prophecy of the Abrahamic tradition, has, according to Mathew Barrett Gross and Mel Gilles, set the tenor of our times. Not bad for a text that almost didn’t make it into the Bible in the first place and that some Christians still refuse to acknowledge as scripture.

Elaine Pagels, a professor of religion at Princeton best known for her hugely popular 1979 book, “The Gnostic Gospels,” singles out this controversial text for extended scrutiny in her new book, “Revelations: Visions, Prophecy and Politics in the Book of Revelation.” Although not as (ahem) revelatory as that career-making early work, “Revelations” is an elegant, sensitive effort to place the Book of Revelation in its mystical, historical and — above all — political context.

"Revelations": The Bible's scariest book - Nonfiction -