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Elaine Pagels
Religion Scholar 
 Professor, Princeton
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Elaine Pagels
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Religion scholar and bestselling author Elaine Pagels is a preeminent figure in the theological community. She forever changed our understanding of religion, receiving a 2015 National Humanities Medal "for her exploration of faith and its traditions" and for generating "new interest and dialogue about our contemporary search for knowledge and meaning."

Pagels is the Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion at Princeton University, where she has taught for over 30 years. The recipient of Rockefeller, Guggenheim, and MacArthur Fellowships, her impressive body of work has earned international acclaim.

Her signature text, The Gnostic Gospels, is considered one of the best books of the 20th century and transformed the way we view Christianity. This bestseller analyzed 52 early Christian manuscripts, exploded the myth of the Church as a unified movement, and won both the National Book Award and the National Book Critic’s Circle Award. The New York Times called it “The first major and eminently readable book on Gnosticism benefiting from the discovery in 1945 of a collection of Gnostic Christian texts at Nag Hammadi in Egypt." 

Pagels's New York Times bestseller, Revelations: Visions, Prophecy and Politics in the Book of Revelation, analyzes John of Patmos’ Book of Revelation along with similar Jewish, Christian, and Pagan books written around the same time. She considers Patmos’ Book of Revelation as wartime literature, investigating the theory that throughout history the powerful have sought to force “God’s enemies” to submit or face death.

Her next book, Why Religion?, uses her own life as a case study to rethink our connection to the spiritual dimension of the human experience. The book is slated for a 2018 release.

Pagels is also the author of The Origins of Satan, which chronicles the evolution of Jewish and Christian concepts of evil. Her other books include Adam, Eve, and the Serpent and The New York Times bestseller, Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas.

She has written numerous scholarly articles and book reviews and has been profiled by TIMEThe AtlanticVogueThe New Yorker and appeared in Newsweek’s issue on “Women and Power.” Possessing a working command of Greek, Latin, German, Hebrew, French, Italian, and Coptic, Pagels holds her BA and MA from Stanford University and PhD in Religion from Harvard.

Full Bio >
  • Elaine Pagels on discovering the Gnostic Gospels
  • Book of Revelation Is a Multipurpose Story (2012)
  • Pagels in conversation on her past, her personal faith, and the history of religion (2013)
  • Elaine Pagels on The Colbert Report (2007)
  • Elaine Pagels Discusses Evil in the Context of the History of Religion
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Speaking Topics
Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation
Beyond Belief: A Different View of Christianity
The Discovery of Gnostic Gospels: New Views of Jesus & His Message
The Origin of Satan, the Nature of Evil
What Happened to God the Mother: Gender Roles and Images of the Divine in Western Religious Traditions
Books & Other Works
  • Revelations
  • The Gnostic Gospels
  • Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity
  • Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas
  • The Origin of Satan
  • Adam, Eve, and the Serpent
  • The Gnostic Paul: Gnostic Exegesis of the Pauline Letters
Load More
“Elaine Pagels is one of the smartest, warmest, and most engaging speakers we have had. She held a standing room only crowd mesmerized as she wound her way through the history of the early Christianity. She reminded everyone why history, and especially the history of religion, is so important. She invited you in to the academic debates over the meaning of these formative texts and made you feel like you were in the room with her trying to figure out their meaning; she made you feel like you were part of the process of research and discovery.”
Arizona State University
“She presents even the most esoteric material in a fashion accessible to those who know nothing of her subject: a gift few scholars possess. She possesses them all in abundance.”
Yale Law School
“We had a packed house, around 550 persons - and it was a wonderful experience for them to share her scholarship on The Gnostic Gospel.”
Trinity College
“Sensational! An overflow crowd - people were sitting in the aisles, the pit and in the back of the hall. She was wonderful about answering questions. Kind, gracious and absolutely great!”
Kenyon College
“I thought I would just send a quick message to say what a wonderful speaker Elaine Pagels is. She drew well over 300 people last night, which, for our small college, is quite good. The Social Room was filled, and Dr. Pagels gave a fascinating (and very active) talk.”
Daemen College
Christian Issues