Elaine Pagels, née Hiesey (born Palo Alto, California, February 13, 1943), is the Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion at Princeton University. The recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, she is best known for her studies and writing on the Gnostic Gospels. Her popular books include The Gnostic Gospels (1979), Adam, Eve, and the Serpent (1988), The Origin of Satan (1995), Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas (2003), Reading Judas: The Gospel of Judas and the Shaping of Christianity (2007), and Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation (2012).
Pagels was born in California, the daughter of a research biologist. Pagels began attending an evangelical church as a teenager, attracted by the certainty and emotional power of the group, but ceased attending church after the death of a Jewish friend in a car crash when other church members said that her friend had not been saved and would go to hell. Pagels said, "Distressed and disagreeing with their interpretation — and finding no room for discussion — I realized that I was no longer at home in their world and left that church." Pagels remained fascinated by the power of Christianity, both for fostering love and for the divisiveness that can shadow the belief that one has received a divinely revealed truth...
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