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Tue Apr 17, 2012, 04:57 PM

Elaine Pagel's Revelations

Quite a good book for those of us who like to study the history of the religions we may have grown up under.

The most interesting thing I've read from her is the possibility that John's Revelation, while certainly concerned with the Roman Empire's power over Christianity, was also written to combat Pauline Christianity. In addressing the churches of Asia Minor, John speaks several times in words used against Paul -- "say they are Jews, but they are not", preaching different doctrines, etc. Pagel then goes on to talk about the history of the early church and the rocky path John's Revelation had in being accepted as canon. I'm about halfway through now, and it's an enjoyable read. I recommend it highly.

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Response to Bolo Boffin (Original post)

Tue Apr 17, 2012, 06:16 PM

1. While Ms. Pagels is certainly an educated and skilled author, I notice she never

seems to follow the story after it gets really interesting. She concentrates on the embryonic stages of Christianity, while the politically interesting and temporally important decisions are to be made a little later. Specifically, circa the 4th century under Constantine and Theodosius. WRT the later, more severe expression of Christianity, Pagels remains sadly mute.

It's understandable considering her academic position, but it's not frank and open. For a much more fair summary, vide Ramsay McMullen.

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Response to dimbear (Reply #1)

Tue Apr 17, 2012, 07:34 PM

2. I'm on the Constantine chapter now!

She went there in this book. Right now she's more in Egypt, dealing with Athanasius, but Constantine came up, and there's room for Theodosius in the pages that are left.

Thanks for the tip on Ramsey McMullen, though!

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Response to Bolo Boffin (Reply #2)

Tue Apr 17, 2012, 07:48 PM

3. BTW, it's understandable why the era is soft pedalled. The 4th century is the worst

recorded century of the last 20.

Ramsay MacMullen "Christianizing the Roman Empire AD 100-400"
and others.

He has an interesting life arc. Enjoy.

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Response to dimbear (Reply #3)

Wed Apr 18, 2012, 12:05 AM

4. Well, she didn't get to Theodisius. Turns out the notes and index

took up a third of the book! And her book is more about how Revelation became a book in the Christian canon, so the Constantine reference was only tangential to the Athenasius chapter.

So MacMullen wasn't one of the sources, though she had a lot. his work will be next on the acquisition list. But there are no electronic copies of his work, so I have to kill a tree to get his books.

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Response to Bolo Boffin (Reply #4)

Wed Apr 18, 2012, 01:04 AM

5. Some of his works are hard to get. I had to pick up one on eBay. Not popular

because he doesn't pull any punches.

If you enjoy Ms. Pagels, you will also likely enjoy the works of April DeConick. She occasionally updates a website called "The Forbidden Gospels." I admit to envying her language skills.

http://forbiddengospels.blogspot.com/

Wackipedia has the basics on Emperor Theodosius, called Theodosius the Great, probably the second most important early Christian right after Constantine. It's understandable why the Christians don't care to remind us of him.

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Response to dimbear (Reply #5)

Wed Apr 18, 2012, 01:37 AM

6. Oy, DeConick is pushing the Patio tomb ossuary thing.

But that probably has little to do with her scholarly work on the Gnostic gospels. Thanks!

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Response to Bolo Boffin (Reply #6)

Wed Apr 18, 2012, 04:21 AM

8. She has recently reconsidered her hasty call. She's changed from "It looks like a fish" to

"something fishy."

Perhaps you already are following the whole thing over at "Rogue Classicism." If not, highly recommend that site!

http://rogueclassicism.com/

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Response to dimbear (Reply #8)

Sun Apr 22, 2012, 06:13 AM

10. Unfortunately not. She's more convinced than ever.

The "Jonah" inscription in what's supposed to be the head of the fish has her really excited. I went and looked at the pictures. There are clearly inscribed lines that are being ignored to make those scratches read Jonah.

Oh, well. Thanks for all the links!

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Response to dimbear (Reply #3)

Wed Apr 18, 2012, 03:10 AM

7. I'll second MacMullen.

He's a serious high-level academic (retired Emeritus Professor of History at Yale) and writes like one. So his books, at least for me, were kind of a hard slog at first.

Definitely worth the effort, though.

Right in the beginning chapters of "Xianizing The Roman Empire," I remember being struck by how Xianity used exactly the same dishonest scams in the beginning as the televangelists do today.

Back then, several thousand Arabs would show up to watch someone like Simeon Stylites glorifying his god by sitting on top of a pole. The Xian clergy in attendance marked all the Arabs down as converts to Jebus, then bragged far and wide about their miraculous mass conversions of the heathens.

But as McMullen points out, the Arabs didn't convert to anything. They just came out to gawk at some nut sitting on top of a pole. They went home and merrily continued to worship their own female deity, Allat. (Hmm...that Arab name sounds awfully familiar...)

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Response to Bolo Boffin (Original post)

Sun Apr 22, 2012, 05:46 AM

9. Something I'd like to add to this thread

Ms. Pagels shares my persuasion that a historical Jesus could easily have predicted the destruction of the Temple, no prognostication necessary. All anyone in the area had to do is look around at the various players in Palestine, and realize it was all going to end in tears.

Well, it turns out there was a prior example that any "prophet" could have drawn upon.

The Samaritan temple on Mount Gezarim had been utterly destroyed by an Israeli leader a couple of centuries before. Such an act would not have been lost. In fact, we know about it from Josephus. And from some recent excavations of the site, it's shown that the temple complex was a lot nicer than previously suspected.

It's talked about here:

http://www.democraticunderground.com/121820575

Nice article in the English Der Speigel about it.

So for someone to predict the same fate for the Jerusalem Temple as that of the Samaritans' would have been shocking, but quite feasible.

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