4 big myths of Book of Revelation
The Book of Revelation has terrified and confused readers for centuries. Few agree on its meaning, but many have opinions.
March 31st, 2012
10:00 PM ET

4 big myths of Book of Revelation

By John Blake, CNN

(CNN) - The anti-Christ. The Battle of Armageddon. The dreaded Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.

You don’t have to be a student of religion to recognize references from the Book of Revelation. The last book in the Bible has fascinated readers for centuries. People who don’t even follow religion are nonetheless familiar with figures and images from Revelation.

And why not? No other New Testament book reads like Revelation. The book virtually drips with blood and reeks of sulfur. At the center of this final battle between good and evil is an action-hero-like Jesus, who is in no mood to turn the other cheek.

Elaine Pagels, one of the world’s leading biblical scholars, first read Revelation as a teenager. She read it again in writing her latest book, “Revelations: Visions, Prophecy & Politics in the Book of Revelation.”

Pagels’ book is built around a simple question: What does Revelation mean? Her answers may disturb people who see the book as a prophecy about the end of the world.

But people have clashed over the meaning of Revelation ever since it was virtually forced into the New Testament canon over the protests of some early church leaders, Pagels says.

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“There were always debates about it,” she says. “Some people said a heretic wrote it. Some said a disciple. There were always people who loved and championed it.”

The debate persists. Pagels adds to it by challenging some of the common assumptions about Revelation.

Here are what she says are four big myths about Revelation::

1. It’s about the end of the world

Anyone who has read the popular “Left Behind” novels or listened to pastors preaching about the “rapture” might see Revelation as a blow-by-blow preview of how the world will end.

Pagels, however, says the writer of Revelation was actually describing the way his own world ended.

She says the writer of Revelation may have been called John – the book is sometimes called “Book of the Revelation of Saint John the Divine” but he was not the disciple who accompanied Jesus. He was a devout Jew and mystic exiled on the island of Patmos, off the coast of  present-day Greece.

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“He would have been a very simple man in his clothes and dress,” Pagels says. “He may have gone from church to church preaching his message. He seems more like a traveling preacher or a prophet.”

The author of Revelation had experienced a catastrophe. He wrote his book not long after 60,000 Roman soldiers had stormed Jerusalem in 70 A.D., burned down its great temple and left the city in ruins after putting down an armed Jewish revolt.

For some of the earliest Jewish followers of Jesus, the destruction of Jerusalem was incomprehensible. They had expected Jesus to return “with power” and conquer Rome before inaugurating a new age. But Rome had conquered Jesus’ homeland instead.

The author of Revelation was trying to encourage the followers of Jesus at a time when their world seemed doomed. Think of the Winston Churchill radio broadcasts delivered to the British during the darkest days of World War II.

Revelation was an anti-Roman tract and a piece of war propaganda wrapped in one. The message: God would return and destroy the Romans who had destroyed Jerusalem.

“His primary target is Rome,” Pagels says of the book’s author. “He really is deeply angry and grieved at the Jewish war and what happened to his people.”

2. The numerals 666 stand for the devil

The 1976 horror film “The Omen” scared a lot of folks. It may have scared some theologians, too, who began encountering people whose view of Revelation comes from a Hollywood movie.

The Omen” depicted the birth and rise of the “anti-Christ,” the cunning son of Satan who would be known by “the mark of the beast,” 666, on his body.

Here’s the passage from Revelation that “The Omen” alluded to: “This calls for wisdom: let anyone with understanding calculate the number of the beast, for it is the number of a person. Its number is six hundred sixty-six.”

Good movies, though, don’t always make good theology. Most people think 666 stands for an anti-Christ-like figure that will deceive humanity and trigger a final battle between good and evil. Some people think he’s already here.

Pagels, however, says the writer of Revelation didn’t really intend 666 as the devil’s digits. He was describing another incarnation of evil: The Roman emperor, Nero.

The arrogant and demented Nero was particularly despised by the earliest followers of Jesus, including the writer of Revelation. Nero was said to have burned followers of Jesus alive to illuminate his garden.

But the author of Revelation couldn’t safely name Nero, so he used the Jewish numerology system to spell out Nero’s imperial name, Pagels says.

Pagels says that John may have had in mind other meanings for the mark of the beast: the imperial stamp Romans used on official documents, tattoos authorizing people to engage in Roman business, or the images of Roman emperors on stamps and coins.

Since Revelation’s author writes in “the language of dreams and nightmares,” Pagels says it’s easy for outsiders to misconstrue the book’s original meaning.

Still, they take heart from Revelation’s larger message, she writes:

“…Countless people for thousands of years have been able to see their own conflicts, fears, and hopes reflected in his prophecies. And because he speaks from his convictions about divine justice, many readers have found reassurance in his conviction that there is meaning in history – even when he does not say exactly what that meaning is – and that there is hope.”

3. The writer of Revelation was a Christian

The author of Revelation hated Rome, but he also scorned another group – a group of people we would call Christians today, Pagels says.

There’s a common perception that there was a golden age of Christianity, when most Christians agreed on an uncontaminated version of the faith. Yet there was never one agreed-upon Christianity. There were always clashing visions.

Revelation reflects some of those early clashes in the church, Pagels says.

That idea isn’t new territory for Pagels. She won the National Book Award for “The Gnostic Gospels,” a 1979 book that examined a cache of newly discovered “secret” gospels of Jesus. The book, along with other work from Pagels, argues that there were other accounts of Jesus’ life that were suppressed by early church leaders because it didn’t fit with their agenda.

The author of Revelation was like an activist crusading for traditional values. In his case, he was a devout Jew who saw Jesus as the messiah. But he didn’t like the message that the apostle Paul and other followers of Jesus were preaching.

This new message insisted that gentiles could become followers of Jesus without adopting the requirements of the Torah. It accepted women leaders, and intermarriage with gentiles, Pagels says.

The new message was a lot like what we call Christianity today.

That was too much for the author of Revelation. At one point, he calls a woman leader in an early church community a “Jezebel.” He calls one of those gentile-accepting churches a “synagogue of Satan.”

John was defending a form of Christianity that would be eclipsed by the Christians he attacked, Pagels says.

“What John of Patmos preached would have looked old-fashioned – and simply wrong to Paul’s converts…,” she writes.

The author of Revelation was a follower of Jesus, but he wasn’t what some people would call a Christian today, Pagels says.

“There’s no indication that he read Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount or that he read the gospels or Paul’s letters,” she says. “….He doesn’t even say Jesus died for your sins.”

4. There is only one Book of Revelation

There’s no other book in the Bible quite like Revelation, but there are plenty of books like Revelation that didn’t make it into the Bible, Pagels says.

Early church leaders suppressed an “astonishing” range of books that claimed to be revelations from apostles such as Peter and James. Many of these books were read and treasured by Christians throughout the Roman Empire, she says.

There was even another “Secret Revelation of John.” In this one, Jesus wasn’t a divine warrior, but someone who first appeared to the apostle Paul as a blazing light, then as a child, an old man and, some scholars say, a woman.

So why did the revelation from John of Patmos make it into the Bible, but not the others?

Pagels traces that decision largely to Bishop Athanasius, a pugnacious church leader who championed Revelation about 360 years after the death of Jesus.

Athanasius was so fiery that during his 46 years as bishop he was deposed and exiled five times. He was primarily responsible for shaping the New Testament while excluding books he labeled as hearsay, Pagels says.

Many church leaders opposed including Revelation in the New Testament. Athanasius’s predecessor said the book was “unintelligible, irrational and false.”

Athanasius, though, saw Revelation as a useful political tool. He transformed it into an attack ad against Christians who questioned him.

Rome was no longer the enemy; those who questioned church authority were the anti-Christs in Athanasius’s reading of Revelation, Pagels says.

“Athanasius interprets Revelation’s cosmic war as a vivid picture of his own crusade against heretics and reads John’s visions as a sharp warning to Christian dissidents,” she writes. “God is about to divide the saved from the damned – which now means dividing the ‘orthodox’ from ‘heretics.’ ’’

Centuries later, Revelation still divides people. Pagels calls it the strangest and most controversial book in the Bible.

Even after writing a book about it, Pagels has hardly mastered its meaning.

“The book is the hardest one in the Bible to understand,” Pagels says. “I don’t think anyone completely understands it.”

- CNN Writer

Filed under: Belief • Books • Christianity • Church • Devil • End times • Faith • History • Jerusalem

soundoff (8,460 Responses)
  1. Dixon

    Studies have been done which show atheists have the highest IQ's, followed by agnostics, followed by casual believers and with devout believers coming in dead last. So God created his followers as the least intelligent segment of society. Classic!

    However, these results were found not only on an INDIVIDUAL basis, but also on a per country basis. If pull my own stats using one study with IQ and one study with religion:

    The first study is a Pew/Gallup Poll done in 2009 where they asked people in 140+ countries whether or not religion was important in their daily lives. Then you can check out some national IQ estimates (such as IQ and the Wealth of Nations which I'll use here) and make your own comparisons.

    As a quick sampling, there were a total of 15 countries that had triple digit IQ's and 19 countries with IQ's under 80. Now I will compare those countries with ones that are also on the Pew/Gallup Poll.

    Group #1: Has an IQ of 102.5 and 39.6% thought religion was important.

    Group #2: Has an IQ of 71.1 and 92.3% thought religion was important.

    Now, putting those items into perspective here, an IQ of 70 is the actual cutoff mark for LITERAL MENTAL RETARDATION!!!! So the group that is on the cuff of mental retardation LOVES religion where virtually everyone deems it important.

    In contrast, the other group boasts a SUBSTANTIALLY higher IQ and less than 40% of the people think religion is important.

    What a shocker again.

    Religion is for weak minded individuals who don't have the intelligence levels to think for themselves.

    Religion: Giving hope to those living in a world torn apart by religion.


    April 1, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • Dixon

      There has always been a god. This will never change. I'll list them out for everyone:

      45,000 BC – Worship took place in ritualistic burial sites in Africa, Europe and Asia.

      15,000 BC – Animal gods were worshipped.

      6,000 BC – The Tigris/Euphrates was the home to "civilization" where they worshipped the sun god Anu and the mother god Inanna along with a plethora of other gods.

      4,004 BC – Bishop Ussher declared this the date that your God created the Earth. LMAO

      2,800 BC – The Pharaoh is both King and God simultaneously.

      2,000 BC – The birth of Judaism begins.

      1,750 BC – Stonehenge is built possibly as temple to worship the Sun God.

      1,500 BC – The Hindus write the Rig Vega WAY before your Bible.

      1,385 BC – The Egyptians go to monotheism with Aton, the Sun God.

      1,100 BC – Charlton Heston, I mean Moses, received the Ten Commandments.

      950 BC – Brahminism begins in India teaching about the concept of a soul.

      900 BC – The huge list of Greek gods are created.

      750 BC – The Romans go with their set of gods.

      650 BC – Zoroastrianism is born (possibly as early as 1,500 BC)

      600 BC – Jews write the Old Testament

      550 BC – Jainism is born

      525 BC – Taoism is born

      500 BC – Confucianism is born

      500 BC – Buddhism is born

      Around 0 (give or take 10 years), Jesus is FINALLY born.

      470 AD – Mayans elevate Xpiyacoc and Xmucane as creators of the universe (WHAT? BUT JESUS WAS ALREADY BORN!!! HOW COULD THEY DO THIS? Maybe because people here didn't hear about Jesus until 1,450+ years after he died.)

      600 AD – Muhammad founds Islam and Allah is the supreme god

      1200 AD – Zen is born

      1230 AD – The Catholic Church goes on their murder spree with the Inquisition

      1500 AD – Martin Luther splits the Church

      1550 AD – Copernicus says the Earth revolves around the sun. The Church believed God created Earth as the center of the Universe. (DO YOU KNOW WHY? BECAUSE THEY WERE COMPLETELY UNEDUCATED MEN READING A BOOK CREATED BY EVEN LESS EDUCATED MEN!!!! Can you say P-R-I-M-I-T-I-V-E?)

      1600 AD – The Catholic Church has Bruno BURNED AT THE STAKE for suggesting that stars could be suns. LMAO... at least he got a taste of the heat of the sun.

      1776 – US is born

      1850 – Darwin does his thing

      1900 – Einstein's theory of relativity

      1980's – Jedi Religion is born.

      Modern Day – Man has now become "God" with the ability to clone and growing organs in petri dishes, etc.

      So yes, there is always a god... just a different one. You God didn't care about anyone on the planet until 2,000 BC and didn't care about anyone in North nor South America until around 1,500.


      April 1, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • Voice of Reason

      Thanks for sharing the info. I hope just one believer will read it and take pause and consider the truth.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:38 am |
    • Dixon

      Christians (and members of other faiths): When you accept the harsh reality that if we were in Ancient Egypt that you'd be INSISTING that Amun Ra was the path to salvation and then subsequently realize how foolish that would have been, then you'll be ahead of the game. When you accept that if we lived in Antiquity that you'd INSIST that we follow Zeus and the other gods as to not anger them, then you'll be ahead of the game.

      The reality is that you are doing the EXACT same thing now, except simply replacing Amun and Zeus with God and Jesus. It is equally as foolish, yet you are either incapable or unwilling to accept and comprehend this truth.

      But hey, I'm sure that this time you'll be the lucky one who gets it "correct" ... just like the ancient Egyptians were SURE Amun Ra was going to come and like the ancient Greeks and Romans were SURE Zeus and his gods were real. Good luck with that.


      April 1, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • Scott

      I am a physician, speak several languages, and am probably much smarter than you and there IS a God! You will see my foolish little friend.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:43 am |
    • Dixon

      @Voice of Reason: Thanks for your comments. We can never change zealots overnight, but slowly yet surely, if they see it enough, some people will start to push their delusions aside and seek out reality. There might also be a lot of younger people on here with more malleable minds who might be persuaded by rational and logical argumentation. The only way to "fix" the world is by educating it. So kudos to you and the others here fighting on the side of reality.


      April 1, 2012 at 10:45 am |
    • FSM

      Nice. You have my noodly approval on this post.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:47 am |
    • Dixon

      @Scott: "I am a physician, speak several languages, and am probably much smarter than you and there IS a God! You will see my foolish little friend."


      #1) Intelligent people don't need to brag about themselves. It should be obvious in their articulation.

      #2) If you read the Bible, you wouldn't be mocking others by calling them "foolish" and instead you'd turn the other cheek.

      #3) I highly doubt you are "much smarter" than I am. Generally speaking, someone of intellect might say "more intelligent."

      #4) I literally died in a sporting accident when I was younger and a devout Bible believer. Science, not God, brought me back to life. But hey, I'm sure you know more about the afterlife than I do. When you get a common frame of reference, you let me know.

      #5) How many homeless people live in your home Scotty boy? Since you are a "physician," surely you have a nice place where you could shelter the needy. Jesus says whatever you do to the least of his people, that you do unto him. So why do you leave your Savior cold, hungry and homeless? Spare us your hypocrisy.


      April 1, 2012 at 10:51 am |
    • Dixon

      @FSM: Thanks! To those of you that don't know what the FSM is, read this:


      April 1, 2012 at 10:52 am |
    • RonOr

      Thank you, Dixon. Well said! Will you be my God?

      April 1, 2012 at 11:06 am |
    • Dixon

      @RonOR: "Thank you, Dixon. Well said! Will you be my God?"

      If you'll hand over 10% of your hard earned money to me (under the pretense of helping the needy while I blatantly acquire millions/billions of dollars worth of assets), follow ridiculous "rules" I make up, have a low IQ and are likely to believe I can sell you stock in the Brooklyn Bridge, then yeah sure... you'd be the perfect devotee. lol


      April 1, 2012 at 11:15 am |
  2. reason

    The Easter Bunny is a more compelling story.

    At least he poops chocolate eggs we can eat and does not damn billions to eternal brimstone and fire for picking the wrong religion or being born in the wrong place in the world.

    April 1, 2012 at 10:23 am |
  3. Matthew

    People are discussing this article like it's serious. It's April Fool's Day! CNN is just playing along!

    April 1, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  4. Brian

    May God have mercy on our hardened hearts in the United States. We as a country have truely lost our way. Yes Revelation talks of wild beasts and terrible things, all of which are figures and symbolism for other things. If people truely believe there will be six winged animals roaming about then there is no helping your uneducated self. Believe what you want but in the end those who follow God will be saying "We told you So."

    April 1, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • Turth7

      They would rather believe a lie and God has made them deaf and blind; only God can change their hearts or turn their stiff necks.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • Dixon

      Brian, you call people "uneducated" and yet can't even spell "truly" correctly. Classic!

      As far as our country "losing it's way," 75%-80% of this country considers themselves to be Christian. So guess who are the ones responsible for our country losing it's way? What? The Christians? Who would have thought? lol

      April 1, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • Thomas

      You really won't.

      Or someone will launch a nuke, probably for reasons like religious intolerance, and you'll point to it and say you told us so, like there's more to it than there is.

      I would consider myself to be christian but revelations is just nonsense.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:17 am |
  5. Voice of Reason

    an idiosyncratic belief or impression that is firmly maintained despite being contradicted by what is generally accepted as reality or rational argument, typically a symptom of mental disorder: the delusion of being watched.
    • the action of deluding someone or the state of being deluded.

    If a person is considered delusional and diagnosed as such shouldn't this person be treated for their dysfunction?
    Religion and a belief in a god is a mental disorder and it should be classified as one.

    April 1, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • Brian

      Are you threatened by religion? Has something happened in your past to turn you off? Maybe a priest made you kneel and blow before him. Harsh words from someone who does not understand the Bible.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:25 am |
    • Voice of Reason

      Are you threatened by the truth?

      April 1, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • CounterwwDavid

      The truth is that Jesus Christ died for YOU. Brian. You want to reject God, go for it, but take your elitism and stuff it. You are to any smarter than anyone else.

      Materialists are funny people.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • Brian

      I know the truth and live it everyday. CounterwwDavid, My comment is for (Voice of Reason) above my own. I know the truth, and it is that Jesus did die for our sins.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:41 am |
    • Voice of Reason


      Your statement? Is it towards Brian or Voice of Reason? You mention Brian in the statement. In any event, you are still a moron.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:42 am |
    • Dixon

      Nice post Voice of Reason: Delusion is a mental illness as defined by the DSM IV. This is a great site if you haven't seen it:


      Most of the videos are outstanding and there is one specifically on the concept of "delusion."


      April 1, 2012 at 11:02 am |
    • Dixon

      @Brian: You mentioned Jesus. According to YOUR Bible, it is IMPOSSIBLE for Jesus to have even been born! Did you know this? Of course you didn't because you let others tell you what the Bible means instead of thinking for yourself.

      When looking at the only two Gospel writers who deemed it important enough to talk about the birth of your Savior: Matthew says Jesus was born when Herod was King of Judea. Luke says Jesus was born when Cyrenius was Governor of Syria. Thus, IT IS IMPOSSIBLE FOR JESUS TO HAVE BEEN BORN during the administration of these two rulers because Herod died in the year 4 B.C. and Cyrenius (aka Quirinius in Roman history) did not become Governor of Syria until 10 years later. Herod and Cyrenius are interrupted by the entire reign of Archelaus, Herod’s son. Between Matthew & Luke (once again, the only 2 who thought Jesus’ birth was important enough to actually write about), there is a clear contradiction of at least ten years, as to the time of Christ’s birth. They were absolutely clueless.

      As for him dying for your sins, 3 of the 4 Gospel writers not agreeing on what the final words of Jesus were. If I saw the Son of God die right in front me, I think I'd remember his last words verbatim.... wouldn't you? I think you would.

      Moreover, Jesus had 4 brothers and at least 2 sisters. Isn't it is pretty interesting that Jesus' brothers didn't follow him around everywhere... I know that if my brother were the Son of God, I'd always be at his side every second of the day. Yet apparently, they didn't deem it to be of uber importance. If your brother was the Son of God, wouldn't you follow him everywhere? I think you would.

      Those items are just the tip of the iceberg.

      The Bible is an antiquated book written by uneducated men. The facts are that 5th graders today know more about the world in which we reside than did the simpletons that wrote the Bible. You'd NEVER let a 5th grader dictate the course of your life, but when it comes to the Bible, then you are fine with it. It is absolutely mind-boggling.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:05 am |
    • Voice of Reason


      Thanks for the link! I viewed it, everyone should look at it at least once! http://whywontgodhealamputees.com/all-videos.htm

      April 1, 2012 at 11:37 am |
    • Dixon

      Voice of Reason: My pleasure. I've watched all the videos and I'd say as a whole, they are 99%+ accurate.

      Have a good one!


      April 1, 2012 at 11:43 am |
  6. cybercmdr

    The Bible is essentially a Rorschach test for most people. They are going to see in it those things that support their world view, and don't notice (or acknowledge) the rest. Putting it within the cultural context of when it was written and what issues would have been paramount to its authors help us to understand the intent of the material.

    April 1, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • Voice of Reason

      It cannot be said any simpler. Thanks for that!

      April 1, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • gman

      maybe but this test has eternal consequences. not just some doctor analyzing you at the moment.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:26 am |
    • Voice of Reason

      We live in reality you are deluded.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:33 am |
  7. Skipper

    4 myths from a book of mythology.....

    April 1, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  8. lou

    This woman needs to read and study the book of Daniel which goes hand in hand with the book of Revelation. This is another tactic that the devil uses to brain wash believers that the word of God is a misconception. The anti-christ is a man and is well alive today and is described in the book of Daniel as the small horn who will devour and who will come to power. As John adds to this in Revelation and describes him also as the beast in Chpt 13.

    However, the rapture has to occur first before this and when it does, this woman along with everyone who wishes to follow her rediculous teachings will then know who really was Nero and who really is the anti-christ.

    April 1, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Uh – Pagels is no slouch when it comes to scholarship; she is a leading expert in this field, and in her book she discusses Revelation's relationship with other parts of the Bible in great detail. The article above, while mostly accurate, is an incomplete summary of a much longer, more detailed and heavily referenced scholarly work.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • Larry L

      This proposed between the Anti-Christ and God makes for a good tale – but one central piece of logic is missing... If God is omnipotent why have a battle? Logically, a true battle indicates either side could win. If the Anti-Christ wins that would indicate God is not all-powerful. If God wins one would ask why wouldn't the creator of the universe win? If the whole thing is pre-determined, why bother calling it a battle?

      Another interesting question stems from the supposed writer of the book of Revelation – at least the version most people consider appropriate for inclusion into the Bible. Why trust the writings of a non-Christian who was somewhat hostile to Christianity? Couldn't he have been writing about one of the other dieties of the time?

      April 1, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • CounterwwDavid

      Plagal is a very liberal theologian that does not take the word of God seriously.

      CNN ought to balance this with conservative theologians. There are significant messages in the book of revelations but she does not se it.


      April 1, 2012 at 10:38 am |
  9. NCWriter

    Believe what you like. You are not an authority on religion, at least not on my religion.

    April 1, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  10. Dave

    Do you actually think God what let things that are not true to enter into his book. I don't think so!! The events in the book of Revelation will occur. You can count on it and it's not far off. The AC is alive and well somewhere on this planet.

    April 1, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • Josef Bleaux

      Which god? Allah? Krishna? Zeus? Thor? All the gods that have been worshiped since the beginning of history would fill 10 football stadiums. But of course YOURS is the only one that's real. HA HA HA, yeah, right.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:23 am |
    • SixDegrees

      ...and people have been saying exactly that same thing for a couple thousand years.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:29 am |
    • ImaRobot

      People thought Hitler was the anti-Christ. Then People thought Stalin was. Then Saddam Hussen, then Bin Laden. How many more do we have to go through before people are satisfied?

      April 1, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • FSM

      God obviously let all kinds of things into the bible that weren't true, starting with Genesis and ending with Revelation. Start to finish is filled with all kinds of nonsense.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:36 am |
    • Larry L

      If God was so careful about what made the book how come it's filled with conflicting information? The Bible has been edited for the economic, political and sociological needs of the men who wrote it. Even now, after all of these years people still modify their interpretation to suit their needs. Look at the huge number of "devout" Christians who actively practice racism. Look how laws have adapted in spite of the many barbaric passages in the Bible. The book was translated many times and passed down by word of mouth for many generations. It's been embellished considerably – because that's what people do. It's an interesting stroy – written by men.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:40 am |
  11. Leo

    Good old CNN – Lift the Heretic like Elaine Pagels up and bring the Gospels down!! I think is working for the Anti-Christ!!

    April 1, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  12. erich2112x

    it was the first action movie screen play written by man.

    April 1, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  13. Naterade

    It appears she is a preterist, a largely confused preterist. As for John not pointing out that Jesus died for your sins, what about:

    – 1:18- I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.
    – 5:6- I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain...
    – 5:9- Worthy are you to take the scroll
    and to open its seals,
    for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
    from every tribe and language and people and nation.

    Her speciality seems to be history, theory, and philosophy, not Biblical theology.

    April 1, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • Josef Bleaux

      And blah blah blah oogah boogah mumbo jumbo to you too.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:25 am |
  14. David John

    Well, I have a message for Pagels. You just read few things that bothered you not the writer. Did you realize that Bible is the only book who survived for 4000 years without pollution. Everyone can criticize about Christ and His message but still without solid proof and manifestation. You cannot say because you went to University and read some pages theories and now this is what it is. Many faiths and people have tried to discredit the Bible many times but always in vain , why because it is the inspired Word of God. Your theories and anaylysis are based upon other writers not of your own. Bible was written and was not changed from day one. Prove it is changed by giving the actual truth. Remember truth shall prevail". You cannot hide it that's why Bible has survived and it will till the end of the day. You did not read the Bible properly. There is something called refrence. Book of Revelution has so many refrences from New and Old Testaments. I would advise you before you confuse people and try to impose your theories and philosophies read the Bible from the start then you can make a better sense. Why in the world it bothers you because Devil wants you stay away from the truth so you can enter in his kingdom not God's. This may sound spirtual but this is what it is all about. I guess it is time for educated confused people to read the Bible in detail before they are quick to through their University degrees on people.

    April 1, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • SixDegrees

      Actually, Pagels is at the forefront of primary Biblical research. Most of her work is based on direct examination of the earliest existing biblical tracts and related material. It generally doesn't get any closer to the original source material than Pagel's work.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:20 am |
    • DirkDiggler

      Probably the fact that the Bible is a collection of books that were put together an peer reviewed by the Council of Nicaea in 325 escaped you? Or maybe the fact that a lot of the books were subjected to numerous translations, from Aramaic, to Greek, then Latin, then English?

      April 1, 2012 at 10:24 am |
    • Eric


      April 1, 2012 at 10:28 am |
    • cybercmdr

      "Everyone can criticize about Christ and His message but still without solid proof and manifestation."
      What about proof that Jesus existed? We have no writings about Jesus by any contemporaries outside of the New Testament. The chapters of the New Testament were written decades after his death, and were not written by his apostles. That first Easter when the graves of many holy men were opened and they went into Jerusalem to speak with the people (the first zombie uprising!) went by totally unremarked upon by the Roman and Jewish historians of the time,
      Why is it that fundamentalists want the false "controversy about evolution" taught in schools to teach critical thinking skills, but won't engage those same skills in examining their religion?

      April 1, 2012 at 10:35 am |
    • Really?

      The bible has not changed? Why the new testament? Why would passages be rewritten to serve church interests? I'm not saying this lady is correct in her assessments. None of us alive today were there when the bible was written and we truly have no clue what was really meant because we were not there. If you find inspiration in the book, great, more power to you. Others have the choice not to believe in or be inspired by the bible.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:42 am |
  15. Joe

    You all have your own thoughts and ideas. So be still an accept God's Love.

    April 1, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • SixDegrees

      God tells me that unless I accept his love without question, he'll burn me for all eternity.

      Are you sure you're worshiping the right God? Yours sounds an awful lot like the one with the leathery wings.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:21 am |
  16. Ignorance is not healthy for children and other living things

    Ban the bible. Stop trying to sneak this crap into my kids' brains.

    April 1, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • Turth7

      Please go read what Jesus said about those who take away a child's belief...that would be for your benefit.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • lastsanerock

      you cant stop this, they make too much money off this sick buisness.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:34 am |
  17. vijay

    God is very simple and can be seen everywhere with the right eye unfortunately we have distorted and destroyed our own vision of seeing reality by creating wrong perceptions.

    April 1, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • SixDegrees

      I'm left-eye dominant.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:22 am |
  18. BDM

    Revelations is a symbol of change within the human cuture, and like the ice age, it is one that will repeat itself several times over the ages. Rome and its empire was one time for the events, but now we approach the time of change again, but this time the tools of war are much more proximate to those described. The world will not end and all humans will not disappear from the Earth, but a cataclysmic change is near and the question is about us being prepared for the time of change and self-reckoning. The truth will appear suddenly and with little warning, as in a Revelation.

    April 1, 2012 at 10:17 am |
  19. Molly Lively

    When you become born again you do understand Revelation- The Holy Spirit guides you into all the truth- Thank you Jesus for your word – it is Truth!! Come Lord Jesus come! Maranatha and God bless!

    April 1, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • Nathan

      I had a conversation with God today, and he said you are a nut job and not chosen.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:19 am |
    • kkd1013

      Seriously? "Born again" is such a load of crap. You're either christian or you're not.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:20 am |
  20. Joe Giardina

    Pagels book is nonsense. What the Church and it's Saints have to say about Revelation is the truth.
    Regarding the antichrist, no one fits THAT description more than Obama. We can vote that devil out this

    April 1, 2012 at 10:17 am |
    • MidwstrnGrl

      Obama...Obama...OBAMA! booooooo! writhing on the ground, frothing at the mouth yet? stu pid fox drone....

      April 1, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • Chris R

      The Church actually says that Revelation is allegorical and was written for John of Patmos' contemporaries.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • BDM

      Try reading again and recognize the dfference between truth and fiction.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:18 am |
    • Naterade

      Ok Joe, explain how Obama fits the description of the antichrist.

      I personally see it as the Roman Papal system.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:21 am |
    • MikeH

      Because he wants to do things like provide health care for everyone? Yeah, that sounds so devilish. How can anyone claim the moral high ground and fight against the well being of his fellow man?

      April 1, 2012 at 10:22 am |
    • Roberto Ruffolo Rael

      wow, i think you need to increase your meds. It's a book, a fairy tale. Just like Santa Claus, the Easter bunny are there to controls your kids the bible is there to controls the adults. End of Story.

      What happen to your country, it was at one time admired by all other countries, now it's well it's something that scares other countries.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:27 am |
    • arleene cotte

      Joe, you sound like another ignorant Republican conceiled as a pseudo-intellectual, expressing non-sense conservative religious and racist comments in the name of who knows.

      April 1, 2012 at 10:30 am |
    • the good Joe

      Joe you are a moron! Obama saved this country! What's it like to believe in god and be a racist at the same time? You have no chance in November! Romney? Are you kidding me!?

      April 1, 2012 at 10:34 am |
    • kopana

      It seems that only the real devil puts out false statements about other people (obama)being the devil.

      April 1, 2012 at 11:18 am |
    • Fernando

      I seeing posts on here that equate Obama with the Anti-Christ, especially since it's obvious that those posting such comments are either trolls or closet-racists. As for the latter, since you can't openly say in society that you hate him because of his skin color, you find comfort in some fairy tale that justifies why you should distrust him. If another Anglo had been president after George W. Bush and implemented similar policies, I doubt fundamentalist Conservatives would ever have used Anti-Christ as synonym for the president.

      April 3, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.