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. Jerry

    People have been twisting the truth in an attempt to avoid the consequences of their actions since the beginning of time. Good luck with your version, Ms Pagels.

    April 1, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • jemzinthekop

      They've also twisted the truth to fit their own agenda.... so forgive me if I disregard your opinion over that of a Phd scholars.

      April 1, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • jemzinthekop

      They've also twisted the truth to fit their own agenda.... so forgive me if I disregard your opinion over that of a Phd scholar's.

      April 1, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
    • Leo

      PHD doesn't mean a thing if you don't have a clue as to what you are talking about. Pagels is a gnostic and even admits at the end of the article she says the following..

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

      She doesn't think it was written by a Christian??

      1 The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John, 2 who testified to the word of God and to the testimony of Jesus Christ, even to all that he saw. 3 Blessed is he who reads and those who hear the words of the prophecy, and heed the things which are written in it; for the time is near.

      April 1, 2012 at 4:40 pm |
    • Leo

      jemzinthekop, Adolf Hitler was the highest ranking man in Germany and just about everyone followed him. Beware of following people based on what they are. It is what they say that matters.

      April 1, 2012 at 4:43 pm |
  2. Matt

    Revelations exists to help you. It even tells you that you will be blessed if you read and heed the information in Revelations. Listening to this author will clearly put you on the wrong track. The information she provides renders Revelations just about useless.

    The fourth seal may open soon with a massive war between America, Russia and China. Check out my "About" page to learn what is ahead at 1913intel.com.

    April 1, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Henry

      But you must remember that Revelation was written to 7 churches in the first century, so to take revelation and project it into the 21st century would mean that it meant nothing to the churches it was written to.

      April 1, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Joe

      The new age or the system in which 666 is sacred awaits the war between islam & communism on one side and judeo-christian western society on the other. Once these 4 systems have been decimated or weakened, the real antichrist new age system will rule as nations unite under the kingdom of the beast.
      The placeholders for the new age are already there, the Bible is proven already.
      It only awaits implementation in a weakened Judeo Christian world.
      Google "accurate and amazing expose of the new age by a secular Jew"
      Gnosticism is part of the new age umbrella in Christianity which it claims to predate.
      So is Kabbalah for Judaism and Sufism for Islam. The enemy is within not without.

      April 1, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • Kevin C

      Whatever your interpretation of Revelation is, you have to keep it within the time frame/parameters that the author gives:
      Chapter 1:1 – "The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass"
      Chapter 1:3 – "Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand."
      Chapter 22:6 – "These sayings are faithful and true: and the Lord God of the holy prophets sent his angel to shew unto his servants the things which must shortly be done"
      Chapter 22:10 – "And he saith unto me, Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand"

      The primary, urgent meaning was in reference to events that were to take place in the lifetime of those who first received the book. It has nothing to do with the end of the world or the "rapture".

      April 1, 2012 at 4:06 pm |
    • scott

      the book is "Revelation." There is no "s" on the end of it. You might try spelling it right if you want anyone to believe you have a clue what you're talking about.

      April 1, 2012 at 4:28 pm |
    • Leo

      The second coming at the end of the age is clearly what most of Revelation is about confusing shortly come to pass meaning that this book had to be fulfilled is an error.

      The scriptures clearly teach that Israel would be scattered and then reborn in the last days.

      Revelation 1:7 describes the Lords return which is at the end when you look at the connected scriptures in context.

      BEHOLD, HE IS COMING WITH THE CLOUDS, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him. So it is to be. Amen. Revelation 1:7
      30"And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory. 31"And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other. Matthew 24:30-31
      26"Then they will see THE SON OF MAN COMING IN CLOUDS with great power and glory. 27"And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven. Mark 13:26-27
      50Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. I Corinthians 15:50-52
      13But we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about those who are asleep, so that you will not grieve as do the rest who have no hope. 14For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. 15For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 18Therefore comfort one another with these words. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18
      14Then the LORD will appear over them, and His arrow will go forth like lightning; and the Lord GOD will blow the trumpet, and will march in the storm winds of the south. Zechariah 9:14
      8"In that day the LORD will defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem, and the one who is feeble among them in that day will be like David, and the house of David will be like God, like the angel of the LORD before them. 9"And in that day I will set about to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. 10"I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn. 11"In that day there will be great mourning in Jerusalem, like the mourning of Hadadrimmon in the plain of Megiddo. Zechariah12:1-11
      The Seventh and Last Trumpet is latter found in Revelation 11
      15Then the seventh angel sounded; and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, "The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever." Revelation 11:15

      April 1, 2012 at 4:34 pm |
    • Henry

      @Leo It looks like you have done alot of research and I thank you for that, but if you look at the old testament meaning behind "coming on the clouds" it is clear that that it means the coming of God's judgment...see Ezikiel 30:3. So "coming on the clouds" doesn't mean a physical bodily return of Christ, but the coming of his judgment. And that is exactly what that generation saw when the temple was destroyed in AD 70, and is exactly what Christ prophesied in Matthew 24.

      April 1, 2012 at 7:12 pm |
  3. Bill

    All of this from a people who actually believe that man was fashioned from a lump of clay on a river bank and that woman was somehow extruded from this animated lump of clay. I find it fascinating that anyone can take this tribe seriously.

    April 1, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Matt

      You are like the Thanksgiving day turkey in early November. You don't understand the process that drives your life forward, but the butcher does.

      April 1, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Anton

      These stories and all religious books are fabrications. the more science reveals, the less religion conceals.

      April 1, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • Kevin C

      Very "Christ-like" Matt! Take your fairy tales somewhere else.

      April 1, 2012 at 4:10 pm |
  4. Jesus

    Am not! I'm everywhere. I'm at the race. Didn't you see me waving from the top of the grandstand?

    April 1, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • jemzinthekop

      I saw you! You were holding the "John 3:16" sign.... the irony was not lost on me either.

      April 1, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  5. RGS

    Lets see, everything in the first and much of the 2nd testament has come true. There are no mistakes or contradicitions in either. Many writte and have written personal opinionated books and all have been wrong. The entire bible is not hard to enterpret, it is people that do not want to enterpret it correctly and easily as it was meant to be but people and religions have tried to make it fit their purpose. More than at any time in history, it is clearer than ever for as it says in the book that it will be for those who are His. Not religeous or not but His. So good luck to the promotion of this idealist, instead of the promotion of the bigestt athiest who are not the bigest promoters of the truth in the entire 96 books. Good luck

    April 1, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • jemzinthekop

      Yes, talking snakes are everywhere!

      April 1, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • general

      i enterprit you're not an intellectual just like most of your kin

      April 1, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      Assuming this is a serious comment and not tongue in cheek, it has to be today's finest example of Poe's Law. Consider this claim: "everything in the first and much of the 2nd testament has come true. There are no mistakes or contradicitions in either." My friend, you can't get out of the very 1st chapter of the very 1st book of the New Testament without a WHOPPER of a contradiction. This is just one of MANY such (dockumented by Dennis McKinsey's book "Biblical Errancy"), but it's one of my faves because it gets quoted from every pulpit every Xmas, and NOBODY NOTICES:

      "(23) Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name EMMANUEL, which being interpreted is, God with us....
      "(25) And [Joseph] knew her not till she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name JESUS." —Matthew 1:23, 25

      April 1, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • Anton

      I heard banjo music playing when I read your comment. You're completely wrong of course.

      April 1, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  6. CRC

    The best comment about this article is that essentially all of the information given about Revelation are all flat out lies. Read Revelation and note that nearly all of this information is spelled out in the various books of the old testament. Revelation is a continuation of prophetic clarification on old testament prophecy and it is about end time events that will happen very soon. If you disagree don't argue with me, just wait and see.

    April 1, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Reality

      What we do know: (from the fields of astrophysics, nuclear physics, geology and the history of religion)

      1. The Sun will burn out in 3-5 billion years so we have a time frame.

      2. Asteroids continue to circle us in the nearby asteroid belt.

      3. One wayward rock and it is all over in a blast of permanent winter.

      4. There are enough nuclear weapons to do the same job.

      5. Most contemporary NT exegetes do not believe in the Second Coming so apparently there is no concern about JC coming back on an asteroid or cloud of raptors/rapture.

      6. All stars will eventually extinguish as there is a limit to the amount of hydrogen in the universe. When this happens (100 trillion years?), the universe will go dark. If it does not collapse and recycle, the universe will end.

      7. Super, dormant volcanoes off the coast of Africa and under Yellowstone Park could explode catalytically at any time ending life on Earth.

      Bottom line: our apocalypse will start between now and 3-5 billion CE. The universe apocalypse, 100 trillion years?

      April 1, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
  7. Robert

    Liberal Biblical "scholarship" is pure crap. Unfortunately the article writer is either clueless about the Bible or malevolent in intention.

    April 1, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • jemzinthekop

      That's right... let's leave the scholarship up to Evangelicals that believe there was actually a big boat and that boat managed to put two of every single species of beetle on it.

      April 1, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • ThinkHarder

      How is an investigation of History equal to "Liberal Biblical scholarship"?

      April 1, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
  8. reasonablebe

    people believe what they want to believe, regardless of whether it is true or fantasy or somewhere in the middle. there is no proof of anything in the bible and you cannot prove what isn't. it's a paradox. those that want to believe will and those that don't wont.

    April 1, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Sheila

      It's not just about belief, but a willingness to do what is right before God. Whether someone acknowledges God or not, there are right actions, wrong actions, justice and injustice, good or evil. We make choices every day. However, some want to live life any old haphazard way doing whatever they think they please (often creating more misery for themselves), and without accountability. If humans knew what was best for humans, we would have evolved into a perfect society eons ago. It is the year 2012 and look at all the crimes out here. Look at all the monetary corruption, bad government, greed, selfishness....humans certainly cannot police themselves.

      April 1, 2012 at 3:51 pm |
    • jemzinthekop

      Sheila you seem to think that doing right and believing in god are mutually exclusive. None of the non-theists writing here are doing so presumably from prison.

      Stop citing the need to believe in fairy tales as being the reason to do pious acts.

      April 1, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • jemzinthekop

      For the record, all that corruption you speak of is done mainly by those that purport their support for an organize faith. So where do we separate the righteous from the evil and the insane?

      April 1, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
  9. Henry

    Although there is some truth in this article i.e. most of Revelation wasn't written for the end of the world, and 666 does indeed stand for nero, it is pretty obvious this writer knows very little facts. There are so many contradictions within this article and I want to point out some obvious ones. To claim that Revelation was written after AD 70 and yet warns against a "beast" who is Nero and who died before AD 70 would make little sense...Not to mention that the writer of Revelation never mentions the destruction of the temple in AD 70 which the writer describes as "incomprehensible" to people in that time. But nice try at trying to "disturb people."

    April 1, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
  10. general

    lol guys c'mon it's 2012 please grow up..Christians are so dumb

    April 1, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
  11. sdfsfsdsf

    i only ask that people be wise in this times. The devil is the master behind the media world, even if they may not know they are being controlled. The devil knows his end is near and he will try to drag as many people as he can, through the media. The bible says, "whoever says to himself there is no God, is a fool!" be wise people, the end is here.

    April 1, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • jemzinthekop

      What if the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing you he was god? How would you know? Wouldn't that make all the war, suffering, disease, pollution, poverty, injustice, and famine seem a little more plausible?

      April 1, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • viewfrombeneaththebridge

      Every single thing you list is caused by human choice of action and consequence. It would be a demonstration of freewill, especially where those decisions we make under that freewill are errors.

      April 1, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      People who believe the Devil exists are just as delusional as people who believe God exists — or Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, unicorns, Paul Bunyan, Peter Pan, leprechauns, elves, fairies, and business ethics.

      April 1, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
  12. Michele

    The God of my understanding gave me the ability to reason. To accept any theology in total without questioning and discussion is not to acknowledge that gift.

    April 1, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  13. trayvonmartin

    You know maybe we should ask the oldest living human on the planet what his take on this story is?........Larry King

    April 1, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  14. Matt B.

    Religion, invented so the poor don't kill the rich! The poor will get their reward in heaven. RIGHT!

    April 1, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  15. philm

    Today is April 1, and we are in the Easter season. Every year recently Jesus is remembered at this time by those who like to try to shoot down the historical record of him, of his death, of his resurection, and the other new testament writings.

    To each reader I ask, be sure to spend some time reading the bible, both testaments, and ask God to give you an open mind and an ability to understand what you read. And work on your own explanations of life and purpose if you do not see any truth or sensibility in the bible.

    April 1, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • RichardSRussell

      As an atheist, I too encourage people to read the Bible. Please, please, please read the Bible. Then think about what you've read. Read all 4 gospel accounts of Jesus's supposed resurrection, then sit down with some blank paper and try to figure out what happened. Who went where, and when, and saw what and said what and did what? Remember that these books are supposed to be divinely inspired, therefore 100% true, and thus they cannot possibly contradict each other.
      So please, yes, DO read the Bible. (Be sure not to miss one of my favorite parts, the zombie jamboree described in Matthew 27:52-53.)

      April 1, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  16. Walter Harold Marlin

    I know you all have been following my every step.

    Hey, The Truman Show is on. 24/7.

    Crucify me everyday.

    I am your ANTI-Christ.

    April 1, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
  17. will

    I am a Christian pastor. I mean no disrespect to the scholarship of Dr. Pagels but I'm concerned that the arguments being presented in this article are misleading and factually incorrect. For example, Dr. Pagels is quoted as saying that, "….[John] doesn’t even say Jesus died for your sins.” While that exact wording is not in Revelation, the idea of Jesus' sacrificial death is clearly there. Revelation 5:9 records these words as being sung before a lamb, "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.." That same idea is found in Revelation 5:12, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!" These passages clearly present the idea that a "Lamb" was slain so that a people might be ransomed. This concept fits perfectly with the rest of the New Testament's teaching in passages such as John 1:29, "The next day [John the Baptist] saw Jesus coming toward him, and said, "Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" With these passages, it is very easy to see where Revelation does present the idea of Jesus being slain for our sins. So what I am trying to point out with this one example, is that people reading this article need to sincerely look into the facts for themselves and see if Dr. Pagels’ scholarly ideas are true. I must respectfully say that I think Dr. Pagels is greatly mistaken on her understanding of Revelation and that she has not dealt honestly with the evidence presented in Revelation itself.

    April 1, 2012 at 3:36 pm |
    • SixDegrees

      Or her work is being poorly presented. I'd suggest you read her book, rather than the rather condensed and sloppy overview given here.

      April 1, 2012 at 3:37 pm |
    • Reality

      JC's family and friends had it right 2000 years ago ( Mark 3: 21 "And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself.")

      Said passage is one of the few judged to be authentic by most contemporary NT scholars. e.g. See Professor Ludemann's conclusion in his book, Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 24 and p. 694.

      Actually, Jesus was a bit "touched". After all he thought he spoke to Satan, thought he changed water into wine, thought he raised Lazarus from the dead etc. In today's world, said Jesus would be declared legally insane.

      Or did P, M, M, L and J simply make him into a first century magic-man via their epistles and gospels of semi-fiction? Many contemporary NT experts after thorough analyses of all the scriptures go with the latter magic-man conclusion with John's gospel being mostly fiction.

      Obviously, today's followers of Paul et al's "magic-man" are also a bit on the odd side believing in all the Christian mumbo jumbo about bodies resurrecting, and exorcisms, and miracles, and "magic-man atonement, and infallible, old, European/Utah white men, and 24/7 body/blood sacrifices followed by consumption of said sacrifices. Yummy!!!!

      So why do we really care what a first century CE, illiterate, long-dead, preacher/magic man would do or say?

      April 1, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • Sheila

      Thank you Will.

      April 1, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • will

      SixDegrees, you are right. The quote presented here, "….[John] doesn’t even say Jesus died for your sins" could very well be presented out of context in this article. I hope every Christian would seek to graciously respond to Dr. Pagels' actual thoughts and not quotations that may not represent her thinking. But if this article is in any way fair to her thinking on this quotation, then she has not accounted for what the book of Revelation seems to claim for itself.

      April 1, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
  18. † In God We Trust †

    Reasons why Atheism is TERRIBLE and unhealthy for our children and living things...

    † Atheism is a religion that makes you stupid, ignorant & blind.
    † Atheism is a disease that needs to be treated.
    † Atheism makes you post stupid things (90% of silly comments here are posted by closet Atheists)
    † Atheist are satanic and have gothic lifestyle.
    † Atheists causes problem in our religious society.
    † Atheists are mentally ill, that's why they have no faith.
    † Atheism won't take you to kingdom of heaven and paradise.
    † Atheism making you agree with Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot & other terrible mass murder leaders.
    † No traditional family lifestyle, no holidays, no culture, boring and feeling 'outsider'
    † Atheists are angry, drug additcted and committ the most crime.
    † Atheist try to convert people over internet because they feel "safer" behind closet.
    † Atheists do not really exist, they just pretend that they don't believe in God and argue with religious people.
    † Atheists have had terrible life experience, bad childhood and not being loved.
    † Most Atheists are uneducated... No Atheists could run for presidency.
    † Atheism brought upon the French Revolution, one of the most evil events of all of history.
    † Atheism cannot explain the origins of the universe, therefore God exists.
    † All atheists believe in evolution, which means they don't believe in morality and think we should all act like animals.
    † The Bible says atheism is wrong, and the Bible is always right (see: Genesis 1:1, Psalms 14:1, Psalms 19:1, Romans 1:19-20)
    † Countries where Atheism is prevalent has the highest Suicide rate & Communist countries = Atheism!
    **Only 2-3% of the U.S. are Atheists/Agnostics VS. over 90% who believe in God (80% Christians) in the U.S.**

    †† Our Prayers goes to Atheists to be mentally healthy and seek their creator ††!!

    April 1, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • reason

      If you think atheism is a religion you should watch this video:


      April 1, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Reality

      In rebuttal, a prayer:

      The Apostles' Creed 2011: (updated by yours truly and based on the studies of historians and theologians of the past 200 years)

      Should I believe in a god whose existence cannot be proven
      and said god if he/she/it exists resides in an unproven,
      human-created, spirit state of bliss called heaven??

      I believe there was a 1st century CE, Jewish, simple,
      preacher-man who was conceived by a Jewish carpenter
      named Joseph living in Nazareth and born of a young Jewish
      girl named Mary. (Some say he was a mamzer.)

      Jesus was summarily crucified for being a temple rabble-rouser by
      the Roman troops in Jerusalem serving under Pontius Pilate,

      He was buried in an unmarked grave and still lies
      a-mouldering in the ground somewhere outside of

      Said Jesus' story was embellished and "mythicized" by
      many semi-fiction writers. A descent into Hell, a bodily resurrection
      and ascension stories were promulgated to compete with the
      Caesar myths. Said stories were so popular that they
      grew into a religion known today as Catholicism/Christianity
      and featuring dark-age, daily wine to blood and bread to body rituals
      called the eucharistic sacrifice of the non-atoning Jesus.

      (references used are available upon request)

      April 1, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • John

      Surely this is an April Fool's Day joke? If not . . . wow, what a loon. Hopefully getting some sort of medical treatment for the insanity.

      April 1, 2012 at 3:48 pm |

      YOu are a schizophrenic kid much like your Jesus was. Keep talking to the walls psycho

      April 1, 2012 at 3:49 pm |
    • deamous

      If you really believed lying was a sin, you wouldn't tell so many lies about atheists.

      April 1, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • ThinkHarder

      You must think God is your buddy. Clearly you don't fear God like you properly should, or you might have some qualm with all the lying you just did. Lying is a sin by the way.

      April 1, 2012 at 3:52 pm |
    • deamous

      Just for starters, the highest suicide rate in the world is in Lithuania, which is 79% Roman Catholic.

      April 1, 2012 at 3:53 pm |
    • jaimeh

      Are you serious?

      April 1, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • jimmy

      I am not a atheist and you are not one to judge. Your judgments make me believe that you may have been blinded by hate of man, instead of the love of God. Thusly you appear in the image of dare I say.....

      April 1, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
    • ShamelessConcept

      You can't fool us, you are not a God fearing Christian. I know many Christians and they all tell me that Jesus is love and that they don't believe in judging other people. Your post is nothing but hate, venom and lies meant to make people fear one another. I know plenty of atheists that are police, teachers, emts, politicians, doctors and lawyers and none of them condone any murder much less genocide. Clearly you are a prankster because a true Christian (or anyone with any sense of moral decency) would never make comments about others beliefs like you have. Perhaps god put atheists on earth just to test you and make sure you are not a bigot. Fail. Bad Christian! No sacrament wafer for you!

      April 1, 2012 at 4:16 pm |
  19. † In God We Trust †

    Today is Palm Sunday... next week Easter 🙂

    Jesus is Risen!

    April 1, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Reality

      As per many contemporay NT scholars, Palm Sunday is just another Christian myth.

      e.g. http://wiki.faithfutures.org/index.php?ti-tle=257_Entry_into_Jerusalem and

      from Professor Gerd Ludemann (Jesus After 2000 Years, p. 75, Mark 11: 1-11, "The tradition is strongly legendary. Nor can Jesus' entry into Jerusalem have been as spectacular as the text describes it. Otherwise, the Romans would have made short shrift of him."

      April 1, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Jesus

      But, I'm at the race. Didn't any of you see me?

      April 1, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • jaimeh


      April 1, 2012 at 4:04 pm |
  20. b4bigbang

    SixDegrees: "The gnostic texts weren't excluded because they held a different view of Christ, but because they were untrue. " – Circular reasoning. Not compelling.

    Your attempt to show logic fallacy by the poster's comment doesn't add up. My reasoning is that the poster said what he did because the gnostic gospels were determined to be untrue by the official panel of experts in the Christian religion, therefore are you suggesting that each new generation is required to repeat the process, repeated proving them untrue?
    Does secular science require scientists to repeatedly disprove discarded theories? Of course not!
    Not unless new solid evidence takes them back in that direction – and this has definitely NOT occurred regarding the gnostic tales.

    April 1, 2012 at 3:34 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.