I love anything history related and since reading Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, & Politics in the Book of Revelations, Elaine Pagels has become one of my favorite authors.
Revelations is very well written, and while it doesn’t specifically discuss the Book of Revelations of the New Testament, it discusses a lot of what happened the three hundred years between Jesus walking the earth and Constantine (a Roman) and Irenaeus creating Catholicism and putting together the Christian Bible.
It was interesting to learn that prior to Catholicism, there were many different Christian sects. The aim of Catholicism was to amalgamate all these sects into one religion, which after this point, beliefs that were outside of this one religion were deemed “heretical.” There was suppression of any texts or gospels that weren’t a part of the bible and from here started the persecution of non-Catholic Christians by Catholics.
It was also interesting to learn the history of the monastery (created by Pachomius) and how the monastics were forced to abide by Catholicism even though it was originally created on its own. Pagels also describes the persecutions Christians endured, before Constantine by Pagans and after at the hands of Catholics. She discuses how this fit with the time the Book of Revelations was written and the ongoing persecution of non-catholic Christians that was happening at that time.
The Gnostic Paul was another fascinating read. While I find sometimes Elaine can jump from one point to another, I did find this book gave me a good (and fascinating) perspective of why Paul is seen both a proponent for the Catholic view of Christianity and as someone the Gnostics saw as their inspiration, even though both groups had different ideas and didn’t agree with one another.
The Gnostic Gospels was also good if you wish to learn more about the different gospels and the thinking going on during the time they were written. I’m currently reading the Origins of Satan which is interesting too.
The Origin of Satan is a book that focus on where Satan came from, breaking down the New Testament and where mentions of Satan arose (and ideas of exorcisms and casting out Satan, etc.) and comparing it to the Old Testament where Satan was an angel at the right hand side of God who was seen in a different way or had a different purpose. It brought up a lot I didn’t know, especially since I was thinking the book was going to focus on how Satan was connected with Hades (an underground God). But this book sticks to the idea of Satan, rather than how he has been characterized, using the new and old testaments to complete a compelling story.