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Elaine Pagels discusses the Apocalypse

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(Read caption) 'What's amazing to me is that for 2,000 years, people have been reading the signs of their own times into it,' author Elaine Pagels says of the Book of Revelation.

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The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, the Seven Seals, the Whore of Babylon: These stunning images alone would have turned the Book of Revelation into one of the most memorable chapters in the Bible.

But they're just part of an even more fantastic vision of a prophet thought to be John of Patmos. He introduces readers to a seven-eyed lamb, locusts with scorpion tails, horrific beasts, and a demonic number.

The author wouldn't have called himself a Christian. In fact, he violently disagreed with those who wished to pull his faith – Judaism – in new directions. Essentially, he was a fundamentalist fighting against the encroachment of fresh ideas that disturbed him deeply. But while he couldn't stop the evolution of his faith, his words lived on to intrigue and confound dozens of generations.

Are they the fever dream of a man with a remarkable imagination? Scenes of what he thought would happen in a matter of weeks or months? Or a vision of the far-away future, perhaps even of our own time?

Elaine Pagels, a bestselling author and professor of religion at Princeton University, dives into the debate in her new book "Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation."

In an interview, Pagel talks about the eternal appeal of the Book of Revelation, the common ways that people misunderstand its meaning and its moving message about what we find in faith.

Q: The images of the Book of Revelation remain major touchstones in our culture. Why do you think that is?

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