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Author and Religious Historian to Speak at Westminster College

Posted on Thursday, September 8, 2005

Dr. Elaine Pagels, the Harrington Spear Paine professor of religion at Princeton University, will discuss "Gnosticism, Early Christianity, and the Secret Gospels" at Westminster College Thursday, Sept. 22, at 6:30 p.m. in Orr Auditorium.

 "Growing up in a family of scientists, Elaine Pagels was taught that scientific discovery had made religion obsolete and irrelevant," said Dr. Bryan Rennie, associate professor and Vira L. Heinz Chair of Religion at Westminster College.  "Despite this early training, or perhaps because of it, Pagels is now one of the country's leading scholars of religion."

 Pagels gained international acclaim for her best-selling book, 'The Gnostic Gospels,' an analysis of 52 ancient manuscripts unearthed in Egypt in 1945.  The manuscripts, known collectively as the Nag Hammadi Library, include many gospels and other writings previously unknown, and demonstrate that the early Christian movement was far more diverse than previously thought.  This work earned her the National Book Critics Circle Award and the National Book Award.

 Pagels' latest book, "Beyond Belief: The Secret Gospel of Thomas," focuses on religious claims to possessing the ultimate "truth."  She contends that as Christianity became increasingly institutionalized, it became more politicized and less pluralistic.

 In addition to receiving the Mac Arthur fellowship, Pagels has written numerous articles of scholarship and book reviews.  She has been profiled in such national publications as: "The Atlantic Monthly," "Time," "Vogue," "Mirabella," "The New York Times Magazine," and "The New Yorker."  She was named one of the 25 Most Influential Working Mothers by "Working Mothers" magazine, and was a featured commentator on the ABC special program, "Jesus, Mary and Da Vinci."

 "The Heinz Lecture Series of events focuses on the nature of study of religion in our world of plural religious traditions," Rennie said.  "Our intention is to host both cultural representatives of the world's religious traditions and the academic and theological scholars who study them."
This event is free and open to the public; a book signing will follow the talk. Contact Rennie at (724) 946-7151 or e-mail for more information.

Dr. Elaine Pagels