Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Why Are We So Fascinated With the Apocalypse?

Jerry Bauer

A massive tornado sweeps through an Oklahoma suburb.  A bomb causes mayhem at the Boston Marathon.  A gunman kills children at an elementary school, while another kills worshippers at a Sikh temple.  They’re all tragedies.  For some adherents to the bible’s New Testament, they are indications of a world moving in an apocalyptic direction.

They point to a variety of images from the New Testament’s last book – the Book of Revelation. 

It’s a book that is kind of an outlier from the bible’s other more straightforward messages – and it’s one that author and theologian Elaine Pagels has studied a great deal.  Pagels says the book is largely about the imagery of the end of the world.

"I don't see any ideas in it. There are just these images, and they're the kind of images - the forces of good versus the forces of evil - the kind of images you see in children's literature, or movies like 'Star Wars' or 'Lord of the Rings'." - Elaine Pagels

Pagels is Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion at Princeton University, and her latest book is called Revelations: Visions, Prophecy, and Politics in the Book of Revelation.  She was in Wisconsin earlier this year for an event at the Milwaukee Public Library, and spoke with Lake Effect's Mitch Teich on stage.