Elaine Hiesey Pagels (1943–) is a foremost religious scholar, with a specialty in probing and interpreting the Gnostic traditions of Christianity. After growing up on a farm in Palo Alto, California, Elaine Hiesey attended Stanford University, where she received both a B.A. (1964) and an M.A. (1965). She then traveled east to attend Harvard, obtaining her Ph.D. in religious studies (1970). In 1969, she married Heinz R. Pagels, a noted theoretical physicist, and subsequently gave birth to two children. Professionally, Pagels successfully climbed the academic ladder. In 1982, she left a position as a fully tenured professor at Barnard College, Columbia University, to become the Harrington Spear Paine Foundation Professor of Religion at Princeton University.

In 1987, Pagels's 5-year-old son succumbed to chronic lung disease. Fifteen ...

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