Renowned scholar and best-selling author Elaine Pagels will give the keynote address at the upcoming 100th anniversary celebration of the teaching of religion at Kansas University.
The address is the high point in a yearlong recognition of the KU Department of Religious Studies.
Pagels, a winner of the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, will speak at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 26, at Plymouth Congregational Church, 925 Vt.
After the lecture, which is free and open to the public, Pagels will be available to sign books.
Pagels will share information from her ground-breaking 1979 book, "The Gnostic Gospels," an analysis of 52 early Christian manuscripts that were unearthed in 1945 in Egypt.
The manuscripts, known collectively as the Nag Hammadi Library, include many gospels and other previously unknown writings.
They demonstrate that the early Christian movement was far more diverse than earlier thought. They also indicate how women, prominent in certain Christian groups, were later excluded from governing positions in its emerging hierarchy.
"Pagels has had a tremendous impact on scholarship and the popular understanding of the origins of Christianity," said Paul Mirecki, associate professor of religious studies at KU. "More than any other scholar, she has made this information available to the general public through her popular writings."
Pagels earned a doctorate with distinction from Harvard University and in 1981 was named a MacArthur Fellow.
She has written numerous scholarly articles and book reviews and is the Harrington Spear Paine Foundation Professor of Religion at Princeton University.
"Her books have been spectacular best-sellers for academic books. There was a Bill Moyers series on her," said Tim Miller, professor and chair of religious studies at KU. "In the academic world, she's about as close to a superstar as you get."
Pagels also wrote "Adam, Eve and the Serpent" (1988) and "The Origin of Satan" (1995).
The KU Hall Center for the Humanities and the KU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Alumni Club Advisory Board are co-sponsoring her lecture.
Before Pagels' talk, the department plans a reception and ceremony for faculty, students, alumni and friends from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at Trinity Episcopal Church, 1011 Vt.