Elaine Pagels (born February 13, 1943), is an American religious historian who writes on the Gnostic Gospels. She is the Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion at Princeton University.
Pagels has conducted extensive research into Early Christianity and Gnosticism. Her best-selling book The Gnostic Gospels (1979) examines the divisions in the early Christian church, and the way that women have been viewed throughout Jewish history and Christian history. Modern Library named it as one of the 100 best books of the twentieth century.
After receiving her doctorate from Harvard University in 1970, Elaine Pagels taught at Barnard College, Columbia University, where she chaired the department of religion. She is now the Harrington Spear Paine Professor of Religion at Princeton University. Professor Pagels is the author of several books on religious subjects and was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 1981. She lives and teaches in Princeton, New Jersey.