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The Process of Publishing a Book

I mentioned yesterday that I have now sent in my manuscript on The Triumph of Christianity to my editor at Simon & Schuster.  It occurs to me that readers might be interested in knowing how the editorial process works.  I know I was almost completely ignorant of the process when I first started publishing books.   My unreflective thought then is that once I would finish writing a book and editing it as best I could, the process would be more or less over, without much left to do.  Wrong.  The process goes on and on and you think it’ll never end! So leading up to this point I have written the book.  That itself was a long process with a large number of stages.  I started by accumulating bibliography on the topic, reading the classics in the field, finding new books and articles that needed to be read, reading those, discovering other books and articles that had to be read, reading those, and so on.   On everything I read I took notes, so I could [...]

2020-04-03T03:02:43-04:00September 30th, 2016|Book Discussions, Public Forum, Reflections and Ruminations|

Writing Books that Are Interesting and Important

Last week I interrupted the thread I had been pursuing about why my unusual academic background prepared me to write books for general audiences in order to talk about my lecture in Odense, Denmark, at the University of Southern Denmark, on the relationship between the worship of the Roman emperor and the rise of Christian understandings of Christ as “Savior” and “Lord” and “God” (titles given to the emperor as well).  There is more to be said about this latter topic, some of it very interesting – but I think I’ve said enough for now.  I want to finish off the earlier thread. And for a rather momentous (for me!) occasion.  Two days ago, I finished my book manuscript The Triumph of Christianity and sent it off to my editor for her to work her magic with it.  I am very excited about this process, more so (maybe a lot more so?) than normal.   This will be the thirty-first book that I’ve published (some edited, most written).  So I do this kind of thing a [...]

2017-10-23T22:40:45-04:00September 29th, 2016|Book Discussions, Public Forum, Reflections and Ruminations|

Why Was the Emperor Worshiped?

This will be my last post about the worship of the Roman emperor as a god.  I have been trying to make several major points in this thread.   So let me begin by summarizing them: The reason worshiping the man who ruled the empire would not have seemed bizarre to ancient people was that there was not thought to be an enormous chasm between the divine and human realms (as there is for most people today). There were some gods who were beyond our imagination, and others that were far less powerful – but still more powerful than the guy living next door to you, by an amazing margin.  So too, there were some humans who were SO powerful (or smart or beautiful) that they seemed to be more than human. The gods generally were worshiped because they could provide things for humans that humans could not provide for themselves. Worship was a way to secure divine benefits – that is, it was a way to be given access to divine power when human strength [...]

2020-04-03T03:03:20-04:00September 28th, 2016|Greco-Roman Religions and Culture, Public Forum|

Faith and History: A Blast From the Past

Here is a post that I made exactly four years ago today, on a topic of perennial interest: the relationship between theological belief and historical study: ******************************************************************* I received a number of responses to my post yesterday about faith and history – some on the blog itself and some via emails (I prefer questions/comments on the blog itself, by the way, as I can deal with them more efficiently. In case anyone should ask you which I prefer :) ).  Some of these comments were all heading in the same direction, and were made, I think, because (can you imagine it?) I was not as clear as I could be in what I was trying to say about the relationship of faith and history. In these responses my responders pointed out that it really is impossible to keep faith and history separate from one another, since in many instances the historical conclusions one draws may stand in conflict with theological beliefs. So something has to give, either the history or the theology. But that means that they [...]

Debate with a Mythicist! And the Book of Revelation. Readers’ Mailbag September 25, 2016

In this week’s Mailbag I’ll be addressing two questions, one about me personally – my preparations for the upcoming debate with Robert Price on the question of whether Jesus even existed as a human being – and the other about the book of Revelation.  If you have a question you would like me to address on the Mailbag, simply ask it in a comment on this post or any other.   ************************************************************************ QUESTION It seems the debate between yourself and Robert Price will be going ahead next month, right? I follow Price on Facebook and he has evidently been re-reading all your books in preparation. How much of his books do you intend on reading prior to the debate? How will you prepare for the debate? I’m really looking forward to it! RESPONSE Right!  Yes indeed!  On October 21 I will be having a three-hour debate in Milwaukee with Robert Price, who has two PhDs from Drew University, one in New Testament Studies and the other in Theology, and who is an atheist who supports [...]

The God Julius Caesar

I mentioned in a previous post the scarcely-remembered-these-days Diogenes Poliorcetes (Diogenes, the Conqueror of Cities), who was acclaimed as a divine being by a hymn-writer (and others) in Athens because he liberated them from their Macedonian overlords.   I should point out that this great accomplishment paled with time, and he did some other things that the Athenians did not find so useful or approve of, and the rescinded their adoration of him. My point was that sometimes military men/political rulers were talked about as divine beings.  More than that, they were sometimes *treated* as divine beings: given temples, with priests, who would perform sacrifices in their honor, in the presence of statues of them.  Does that make the person a god?  In many ways they would be indistinguishable.  If it walks like a god and quacks like a god…. Best known are the divine honors paid to rulers of the Roman Empire, starting with Julius Caesar.   We have an inscription dedicated to him in 49 BCE (five years before he was assassinated) discovered in the [...]

2020-04-03T03:05:06-04:00September 23rd, 2016|Greco-Roman Religions and Culture, Public Forum|

Rulers as Gods: The Context of Ancient Religion

Why did ancient people in the Greek and Roman worlds sometimes consider political leaders as gods?  That’s the question I’m dealing with in this series of posts.  And I think now, after a good bit of background, I’m able to begin to answer it. The gods in Greek and Roman thought were considered to be superhuman.  Unlike, say, the (animal-shaped) gods of Egypt, the Greek and Roman gods were literally in human form.   When they appeared here on earth to humans they were often “bigger than life,” but they could assume regular human form when they wanted to and they were human-shaped even when attending to their heavenly duties.  In the Greek and Roman myths, they acted in human ways, they experienced the range of human emotions, they manifested human foibles, and so on. But they were different from humans in several ways.  For one thing, they were far more powerful than mere mortals.  They could accomplish things that no human could.  None of them was infinitely powerful, but on the scale of power, they [...]

2020-04-03T03:05:15-04:00September 22nd, 2016|Greco-Roman Religions and Culture, Public Forum|

When Men Became Gods: My Lecture in Denmark

As I indicated earlier, I am in Denmark this week giving talks.  I’m staying in Copenhagen, a fabulous city, but two of my talks are in Odense, an hour and a half (very pleasant) train ride from here.  I am being sponsored by the University of Southern Denmark, which invited me almost a year ago now to give a lecture to students and faculty on the relationship between the Roman Imperial cult (the worship of the Roman emperor as a divine being) and the rise of Christology (the understanding of Christ as a divine being). The lecture was yesterday, and I thought it might be worthwhile here on the blog to explain the topic and the issues it raises.   I called the talk “When Men Became Gods: Caesar and Christ.”  The overarching idea that I tried to develop was that the Christian acclamation of the divinity of Jesus had a clear historical context within the broader Greco-Roman world.  There were other humans in that context who were considered divine.  And none more prominently than the [...]

2020-04-03T03:05:22-04:00September 21st, 2016|Greco-Roman Religions and Culture, Public Forum|

Bart Ehrman vs. Michael Brown on Suffering

In my post on Saturday I discussed the issue of death and laid out briefly my view that this life is all there is.  That does not mean, however, that I think we should just party-hard since there is no life to come.  I have long been intrigued by the "problem of suffering," and I have never, in fact, taken it to be just an intellectual problem.  I think as human beings we need to deal with suffering if we want to lead life to its fullest.  But I'm still intrigued with the problem: how can there can be such massive suffering in the world if there is a God in control of it?  I have had several debates on the subject, and here is one of the hardest, on video. The debate was with Dr. Michael L. Brown, a very smart Jewish believer in Jesus.  We had the debate on April 15, 2010, at  Ohio State University.  The debate was inspired largely by my book, "God's Problem: How the Bible Fails to Answer Our [...]

2017-10-23T22:43:50-04:00September 19th, 2016|Bart's Debates, Video Media|

Fear of Dying etc.: Weekly Readers Mailbag, September 18, 2016

What is my personal feeling toward death?  That's the first of two questions in this weeks' Readers' Mailbag! QUESTION: How do you feel about dying? Is that not in some part terrifying?  And us losing our loved ones forever? How do you get over that?   RESPONSE: Ah, how do I feel about dying?  In general, I’m against it.  :-) But do I find the prospect terrifying?  I would say that over the years I have had different attitudes toward death.  I suppose when I was very young, I hoped I was a good enough person to go to heaven.  I was certainly terrified of going to hell.   When I had a born again experience in high school, I became absolutely convinced I was going to heaven, as would anyone else who did what I did (accept Christ as their Lord and Savior) and believe what I did.  Anyone else (i.e., most of the billions of people in the world): well, too bad for them.  They are going to roast forever in hell. When, over [...]

The Divine Realm in Antiquity

I have started a thread on my current interest, the relationship of the imperial cult (the Roman worship of the emperors) to the rise of Christology (the understandings of Christ).  Both Caesars (especially deceased ones, but in some parts of the empire, also the living one) and Christ (by most of his followers, now that he too was deceased) were thought of and called “Savior,” “Lord,” “Son of God,” and even “God.” Most people would know that was true of Christ.  But why was it true of the Roman emperor?  Why would you worship your political leader?  Does this mean we’re going to have to call either Hillary or Donald “Lord” or “God”?  It seems unlikely.  So why did ancient people in the Roman Empire do it? That’s what I want to explore over a few posts.  To get there, I need to provide a refresher course (or, for those who don’t know this, simply a course!) on how ancient people imagined the divine realm in relation to the human realm.   I  have taken this [...]

2022-05-10T13:45:58-04:00September 16th, 2016|Greco-Roman Religions and Culture, Public Forum|

The Rise of the Roman Empire

I want to suspend for a time – not cancel altogether! – the thread I have been pursuing on how I came to be interested in the textual criticism of the New Testament, which itself is a spin-off (using roughly similar metaphors) of the bigger thread that I started, which at the time of inception I anticipated would be all of two posts long, of why I ended up being equipped to write trade books more than most of my colleagues who were doing research that, on the surface, seemed to be far more amenable to trade books. But I want to suspend the thread for now, to be resumed soon, because there is something else I’m particularly interested in and I want to strike it while the iron is hot.  I’m flying off to Denmark on Sunday to give a lecture and a couple of academic discussions at the University of Southern Denmark.  The topic:  the relationship between the worship of the Roman emperor (the “imperial cult”) and the rise of Christology (the understanding [...]

2020-04-03T03:05:38-04:00September 15th, 2016|Greco-Roman Religions and Culture, Public Forum|

Arguments, Evidence, and Changing Your Mind

In this series of posts on how I got interested in textual criticism, I’ve had a number of people indicate that they don’t see how the problems posed by our manuscripts did not absolutely destroy my evangelical faith.  By implication, I think, they are wondering why evangelicals broadly, to a person, don’t see these problems and realize that they don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to their belief in the Bible. The logic these commenters are applying is one that I discuss in my book Misquoting Jesus.  If the evangelical belief is rooted in the sense that the Bible contains the very words that God inspired, and if a study of our manuscripts reveals that there are thousands – hundreds of thousands – of places where these words were changed, so that there are some places where we cannot know what the authors actually wrote, then isn’t that an insurmountable problem?  Why would God inspire the words of Scripture (that would take a mighty miracle!) if he did not make sure [...]

Bruce Metzger Beliefs, My Loss of Faith: A Blast from the Past

I mentioned my mentor, Bruce Metzger, in a recent post.  In this blast from the past, I reprint a post I did almost exactly four years ago, in response to a question that I was then asked about how Metzger, a devoted Christian and minister of the church, responded to the fact that I (one of his closest students) lost my faith.   The question generated a series of posts on related topics, but here is the one where I actually answer the question: Bruce Metzger Beliefs I have come now, by an unusually circuitous route, to answer the question that got me started in talking about my relationship with Bruce Metzger, my work for the NRSV Bible translation committee, my view of the NRSV as a translation, the textual problems of Luke 22:19-20 and 22:43-44 and, well sundry other things. The reader’s question was how Metzger responded to my loss of faith. When I first got to know him, I was a strong evangelical Christian. In the years before he died, I had become [...]

Why Textual Criticism is “Safe” for Conservative Christians

It is probably not an accident that when I was a very conservative evangelical Christian who wanted to get a PhD in New Testament studies, I chose to focus, in particular, on textual criticism, the study of manuscripts in order to establish the wording of the original text.  That was, and is, a fairly common “track” for evangelicals who want to be biblical scholars.  Maybe it’s not as common now as it used to be.  But it used to be common. As it turns out, most of the scholars who work in the field of New Testament textual criticism in North America either are or used to be committed evangelical Christians.   You might think that the findings of textual criticism would drive evangelicals away from their faith.  But just the opposite is the case.  I know very few people who have found their faith challenged by their knowledge of the textual problems of the New Testament.  Very few indeed.  I was a bit of an oddball that way.  (I’ll say more about that in a [...]

The Charities We Support

This week’s Reader’s Mailbag is not about a specific question I have been asked once but about a general question I get asked a lot.  People have indicated several times they would like to have more information about the charities we support on the blog, and so I thought it was time to explain that again (I’ve done it only a couple of times over the years.) So when I started the blog in 2012, I set up a non-profit foundation, The Bart Ehrman Foundation, whose sole purpose is to collect the moneys raised by the blog and distribute the moneys to charity.   Any donations to the blog are fully tax deductible.   When I set the Foundation up, I expected we would raise something like $20,000 a year.  Woops.  Bad estimate.   To date we have distributed $339,000 in funds to charities.  Each year (until, alas, this one it appears!  L) we have raised significantly more than the year previous.  Last year (my fiscal year runs April 1-March 31, because of when I started the blog) [...]

2017-10-23T22:46:25-04:00September 9th, 2016|Public Forum, Reflections and Ruminations|

Do Most Manuscripts Have the Original Text?

Early on in my study of textual criticism I came to realize one of the major issues confronting scholars in the field – an issue that scholars have been contending with since the eighteenth century.  For the past hundred years or so the vast majority of experts have been convinced by a solution to the problem, but the solution was slow in coming, for all sorts of reasons.   But when I was first introduced to the problem I learned there were two sides that were being taken, and I wrote a paper about it (my first year in college).  I continued to be interested in the problem for a long time, and it ended up being the subject of the Masters’ thesis I wrote under the direction of Bruce Metzger. The problem is this.   We have thousands of manuscripts of the New Testament – at last count, somewhere around 5600 manuscripts in Greek alone (that includes everything from small fragments the size of a credit card with just a few letters written on them to [...]

2020-04-03T03:06:09-04:00September 8th, 2016|New Testament Manuscripts, Public Forum|

My Original Interest in Textual Criticism

As I have indicated, my interest in textual criticism – the scholarly attempt to reconstruct what the authors of the New Testament actually wrote, given the fact we don’t have the originals but only altered copies – did not originate with my going to Princeton Theological Seminary to study with Bruce Metzger.   On the contrary, I went to study with him precisely because that had been an area of fascination for me starting in my first year of college, as an eighteen year old. I mentioned already that I had a course at Moody Bible Institute that dealt with the questions of biblical inspiration (how God had inspired the biblical writers to say what they did), the formation of the canon (how God had ensured that we got the right twenty-seven books), and the problem of the text (the fact we don’t have the copies produced by the authors themselves).   I was deeply interested in all three areas, but was especially intrigued by the third, for a couple of reasons. One reason was theological.  I [...]

Becoming a Textual Critic

Back to my narrative of how I got interested in biblical studies, and specifically textual criticism.   I was just thinking last night about how people (on the blog or elsewhere) sometimes report to me that they have heard my conservative evangelical critics say that I’m not a biblical interpreter (exegete) or a historian, but I’m a textual critic (someone who studies the manuscripts of the New Testament).  And I started thinking about all my training in the Bible and the history of early Christianity. I did three years at Moody studying mainly Bible and theology; I did a two year completion degree at Wheaton majoring in English; I then did a three-year Master’s of Divinity degree at Princeton Theological Seminary; and finally a four-year PhD in New Testament also at Princeton Seminary.  Over the course of all those years I must have taken, what?   70 or 75 courses?  How many of those courses were on textual criticism? I had one class at Moody that was maybe ¼ devoted to the topic.   And one class in [...]

Does James Contradict Paul?

              I have a number of questions that I want to address in my Readers’ Mailbag, but one particularly important one requires a rather long response, and so I dedicate this entire week’s mailbag to answering it.  Here it is:   QUESTION: Bart, what is your view with regard to Paul and James teaching on the doctrine of justification by faith – are they contradictory?   RESPONSE: Ah, this is a perennial question among readers of the New Testament.  I deal with it at some length in my textbook, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, in a chapter called “Does the Tradition Miscarry,” where I talk about whether Paul saw eye to eye with Jesus, with James, and with later traditions about Paul (e.g. in the Acts of Paul and Thecla).  My answer about the letter of James may surprise some readers, who would expect me to find it completely at odds with Paul.  Here is what I say in the book:   ******************************************************   The most famous passage of [...]

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