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A Personal Transition

A week ago today I finally sent off the very last and final version of The Triumph of Christianity to my editor.  It is done, as good as I can make it.  Now it will go to a copy-editor who will go over it line by line, word by word to make sure the grammar, punctuation, and even spelling is all correct, and to make suggestions for writing style as needed.   Depending on the copy-editor, sometimes there are tons of these stylistic suggestions, sometimes hardly any.

As an author, I much prefer the “hardly any” approach – it’s much easier on me and more, well, affirming of my writing style.  When I do get a lot of suggestions I have to take a deep breath and remind myself that the copy-editor is just doing his/her job and trying to make the prose better.  But I do hate that part.

I will then go through the copy-edited manuscript, approve or reject all the suggested changes, and return the book to the editor, for it to go into production.

The goal is to have the book published next year (2017) at this time, possibly at the end of November.  Then begins a new round of anxiety-producing-fun: seeing if it gets any media attention and public notice.

From beginning to end, the book-writing business is tense.  There is pressure…

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  1. Avatar
    Xeronimo74  December 7, 2016

    “Monsieur Hulot’s Vacation” > a brilliant movie! Like all of Jacques Tati’s 🙂

    • Bart
      Bart  December 7, 2016

      Yeah, a great piece of French slapstick.

      • Avatar
        JamesFouassier  December 8, 2016

        Professor, if you like French slapstick you have to see “Les Aventures de Rabbi Jacob” (translated as “The Mad Adventures of “Rabbi” Jacob), starring Louis de Funes. From Williamsburg to the Rue des Rosiers. Its a howl !!

        • Bart
          Bart  December 9, 2016

          OK, thanks for the recommendation!

          • Avatar
            mwbaugh  December 12, 2016

            You might also enjoy “The Little World of Don Camillo.” If you don’t know it, it’s Italian but with a French director and star (the comedian Fernandel).

          • Bart
            Bart  December 13, 2016


    • Avatar
      Todd  December 7, 2016

      I loved that movie. Saw it when I was quite young. I should try to find a source where I can view it again.

  2. Liam Foley
    Liam Foley  December 7, 2016

    As a Buddhist, the time to just simply be present in the moment and to breathe can be a great way to be less busy…and more relaxed too! I hope you enjoy your less busy times. 🙂

    This post sparked a couple of questions.

    1. I have defended your work on a message board against a couple of Fundamentalists and neither are educated in your field…other than being Fundamentalists…and at the risk of sounding arrogant or elitist (for I do value and respect education) does it ever bother you when a layman assumes to know more about your topic/subject than you do?

    2. As an historian, do you have any interest in the early history and development of other religions besides Christianity?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 8, 2016

      1. I think it used to bother me a great deal more. Now I just think of it as the way the world works…. 2. My main interests have always been Christianity and Judaism.

      • Avatar
        mwbaugh  December 12, 2016

        Do you know if anyone had done any good historical work on early Buddhism. If you happen to know a title, i’d live to find something like that.

  3. Avatar
    godspell  December 7, 2016

    There comes a point in any writer’s career where he or she decides it’s time to slow down. You’ve got a very substantial legacy now. Obviously you’ll never get to write all the books you’ve imagined writing, because no one ever does. But slowing down should help you focus more on the remaining books–shore up that legacy. Take a break. You’ve earned it.

  4. Avatar
    clipper9422@yahoo.com  December 7, 2016

    Maybe you could employ ghost writers and become an industry like, say, James Patterson – let others write the books (with your guidance and editing) and just put your name on the books. It seems to me I’ve read that, say, great Renaissance painters – Michelangelo comes to mind – employed assistants to do parts of their work. But maybe that was just for huge projects like the Sistine chapel.

    One thing I really value about your trade books is that you provide the results of the mainstream scholarly consensus. With so much necessary specialization and so many divergent views it’s practically impossible for the layperson to know what the consensus is – or even if there is one. And it allows for understanding of much broader topics than specialization does.

    Where else could a person go to find at least a rough synthesis of all the specialized research? Is that what textbooks are for?

    It seems to me that more collaboration among scholars to: (1) present the scholarly consensus; and (2) to integrate into a bigger picture all the pieces of specialized research; would be very valuable to general readers. And it might be less work for you too.

    (I’ve read both an abridged and an unabridged version of Les Miserables. I’m not sure that the unabridged version is worth the extra reading.)

    • Avatar
      turbopro  December 8, 2016

      If I may please: and I do not mean to gainsay your opinion, but, IMHO, the unabridged is the novel. Every “jot [and]… tittle” are important. All of the novel is worth the read.

      Jean Valjean is a hero amongst heroes.

      • Bart
        Bart  December 9, 2016

        Yeah, me too. And Monseigneur Bienvenu!!

      • Avatar
        clipper9422@yahoo.com  December 13, 2016

        Including at least 60 pages about the Battle of Waterloo which, to my superficial mind, have nothing to do with the story?

  5. Avatar
    herculodge  December 7, 2016

    Reading about the constant pressure of conceiving, drafting, writing, and re-writing your books, I am reminded of Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning in which he writes that we must live in a constant state of tension to realize our meaningful work. Take away that tension or pressure and we descend into the existential vacuum. I suppose, though, that being stretched too thin is a legit concern and one should find one’s sweet spot for balancing meaningful work with time for working out, football, rest, etc.

  6. Avatar
    Eric  December 7, 2016

    Good, as a non-scholar, I prefer the trade books, of course!

  7. Avatar
    turbopro  December 7, 2016

    “Les Miserables” is in my top three books of all time. No doubt you are enjoying the epic tale.

    “Don Quixote,” “La Divina Comedia (especially Purgatorio),” and “Les Miserables”–not necessarily in that order.

    • Bart
      Bart  December 8, 2016

      You have high and excellent tastes!

      • Avatar
        turbopro  December 8, 2016

        Thanks. I hope I do. It is the majesty and beauty of the literature that I revere in these works.

        DQ: the dialogues between Sancho and Quixote are unparallelled in all of western literature–to the best of my limited knowledge

        LDC (Purgatorio): “Now from the grave wake poetry again…” is the most uplifting train of words ever put in verse

        LM: Jean Valjean is the definitive “Deus ab homine”

  8. Avatar
    Gary  December 7, 2016

    Hi Dr. Ehrman,

    I hope you enjoy your new schedule! I have an off topic question: I am reading Richard Bauckhams’ book “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses”. Bauckham quotes Papias’ statement regarding his sources of information about Jesus and the Twelve. Two of those sources are Aristion and John the Elder. Papias states that these two men were “disciples of Jesus”. Do most scholars believe that these two men were actual companions of Jesus and therefore potential eyewitness to the life, death, and alleged resurrection? Thanks.

    • Bart
      Bart  December 8, 2016

      In none of the quotations from Papias’s own work does he say he knew Aristion and John the Elder; the fourth century church father Eusebius tells us that Papias says he know them. You may want to see my discussion of Papias (and Bauckham) in my book Jesus Before the Gospels. But in any event, Papias never specifies that either of these was an actual companion of Jesus.

  9. talmoore
    talmoore  December 7, 2016

    Dr. Ehrman, even your scaled back work schedule makes me feel like the laziness man on the planet.

    Speaking of your next book, I’m assuming you’re still planning on writing about the afterlife, the soul and such. I’m also assuming that since you’re an atheist like myself, that you don’t believe in an immaterial soul, life “after death,” etc. Needless to say, if you were to express such ideas in your next book, it would be an understatement to say you should expect a massive amount of pushback from the Purpose Driven Life crowd. What would you say to those people who may criticize you for trying to “take people’s hope away” or some such accusation? Do you plan on offering your own hopeful alternatives for the here and now? Are there any systems, such as Humanism, that you find yourself attached to?

    • Bart
      Bart  December 8, 2016

      I haven’t decided yet if I’ll be talking about my own views of the afterlife; but I’ll certainly be thinking more rigorously about them when doing my work. And yes, I’m a completely committed humanist, finding hope in life and the people who surround me.

      • Avatar
        mjkhan  December 11, 2016

        A thinking atheist can’t ignore these thoughts.If there was no God ,world would not have,come this far.Man would have killed each other like he has been doing in inquests,crusades,slavery,colonialisation,civilizing non whites,wars WWI,WW2 and now,liberating and regime change in middle east.But the human plan of greed and denying weak their right to survive is,changed so super powers decline.Also if there was no accountability based on encourage one to do good deeds,there was no justification in creating human being.Think about it.

        • talmoore
          talmoore  December 12, 2016

          Believe me, I’ve thought about it. As a matter of fact, my main area of research right now as a social scientist is on the evolution of morality. Consider for a moment how many of the conflicts you mentioned above were not only motivated by religion, but many of the belligerents were convinced that God was on their side! The IDEA of God exists to justify or excuse our own natural tendencies and behaviors. God doesn’t make us do good or bad. We are already compelled to do good or bad by our nature, and we only give God the credit when we believe we’re doing good (even when we are demonstrably doing evil).

          Think about it.

      • Avatar
        BartyD4all  December 18, 2016

        Hello Bart, Thank you for being Humanist. I have come to that position in the last five years or so. My first of your books, Misquoting Jesus, helped me a lot regarding my already sceptical views of the Bible, and Christianity generally. I have really enjoyed six of your books so far, and just ordered two more with Amazon. Thank you for your honesty.

  10. Avatar
    drussell60  December 7, 2016

    Your tenacity is inspirational to me Dr. Ehrman. I can relate to you regarding the process of getting a manuscript finalized and off to the races. I finished doing a final proofing this summer for the Earl Scruggs biography I co-authored, and realized how time consuming it can be. My first book project (and co-written at that) does not compare to the many more scholarly books you have completed, that’s for sure. I have started research on a second book as well. Just wanted to say thank you for all you do, and for your example of excellence.

  11. Avatar
    Vatikan  December 7, 2016

    Definitely don’t stop writing! but time can always be made for more football.

  12. Avatar
    Wilusa  December 7, 2016

    Very understandable! I wish you well.

    Is the next trade book definitely going to be about the origin of the Christian Hell? That seems like a terrific topic. But you always have a knack for selecting good ones!

    • Bart
      Bart  December 8, 2016

      The plan now is to make it about the origins of the ideas of both heaven and hell. I’ll be posting on it soon.

      • Avatar
        randal  December 8, 2016

        Sounds like a good one. Cannot wait.

  13. Avatar
    Raemon  December 7, 2016

    Good for you, Bart! Slowing down often takes a lot of discipline.

  14. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  December 7, 2016

    I think you are bluffing. You have had an amazingly productive life and have helped so many of us learn stuff that churches were just refusing to teach us so a slower pace seems much deserved. I have been no where near as productive as you, but I have had a hectic life and slowed down several years ago. It took some time to learn how to not make every minute count, but I am better at it now than when I was first learning how to do it. You will have some adjusting to do as well my friend. My task today is to try to put a Big Wheel together that I just bought for my granddaughter. If I finish in time, I may watch my wife’s favorite soap opera with her and then walk the dog.

    My only real beef today is that it seems to me that church people should be very interested in learning about canonization. textual criticism, historical criticism, theological issues, and so, but they seem to just sweep it all under the rug of “faith..” I find this to be quite a puzzle. If they educated people all along, then they would lose fewer of them when they educate themselves.

    • Bart
      Bart  December 8, 2016

      Ha! No bluff! But I don’t think I’ll be watching the soaps!

  15. Avatar
    Jana  December 7, 2016

    I’m so very happy for you and your decision ! Hope your health continues to improve as well. (regarding much humbler transitions, I have moved and am without internet again. Will catch up soon).

  16. TWood
    TWood  December 7, 2016

    Glad to hear the blog didn’t get the axe! Working out more… I didn’t take you for a gym guy for some reason… nice… that’s my thing… I bench a legit 375 lbs and I weigh 190 lbs… my goal is to bench 400 while I’m 40 years old for no good reason other than “why not?”… I don’t go to church… I go to the gym. sorry for the braggadocious gym rant… but that’s healthy to workout more… so important for mental health too… and so overlooked… so many people could get off Prozac if they’d get off the couch and into the gym… I have two questions…

    1. Crucifixion was about humiliation… from what I gather people were probably crucified naked… in your view was Jesus also likely stripped naked before he was nailed to the cross?

    2. In your view Jesus was expecting the SOM to come on the clouds shortly… yet Jesus also seems to have predicted the temple’s destruction within his generation… so how do those two things fit together? (did he not see the temple being destroyed by the Romans but by an angelic being (SOM) from heaven instead… did he see the Romans destroying the temple and then the SOM coming afterwards… would the temple be rebuilt for his coming kingdom of heaven on earth… etc.?)

    • Bart
      Bart  December 8, 2016

      That’s some serious iron. Congrats. 1. I suppose so; 2. The SOM would bring destruction in his wake.

      • Avatar
        JGonzalezGUS  December 10, 2016

        The Basilica of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona has Jesus on the cross naked…

    • Avatar
      HistoricalChristianity  December 8, 2016

      Just last night I was listening to one of Dr. Ehrman’s Teaching Company courses. In that, he suggested that the Essenes thought that the temple worship had already become corrupted, and that they would be glad to see judgment come upon them. It’s also likely that the ‘prediction’ of the destruction was after the fact. Most prophetic literature was explanatory, not predictive. Earlier prophetic literature had already expressed the idea of God using an agent to accomplish judgment. The God of Israel was so powerful that he overcame the power of the Assyrian gods, then used the Assyrian empire as a pawn to impose judgment on the northern tribes of Israel at the Assyrian conquest of Israel.

      • TWood
        TWood  December 9, 2016

        Dr. Ehrman has said more than once that he believes Jesus’ prediction of the temple’s destruction likely does go back to Jesus himself. This is also the majority view among critical scholars from what I can tell. I’m aware of the Essenes… Jesus was not an Essene… it’s true the idea that God judges Israel via enemy nations existed before Jesus… this doesn’t mean Jesus didn’t predict the temple’s destruction… Bart, please correct me if I’m wrong on any of this…

    • Avatar
      Pattycake1974  December 8, 2016

      Wow. That is impressive.

  17. Avatar
    Tempo1936  December 7, 2016

    Before joining the blog, Reading some of your books and listening to your debates I was told many terrible things about you from fundamentalist. I have found that you are much more reasonable and in most cases knowledgeable than your critics.
    I really like your position on taking spiritual truths from the Bible but not trying to cram down some extreme theological position or scare people based on a handful of scriptures.
    You live life to the fullest while having concern for others less fortunate. That is one of the main spiritual truths one can take from the Bible.
    May you have a wonderful Christmas with your family and many friends. ?

  18. Avatar
    Pattylt  December 7, 2016

    I just want to say that I am looking forward to your book on the triumph of Christianity. I just finished listening to Dr Kenneth Harl’s Great Courses series on The Fall of Pagans and the Origins of Medieval Christianity which covers the rise of Christianity. Have you listened/read this one? I’m looking forward to your input as this is a period of history that I am currently fascinated with. I wait for your announcement of a publishing date! Quick question: when you do a scholarly piece, at what point in the process do you submit it for peer review? After final editing? Early in the process? Somewhere in the middle? Just curious.

    • Bart
      Bart  December 8, 2016

      Yes, I’ve listened to it. Mine will be very different. Trade books are not “peer reviewed.” That’s why so many of them are problematic, in terms of their scholarship.

  19. webo112
    webo112  December 7, 2016

    Speaking of movies, its interesting that even in our modern world, people often [mistakenly] remember famous movie quotes *incorrectly*. Often certain that their version is correct…All the while; the (incorrect) quote gets “accepted” into mainstream pop culture.
    Just to add to your many examples and multitude mentions on the topic of memory, oral stories and passing on information – orally and written.

    • Bart
      Bart  December 8, 2016

      Play it again, Sam.

      • Avatar
        Boltonian  December 8, 2016

        And Shakespeare:

        ‘Lead on MacDuff.’ ‘I knew him well, Horatio.’

  20. Avatar
    Saemund  December 7, 2016

    Such a critically thinking person as yourself would definitely enjoy watching Westworld (both the 1973 movie and the 2016– TV show.)

    Oh, and don’t forget about HBO’s show Girls (ha, not really.)

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