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About the Blog

I have now finished with my extensive comments on Jesus’ burial.  Some of you may be relieved to hear that.  I know I am!   That was the most intense thread that I’ve done on the blog since its inception over two years ago.   It was really more like producing scholarship than anything else I’ve done.   And I know that’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

So now I can move on to other things on the blog.  If you weren’t really into that more hard-core kind of thing, then I hope that the sorts of things that I’ll be doing now for a while will strike your fancy.

I thought this would be a good time to pause and think a bit about the blog, and to hear your ideas and suggestions for it.   As probably everyone on the blog knows, I have two major objectives in doing it, one far more major than the other.

The one that is *less* major for me is the one that is *more* major for virtually everyone else.  I think it’s safe to say that virtually everyone who has joined the blog has shelled out their hard-earned dollars for the privilege in order to hear more (and more and more) about the various topics that I focus on here.

The emphasis, of course, is on early Christianity: hence the name of the blog, “Christianity in Antiquity: the CIA.”    But I have defined that topic very broadly, and have tried to provide a good balance to the various posts that I make – as you can see simply by looking at the Member Categories and seeing the various posts under them.   In my 28 months (count them, 28) of doing this blog I’ve covered a range of topics from the Greco-Roman world of the New Testament, ancient Judaism, the historical Jesus, the Gospels, the apostle Paul, early Christian apocrypha, manuscripts of the New Testament, and lots of other things, including some areas farther afield, such as the Hebrew Bible and Religion in the News.

I enjoy being able to cover so many different topics.  It keeps things lively for me and keeps the blog from stagnating into being just about one thing.  It’s about a ton of things, but all of them related to early Christianity in one way or another.

The other major objective that I have – the one that is *more* important to me, and less important, I would judge, for everyone else – is to raise money for charity.  That is the very raison d’être for the blog, and it’s what keeps me going at it.

It’s not that I don’t want to provide all the content that I provide.  I absolutely do.  But at the end of the day, that’s not why I do the blog.   My sense is that *most* people who have blogs put in the effort because they want the wider world to know what they are thinking.   That’s certainly true, I think, of most blogs involving the New Testament, early Christianity, the historical Jesus and … well, probably religion generally.   But that’s not what drives me.   If it were up to me, by myself, I’d be happy not to do the blog, and just to write books.   But doing the blog is a way for me to raise money for charities that I  believe in and want to support.

My view is that everyone who is able to do something for charity (which would include most of us here) should do *something* — volunteer, give money, lend moral support, whatever.   When I decided to start this blog is was because it seemed to me that this was a way for me to use whatever talents I have for a good cause, something that not everyone else, with their unique gifts, could do.

We’ve done a lot of good on this blog, raising money for charities dealing with hunger and homelessness.   And I want us to do more and more.

And so that’s the point of this post.  Most of you are on the blog for one reason and I’m doing it, ultimately, for another reason.   I need to make sure that both needs are being met, since the more attractive the blog is for you, the users, then the more attractive it will be for others so that they too will join up, and that will achieve my own aim.   I think users get very good value for their money.   A year’s membership comes down to just over $2 per month.  And for that sum one gets 5-6 posts a week, at an average of a 1000 words per post (these posts on Jesus’ burial were often longer, sometimes much longer).   So, let’s say that’s 5500 words a week, or 22,000 words a month.   For $2.    You can’t get a  Big Mac for $2.  You can barely get *half* of a Big Mac for $2.  And this blog is SO much better for you than a Big Mac.

As I indicated a couple of months ago, the blog has already earned over $100,000.  Every penny has gone to charity.   I want it to do more.  My immediate goal is to make it early $100,000 per year.  That’s a way off, but it’s doable.

And so, the short story:  I want the membership on the blog to grow (and grow and grow).   To that end, I would like your suggestions.  What can I do to make it more attractive (the members’ main interest) so that even more will join at an even faster pace so that it raises even more money for charity (my main interest?)

Make your comments to this post.  I won’t be able to respond to them all.  And I won’t be able to implement them all.   But many of you have many good ideas, and I would like to hear them.   Among other things I’d like to know whether you think that I’m posting too much.  Or if posts are too long.  Or if they are too technical.  Or if there is not enough variety.  Or if there are other kinds of broad topics that I should be addressing.   Or if there are technical features of the blog itself that could be improved.  Or if there are other ways that I can advertise and attract new members.   Or use my resources to raise more money through the blog.   (Everyone, btw, should feel free to make a donation, as generous as you can!  It’s easy to do, and always extremely appreciated.)

In your comments to this particular post, I’d rather that you not get into specific questions you’d like me to address (“What does ‘Iscariot’ mean?  Was the Life of Apollonius modeled on the Gospels?  Was Paul gay?  or whatever….).   I’ll ask for those questions in a subsequent post.  For now I’m thinking more big picture.  What can we do to improve?  If the answer is “Nothing – it’s perfect in every way” – that’s fine too!

Let me conclude just by thanking everyone for supporting the blog and the charities that it is designed to help.  I very much appreciate all the active, and passive, participation.


My Debate with Dinesh D’Souza on the Problem of Suffering
The Skeletal Remains of Yehohanan and Their Significance

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    Adam0685  August 1, 2014

    I think three posts a week will be just as effective as your current five to six for drawing new members. This is because there are already literally hundreds of posts already to read. I would put thus fact in your ‘why join’ section. It’s just not just about future content but past content. I’ve been a member since the very beginning and would remain happy at three posts a week.

    • Avatar
      BobHicksHP  August 6, 2014

      I second the motion. This was my first thought, as well.

  2. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  August 1, 2014

    I would not change a thing about the blog with regard to length of articles or frequency of blogs, or topics etc. I do wonder, however, if you could charge more, maybe $50 a year? I have a couple of topics about which I would like to know more (some extensive details about how the Gospels are dated and I still struggle with how people remain Christian despite all of the problems with the Bible and would like to learn more how they do this).

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 2, 2014

      I’d be afraid to scare people away. But of course, anyone who wants to give more is welcome (and urged!) to do so!

      • Avatar
        gavriel  August 3, 2014

        Charge more. It will raise more money than appeals to individual contributions. It is market theory – at some point more leaves than enters, given the annual fee. You can find that point by a series of incremental steps.

        As long as you provide answers/comments to our comments I would be happy to pay quite a lot. Of course I realize that it is not possible to give complete scholarly walk-troughs of any dilettantish question/opinion. A hint will suffice. The other requirement is that you post topics that are up-to-date and hot among CIA scholars.

      • Avatar
        samchahal  August 4, 2014

        Hi Bart

        I have been a member since the onset of the blog and have no intentions to stop. I enjoy all the posts and the format they come in. A idea may be that you offer tiers of membership which attracts higher fees to your blog. So for example, have silver,bronze,gold, platinum memberships.

        Of course, that would mean more work in offering different (and subsequently better options for the higher payers), however it would mean that those who can afford more and want to have better options then can have.

        One idea would be a “live chat” option for say platinum members, where they can have a one to one discussion with you for say one day a month for say 15 a few minutes….. this may require more time form your part but I can imagine would help the blog a great deal.

        Another idea would be perhaps another level of membership for students of divinity/ religious history that want to learn more from a expert of the best ways to furrher their own careers in the field….. I know thats something I would very much value and would be more than happy to pay extra for.

        I hope that helps.

        Thanks

        Sam Chahal

  3. Avatar
    whicks1  August 1, 2014

    1. Guest scholar posts. Bring in more voices to the conversation.
    2. Bibliographies/Citations/Read more in X,Y,Z book/article (and link to worldcat or google scholar for JC’s sake).
    3. Change the wordpress theme to a responsive design so we can read the site on our phones while we sit on the can (just being honest).
    4. Write ups on the specific charities you were contributing this money too, why, etc.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 2, 2014

      I’ve given write ups on the charities — you can just search for the posts and you’ll see!

      • Avatar
        Hana1080  August 2, 2014

        Whicks1 number 3 is a valid suggestion given how mobile users are making such a big impact difference in the US

  4. Avatar
    Joshua Gordon  August 1, 2014

    Honestly, I like everything about your posting so don’t change a thing unless you have to cut a day out of it for your family and teaching reasons. I think you should do a series on the actual chronology of the NEW TESTAMENT – which doc came 1st, then next and so on with your expertise on what is possibly forged, added etc, spread over a year or so. Advertise each posting when it is done with a byline on how the New Testament was created and offered ‘free’ the day after the members get it . I think this being given to the public via notification and sharing on Facebook, Twitter, etc. could draw people and they would be enticed to become members to get the other stuff only members would see on other CIA subjects. I think the ‘newness’ for the general public of seeing the New Testament in the order it was written with some historical story telling would work.

  5. Avatar
    James Chalmers  August 1, 2014

    A properly designed survey of your readers–their interests, where they hang out (where you might advertise your wares)–might tell you a good deal about how to extend your outreach.
    I very much enjoyed your reply to Evans. I suppose what interests me most about your field of inquiry has to do with Jesus, and with what we do know about him, and what we think we know that ain’t so. I hope any effort to expand your readership wouldn’t divert you from writing on these topics.
    I’m inclined to think if it interests you, it is interesting and important.
    That is, I’m myself quite happy with the topics you’ve been choosing to write on, and a little fearful the topics chosen to pick up more readers might not go my preferred direction.
    One strategy is to assume that the product you have been distributing is a good one, and just to think how it might be that more potential readers are alerted to its availability. In other words, think about advertising. For instance, maybe you and James McGrath could help each other out. Maybe NTS has a slot for ads. Maybe the liberal-Christian/skeptic locales at Patheos have slots for ads.
    Just rambling, I’m afraid. But I immensely enjoy your blog. Long may it flourish!

  6. Avatar
    drdavid600  August 1, 2014

    I like that this blog is a voice for the idea that the Bible was written by men, not God. I’m sure that’s not a rare viewpoint, but for all the liberals and non-believers out there, there aren’t that many places devoted to showing the details of how the Bible is what it is as opposed to brushing it all off as myth or something.

    The more the blog demonstrates the fingerprints of men on the Bible’s pages, the more it is a counter to apologists who always find a way to portray the Bible as God-given truth. One source of material is that whatever apologists are writing, it needs to be countered. I’m glad you’re doing that.

  7. Avatar
    hmltonius  August 1, 2014

    Check me off in the “Nothing – it’s perfect in every way” column plus any additional reflections/advise concerning your experience with family in leaving the faith you may want to share.

    Your scholarship has been very influential to me and some of your experiences have been similar to mine, so I look forward to any insight you might have beyond what you have already committed to print.

    Material from this blog should eventually become a book! What do you think?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 2, 2014

      I think no one would want to buy the book — if they could get it all on the blog!

      • Avatar
        Hana1080  August 2, 2014

        When I can afford, I like to buy the books and particularly the ibook selections because I can underline in different colors as I need.

      • Avatar
        BrianUlrich  August 3, 2014

        Some people have turned collected blog posts into books, but I’m not sure how well they sell. I can’t even remember specifics: Recently I’ve seen one advertised that was a blog/book of dating advice and another about stuff people should know to survive their 20’s.

  8. Avatar
    doug  August 1, 2014

    I like your blog as it is, and I read each entry. If more people knew about it, I think more people would sign up for it. So the key is outreach – letting people know the blog exists and what the blog is about. I am sorry that I don’t have a specific example of how to do that.

  9. Avatar
    gavriel  August 1, 2014

    My wish is that you slow down a bit, not much but perhaps one post less per week. And most importantly at the same time reduce the moderation time for our comments! It takes too long time! They should be available to all quickly so that they can contribute to other members’ process of coming up with questions and ideas. At the same time you might postpone your own answers. I would like more discussion, between you and us, and between the blog members, where you occasionally may offer comments. As it is now, I have often prepared counter-arguments, made extensive readings in various books, and then alas focus is on a new post, leaving me astern. May be this would make the blog production less of a burden to you, while increasing the benefit of the members. At the same time, we, the blog members, may have the opportunity to go more in-depth on each topic.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 2, 2014

      I’m not sure what you mean about reducing the moderation time for comments. Every day that I make a post (which is nearly every day!) I moderate and approve all the comments that have come in that day. Do you mean something else?

      • Avatar
        gavriel  August 3, 2014

        From the time I post a comment until it appears to the members it normally takes 24 hours or more. You could consider making them available immediately and rather remove inappropriate comments when detected. After all, only members can read them.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  August 5, 2014

          Ha! Well, I guess I could monitor the blog every hour! 🙂 (If you saw the kinds of things that are sometimes submitted, you wouldn’t want me to let it on before taking it off. But I’ll be looking into starting a discussion forum so everyone can participate with one another instead of through me)

          • Avatar
            BrianUlrich  August 5, 2014

            I agree moderated comments sections are far superior to unmoderated ones, and that comment moderation can turn into a major time suck. There are ways, however, to have comments moderate each other, which you could experiment with. Josh Marshall’s Talking Points Memo has this kind of system.

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  August 6, 2014

            Yup, I’ll be talking about this on the blog soon.

  10. Avatar
    jebib  August 1, 2014

    Do I pay one time to get into the blog, or once a year? If it is one time, there’s your revenue enhancement.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 2, 2014

      Your Paypal account is set up for automatic renewal every year, until you tell it to stop.

  11. Avatar
    prestonp  August 1, 2014

    Congratulations Dr. on producing an excellent blog. You are doing a great thing by sharing your knowledge and donating funds to the hurting. Blessed are you and those who reach out selflessly to those less fortunate. Jimmy Carter has a heart like yours, so you are in good company.

    He is not the type to forget your work and your labor of love and your devotion to help those who are the most precious in his sight.

    When were you hungry, lonely, naked, in prison?

    You’ve blessed him.

  12. Shanewag1
    Shanewag1  August 1, 2014

    If I could suggest one thing, I think it would be really cool to have a new focus on the history of Early Christianity scholarship. Maybe you could do a few posts where you discuss Schweitzer, Vermes, and others. You could explain the impact they’ve madein the field as a whole and how their findings have impacted your own ideas. The blog is absolutely wonderful! Keep up the good work!

  13. Avatar
    magpie  August 1, 2014

    Suggestions:

    With your international experience, perhaps a comparison of the attitudes and interpretations you experience in different countries with respect to your books for the popular audience. How does that comport with the reception of your more scholarly texts?

    A comparison of the time and method of the early establishment of Christianity with other religions. Judaism, Protestantism, more modern religions like Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Scientology. Any predictions for the establishment of pending new religions with the advent of the internet?

    What effect do you find the wide availability of information on the internet, both written and video, has on the students you teach? Do you find them more informed about different religious viewpoints or just finding materials that support their confirmation bias? Do you ever assign video materials from the internet?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 2, 2014

      No, I don’t assign materials from the Internet. And my students today actually don’t seem better informed about what I teach than my students from 20 years ago, as it turns out….

  14. Avatar
    prestonp  August 2, 2014

    Can you list the most recent comments in a separate easy to access column?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 2, 2014

      Aren’t they easy to access now?

      • Avatar
        BrianUlrich  August 3, 2014

        I think prestonp means that you have to go to each individual post to see if there are new comments about that post. The other person who wanted more frequent comment moderation might also be on to something. It is possible for a blog to grow by becoming a community of interacting commenters who like exchanging thoughts with each other as much as reacting to the host’s original posting.

  15. Avatar
    FrancisDunn  August 2, 2014

    Dr Ehrman: I don’t know if there is much more you can do to improve on perfection. I love this blog and the work you do for the hungry and homeless. I will continue to do my part as well. Best wishes t you.

  16. Avatar
    Liam  August 2, 2014

    1. I would really like to read your thoughts on the theios aner-concept (and would welcome your thoughts on Apollonius in relationship to the gospels). Do you think the concept is valid?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 2, 2014

      I don’t use the term, but I discuss the concept, at length, in my book How Jesus Became God. I’d recommend it!

  17. Avatar
    SelfAwarePatterns  August 2, 2014

    I continue to enjoy the blog immensely. I like the way the member and non-member content is now included in one post. A nice improvement. Most of the content is interesting. I’m sure the parts I don’t find that interesting are interesting to others.

    The post frequency is great, although as I’ve mentioned before, I’d be fine if they were less frequent. (Although less than one a week might be too sparse.)

  18. Josephsluna
    Josephsluna  August 2, 2014

    NO KEEP POSTING BART !
    KNOWLEDGE IS PRICELESS
    LET US WRITE POSITIVE WHEN WE WRITE
    off topic i would love to sit down and have a ( bible study ? lol ) with you, so i can see what you know,
    vise versa. ( too farfetched i know )
    i usually sit on high rock and read in the wilderness, i prefer to be my self to read anyways away from everybody, more better for me.
    here in woodland park, co “the city above the clouds ”
    hmm, ideas for barts blog ?
    have you heard of the church in the wilderness?
    i support your blog but usually i have ‘ no coin in my pocket ”
    hey random statement
    the lost gospels show with you and stepehen, and larry in it, that is pretty good.

    and i believe knowledge is the secret
    right ? i shall seek and i will find
    i was just reading mark 12:38 yes i totally agree ( random i know )
    from my belief, if you think it is all for nothing, think again
    bart i believe in planting positive, i would do more and more but
    i literally don’t care about any thing material but i would give my last
    penny. to my brothers and sisters in the kingdom
    hmm quesiton MARK 12:35
    in quote just wondering what is the main stream view of what is meant in quotations ?
    one more thing for now, you never answered me ?

    what do people if you dance ( talk ) this kind of music
    have you heard of this ?
    is there a regligion as such?
    such as
    orthadox egyptian chant ( coptic hymn – hos erouf )

  19. Josephsluna
    Josephsluna  August 2, 2014

    one more thing i hope one of these gets posted
    QUESTION ACCORDING TO MY INTERPRETATIONS OF THE GOSPEL OF THOMAS
    IM SURE YOUR READ THEM

    all rule and
    will becomes troubled he
    when until seeks
    let death will of
    finds he
    “Down judas spoke thee
    secret these”

    SECRET THE SPOKE
    TWIN “wrote”
    WHOEVER INTERPRETATION “sayings”
    EXPERINECE HIM, “continue “HE,
    HE “will”

    “WILL”he
    He “CONTINUE “Him
    experience”SAYINGS”
    Interpretation whoever
    “WROTE” twin
    Spoke the “SECRET”

    “These secret The spoke
    judas down He finds
    Of will death let Seeks
    Untill when he troubled
    becomes Will and rule all ”

    MARK 14:41-42
    may seem um .. i don’t know take how you want it .
    seems as if he is referring to some else ‘ son of man ”

    then he’s says that HE? ( Judas found out at the table when jesus said
    ” one will hand me over ” ( jesus was prob looking him and with, body language so no direct
    vocal communication was need for judas, poor judas if so 🙁
    that is when he said surely you don’t me 🙁 ahhh was prob heart broke
    is ” gonna him over ? in stead of betrayed ( dang authors lol )
    seems as if right ?

  20. Avatar
    LWH  August 2, 2014

    Whether your intend it or not, your Blog is subversive. That is, it is difficult for me to see how anyone can understand the history of early Christianity in a thorough way and continue to believe most doctrinal pronouncements. This does not stop many people from continuing to be Christians, but they change what it means to be Christian to accommodate their less supernatural, more historical views.

    If getting more people to subscribe to the Blog is your goal, reaching people who want to be better informed about the history of early Christianity is the obvious means to do so – (but I’m not saying anything you haven’t figured out). Some of those people can be found in the freethought-atheist-agnostic community. I’ve done what little I could do to promote your Blog, but I don’t have a readership beyond a few hundred people. If you had the time to reach more folks committed to looking at the world through logic, reason, and empiricism, rather than through authority, tradition, and religious dogma, your Blog tribe might increase.

    Your presentation to the FFRF at its recent meeting in NC is the sort of opportunity that could increase your presence among freethinkers, atheists, and agnostics. There are a number of such groups all around the country, though you may not have the time or inclination to increase your speaking engagements to groups not focused on your field.

    In another direction, you might try to find ways to reach people in more open or liberal religious groups, who are not as threatened by views that call into question some of their dogma.

    I don’t have many more thoughts about this. Your books probably reach more people than you can reach in other ways. Perhaps using the back cover of your books to promote your Blog would help. I don’t like the social media, but it is a great source for spreading the word about activities and projects, such as your Blog. Finding someone to focus on social media on behalf of the Blog might have a great return for the Blog. Others with more experience in this area might have better ideas about how to do it.

    I find that I am interested in most of your posts, so I don’t have any thoughts about what you might do differently. I’m happy with what you have done and continue to do. This may be one of those situations that continues to build slowly until it reaches critical mass and then takes off without overt promotion. I’m sorry I don’t have better suggestions.

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