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Anecdotes in Trade Books

The *point* of this post comes near the end.

The first trade book that I wrote (that is, a book for a general reading audience, as opposed to a scholarly book for scholars) was Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium, which appeared in 1999.   I wrote several after that (including one that I like among my best: Lost Christianities), but it wasn’t until Misquoting Jesus in 2005 that I feel like I “hit my stride.”   That was the book where I think I “figure it out” – that is, figured out how to write not for my colleagues in the field of early Christian studies or New Testament, and not for university colleagues in other disciplines, and not for 19 year old college students (the readers of my textbooks), but for average, interested, educated lay persons who don’t know the jargon or technical aspects of my field, or probably any academic field, but want to know what scholars are saying without feeling like they are being “talked down to” by a condescending intellectual.

That book was the first one where I decided to tell my own story as part of the academic story I was telling.   It was a bit of a task writing the book.  I had decided that scholars in my subfield of specialization within New Testament studies really needed to communicate with a broader audience that was almost *completely* in the dark about what it is those scholars were doing.   But it was tricky, because that particular subfield is probably THE most highly technical subfield within the entire discipline – textual criticism.

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Pastor Goranson, the Son of God, and I
A New Phase for My Book



  1. Avatar
    Adam0685  March 13, 2013

    Talk about your teenage devotion to Jesus as God in the book.

    I’ve already pre-ordered the book 😉

  2. Avatar
    toddfrederick  March 13, 2013

    I will buy the book even if you tell the whole story right here. I appreciate it when you seek our input…I feel I have made a contribution.

    Two thoughts about your new book:

    1. Einstein once said that “If you can’t say it in a simple way you don’t know your subject.” My primary objective is to communicate to people in a simple and understandable way. Please keep that in mind as you write your book. If you have a chapter with considerable scholastic detail, end the chapter with a concise, understandable summary.

    2. I do hope you personalize your book. I prefer reading something where the author takes a stand…not just a review of what we already know.

    I was in Israel in 1962. So much has changed and has been discovered since that time. I wish I could return. Have a good trip.

  3. Avatar
    sebmooc  March 13, 2013

    I solemnly vow, keep writing ancedotes

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    Matt7  March 14, 2013

    I’ll buy your book just because you keep blogging. I’ll also renew my membership (and donate) just because you keep blogging.

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    David Chumney  March 14, 2013

    I’ve always enjoyed the autobiographical parts of your books and look forward to reading more. If you ever run out of book topics, you might try writing a full-length memoir along the lines of Dominic Crossan’s A Long Way from Tipperary, a book in which he reflects on ways that his personal experiences may have influenced the course of his historical research. You’ve shared various aspects of your own story, but it would be interesting to see a sustained discussion of the relationship between your “faith journey” and your scholarly career. By the way, is it true that text critics eat papyri for breakfast?

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    Wilusa  March 14, 2013

    Strange…maybe I missed something, but *Misquoting Jesus* left me unsure where you’d wound up, in terms of your theological views. A while back, I read something that made me think of you. I thought, “I wonder whether Dr. Ehrman is an agnostic, like me?” Then I realized there was sure to be an article about you in Wikipedia. So that’s where I found my answer!

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 14, 2013

      Yup, I left it up in the air there. But came back to it in Jesus Interrupted (how I stopped being an evangelical) and God’s Problem (how I stopped being a Christian).

  7. Avatar
    Christian  March 14, 2013

    I solemnly swear that, whatever I may read here, I will buy your book “How Jesus Became God”. The personal aspect is relevant because Bible studies are, in the end, very personal for many people, so you may connect with them, even if you disagree in the end. This is akin to philosophy: the philosopher is the one who lives a philosophical life, not necessarily a professor.

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    maxhirez  March 14, 2013

    Hint to us that you’ll put a few “Easter Eggs” not available on the blog into the book-that out to make a few buyers out of blog readers.

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    RonaldTaska  March 14, 2013

    1. I gladly take the “vow,”

    2. Introducing some of your personal history into your books invites criticism, but it really, really helps a lot of your readers who have traveled similar, although less theologically academic, paths.

    3. You have a real gift for explaining textual and historical criticism in a way that readers can understand this stuff.

    4. Unfortunately, I think your critics tend to think that you have a need to debunk rather than more fully understand Christianity.

    5. Keep going, but be careful with words like “fraud” which are probably more provocative than they need to be. To me, “fraud” is signing one’s name to someone else’s writing and taking credit for it rather than writing under someone else’s name or a pen name.

    6. Is there a way to put Humpty-Dumpty (the Bible) back together again after he has been broken into pieces by textual and historical criticism? Maybe a start is by emphasizing the best in Christian ethics and the best parts of the Bible instead of emphasizing all of the problems in the books and there are many, many such problems..

    6. Emphasize, when you can, the good points of Christianity. How it provides comfort, How it makes many more decent than they would be without it. How parts of the Bible are quite helpful. Even though it is very tempting, don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.

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    gonzalogandia  March 14, 2013

    I personally can say that I haven’t looked forward to a book–the way I look forward to How Jesus Became God–in a long time! I’ll even buy a pre-order version, so don’t worry!

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    mariana1952  March 14, 2013

    I can`t wait,I`ll buy the book.I trust your work, everything you write interests me. I`m happy i found you on youtube When i was searching for videos about christianity.Without knowing you helped my brain to be free from religious slavery.Thank you. Enjoy your trip………Don`t forget the came back hahaah

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    ironmarshal  April 2, 2013

    I suspect that a lot of readers come to your books as part of their journey for spiritual truth. When I began my search for a deeper understanding of Christianity I stumbled upon a book by Crossan that discussed textual criticism, which sparked my curiosity, but it was ultimately too inaccessible for a lay reader.

    With that in mind, I think the anecdotes are useful, if only as a reference for how somebody in the field related to the same discoveries. More important is bringing information to light that uninformed readers can use to better understand how much they were taught to believe is true, and how much isn’t.

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