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At the Beach (2): Reflecting on Books

One of my favorite parts of the beach (in addition to the walks, the eating, the drinking, the talking, the sleeping) is thinking about books. The novels I’m reading, the books I’m writing. The books I learn about from Sarah and Dale. What I pick up from these two is really something. Sarah in particular is a voracious reader; I’ve never met anyone or seen anything like it before. This week she is reading through the novels of Elizabeth Taylor (not the American actress! The British novelist, who wrote twelve, evidently amazing, novels). And the nice thing about Sarah is that I almost never can read a book she hasn’t read. This week I was devouring Vanity Fair. Oh yes, she was examined on it for her Alevels (back when she was, like 17, before heading off to read English at Oxford. And yes, she can still talk about it….)

Among other things, since this beach holiday always comes at the end of the school year, I spend some time thinking back over what I’ve accomplished, in the writing department, over the last year, while looking out over the ocean, catching an occasional glimpse of a dolphin or two, possibly with a drink in hand or a cigar in mouth (or vice versa).

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At the Beach (3): Thinking Yet More of Books
Personal Reflections: At the Beach



  1. Avatar
    Adam  May 27, 2012

    Congratulations to your accomplishments. I am very thankful for your work which is clearly the product of your sincere commitment to the discovery of what is true and your courage to publish your findings given the backlash you receive by some. I know this is not an easy thing!

  2. Avatar
    bamurray  May 28, 2012

    I don’t know if it’s possible, but I would find very interesting a brief discussion of what you argue for in the upcoming Forgery book that *isn’t* the accepted position of most or all scholars in the field.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  May 29, 2012

      OK, I’ll post a response on my blog!

  3. Avatar
    nichael  May 28, 2012

    Dr Ehrman

    If I may interrupt your time at the beach, I’d like a ask couple question about some previously published books, including a couple mentioned above..

    1] I bought my copy of _Orthodox Corruption of Scripture_ shortly after it was originally published (in paperback –dark green cover and all). However I see that the book is now offered (e.g. on Amazon) with a publication date of 2011. Am I correct that this is a reprint of the original book (i.e not a new edition –the descriptions I’ve seen do not make this clear)? Or do I need to get a new copy?

    2] In a couple of places I have seen reference to an earlier book of yours titled _The Monk and the Messiah_. From the description of the book I assume that this was simply an earlier (or “working”) title for _Misquoting Jesus_. Is this correct?

    3] Finally, I very much look forward to the new edition of the Festschrift for Dr Metzger which you and Michael Holmes edited.

    However, in the new edition I trust your name will be spelled correctly on the dust jacket.
    (Sorry, too cheap shot to pass by on a much admired text on textual criticism. 😉

    Hope you are enjoying the rest of your summer.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  May 29, 2012

      The new edition of Orthodox Corruption corrects some of the mistakes in the first edition (a few real howlers!); more important, it adds an extended essay on what has happened in the field over the course of the 20 years or so since I first wrote the book, in all the areas of relevance to its concerns.

      Yes, the Monk and the Messiah was a tentative title for Misquoting, which never made the cut.

      Ah, how did you get the dustjacket with my mispelled name? I thought we caught them all. But I thought it was pretty funny, for a book on textual criticism!

  4. Avatar
    DMiller5842  May 28, 2012

    Look forward to reading it, but I have 2 others to read first. Did Jesus Exist? is on the way from Amazon and I want to get When Did Jesus become God? too. I am new to all of this – so it is scary.

    By way of personal reflection — I learned at age 7 there was no Santa, the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy soon followed. I must say that since then I have had this feeling that Jesus was of the same nature. Something the well meaning adults in my life were telling me, but wasn’t necessarily true. I spent the rest of my life being told, but not quite believing the Baptist creed. I read all the “God” books I could get my hands on to try to get my head straight about the faith. The Left Behind Series I have to credit for sending me back to the Bible to look up some of the fantastic things that were written in those books. I was amazed to discover that they were really there. Though not the parts the preacher points out on Sunday.

    The internet has really been helpful to me in my personal quest to find some truth about God and Jesus. That is where I first saw you in some debates on YouTube. It is where I learned about Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason, and even learned what Thomas Jefferson did to the Bible in making his version, The Jefferson Bible. I found it quite awful that I reached the age of 55 and had no clue these works existed.
    Despite 2 college degrees, I I feel like I was still 12 years old in my knowledge about the Bible. All the Bible study, Bible drills and Vacation Bible Schools, and church camps filled me full of all I needed to know — or so I thought.

    Now that I do know more about the Bible, I am feeling very strange about it. Who can I tell? Most of my family members and friends would be stunned by these findings. I have such mixed feelings about sharing any of the facts I have learned. On the one hand I can’t believe I was lied to all my life — on the other I see that a safety net that the belief provides is a comfort – even if it is not real. Some of my family are so confident in their faith that they go on missions to spread the word to middle eastern countries. Even though now I see that they have not really “studied the Bible” anymore than I had, but I cannot see telling them anything I have learned. In this world full of drugs, sex and rock and roll, having children brought up in a religious system (even a fake one) probably beats the alternative. Yes, we can be moral without being Baptist, but the threat of going to hell is more effective than being grounded for a week.

    I think you need to have a support page on your blog for recovering Christians. Being agnostic or being a deist is a new space for many of your readers. Like you, many of us have come from a life- long Christian background. I recently attended a funeral of a good friend. His brother, also a good friend, gave the eulogy. At the end he said, ” We will see Keith again as surely as there is a resurrected Chirst.” I had to really fight to keep my emotions under control. If I had broken down over the givng up of the Christian faith and sobbed ( as I wanted to do) , people might have thought Keith and I had been more than friends. Awkward.

    I thought I wanted to know the truth….. really maybe someone should have told me — as in the movie, A Few Good Men, “you can’t handle the truth.”

    Any advice for those of us in recovery?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  May 29, 2012

      Wish I had some real pearls of wisdom to pass along. But the best I can do is to urge you to keep following the truth as you see it! It can be emotionally wrenching changing one’s views….

    • Avatar
      SJB  May 29, 2012




      A place to start. Good luck to you. There are a lot of us our here like you. More and more every day.

    • Avatar
      Cephas  November 19, 2012

      DMiller5842, may I add something that helped me as I grew up and away from my own embarrassing evangelical past?

      There are more than a few parallels between religious evangelism and what we feel when we’ve learned the (sometimes bitter) truth about our religious beliefs. I’m truly no expert, but I suspect that “we brave, lucky few” have many concerns and questions stirring within us, which you’ve so eloquently expressed (your post eerily reflected my own confusion when I first “stepped into the light”, so to speak!)

      I guess a natural reaction is to turn our passion for telling people the Truth into telling people the truth, if you follow me. That’s so much harder than it first appears, because people find different “keys” in the new perspectives, and, sadly, remarkably few of our fellows in Christ are really looking for the truth without a capital ‘T’.

      As you pointed out, for the vast, overwhelming majority of religious believers, what they’ve found in their religion – and as far as I can tell, this stands true for all religions – is blind comfort that shields them from what they almost universally see as the stark, naked, terrible reality of the cosmos. Most, if not all, of my own circle of believers and “friends” simply thought I’d been possessed by Shai’tan when I tried so passionately to explain the actual, wonderful reality of our lives. I lost them all. I knew it was time for a rethink when I made Mum cry out… (I actually described this in my own blog on theodicy, although that was a much more recent sadness).

      If I could do it all over again (and I would, in a heartbeat!), I wouldn’t tell them the things I learned, (since they tried to refute each part of the puzzle as I shared it with them as though it was a debate with Satan himself), but the simple fact that all the vast knowledge I thought I knew of the bible was only the tip of the iceberg. That seems to pique their interest much more and seems a challenge to master whatever it was I read! Simply mention “Jesus, Interrupted” (“Forged” just instantly gets most people’s backs up, as does the merest whisper of the word ‘atheist’, which I noted was missing from your post!:)) as a first step, and let their curiosity, instead of their Search For The Truth, do all the work.

      As it was, I found Bart about twenty years too late, but I swear he’s a resource I wish I’d’ve had back then. And it seems less combative talking with older folk (I’m 50 next year), rather than fighting the (pardon my Aramaic) piss and vinegar of the young Turks we all were.

      Your mileage will vary, of course, but it’s been so much less argumentative talking with the religious now that I understand that scholars have known this stuff for decades! I find that argument from authority works much better when you use real authorities to back your discussions with friends. I reckon it’s like having Prof. Ehrman standing beside you!

      Sorry if this is too long and way, way too late. Mea culpa. I hope this may help clarify things, even if only a little.

      Good luck with this scary, wonderful, eyes-open stage of your journey!

  5. Avatar
    John E Paver  March 2, 2014

    I’m in the middle of “Forgery and Counterforgery” on my Kindle and I’m finding it a very difficult read compared with, say, “Forged: Writing in the Name of God”. Is this to be expected? I seem to recall reading that it is meant to “more academic” rather than for a more general reader?

    Best wishes, John.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  March 3, 2014

      Yes, Forged is written for a general (popular) audience; Forgery and Counterforgery is written for scholars.

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