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Blog-Related Suggestions for Isolation

There is a lot of good advice out there about how not just to handle isolation but how to take advantage of it, to make some parts of your life better rather than worse.   But it has occurred to me: people on this blog have some things in common, interests that we share.   And I wonder if we can give some suggestions to each other about how blog-related interests can contribute to our mutual and individual well-being while we still plow through this crisis.  So after giving a couple of suggestions, I’ll be asking you if you have one or two ideas to share with others.

Let me begin by saying that just about everything the sages among us are saying is absolutely right, when it comes to *general* or even *universal* advice.   At least it’s all working well for me.   I am exercising *more* not less, and have developed a very nice exercise regime that I follow every day.   That not only helps me get my mind off my woes and, especially, my woes for the world at large (which are important to have, and I have them in abundance; but dwelling on them all day is not good for me or the world), as I work out in various ways, but also keeps me fit and feeling good physically.

So too with sleep: I’m getting every bit as much as I need.  Now *that’s* a luxury for a lot of us.  We should take advantage of it.

Many of you are not into meditation, but I have been for a few years now, and I have increased my practice.  That’s helping a *ton*, making me calmer and again getting my mind off other things – in fact, in the form I’m practicing now, getting my mind off *everything*.  It’s another way, along with sleep, to recharge the brain’s batteries to be alert and fresh.

The main other thing I’m doing – this finally gets to issues connected with the blog – is that I’m intentionally redirecting my extra time to doing things that I really have always wanted to do and simply didn’t have the hours in the day to do.  In my case, that does not involve watching more TV or other things simply to give myself something to do and while away the hours.  It involves consciously doing what makes me happy and feel good.

I’m choosing things to watch that are soothing for me.  In this case (distantly related to the blog) I’ve decided to redirect my reading and viewing habits.  About two months before the crisis hit, I started reading books and watching movies and TV series involving world-catastrophes.  This was actually for *work* not for *pleasure.*  My next book will be about how misinterpretations of the book of Revelation led to expectations that the world was soon to end, and that combined with other factors of modern life has seriously affected both fiction and film.  In fiction it began (for my interests) with the 19th century fear of technology – starting with Frankenstein and continuing on till today through robots and AI generally; to the “bomb” threat starting in 1945 – all the nuclear disaster films etc; to climate change; to, yes, viruses.   The earliest disaster movies arose out of fiction (you won’t believe who made the first Frankenstein movie: Thomas Edison!!  That seems completely ironic and weird, if you know the book, until you see how he ends the film, with science triumphing over the monster it has created).  Film then began to take on a life of its own and, as you know, there are roughly 3 trillion options now.

I continued with watching and reading all that even into the crisis, but about three weeks ago I decided to give it up for now.   I really don’t need it at the moment.  At all.   (I’m not advising against it; I’m just saying that for me, it is, well, not a good time for it.  I’ll get to my book later.  I’m doing a different book now anyway, so there’s no rush).

Instead I’ve decided (this is unrelated to the blog) to read and watch stuff that I really deeply enjoy and that I find personally uplifting.  And for now that involves costume dramas with happy endings (I just rewatched Howards End; next will to Ben Kingsley’s Silas Marner; then the Daniel Deronda series); and Victorian novels (started on one of Dickens’ very best, Bleak House; which actually does have a plague in it, but it’s an upbeat story despite the name).

BUT, to the blog.   Many of you have always wanted “more time to read.”  Now’s your time.  And many of you are fascinated by understanding the New Testament, the historical Jesus, the books that didn’t make it into the New Testament, what happened in earliest Christianity, how the Bible was compiled, the significance of the Bible for modern ethics – e.g., issues connected with reproduction and sex and social policies and justice etc.  And lots of other things.  Why not throw yourself into reading some of the books in these fields – or any other – that you’re interested in?

On my own home front we’re doing something related that will clearly not be a choice of the masses, but it’s the *kind* of thing others could think of.  I’ve been working on my Latin for a couple of years now; my wife Sarah is a medievalist and so was trained in ecclesiastical Latin.   But she’s rusty (she moved on to Shakespeare about 20 years ago and there’s not a lot of Latin there….), and I need all the help I can get.  So we’ve started reading the Latin Vulgate together.  Really.  In the evening, before dinner.   It was her idea to start with Ecclesiastes, which I”ve never read in Latin before; after that we’ll move to Genesis.

And it’s been *great*.   One of us reads a verse in Latin, the other translates it (we have dictionaries to hand!), and we go from there.  Fantastic.

OK, so you probably ain’t gonna be doing *that*.  But how ‘bout finding something that you and whomever you happen to be around or can connect with remotely read something together that you both would enjoy, and then talk about it?    It could be simply a piece of fiction that makes you think and deal with issues important to you.  Or it could be something non-fiction and instructive/informative.   Even something connected with the Bible/early Christianity, if that’s your current passion.

These are hard times.   For some people they are merely inconvenient; for others they are downright devastating or even life-destroying.   If you have mental space and want to make yourself feel better, you need to take intentional steps to get there.

To that end:

Do YOU have suggestions connected with the blog you can make for others, things you’re trying?  For example, can you recommend a blog-related that you’re read that you would HIGHLY suggest?  Or an online resource?  Is there something you’re doing that you think others could benefit from that are in some way connected with our shared interests?

If so, post a comment.  I would suggest that you limit yourself to just ONE suggestion in your comment.  You can certainly do more, of course, if you stick within the space limits.  But will tell you with some confidence that even if you have lots of ideas and advice, if you explain ONE carefully it will have far more impact on people that if you shoot off two or six.   So I recommend you give one.  But if you really want to go for more – hey, you’ve got 200 words.

I wish all of you the very best, as we try to pull through all of this, both together and individually.  If there’s anything I can do on the blog to increase your happiness, do let me know!


Life after Death in the Bible and Beyond: Webinar with Oxford Press
The Not Old Better Show – Heaven and Hell Book Interview

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    longdistancerunner  April 24, 2020

    I second your recommendation of vigorous exercise.
    I’m your age and get that first run in every morning.
    I’m 64 and still running 45-50 miles a week ( low week of 30 miles every 3rd week)..
    I read once that the same endorphins affected with vigorous excersize are the same as smoking marijuana.
    I believe it.
    I worked for 22 years for a boss that terrorized me…The only way I could get through the day was if I ran 7-10 miles before work.
    This virus thing is causing the same stress and that first morning run is a must. It really helps.
    43 years as a runner and 100,000 miles on my legs and a lot of endorphin high has gotten me through.

  2. Avatar
    KeenanTruffen  April 24, 2020

    Hey Bart this is off topic I was wondering what the evidence is that Jesus but died in 30 CE over 33 CE.
    Also when Do you date the 1st Corinthians 15:3-8 creed?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 26, 2020

      There’s not great evidence either way on Jesus’ death. I’ll add the qeustion to my list of things to post on: how do we know when Jesus died. So too withe the creed. It is rather sophisticated and composed originally in Greek, so some years after Jesus’ death, but before Paul converted the Corinthians. So, what, sometime in the 40s or early 50s?

  3. Avatar
    Diane  April 24, 2020

    Although I’m only 3/4 through it, I can HIGHLY recommend “Gospels Before the Book,” an examination of what it meant for text to be (or not to be) considered a finished work (“book”) in antiquity, which has implications for how we view the Synoptic Gospels–are they separate works, or just different stages of a corpus?

    Also, I have a two-person, remote book club going with a friend who moved across country. We are reading on the topic of Enoch, and have a video call once a week to discuss. Maybe folks on the blog would like to organize book discussion groups on Zoom, Facetime, Skype, or whatever platform (my friend and I use Facebook Messenger).

  4. Avatar
    johnsotdj  April 24, 2020

    I’m reading and studying Bart’s new book, Heaven and Hell, using both the book and audiobook, and stopping to look up, not only the scripture references, but citations from Plato’s dialogues for example. I’m learning a lot of new things, and doing some reading I always meant to do. One thing I’ve noticed is, there are passages in scripture that I’ve read and heard so many times over the years, that didn’t “make sense” at the time, (e.g., verses in the Psalms that indicate “death after death,”) and now I’m really seeing them for the first time. Highly recommend this book!

  5. Avatar
    Todd  April 24, 2020

    I was pleased to read that you are practicing meditation. I find that this is an excellent way to clean the trash out of our minds and stabilize our thinking. I was going the mention that in your blog a few days ago on suffering. We will always have suffering but meditation is a great way to put suffering into perspective. When we are isolated we have time to meditate. Isolation also gives us time to journal. Write down our thoughts and meditate on those. Also find something creative to do such as sketching or trying poetry writing and such. Try something you have never tried to do. Hang in there my friend…this too will pass. Nothing is permanent. Namaste

  6. Avatar
    godspell  April 24, 2020

    Being a big horror movie fan, who used to read every book on the subject I could find, I’ve known about the Edison Frankenstein movie since I was maybe 12 years old.

    I’m listening to my large dusty collection of vinyl LP’s (Jazz, Blues, Irish Trad–get around to rock and classical eventually), and reading the last completed volume of Robert Caro’s LBJ biography, which has much to teach Much of what Caro documents sounds more unbelievable than any story in the gospels not involving water walking or resurrection, so don’t be so sure you know how people in ancient times behaved, when modern human behavior is so hard to predict much of the time. What history teaches us most powerfully is how very strange we are.

    Might even get around to doing some writing–but not on this blog’s primary subject. Not my purview. Well, except here, of course. 😉

  7. Avatar
    WhenBeliefDies  April 24, 2020

    Meditation & Yoga:

    I have been doing mindful meditation for about a year now, but have wanted to go deeper into the subject. Not in any spiritual way, but to understand how to observe my consciousness as thoughts and feelings arise. I find Sam Harris’ app ‘Waking Up’ has a brilliant *theory* section, along with 10 min meditations. You can get a free year, just email (support@wakingup.com). I have found Meditation to be extremely helpful for the rest of my day – I can notice how thoughts and feelings are affecting me, and deal with them in a far healthier way.

    Yoga has never been something I have done before. I have always associated it with *spiritual nonsense* and so haven’t been bothered. But after a slipped disk a few years ago I started to get into stretching and working out every day. Since the pandemic broke I have found myself doing Yoga with my children, and have now started to do it on my own in the morning a few times a week for 30 mins.

    There seems to be something very freeing in mental and physical decompressing.

    What exercise do you do Bart? What meditation app or technique do you use?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 26, 2020

      I don’t use an app and my techniques vary over time. My first year or two was all about being in touch with my body. I’ve shifted over the years, and am now using my meditation to explore my consciousness, focusing on mind without thoughts. It would ovilysly take a long time to explain, but my general sense is that there is not a right path, but many many good ones.

    • Avatar
      Toby  April 29, 2020

      WhenBeliefDies, if you are doing meditation and want to go deeper into the subject, my mother has been practising and teaching meditation for 40 years and has written some books on the subject.

      This is her website if you’re interested:

      https://www.meaningbydesign.co.uk/meditation

      Keep well and safe, and calm.

  8. Avatar
    rivercrowman  April 24, 2020

    Bart, I’m spending part of the lock down thinking of Bible questions for you. First Thessalonians 2:14-16. NRSV Harper Collins Study Bible footnote says “The authenticity of these verses is sometimes challenged; see Introduction.” Are you among the challengers? Thanks!

    • Bart
      Bart  April 26, 2020

      No, I think they are authentic. THose who don’t usually do so because they can’t make good sense of them (assuming that they must be referring to the destruction of jerusalem.)

  9. Avatar
    Hormiga  April 24, 2020

    Are there any “citizen science” projects relevant to the blog? Or could you think of any that would be useful to create? Perhaps indexing and cataloging manuscripts, even doing summary translations for those who have enough of the relevant languages.

    Examples of citizen science:

    https://daily.zooniverse.org/tag/ships-logs/

    https://www.theguardian.com/science/the-h-word/2016/apr/26/how-citizen-science-could-change-historical-research-crowdsourcing

    • Bart
      Bart  April 26, 2020

      Interesting question. Never thought of it. I would need to do so! (Some ideas, such as cataloguing mss, would require very high level backgrund and linguistic skills)

  10. Avatar
    fishician  April 24, 2020

    I’ve been working on my creative side. I went to college to study music composition, but chickened out; didn’t think I had the talent. Now with online software it’s easier to write music, and play it back, so I’ve been writing silly songs for family members, and using PowerPoint to create videos using old pictures and such. I’ve created a couple of music videos about the pandemic situation. Just for fun, sharing them with family and friends. (Hmmm, Dr. E, need a theme song for your blog?) If you’re still religious, write a hymn.If not, write an atheist anthem. Maybe it’s time to start on that novel you always wanted to write. Learn to paint, or create some sculptures. (Biblical themes are always popular in art!) The possibilities are endless, and lots of fun.

  11. Avatar
    AstaKask  April 24, 2020

    There are plenty of science related projects on YouTube. Brian Greene takes us through one important equation per day in World Science Festival’s “Your Daily Equation”. Sean Carroll is doing a series on the Big Ideas in Science, Both are accessible to non-physicists and non-mathematicians.

    Ever wondered where “E=mc^2” comes from or why there are three dimensions of space?

  12. Avatar
    Apocryphile  April 24, 2020

    One series I have been watching for awhile has been Closer To Truth, hosted by Robert Lawrence Kuhn. From the synopsis on the IMDb website, it “is an ongoing public television series and resource-rich website featuring world-renowned scientists, philosophers, theologians and scholars exploring the vital ideas of existence. The show covers a diverse range of topics or questions on Cosmos (e.g., the size and nature of the universe), Consciousness (e.g., the nature of minds and brains), and Meaning (e.g., the existence and essence of God, and the search for purpose and ultimate reality)”.

    No small agenda and range of topics, but I find it always fascinating.

  13. Avatar
    psauer  April 24, 2020

    So during this “house arrest” time I decided to make contact with old friends that I have not talked to in many many years… people such as old college classmates, old colleagues, old friends I grew up with, old mentors that are at the end of their lives. Even some relatives I have not seen in over 40 years. I have either called them , emailed them,
    or just plain wrote them a letter. I try to make contact with at least one a day. It has been wonderful walking down old memory lane, telling someone what they meant to me, catching up on personal stories.

    As a result, in the midst of this “isolation awareness” I have come to the understanding that we definately need a social balance to our lives. I think we are born to be social creatures.

    • Avatar
      pathomas  April 26, 2020

      I really like hearing about your activity… Thank you for sharing this meaningful suggestion, psauer!

  14. Avatar
    Boltonian  April 24, 2020

    I’ll cheat a bit and offer one hard reading project and one much easier:

    Hard: I have been interested in philosophy for most of my thinking life in an amateur sort of way. I am trying again (for the umpteenth time) to read and understand Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason. Not easy. Philosophy occasionally pops up on the blog, so that is my tenuous link.
    Easier: Patrick O’Brian’s Aubrey/Maturin series of naval novels. I have read all 20 twice over and will do so again if this lockdown goes on for much longer. An interesting sub-theme is how an ardent Catalan/Irish Roman Catholic radical and an equally fierce Church of England Conservative see the world from a moral perspective. The film, btw, bears little resemblance to the books, although Russell Crowe as Aubrey was pretty good.
    I am exercising more as well: running, cycling, walking (we are lucky to live in the countryside) in the absence of my thrice-weekly golf fix.
    Bleak House is my favourite Dickens, too.
    I’d also love to learn Latin and as I have some primers, who knows?
    Finally, I’m re-learning the banjo, which I last played 45 years ago, but this time with a 65 year-old brain. Tough!

  15. Avatar
    Judith  April 24, 2020

    With all this time, I’m going to try to grow Boxcar Willie Tomatoes. Also, blueberries! It’s something special to do and look forward to. Wish me luck. 🙂

  16. Avatar
    Manuel  April 24, 2020

    I finally subscribed to the Great Courses! I have been enjoying your course on How Jesus Became God and your colleague Jodi Magness’s course on the Holy Land Revealed!

  17. Avatar
    timcfix  April 24, 2020

    Get outside. DO NOT READ THE REST, I’M JUST VENTING. After the Spanish Flu the lesson learned was that being outside was better for the patient and the non-patient. I believe that those who are preventing this need to be remembered and replaced. So much about Katrina was not remembered mostly because we were in the middle of Afghanistan. OK, I live in the country and I have more freedoms than those living in NYC. I’m not living on beans and rice waiting for the eviction notice as soon someone says everything is normal now. Like it says in the song (and also in the Bible) “if you haven’t got a half-penny then God bless you”.

  18. Robert
    Robert  April 24, 2020

    Bart: “… my wife Sarah is a medievalist and so was trained in ecclesiastical Latin.”

    Do you make fun of one another’s pronunciation? I learned a little bit of ecclesiastical Latin in college, but my son is in fifth-year High-School AP Latin and makes fun of me whenever I lapse into ecclesiastical pronunciation.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 26, 2020

      She can read teh Latin out loud *far* better than I. And she does correct me, but I usually just assume she’s right. In most things.

  19. Avatar
    Steefen  April 24, 2020

    Dr. Ehrman,

    Charles Krahmalkov in a Sep/Oct 1994 Biblical Archaeology Review article, “Exodus Itinerary Confirmed by Egyptian Evidence,” states Ramesses II / the Great had a topographical list at Karnak which mentions Jabin, the king who went to war with the military leader Deborah, after the death of Joshua. This supports the claim Ramesses the Great was associated not with the Generally Accepted Date (GAD) of pi-Ramesses slaves led away by Moses in Exodus. Ramesses the Great is not the pharaoh of oppression. Ramesses is evidentially linked to the book of Judges, Chapters 4 and 5.

    “In the topographical list of Ramesses II at Karnak that we have already mentioned, a route through the Jezreel Valley is described as follows: Qerumin-Qishon of Jabin (Ybn)-Shimshon-Hadasht.”

    Do you agree with Krahmalkov that the list of Ramesses II refers to Jabin whose army general Sisera was defeated by Deborah and as a result Ramesses II must be linked with his list to the time of Judges and cannot be the pharaoh of the Exodus?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 26, 2020

      No. I can’t imagine any bona fide Hebrew Bible scholar does. If you hear of one, though, let me know.

      • Avatar
        Steefen  April 26, 2020

        A world leader publishes a topographical list including contemporary municipalities and their leaders.
        This dates him, rather than incorrectly dating him generations earlier.

        Bona fide Hebrew Bible scholars and archaeologists know the difference between tradition and accurate history and will publicly make statements that side with evidence, objectivity and reason over political consensus with tradition.

        I, personally, will not insult the intelligence or reputation of bona fide Hebrew Bible scholars and archaeologists, or even undergraduate students, but if the Biblical Archaeology Society publishes an article to the contrary, it will be read with interest.

  20. Avatar
    seahawk41  April 24, 2020

    Some time in the past year or so, you recommended The Great Courses. I agreed with the suggestion at the time (probably didn’t say so!), and already had several of yours. I’ve gotten more into TGC during the lockdown, right now doing one by Eric Cline on the great archaeology sites of the world. I’m also doing one on music and math, and some others. There are tons of them on pretty much every topic under the sun, and you can often get the online video only version for $30 to $60. Not at all bad for a course by an expert on the topic. Reading some very good books too, but I’ll limit this comment to TGC.

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