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Blog Year in Review, 2018

Here on this New Year’s Eve I would like to reflect for a minute on the last calendar year of the blog, our seventh year of operation. By nearly any metric, I would say it has been a very good year indeed.

For just about all the users of the blog, of course, the primary interest is to read what scholars say about the subject areas that we cover, which are narrow, in one sense, in that they deal almost exclusively with the area of early Christianity (with some discussion of cognate fields, such as Hebrew Bible, early Judaism, Greco-Roman world, Roman religion, and so on).  But in another sense they are very broad, as the blog covers a range of subfields all of which entail scholarship produced by specialists who, in many instances, work in one small subfield or another.  (My best friend in graduate school, upon graduation, used to say that her expertise was on Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapters 9-11.   And she meant it!)

And so the blog covers, among other things, such topics as the historical Jesus; the life and writings of Paul; the question of how we got the canon of the New Testament; the scribes and manuscripts of the New Testament texts; the early Christian apocrypha (books that didn’t make it into the NT); the persecution of early Christians; the spread of the Christian church; the writings of Christians from the 2nd-4th centuries; the history of the church down to the end of the fourth century; and on and on!

As you know, you are welcome to ask me questions about anything connected to these or any other related field, and I’ll try to answer.  If I don’t know the answer (or have an opinion, which isn’t the same thing…) – as many have discovered, some to their chagrin – I’ll simply say so!

Here in my seventh year I’ve fallen into a good rhythm on the blog.   I post five times a week, on a typical week taking Thursday’s and Saturday’s off.   I usually follow a thread, but sometimes– not sure if this is aggravating or not – I interrupt a thread when something else of relevance or immediate importance (like Christmas!  Or a question I’ve received that I’m eager to answer comes up, sometimes to my surprise leading to a small thread of its own).  But I (almost!) always get back to the original thread.  (The only one I can remember not doing that for was some years ago.  Got seriously side tracked….)

So, on that calculus I’ve posted over 250 times this past year.   Since starting the blog in April 2012, I have altogether made 1945 posts.   Almost all of them are between 1000-1200 words.  That’s a lot of words.

I have started doing a bit more what I used to do almost never at all, which is re-posting posts from years ago that strike me as important, relevant, and/or (most commonly) directly germane to a question I have received, on the assumption that the vast majority of people reading the blog never saw that original post (most people on the blog were not on it then; and lots of people – to my shock and eternal horror – don’t read the blog every day), and those who did, like me, probably don’t remember it much anyway.   I hope that’s not a problem for you (the idea of reposting old posts).   If it is, let me know.

I continue to answer all questions I get, or at least I try to.  I can never answer at length, since I get so many of them and despite all my requests for reform, there are still only 24 hours in the day.   Because I deal with so many questions here, I very rarely can answer queries sent directly to me on email.  Just can’t.  That aggravates some people, but I don’t see any time-management ways around it.   On a typical day on the blog I get 40-60 comments; most of them don’t involve direct questions, so all I need do is read them, make sure they are appropriate and not (particularly) offensive to anyone (sometimes some slip through, I know) and post them.  I do read them all.  And I try to answer the questions.   I don’t know the exact number of comments I’ve received this past years, but their numbers go up with growth in the membership.   Since beginning the blog I have posted 76,375 comments altogether (and not posted a bunch that are irrelevant or snarlish).

The blog continues to grow in terms of numbers.  We now have 6729 members, and are pushing to get it up to 7000, and to go from there.   Knowledge of the blog is all word of mouth, as I’ll reflect on further below.

The most important aspect of the blog for me – other than interacting with so many intelligent, interested, and intriguing people – is the revenues that it accumulates for charities.  That, as you know, is ultimately its raison d-être: if it weren’t for the charity aspects, I simply wouldn’t be doing it.  And we have seen a significant increase in funds we have raised over the years.

When I started the blog, I thought maybe we could raise $20,000 a year; we exceeded that significantly the first year, and have grown and grown.   This year, I’m very pleased to say, we have raised $154,000.   That’s some serious pocket change.  It marks a significant growth – 15% increase over 2017.  The funds go to five charities: the Urban Ministries of Durham (my local charity dealing with hunger and homelessness, not just with a soup kitchen and emergency shelter but also with a staff that works diligently and impressively to *end* homelessness for people); the Food Bank of Eastern North Carolina; the Literacy Center of Durham; CARE; and Doctors without Borders.   All of them are extremely worthy and deserving of our support, taking care of people in deep need in different ways and different places.

Most of the funds we raise come from membership fees – which have not changed a cent since we started in 2012.  But a good bit comes from donations that come in from generous and able people who believe in the blog and what we’re doing and want to support it.  Even if the blog is a kind of middle-person between the giver and the charity, every penny of every membership fee goes straight to the charities; and every donation is tax-free, accomplishes great things, and supports the ideals of the  blog.  So, think about giving, as you are able!  We all appreciate it very much.

My goal this coming year is to maintain the quality of the blog and increase its numbers – both membership and revenues.  If we could sustain 15% growth, now *that* would be amazing.  It depends not just on us, though, but also on all its faithful and devoted members; the growth of membership, as I pointed out, happens entirely by word of mouth, as more and more people learn about it.  There are billions of people in the world interested in early Christianity; many, many millions are in the English—speaking world; many of these are interested in what scholars (not only preachers and evangelists) are saying about it.  What better avenue for learning?  If you know anyone – simply anyone (family member, friend, work partner, neighbor, church or synagogue member, simple acquaintance) with any interest in the area – tell them about us and encourage them to join!

I would like to end by thanking my assistant in technical support, Steven Ray, who urged me on at the beginning of this enterprise and has been along with me every step of the way.  The blog simply could not happen without him.  He is massively knowledgeable about all things computer and membership services, he is prompt, and he is diligent.  You should hire him yourself.  We all owe him a mountain of gratitude.

I feel grateful, as well, for all of you, without whom, of course, this blog would not exist.  For many of us 2018 has been a hard year, in all sorts of ways.  But a new day is dawning, the first day of a new year.  May it be a very good one for all of us!


My Research Goals for 2019
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  1. Avatar
    craig@corbettlaw.org  December 31, 2018

    Thank you for all your hard work. This blog is an excellent way for me to keep up with your current thoughts and projects, all of which are educational. And, the subscription allows me to help fund the charities you select. No need to reply to this comment.

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    godspell  December 31, 2018

    It is really hard to find anyone to discuss early Christianity with in real space, Bart. The problem is, people who aren’t religious have a limited tolerance for such discussions (with honorable exceptions), and people who are don’t appreciate their beliefs being questioned (ditto). Internet discussion forums in the main are known for a certain extremism that makes reasoned discourse a challenge (translation, rudeass trolls).

    So this blog creates a space where nothing is off-limits except rudeness. In the few years I’ve been here, I feel like I’ve been able to supplement my reading by talking to people of differing views, with you overseeing, offering guidance. It’s been a blessing. Looking forward to the new book. Happy 2019. (Maybe this will be the year we find the answers we seek? Hopefully not, since the questions are so much fun.)

  3. Avatar
    Judith  December 31, 2018

    Congratulations!!! You did it and then some (beyond the $150,000 goal). Proud for you, Dr. Ehrman.

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    AstaKask  December 31, 2018

    Happy New Year everybody!

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    Hon Wai  December 31, 2018

    Hello Bart, Great update on the year in review. I wish you and your blog a terrific year ahead.
    I have two questions relating to two different issues – homelessness and your writings.
    HOMELESSNESS: Can you provide some URLs to articles providing good diagnosis and solutions to the homelessness problem in your state? In the past years, there has been a worrying urge in the number of rough sleepings on streets of London – you may have noticed it if you recently visited London and compared to your memory of London a decade ago. Reliable data is hard to come by; it seems many of the people had a number of chances with public and charity services to help them get out of their situation, but due to drug addiction and mental health problems (and sometimes with criminal records), they returned to the streets. Some estimates put about a third of the homeless in London are foreign EU nationals – a disproportionately high figure relative to the general population. I would like to read some research on causes and solutions to homelessness in America, and see what UK can learn from the American experience.
    YOUR WRITINGS: How do you keep track of the voluminous writings you have accrued during your career? You would have written a lot of notes on the hundreds of articles and books you have read during course of your life. You would have written on numerous topics and sub-topics in notes and articles which remain unpublished. You must have a very efficient filing system so you can readily identify by topic/subtopic your previous notes.

    • Bart
      Bart  January 1, 2019

      1. Yes, I have noticed that about London; we’re here for the holidays and my wife and I have both commented on it. Very sad. I don’t know of general websites dealing with the problem, though I imagine there are scores of them. The one that gives details about my local situation, the Urban Ministries of Durham, is the one I follow most: http://www.umdurham.org/ 2. I simply keep electronic files over every note I’ve taken for years and years and years on every book and article I’ve written, as well, of course, on all the drafts and sketches I’ve made of my own various writings.

  6. Avatar
    davitako  December 31, 2018

    And of course thank you, Bart, for the impressively hard work.

    Have you thought about making the blog multilingual? One way, I think, the blog could increase its membership is to reach out to non-English speaking people interested in Christianity. You could do a research to find out which languages would attract most people; like Spanish for example, lots of Spanish speaking Christians out there and so on.

    I am sure a lot of blog members would be eager to translate the posts in languages they’re familiar with. I, for instance, would love to translate them into Georgian without any fees, I just doubt there would be a lot of readers in it 🙂

    Anyway, just an idea for expanding the blog.

    Happy New Year, Bart! <3

  7. Avatar
    jbhowell  December 31, 2018

    Dr. Ehrman, Thank you for this blog. It is one of the most informative I have ever read. I wish other scholars would do this.

  8. Avatar
    longdistancerunner  December 31, 2018

    Enjoy the blog. Enjoy the daily posts. Thanks.

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    RonaldTaska  December 31, 2018

    “There is more day to dawn. Only that day dawns to which we are awake. The sun is but a morning star.”

    The ending of Thoreau’s classic “Walden.”

  10. Avatar
    forthfading  December 31, 2018

    Dr. Ehrman,

    I have truly enjoyed being a part of your blog and interacting with my favorite historian of early Christianity. In 2018 I was able to attend one of your public debates and attend two lectures. The highlight for me was being able to have dinner with you and your lovely wife at The Piedmont Restaurant along with a few other blog members. Thant kind of thing just dosen’t happen. For me, I was spending the evening with a celebrity! I look forward to what 2019 holds for the blog, and I am anxiously awaiting your new book!

    Thanks for your charity work and your endless patience with us amateurs. No one knows what happens after our life on Earth is done, but I do know that if there is anything to the Christian faith you will have served humanity with the utmost.

    Happy New Year and Many Many Blessings, Jay

  11. Avatar
    stokerslodge  December 31, 2018

    Happy New Year!…or should that be Merry New Year!??

  12. Avatar
    rivercrowman  December 31, 2018

    Phenomenal results for the blog! I’ve been a constant and attentive member for years, but because of a laptop meltdown a couple of years ago, and the sadly distracting death three days later of my aged cat, I apparently missed your post about the results of letting “concerned” parents of your students attend the semester’s final lecture to ask you questions. Did you actually finish that thread? … What questions or comments did you get? Thank you, as always.

    • Bart
      Bart  January 1, 2019

      I don’t remember! Rarely do parents come to that final session, and I don’t believe they’ve ever asked a question. But students certainly have a lot of questions, mainly about my personal life!

  13. Avatar
    Pattylt  December 31, 2018

    I certainly hope you realize how amazing it is for us “average” Joes and Jill’s to be able to converse with such a noted scholar! My appreciation for your time and effort put into this blog is beyond words.

    May 2019 continue to bring you joy and to bring us blog posts! And answers to our thoughtful and sometimes inane questions 😂. The amount of charity raised makes my heart sing! Yea to all of us!

  14. Avatar
    nichael  December 31, 2018

    > “We all owe [Stephen] a mountain of gratitude.”

    Can I get an “Amen!” here.

    (It’s easy to overlook “behind-the-scene” folks like Stephen. And the biggest irony here, of course, is the very fact that we never hear about what Stephen is doing back there –that it never rises to the level of our attention– is _exactly_ the best indicator of how good he is at his job.)

  15. Avatar
    LouVon  December 31, 2018

    Happy New Year to you Dr. Ehrman and to all the members on this site. I don’t post often but do enjoy reading all of your articles. You make life’s venture more enjoyable and understandable. Please keep up this good work as I know you will.

  16. Avatar
    Stephen  December 31, 2018

    Wow! Seven years. Congratulations! Whatever level of access you’re able to provide at this site is very much appreciated.

    I’ve noticed over the last year that the comments in response to your posts have been spreading over into two pages more and more . A sign of success but of course more work for you!

    A suggestion: perhaps the site is ready for a Frequently Asked Questions page. You must get tired of responding to certain topics well covered. (Prof Ehrman, do you really think Jesus existed?)

    Potential Topics:
    1. The mysterious third member of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit How did he (?) become a part of the Trinity? Why not simply a Duality?
    2. You mentioned the possibility that the authors of gMatthew and gJohn might be gentiles rather than Jewish. I’d really like to hear those arguments.

    Lastly, let me also thank Steven Ray. I do IT work and Techies rule the world. At least until AI comes along and enslaves us all!

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    rickwilmot  December 31, 2018

    Thanks so much for this blog, Bart: sharing scholarly information with those of us interested in these things yet are not in academia, and for your charity support of great causes. May your tribe increase.

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    pmkoop  January 1, 2019

    Happy New Year, Dr. Ehrman and to my fellow readers.

    I appreciate this blog for several reasons. First, I like that my membership fees go to feed the hungry and take care of the sick. That, to me, is Jesus’s central message.

    Second, I appreciate that you don’t shy away from answering tough questions. One of my first negative experiences in a fundamentalist church happened when the board of directors found out that our youth leader encouraged tough questions and that we were asking them. The board shut the leader down. So sad! I also appreciate that, when you don’t know the answer to something, you say so. I like that you value evidence and that you are willing to back up what you say.

    I wish you and this blog continued success!

  19. Avatar
    Bewilderbeast  January 1, 2019

    ” . . a very good year indeed.” Hear, hear! Thank you and well done!

  20. Avatar
    ksgm34  January 1, 2019

    As a recent member of the blog I’m really enjoying your old and new posts, thank you.
    Your mention of Romans above has prompted me to ask your opinion about Romans 9. Do you believe the Calvinist interpretation of this reflects what Paul was actually teaching? I know that other Christians read universalism in Paul and I’m interested in whether you think he had a consistent theology or whether, as one Christian author has said, he appears to be “winging it” at times in his writing?!

    • Bart
      Bart  January 3, 2019

      Yes Paul is intriguing precisely because he is so difficult to make internally consistent. I certainly don’t think Paul was a Calvinist. He does in places strongly suggest an ultimate universal salvatoin. I’ll be talking about that in my forthcoming book.

      • Avatar
        ksgm34  January 3, 2019

        Great, I’m looking forward to that one coming out. Hope you enjoyed your holiday here in the UK!

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