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Blog Year in Review, 2019!

We are at the end of yet another year and I would like to take the occasion to reflect on the blog, how we’ve been doing and where we’re going, now on the cusp of 2020.   (Yikes.  Already?)

The blog has been doing extremely well.  When I started this venture in April 2012, I had no clue what I was getting into, what it would take, and what it would give.   It is taking more and giving way more than I anticipated at the time.

I have always had two principal goals, very different from each other but both vitally important, the raisons d’être of the blog.   The first, of course, is to disseminate serious critical knowledge about the New Testament and early Christianity to a wider public.

It is amazing how much bad and simply wrong information is out there on the Internet.  Especially on topics pertaining to religion.  In particular the religion that most people in the western world – those who subscribe to a religion — happen to subscribe to.  A lot of it is schlock; a lot is misinformation; a lot is ignorant; a lot is the personal opinion of people who haven’t even bothered to cracked a book in order to acquire it.

This blog is dedicated to providing hard-fought scholarly knowledge about the most important book in the Western world and the beginnings of its most important religious tradition which, as it turns out, became the most important historical, cultural, social, political, and economic force in the history of our civilization.  OK, then.  That seems to matter.

In an age when expertise is shunted, on this blog we are taking out stand.  There are scholars who are both very smart and very dedicated who have mastered numerous ancient languages to read original Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Aramaic, Coptic, and Syriac (and other!) sources and who have learned German, French, Italian, and Spanish (and other languages!) in order to see what yet other very smart and dedicated scholars have learned and know about these sources, scholars who have studied these sources and the scholarship on them rigorously as professionals for thirty or forty or more years.  Trust me, they know more about the New Testament and Early Christianity than the guy who lives across the street who has a lot of opinions and access to the Internet.   Or your well-groomed Televangelist.

The view of the blog is that it would be very, very good indeed for those in the general public who are interested in these topics to know what the experts say, where they disagree, what the evidence is, what the arguments are, what the general consensus seems to be – about everything form the life of Jesus, to the writings of Paul, to the authorship of the books of the New Testament, to who decided which books were to be included in the New Testament, to how the ancient manuscripts were recopied over the centuries, to the development of Christian doctrines about who Christ really was or how the Trinity came into being, to the various kinds of “heresy” in early Christianity, to the status of women in the early church, to the persecutions and martyrdom of Christians, to the spread of Christianity through the empire, to …. to a thousand other things.

The blog tries to provide that information.  It’s been going for well over seven and a half years now.  I have posted just over five posts every week since we started, each and every week.  These days posts are running an average of 1300-1400 words.  Them’s a lot of words. I try to make every post to be informative and reliable, based on critical scholarship – not just what I happen to think, but what experts who have devoted their lives to this kind of work think.   It will come as a surprise to many people I suppose, but very *little* of what I have posted over the years is anything at *all* that I have come up with myself.  It happens on occasion, but very rarely indeed.  Most of what I say is pretty standard among critical scholars who have done this sort of thing for most of their adult lives (even when there are differences among them).

So before getting to the other reason for the blog, here are some year-end statistics.   This past year I made 268 blog posts.  That includes the “guest posts” that I have been soliciting of late, which seem to generate positive responses, even among readers who can’t buy for a second what the guest poster is saying.   I’ve had conservative evangelical apologists and hard-core atheists guest-post, along with very fine critical scholars. The point is to be confronted with serious-thinking people with different opinions than ours that we can consider and weigh.  It is a very, very bad thing indeed to listen only to people that you already know you agree with.  Whether we’re talking politics, religion, or the NFL.

Since the blog began, I have done 2222 (weirdly) posts altogether.    That’s over two and a half million words.  All of it is archived.  Feast away!

This past year I have posted exactly 14,801 comments by readers; there were also a couple of dozen (I guess?) that I chose not to post because they were inappropriate, irrelevant, irreverent, needlessly political (on both sides) (why are there two, by the way?), or just too snarky.  Since the blog began, there have been 91,176 comments.  I look at all of them, and try to answer all the questions I get.  My answers can’t be lengthy (I do have a day job), but if longer answers are required I sometimes dedicate an entire post to the issue.

The second raison-d’être for the blog is particularly near and dear to my heart, as we used to say.  I started the blog principally as a fund-raising tool, to make money for charity.   As you know, I don’t keep a dime for myself.  On the contrary, since the blog started I have paid all the overhead expenses out of my own pocket.   When I started, I had no idea what we would be able to raise or what it would take to make me want to keep it going (though I was thinking that if it was a bust I’d do something else with my life….).  My thought at the time was that we could raise $20,000 a year.  Boy was that wrong.   This past calendar year we raised $167,000; so far over the history of the blog we have raised over $825,000.  That’s some serious change.

The blog gives the money to five charities:  Urban Ministries of Durham (which deals with hunger and homelessness in my local community, an amazing organization); the Food Bank of Eastern North Carolina; the Durham Literacy Center; CARE; and Doctors without Borders.

I want us to do better.  And we are now taking steps to make the blog grow much more significantly.   The growth in membership has been gratifying.  Last year at this time we had 6729 members and were shooting for 7000; this year we have 8338 and are shooting for 10,000.   And many, many more.   Could you help us?  Spread the word.  Seriously.  Tell anyone who might be interested: family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers, dentists, postal workers, and plumbers.   And THINK ABOUT GIVING GIFT SUBSCRIPTIONS!   Just go the home page and click the bright red link!

The most gratifying development this past year is that several blog members with special skills have generously started volunteering their time and expertise to help us imagine how to make to improve and grow the blog, make it more widely known and accessible to the general public, implement new ideas while keeping to the things that are already working well or even extremely well, and raise more money.   I will be making some announcements about our upcoming plans in the coming weeks, and welcome any ideas you yourself have.

For now I want to thank my assistant Steven Ray, who built the blog, runs it, patches it, takes care of all technical issues, deals with all membership issues and payments, answers all my questions, and  much more.  Steven has been with us since before the beginning, and without him this blog would never have come into existence and would never have survived, let alone thrived.  He’s the best at what he does and I appreciate his dedication and hard work.  Many, many thanks Steven!

And many thanks to all of *you*.  Ultimately, of course, you are the blog’s actual raison-d’être.  I appreciate very much all your enthusiastic support and immensely enjoy interacting with you.  As we move forward, please feel free to tell me your feelings about the blog or make any suggestions you can or would like for its improvement, in any way.

Now it’s on to the New Year!  I hope you have a good one.  May we all thrive.


Would You Like to Read My New Book NOW Instead of When It Gets Published???
Christmas 2019

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    AstaKask  December 31, 2019

    Happy New Year!

  2. Avatar
    Fernando Peregrin Gutierrez  December 31, 2019

    I thank the generosity of Bart Ehrman to me for having been able to participate and take advantage of his blog in these few months in which I have been a member.
    A very interesting experience that I recommend to anyone interested in knowing in depth the Christian faith, especially in its origins.
    Believers are often surprised that some atheists illustrated and full of “Catholic — universal– curiosity” about the important things of history and human cultures, spend time studying and discussing something they do not believe in or remain indifferent to it as it is religious faith and all that it entails, such as the existence of God and an eternal life happily enjoying paradise or suffering atrociously in hell.
    I usually answer my Christian friends and relatives – all or almost all, Catholics – who ask me about my great interest in religions as cultural categories of immense importance in the history of human societies, that it would be a very bad joke from that God and a true injustice– if he existed — , and that persistently hides himself from me, that he stubbornly refuses to give me a simple irrefutable proof of his existence and that nevertheless he spies on me day and night to condemn me to fire and eternal suffering if I do not believe in him, which is something very tremendous if it were true. Therefore, I must know to the limit of my ability to know if such a celestial dictator exists or not.

    Happy New Year to all of you and a recommendation: do not forget to watch the Wiener Philharmiker New Year’s Concert on the Musikverein in Vienna on TV.
    After all, there are things that are sacred even to some atheists like me, like the music of the great repertoire of Western High Culture, something unmatched in other cultures or civilizations of the world, as much as that truth upsets post-modern multiculturalists.

  3. Robert
    Robert  December 31, 2019

    At some point (or perhaps already?), do you ever imagine thinking that this blog and the charitable resources it supports, might become the most significant accomplishment of your academic or intellectual career? Not many people read scholarly works on text criticism and their proceeds surely do not provide much for the most needy among us. It really is an amazing accomplishment in my humble opinion. And, happy new year too, by the way!

    • Bart
      Bart  January 2, 2020

      It’s possible. But a rather low bar! 🙂 But seriously, many thanks, I appreciate it.

  4. Avatar
    fishician  December 31, 2019

    Your blog is a great resource; keep up the good, make that great, work! Happy New Year!

  5. Avatar
    dankoh  December 31, 2019

    Thank you for the work you do in maintaining this blog, which I often turn to for insight – and for questions, many of them technical, which you have been generous in answering. It’s also interesting to note (in an unscientific sense) how few are the participants here who try to argue with you/us out of ignorance and preconception. Being forced to question and examine, and sometimes change, one’s assumptions is never easy. I do hope that “the guy who lives across the street” is lurking here, and that he too will eventually come to see the value of study and of asking questions.

    Happy holidays!

  6. Avatar
    doug  December 31, 2019

    Thank you so much for your good work, both in supplying knowledge to us and in supplying funds to charity. And a Happy New Year to you and to all who are members of your blog.

  7. Avatar
    robgrayson  December 31, 2019

    I only joined the blog a few months ago. I have not one single regret from having done so. It’s an amazing resource, and has already expanded my understanding considerably. Thanks, Bart, and a happy and healthy new year to you and those you love!

  8. Avatar
    Judith  December 31, 2019

    This blog is one of my all-time favorite things ever. Thank you, Dr. Ehrman, and a very Happy New Year to you and all your loved ones!

  9. Avatar
    Damian King  December 31, 2019

    ” Steven has been with us since before the beginning, and without him this blog would never have come into existence”… Was this a pun on John 1? Or am I just seeing things Bart?

  10. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  December 31, 2019

    Thanks to you and Mr. Ray. The best thing you do is writing clearly and concisely. All I have to do is read others, sometimes on this blog, to realize that you are very, very good at thinking and writing clearly and concisely. Not every scholar has the knack of writing so clearly and concisely. Thanks again.

  11. Barfo
    Barfo  December 31, 2019

    I have been a member for about two months and I enjoy your blog very much. It’s a great resource for research/investigation/learning. I may be able to convince a couple of family members to join as well. Raising $167,000 in charitable donations in one year is sure an accomplishment. My favorite charities are children’s hospitals, St. Jude and Shriners primarily. For me childhood disease and suffering has created the big tender spot to ask WHY? Thank you and keep up the excellent work!

  12. Avatar
    veritas  December 31, 2019

    Sometimes an idea becomes larger than life and it is certainly true for you. I wish continued success and your goal, collectively, to help those in need. These enormous challenges work better when done in multitudes of people united for the betterment of all. You have mentioned you try and read most responses and there are times you may not respond due to inappropriate remarks made. Fair enough. I have asked in some n blogs, a question regarding a book and received no answer. Do you miss some, I would suspect? My biggest suggestion is this though. Is there any way possible to assemble a list of accredited scholars/professor’s whom you regard as viable in field of Religious studies for your blog. I would not expect an extensive/exhausting list, but one of a least a few notables that you have respect for their research and dedication. Off topic, I know you are a Tar Heel fan, but are you jumping on the Tigers (Clemson) bandwagon, the other Carolina southwest of you, for the National Title against LSU, ironically also Tigers?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 2, 2020

      yes, I’m sure I miss a lot. If I miss one, just ask about it — or send me an email. And be sure to save it yourself in case I need you to repost it.

      There are many hundreds of fine scholars out there, in New Testament alone, not to mention ealry Christianity and not to mention ancient religion and not to mention religious studies. It would be hard to come up with a broad list of the entire field!

      And most important, yes! Go ACC! Go Clemson! (I have an expensive bottle of wine riding on it….)

  13. Avatar
    nichael  December 31, 2019

    > “Them’s a lot of words.”

    Well, look at it this way:
    According to the post above:
    (7.5 years) X (52 weeks/year) X (5 posts/week) X (1300 words/post) = 2,535,000 words.

    According to Mr Google:
    Words in KJV = 783,137.

    ‘Nuff said.

    …and more to the point, speaking as someone who has been here since virtually day one, thank you for every one of them.

    • Bart
      Bart  January 2, 2020

      Ha! Well, quantity gets one only so far. I had a professor who used to say “Any fool can write a long book. And many have!”

  14. Avatar
    tadmania  January 1, 2020

    Your teaching and insight are providing me with two primary benefits: knowledge and understanding. The knowledge comes in the form of what I feel is an ‘orderly ignorance’ regarding the NT’s creation and organization (it’s like making fog sculptures at times, but I am learning). Understanding, in reminding me that people are our common project, and that incredulity is a poor tool for taking care of those still under the sway of superstition. Thanks.

  15. Avatar
    Stewiegriffin  January 1, 2020

    I’m looking forward to my first full year as a member! 🤗

  16. Avatar
    RICHWEN90  January 1, 2020

    This blog is indeed a wonderful thing, serving very important purposes. I came to it rather late, but the thought of perhaps never finding it gives me the shivers. It happened like this: a google search on a topic of interest to me, and among the links was a youtube presentation by Bart Ehrman. And then I found the blog, and began to order books. These books of Bart’s ( and by others who have been referenced here) have become important resources. The information came at a critical time in my life. Much needed perspective and clarification, not to mention sanity. I’m very grateful for the time and effort that goes into this blog. The comments and discussions are quite interesting and frequently enlightening as well.

  17. Avatar
    LollyPeter  January 1, 2020

    Happy New Year! My adult son just gifted me with this membership. He and I have differing views on things spiritual. I have been reading and believing the Bible all my life. He has been reading, listening and considering many different perspectives. He has been listening to your podcasts for some time now. I am delighted with his gift. I believe that we will have spirited conversations going forward!

    LollyPeter

  18. Avatar
    qditt  January 1, 2020

    Thank you Bart for all the work you do for the blog, in answering questions near and dear to us, and helping those in need. I am not sure if there is an active God above us or not, but if so, I’m sure He or She or They are happy with the work. This blog has made a big difference in my life (to the chagrin of a few in my family), but hopefully through time we can see the positive sides of being “unorthodox” and realize that true happiness comes through helping others.

    Thanks again for making this world a little cleaner, better fed, more sheltered, and hopefully a little more intelligent. Keep the sense of humor and excellent historical material and this will be a wonderful 2020!

  19. Avatar
    FredLyon  January 1, 2020

    Well done! The blog is educational and entertaining; that’s my highest complement. I look forward to it. Even better, it helps provide for those on the margins of society (coincidentally, just as Jesus seems to have wanted us to do). Thank you for your good work!

  20. Avatar
    Bewilderbeast  January 2, 2020

    * rueful chuckle * – this blog spreads knowledge and interaction to those who need that; and kindness and real help to those who need that; and does it in a human and humane way. Reminds me of a bloke ‘they’ wrote about centuries ago . . .
    Thanks!

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