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How Does A Book Become A Bestseller? Readers’ Mailbag April 21, 2017

In this week’s Mailbag I deal with a question about how a book written for a popular audience becomes a bestseller, specifically with regard to Misquoting Jesus, my book that has sold the best of all by far.

 

QUESTION:

In your previous answer to me you indicated that what makes a bestseller, in the end of the day, is massive media attention.  My question now is what sparks this attention. In other words, why, out of all your books, did Misquoting ...

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Can Myths Be True and Meaningful?

Yesterday I received this interesting comment on my most recent post.  It embodies a view that a lot of other members of the Blog have, and so I thought I should respond to it.  It is about whether there can be meaningful myths in the Bible.  Here is what the reader says.

Imaginative stories by definition are false. To say something is myth and by extension imaginative, is asserting that it is false. For us to say something is ...

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Appreciating the Myths of the Bible

When I came to see that there are mistakes in the Bible, I did not jettison it all as a waste of time.  Not at all.  On the contrary, I continued to value and cherish it, as a book that could reveal truths about God.  Yes it had discrepancies, contradictions, historical errors, glaring scientific mistakes, and so on.  Of course it did.  But that for me was not the ultimate point.  The Bible It was a product of its own ...

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59

Becoming a Non-Fundamentalist Christian

After realizing that the Bible does in fact contain mistakes, I became a non-fundamentalist Christian and remained one for many years.  It is not easy to describe exactly what I believed “at the time,” only because it was a good expanse of time and there was a kind of transition period in which I evolved into the kind of open-minded, reflective believer that I became and remained, again for some years.

At the early stages I suppose you could describe me ...

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Fundamentalism and the Truth of the Bible

I have recently received a number of inquiries about why realizing there may be mistakes in the Bible might lead someone to become an agnostic.  Here is one that came a few days ago:

 

QUESTION:

I want to thank you for your extensive work in explaining … your journey from believing that the bible contained no errors to proving the bible is not inerrant and simply the work of human writers. What I would like to be explained is the necessary logic ...

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How I First Realized There Are Mistakes in the Bible

I have told the story before of how I first came to realize there might be mistakes in the Bible.  Rather than paraphrasing it again, I’ll simply reproduce the account as I presented it the first time I went public with my faith journey, back in my 2005 book Misquoting Jesus.  Here is what I said there:

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Upon arriving at Princeton Theological Seminary, I immediately signed up for first-year Hebrew and Greek exegesis (= interpretation) classes, and loaded my ...

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50

My Resistance to Change at Princeton Seminary

Several people have asked me to unpack what I meant in the last sentence of yesterday’s post because, well, it doesn’t make sense.  What I was trying to say was that I had a crisis of faith in Seminary – as many people do, as it turns out – because I thought I could prove my faith claims were true (an Enlightenment position: “truth” is objective and can be proved), but the more research I did, the more I found ...

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My Encounter with the Enlightenment

I know I have talked about how I lost my faith before.  But I’ve never talked about it in the terms I’m going to be describing it in this post and the next.  It has to do with what happened with my notion of “truth” when I went to Princeton Theological Seminary.

Princeton Theological Seminary is not administratively connected to Princeton University – it simply is in the same town, across the street, and has a shared ancient history.  What is ...

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46

What Happened Next: My Life After Moody Bible Institute

Here I’ll continue relating what I told my New Testament class the last period, when I was explaining what I personally believed and why (for anyone who wanted to come).

For me, as I indicated in the last post, going to Wheaton College (Billy Graham’s alma mater) was a step toward liberalism.  Students there were not as gung-ho about the Bible – well, fanatical about the Bible – as we had been at Moody.  They were evangelical Christians, all of them ...

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The Life Story I Tell My Students

As I’ve indicated, my last class of the semester in my Introduction to the New Testament course is optional.  In it I explain to anyone who wants to come what I really believe and why I believe it.  The way I do it is by telling my life story, from childhood till today.  That takes about twenty or twenty-five minutes, and then I answer any questions for the rest of the time.  The questions could go on for hours – ...

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