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Doing a TV Interview

On a side note, or no relevance to any of the recent threads or to much of anything, I just now got back from a rather grueling interview for a two-hour National Geographic Channel documentary dealing with — ready for this? — Jesus. It’s amazing how many of these things get made. People love them, they sell well, the film company and its employees, the TV channel, everyone concerned (well, except the persons being interviewed!) make money, they spread knowledge (sometimes), so they’re all to the good. This is the second one I’ve done in three weeks. (I’ve been in London for a month; this particular crew is based in the U.K.; the other flew over for the interview.)

Anyway, I enjoy doing these things, and they’re always a challenge. Off camera, the interviewer asks a question, and you have to come up with about a 20-second answer, in which you give a complete answer with beginning, middle, and end. You can’t just say something like, “Yes, that’s right, because….” since the audience watching the film will not know that you’ve just been asked a question. They edit these things so that the talking heads seem simply to be spouting their wisdom from their shoe tops, not answering loaded questions.

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  1. Avatar
    stokerslodge  August 7, 2013

    Wouldn’t it be nice if they did a program called “Debunking Myths about Muhammad” for Ramadan? I wonder how that would go down. They never grow tired of debunking Jesus.

  2. Avatar
    dennis  August 7, 2013

    Though some may have considered this post a ‘ softball ” and off topic (s ) , let me congratulate you on one of your best ever . Prior to retirement , I worked for an individual who , for reasons I will not mention , was constantly approached by ” the media ” for interviews and would , without exception , flatly turn them down . When I asked him why , he told me that he had been so acutely embarrassed by the ” creative editing ” of his remarks that he swore never again . ALL of the electronic media and most of the print media are in the entertainment business not in the educational business . The Teaching Company being , of course , an honorable exception . The post brought back echoes of one of my college History Profs telling us to never rely exclusively on a secondary source when the primary was available ( delivered in a tone that Moses used upon descent from Sinai ) .

  3. Avatar
    Adam0685  August 7, 2013

    “Talking heads” – that’s funny!
    I hope scholars get paid to do these things! Either way, those interested in more will probably purchase your books!

  4. Avatar
    DMiller5842  August 7, 2013

    I will look out for it. I think it sounds interesting.

  5. Avatar
    Peter  August 7, 2013


    Do the contributors even get a nominal fee or is it considered as “free publicity” for the contributor (his work)?
    I enjoyed the PBS series on the first Christians even though I don’t think you featured in that one!
    Anyway, your series of lectures on the historical Jesus puts all those shows to shame!

  6. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  August 8, 2013

    1. I have found some of these shows not to be so bad. Not great, but not bad either.

    2. I guess you must feel that the good in them outweighs the bad or you would not participate.

    3. Everything in life boils down to the good, the bad, and the ugly.

    4. I do think that when the shows shift between so many different participants this makes it hard to keep the shows on track.

  7. Avatar
    donmax  August 8, 2013

    Just a side note from the road.
    I agree with you about bourbon, and “None compare with Eagle Rare!”

  8. Avatar
    jsoundz  August 8, 2013

    Funny and serious dept: Since you’ve been in London recently did you have a chance to view season four of Downton Abbey? It was so hard to lose Matthew Crawley at the end of last season. 🙁 Best wishes. Jeff

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 9, 2013

      I”m afraid I’ve never seen *any* of the episodes. My wife tells me it went way downhill after the first season.

  9. Avatar
    fultonmn  August 8, 2013

    Maker’s Mark?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 9, 2013

      That’s my normal choice; a bit hard to find in Wimbledon.. But did find a nice Woodford Reserve.

  10. Avatar
    chrishuntley  August 8, 2013

    Hello Dr. Ehrman,
    Just signed up for the trial membership a couple hours ago and have been devouring your content.

    I wanted to introduce myself, as I can already tell you I’ll be a frequent visitor and commenter here.

    I’ve been on a spiritual journey for the past year or so trying to find out if this whole Christianity thing I was taught as a child and believed for 30+ years was really true.

    What I found as a younger, more convinced Xtian who shared my faith with Muslims and atheists, was that people might listen politely but were rarely willing to consider that they may be wrong… particularly those who were born into a faith.

    … it took me several years to look in the mirror and realize I was doing the same thing… not really considering if my faith could possibly be wrong.

    Despite all the contradictions I would find, despite all the incredible stories from the OT, I would ignore reason, and search for the answers I wanted from Xtian apologetic books.

    The glue that held it all together for me for years was the resurrection.

    Here was the thought progression:

    1. The Bible is God’s inspired word.
    2. I know #1 to be true, because Jesus believed in the OT and quoted from it, so even though I find some of it far fetched, it must be the word of God. The inconsistencies I find in the NT are also ok because they’re not material enough to change the most important events, such as the resurrection.
    3. I can believe everything from #2 because Jesus rose from the dead, so he must be God.
    4. I know #3 is true, because how could anyone argue with CS Lewis’ “Lord, Liar, or Lunatic” argument, and why would the disciples die for a lie?
    5. When in doubt about any passage, go back to #1.
    6. If I ever thought to doubt #1, I was impeded by a multitude of factors that could be summed up as: Closed eyes, pride, a lifetime of indoctrination, emotional reinforcement (feelings, supposed answers to prayers, events in my life that could only be a “God thing”), and fear, as pretty much my whole life was/is wrapped up in Christianity (wife & friends are Xtian, social life at Church, my morals, etc.)

    It took years, but I can now see the error in this thought progression. My faith was similar to a row of 100 dominoes. The first 50 or so dominoes were set up in my childhood. In my brain, these dominoes never moved. They’re sort of “untouchable”. At various times in my journey, some dominoes would go missing, and holes would need to be filled. Since I still looked upon my row of dominoes in their entirety, it’s a reasonable explanation that since I saw almost all the pieces there, these few holes really were minor and I could usually patch them up with a Josh McDowell book. Faith crisis adverted.

    It’s not until I realized that my problem was the “untouchable” dominoes, that I finally found the ticket to my freedom. For the first time in my life, rather that trying to patch up a few holes in the row, I’ve wiped the slate clean, knocked over those first 50 dominoes.

    All did not go according to plan from there. I was sure that when I started back at zero that the row of dominoes would line back up easily, but for the first time, I’m seeing holes everywhere, and things are starting to unravel for me.

    I can’t unread the things I’ve read. It’s too late for me to go back now.

    I know what you did leaving the faith was difficult, terrifying even, and yet that is what I’m considering doing. As someone who has been there / done that, any words of wisdom? How do I tell my wife? What about all my friends? Should I try to debate them or just leave them be?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 9, 2013

      Great questions. I think others would enjoy some responses, so I’ll add them to my (rather long) list of things to post on.

    • Avatar
      Adam0685  August 14, 2013

      I’ve had a similar experience chrishuntley. I was a fully committed evangelical for years and was engrossed in apologetics for a long time. I graduated from Moody 8 years ago, went on to do a Master’s in NT at University of Toronto. It was my life. I taught in my church and was very involved in ministry in and outside of the church.

      The progress away from evangelical Christianity was a very difficult one for me and I tried hard to find reasons to keep believing. I used to have this view as an evangelical that people who left evangelicalism did so because of willful dislike of it or because of sin or because of weak faith. For me, it was a painful and fearful experience to leave because my whole identity was based on my beliefs. I didn’t want to leave those beliefs. I knew if I gave them up I could no longer be part of the evangelical community. For me the pain and fear was an internal struggle, not the result of conflict with the church or family. My journey of leaving my former faith to being able to really accept the change without fear was about 3-4 years.

      Personally, I didn’t debate my friends. The process of change for you took time and its own pace. It wasn’t something forced on you. I don’t think it’s something you can force on your friends.

      I would take your time as you reflect on your changing beliefs. I would continue to read, think, and follow the evidence. It’s important to be honest with yourself and patient with others. My journey of following the evidence led me to leave Christianity. I’ve done so with no hard feelings toward the church. Some people leave and become hostile toward Christianity. Some former evangelicals instead adopt a liberal Christianity.

      It might be hard for your evangelical friends to understand why you are questioning your beliefs. Some of my friends made a lot of wrong assumptions. Try not to become angry about that.

    • Avatar
      webattorney  February 9, 2014

      Jesus the person existed, but who knows, maybe he did rise from the dead, even if there are many inconsistencies in the Bible. Also, note that just because there is no Christian God or Jesus the Messiah, it does not mean there is no deity. It’s perfectly plausible that some sort of being might have created or given an impetus to the creation of the universe. It really comes down to what belief makes you happy, while causing no harm to others. For me, I am an atheist when it comes to Christianity but an agnostic when it comes to deism. But I go to church without any guilt feeling or feeling of hypocrisy. I even pray when I feel like it.

      • Avatar
        webattorney  February 9, 2014

        Oh, for clarification, I should say that if I lived alone, I would not attend church, but in the interest of keeping peace within my family, I do go to church. 🙂

  11. Robertus
    Robertus  August 8, 2013

    Bourbon & fluff, can’t argue with that. What brand, by the way? What brand of Bourbon, not what brand of fluff.

  12. Avatar
    Wilusa  August 8, 2013

    I used to enjoy this type of programming – I’ve noticed there’s less of it in recent years, figured the channels that used to carry it had decided the topics had been “done to death.” In programs I sort of remember, I didn’t think they were trying to support particular views. Rather, they seemed to be airing a number of views, but some of them were really outlandish, and they weren’t making clear enough what those supposed “experts’ ” credentials really were. (The nonsense I remember involved the “virgin birth” and the “birth in Bethlehem.”)

    But now we have a new problem, which I mentioned a couple months ago when I saw a (revised!) rerun of a program on the Gospel of Judas. Now, after a quite good program has aired, they’ll decide to “improve” it by sticking in all kinds of “additional information” (unattributed!) in little boxes that pop up on the screen. Even if the info could be trusted, I’d still find it an annoying distraction. But right after Dr. Ehrman had said the authors of the four Canonical Gospels are unknown, a box popped up to inform us that the Apostle John had written the Fourth Gospel, Revelations, and Epistles!

  13. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  August 8, 2013

    With regard to your “Greatest Controversies” lectures, were the Ebionites the earliest Christians? I think your book on “The Lost Christianities” describes the Ebionites as being a group in Jerusalem under the leadership of James, the brother of Jesus, and that this group did not believe that Jesus was divine and believed that one needed to be Jewish in order to be Christian. In your lecture on Gnosticism in the “Greatest Controversies” series, you state that the first Christians were Jewish Christians. Were these earliest Jewish Christians Ebionites or were the Ebionites a group that were different than or split from these earliest Jewish Christians?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 9, 2013

      I guess I’d say the Ebionites would trace their lineage back to the earliest Christains (of course *every* group claimed it could do that….)

      • Avatar
        RonaldTaska  August 9, 2013

        So, one might conclude that there was really no early “the” church just like there is no “the” Bible?

  14. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  August 8, 2013

    P.S. For many years, I worshipped with a group the members of which contended that they were restoring the original church. So which group was the original church becomes an important question for me if not for them. I guess Walter Bauer would have said that there were many different early churches, not just one.

  15. Avatar
    dewdds  August 9, 2013

    Enjoy your bourbon!

  16. Avatar
    maxhirez  August 9, 2013

    I love those kinds of shows-as long as their B-roll doesn’t focus too heavily on a spit-shined 6 foot-tall white guy with a nicely trimmed beard and long, clean flowing hair playing Jesus. I am a bit surprises given what I’ve read in several places that you called Crossan a “friend” here-I think the first time you mentioned him on the blog you referred to him as “crafty.” He seems so affable as a talking head though-perhaps it’s difficult not to like him in spite of his resistance to seeing Jesus as an apocalypticist.

  17. Avatar
    nichael  August 9, 2013

    My apologies for going off on a bit of a tangent here but, speaking of TV interviews, would you be comfortable saying something about any really bad interviews (or interviewees) that you might have been subjected to?

    What brings this to mind is truly embarrassing interview that Reza Aslan recently suffered through
    on Fox News (this has been making the rounds of the internet recently, but if anyone is interested
    in seeing it search YouTube for “Fox News Host Attacks Muslim Scholar Who Wrote About Jesus “)

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 10, 2013

      Yeah, I’ve had some bad ones too. But not *that* bad!!

      • Avatar
        Billypaul49  August 14, 2013

        Have you read Aslan’s book? He sounds a lot like you
        What happened to the Scotch? Your so close to the good stuff
        I can’t believe you would drink Kentucky when your in England.

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  August 15, 2013

          Haven’t read it! Doubt if I will. Like most scholars, I don’t really have time (or the urgency) to read books written by non-specialists for popular audiences.

          Scotch. Ah, well, here’s the deal. I refuse to drink single malt before dinner. It’s purely an after dinner thing for me. Bourbon on the other hand has to be drunk before dinner. I almost never do both, though (one before and one after). If it’s spirits before dinner, it’s not spirits after. And my preference before, for the record, is a martini. But I have to force myself to a restriction: only two martinis/week. Otherwise I’d have two a night!!

  18. Avatar
    JohnSalmond  August 16, 2013

    Seems to me the practices of these TV people is as reprehensible as selling people adulterated food, producing food for their minds that is not just simplified, as you might say made more digestible, but is actually lacking in nourishment, even positively harmful in that it displaces possible healthy, invigorating, strengthening matter. A sad state of affairs in an area where one would hope to find zeal for communicating some sort of truth

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