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How I Will Write My “Graphic Textbook of the New Testament”

Yesterday I began to describe my Graphic Textbook of the New Testament, as I have proposed it to my publisher, Oxford University Press.   In this post I continue, by explaining how I will actually set up the first fascicle (installment), on the Gospels and Jesus.


Fascicle One: The Gospels and Jesus

The four Gospels are by far the largest section of the New Testament, and any reconstruction of the historical Jesus depends on a critical understanding not only of how each of the Gospels portrays his life, death, and resurrection, but also of how they can be used as sources of historical knowledge.  After providing necessary background about the Greco-Roman world in which Christianity was born, with a special coverage of first-century Judaism, this fascicle will examine the overarching message of each Gospel, and conclude with a consideration of how scholars can utilize such literary and theological writings in order to establish a historical reconstruction of Jesus’ life and death.


Introduction (2 pages)

The book will begin by …

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Other Interesting Features of the Graphic Introduction to the New Testament
A Graphic Novel (Textbook) on the New Testament!



  1. Avatar
    Pattycake1974  January 27, 2020

    I took a graphic novels English course as an undergrad, and it was one of my favorite classes. Several of the companies that make K-12 curriculum now include graphic novels as supplemental material to coincide with content teaching. It’s very popular, and a big hit with students of all ages.

    Graphic textbooks are definitely the trend these days. I think it’s a great idea.

  2. Avatar
    Silver  January 27, 2020

    Do you see this graphic novel textbook standing alongside your more traditional textbooks or will it be used more for those requiring additional support or even for high school/secondary aged pupils rather than undergraduates?
    Has your wife, who is, I believe, a Shakespeare scholar and perhaps has seen this format used with the bard’s works, any thoughts on its value as a teaching tool?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 28, 2020

      I think it could be used in all three ways. She hasn’t seen anything on Shakespeare, but she’s an expert on Wittgenstein and liked that one very much.

  3. Avatar
    Tm3  January 27, 2020

    Dr. Ehrman,

    I think this is a great idea. I think you will be surprised at the impact this book will have. Keep up your splendid work!

    • Bart
      Bart  January 28, 2020

      sounds like a lot of readers on the blog will be surpirsed too. We’ll see!

  4. Avatar
    Stephen  January 27, 2020

    You’ve suggested reading the stories in the gospels horizontally instead of vertically. What about depicting them horizontally? You wouldn’t have to do the whole thing that way just key narratives to illustrate the differences, like the Nativity stories and especially the four Resurrection accounts. Laying these contradictory narratives out graphically side by side on the same page might make the point powerfully.

    • Bart
      Bart  January 28, 2020

      Yup, it’s a popular study form of the Gospels. It’s called a Gospel Harmony or Synopsis of the Gospels. The most popular one is by Throckmorton, but I think the one by Aland (Synopsis of the Four Gospels) is the best (Throckmorton doesn’t include John)

  5. Avatar
    christopherfisher  January 27, 2020

    This is exciting.
    On the subject of works by New and Old Testament scholars, who are the best secular, non-religious, Biblical scholars that you could recommend?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 28, 2020

      This may seem weird, but I don’t know the religious perspectvives of a lot of biblical scholars. Unless they are evangelicals or fundamentalists, usually they don’t advertise if they believe or what they do, since they agree that their faith commitments are not important elements in their historical or interpretive analyses. So I’m afraid I don’t know.

  6. Avatar
    AstaKask  January 27, 2020

    Do you think the author of Mark had read much of Paul?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 28, 2020

      I don’t think there’s any evidence he had read any of Paul at all….

      • Avatar
        AstaKask  January 28, 2020

        Are their theologies similar? Soteriology? Christology? Whatever -ology describes what you think Christ’s death signifies?

        • Bart
          Bart  January 29, 2020

          I can’t remember: are yo utalking about Paul and Mark? Yes, soteriology is similar, the death of Christ is what bgings some kind of atonement for salvation. Christology: Paul’s is higher; he thinks X is a pre-existent being become human. Not mMark.

          • Avatar
            AstaKask  January 29, 2020

            Yes, Paul and Mark. Thank you.

      • Avatar
        Hormiga  January 28, 2020

        > I don’t think there’s any evidence he had read any of Paul at all….

        What about the flip side of that? How much of “Mark” (of course that’s pre-Mark material, as Paul seems to have died a decade or so before the gospel was written) does Paul show signs of having read or heard?

        Could you recommend any discussion of the discernible connections between the undisputed Pauline letters and the four canonical gospels, particularly the three synoptic ones? I have the impression that Paul and MMLJ fly past each other for the most part.

        • Bart
          Bart  January 29, 2020

          Paul was writing before Mark, so he woudln’t have known any of it. Not sure what to recommend — there must be good things out there for the non-scholar. Maybe someone else on the blog has an idea they can suggest?

  7. Avatar
    brenmcg  January 27, 2020

    I don’t think Matthew’ Jesus strongly endorses the Jewish religion. Matthew 15:11 is intended as a refutation of all the dietary laws of Leviticus.

  8. Avatar
    Matt2239  January 27, 2020

    I used CliffsNotes in undergraduate school and found them very beneficial. When reading through archaic texts, like Orwell’s 1984, it helps to know the characters, plots, and themes beforehand. People who disparage these sorts of study aids are losers who would rather read than watch MTV anyway.

    • Avatar
      Sixtus  January 28, 2020

      I love 1984 being considered ‘archaic’. At that rate Paradise Lost will date from BCE — Before the Creation of the Earth!

      • Bart
        Bart  January 29, 2020

        Yeah, that’s what I was thinking! I’m *really* archaic!!!

  9. Avatar
    Tempo1936  January 27, 2020

    do you think the general population was more superstitious and susceptible to believing in legend/miracles and fiction compared to now? Does this account for many of the fictional tall tales being believed in the New Testament in the early church? Today we see these type of superhero scenes in the movies and know they are all fictional.

    • Bart
      Bart  January 28, 2020

      Yes, ancients had a very different understanding of miracle than we do. Miracles were not impossible. They happened all the time. The question was who caused them…

  10. Avatar
    Judith  January 29, 2020

    Dr. Ehrman, this summation of the Bible has been around for years!
    God made.
    Adam bit.
    Noah arked.
    Abraham split.
    Joseph ruled.
    Jacob fooled.
    Bush talked.
    Moses balked.
    Pharoah plagued.
    People walked.
    Sea divided.
    Tablets guided.
    Promise landed.
    Saul freaked.
    David peeked.
    Prophets warned.
    Jesus born.
    God walked.
    Love talked.
    Anger crucified.
    Hope died.
    Love rose.
    Spirit flamed.
    Word spread.
    God remained.

    • Bart
      Bart  January 31, 2020

      Wow. I had NEVER seen that. It’s fantastic. I’m going to post in on the blog WITHOUT MENTIONING YOU! (But if you *want* me to mention you as my source, I’d love to!)

      • Avatar
        Judith  January 31, 2020

        Amazing if I sent you something about the Bible you’ve not seen. If you do use it (without mentioning me, please :-), switch Joseph ruled with Jacob fooled. Don’t know how that happened!

        • Bart
          Bart  February 2, 2020

          It’s amazing what I haven’t seen and don’t know!

      • Avatar
        Judith  February 1, 2020

        Would it work along with the pop quiz to find out that first day of your New Testament class what the students know about the Bible?

  11. Avatar
    rburos  January 30, 2020

    Do you think churches might welcome the work? I notice a distinct lack of critical scholarship in our church library, and that being mainly due to the preference for a theological reading, among others, but I’m thinking a donation of this type of work might be an way for me to sneak a different insight into the shelves. I’m not aware of anything at all, after reading your textbook and your other popular works that should be (according to even the most inclusive definition) offensive.

    • Bart
      Bart  January 31, 2020

      Depends if they like the points of view! Some will and some won’t.

  12. Avatar
    joemccarron  February 9, 2020

    “Moreover, in [Matthew] Jesus teaches his disciples that if they truly want to follow him, they must continue to keep the Jewish law, down to its detail.”

    I think this as stated would easily be misunderstood to say something contrary to how Matthew portrays Jesus. Matthew does not portray Jesus as someone who is concerned with a detailed legalistic concern for the law. For example: Jesus repeatedly demonstrates he is not concerned with following the details of Jewish law. Matthew 19:1-9 (details of divorce not important) Matthew 12:10-13 (Sabbath Law technically Broken through healing) Matthew 12:1-8 (Sabbath Law broken by harvesting grain on sabbath which is specifically called out in Exodus 16:23–29 Numbers 15:32–36 is very severe on even gathering sticks) Matthew 9:18-23 (Praising an unclean woman for touching him which is against the Jewish law.) Matthew 8:1-4 (Jesus touches a leper which is also against the law) etc.

    Although Matthew has Jesus say he is not here to change the law at the the beginning of the sermon on the mount, Jesus goes on in that sermon to take the core concerns of the law and have us live by those rather than just technically following the detail of the law. So again Jesus is not concerned with the detail of the law but rather he wants us to live the law more than what is written. Its not good enough to simply not murder we shouldn’t get angry. Its not good enough to not commit adultery – we shouldn’t even lust after a woman etc. In all of the Gospels Jesus boils down the law to love but demands that we take that message to further extremes. Paul’s letters also strongly attest to Jesus’t teaching of love. To say Matthew is has Jesus concerned that his disciples keep the law down to the detail I believe would be interpreted in a way clearly contrary to what Matthew says. Matthew is concerned they keep the core basis of the law – love of God and Neighbor – beyond what the law requires.

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