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Interested in a Webinar on My Book?

For all who are interested!    This coming Monday, 2:00-3:00 pm, I will be leading a one-hour webinar hosted by Oxford University Press.  It is free and open to everyone.

The webinar will focus on the history of the ideas of heaven and hell, the subject of my recent book with Simon & Schuster.  So *that’s* a bit strange.  An Oxford event focusing on a book I wrote for someone else???   I’ll explain below.

FIRST, about the event.  I will start by giving a fifteen-minute talk, and that will be followed with Q & A.  Since several hundred people have already signed up for the event, the questions will be in writing, either submitted in advance or on “Chat” during the talk.

The original idea of the webinar was to make it for university students and their professors.  But then Oxford thought, what the heck: why not just open it up?  It’s not like we have to worry about their not being enough *chairs* in the room!   So, anyone can join up to listen and watch.  There are no stipulations and no preparations required ahead of time.  Just come into the event on your computer or other device.

To do so you’ll need to tell them you’re planning on coming.  Here is the link.  Just click it, read what it’s about, and join up:  https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/4664803831249315341

So.  The situation is a bit unusual.  why is Oxford Press sponsoring an event for me to talk about a subject I cover in a book that I wrote for a *different* press?  I’ve never heard of *that* before!  But there’s a good reason for it.

Basic line: the topic of heaven and hell is also something I cover in my various Oxford Press books, most especially my textbooks.  Any exposure my book receives may indeed encourage professors to use my textbooks; and it can also provide some nice additional information to students attending the webinar who already are using my books

Over the years, Oxford has published a ton of my books — all my textbooks, a bunch of my tradebooks, and most of my scholarly monographs.   The textbooks are the big sellers.

And here I should STRESS: these books are marketed for undergraduates, but they are the IDEAL place for adults seriously interested in the New Testament or the Bible as a whole, and who don’t know where to start.  How do I find out what the Gospel of Mark or the book of Revelation is all about (or any of the other books of the Bible)?  Or how to know what Jesus really said and did?  Or whether Paul really wrote all the letters in his name?  Or about the books that didn’t get into the New Testament?  Or about who decided which books should be included, and when, and on what grounds?  Or what we can say about the surviving manuscripts of the NT.  Etc. etc. etc.

A good, solid, up-to-date textbook is the place to go.  We shouldn’t think of textbooks as only for the 19-year olds.  They are perfect for their parents and grandparents as well!!

So let me talk about my three Oxford textbooks.

  • The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings (Oxford University Press)
    • This was my first one, originally published in 1994.  It is now in its seventh edition (just came out! Copyright 2020).
    • It provides a full discussion of the major issues involved with understanding the New Testament, everything from the Roman world in which it emerged, to the history, culture, and context of Judaism, to a discussion of each and every book of the New Testament from a historical and literary perspective:  the main themes of each book, complicated issues they present and how scholars address them, when they were written, by whom, how they relate to each other; how reliable they are.  There are also discussions of the life of the historical Jesus (how doe we know what he really said and did?); the life and ministry of Paul; the formation of the canon.   And so on and on.
    • At the end of each chapter is an annotated bibliography of further books to read for anyone who is interested, along with important pedagogical tools: summary highlights of the discussion; key terms in the chapter; study questions, etc..
    • The book also includes time lines, maps, photographic essays involving archaeology and manuscripts, and a full glossary. It was quite a production making this thing, and every edition has simply gotten better, imo, often with the assistance and always with the advice of others.
    • As to the overall character and orientation of the book, I’m not sure how to put this, but, as some of you know, I am often attacked by people who endorse very conservative religious commitments for having an excessively liberal bias that is very much on the margins of serious scholarship.  I simply don’t think that’s true.  Most of my major views are represented in this book.  These views are NOT on the margins of serious scholarship.  On the whole they are the views the vast majority of scholars outside the ranks of fundamentalists and very conservative evangelicals have.  There is very good evidence of that.  Since it was published in 1997 – so for well over 20 years now – this book has been the most widely used textbook in the field of New Testament studies in North America.  Why?  Because it embodies and expresses the views and perspectives that MOST professors of New Testament in institutions of higher learning have (and that includes professors training Christian ministers in seminaries and divinity schools, outside of the fundamentalist and very conservative evangelical realms)
    • Sometime on the blog I’ll talk about how it came about that I wrote this book.  It was the last thing I ever wanted to do at the time, and the best thing I ever did do!  Life can be like that…
  • A Brief Introduction to the New Testament (Oxford University Press).
    • About eight years after my textbook was published, my editor, Robert Miller, and I were feeling a bit frustrated.  It was the top-selling book in the field, but some professors at smaller colleges and community colleges felt that it was more information than their students could handle.   And other professors were teaching not on the semester system, with 15 weeks in a semester,  but in the “quarter system, with 10 weeks.  The book was more than they could squeeze into their term.
    • And for that reason a number of professors were using a different textbook.  SO, we decided I should to a shorter version of the book for people in that situation.   Hence, my Brief Introduction.   In the current editions, the longer book is 580 pages, the shorter 370.   I cut stuff.   I hated doing it.  But, if you need barer bones, you need barer bones.   And a lot of professors use it.
    • The first edition came out in 2004; we have just now finished edits for the fifth edition, which will be out later this year.
    • The concept, perspective, and approach are very much like the longer book.  There’s just less book in this book.
  • The Bible: A Historical and Literary Introduction (Oxford Press)
    • About half the colleges/universities in the country that have a course on biblical studies do not split it up into difference classes on  Old Testament/New Testament, but teach a one-semester Bible course.   I’m not a fan of that, but I suppose every expert in one thing thinks that a semester on that one thing is not enough.  One semester isn’t enough for the New Testament.  But for the entire Bible??
    • Anyway, it’s the reality.  And I’ve never liked the textbooks on the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation.  They tend to be dry as dirt.  I wanted to write one that was more intriguing and interesting, while being full informative and backed with scholarship.
    • I decided to make my book shorter  then my larger New Testament book, since students in a class on the whole Bible will have so much more reading in the Bible itself during the semester; the Old Testament, as you know, is much larger than the NT, and for this class students read from both.  And since the NT is just about half of the book, well, it’s a relatively very brief treatment.  It hits the key points and tries to keep them interesting.
    •  The basic approach is the same as in the other two, with the same kinds of features throughout.
    • This book first appeared in 2014 (Don’t think I noticed this before, but these text books were all spaced precisely ten years apart….), with the second edition in 2018.   The second edition, imo, is MUCH improved in terms of structure and layout.
    • And I have to say, I LOVED writing this one.  It was unusually good fun.  In my PhD, my secondary field of study was Old Testament; I’ve taught courses on the OT at both Rutgers and UNC.   And always found it such a pleasure because there is SO much good and interesting material in it.  Fantastic stories, poetry, deeply thoughtful reflections, powerful proclamations:  Great stuff.
    • And yet VERY little known, not just by students but by the populace at large.  Including committed Bible readers who rarely understand the bigger picture, let alone how the smaller pictures fit into the bigger picture and in relation to one another.

OK, so my point for this blog post:  If you want quick and ready information about anything you’re interested in the Bible, these would be possible places to turn, with suggestions for further reading.

SO, why is Oxford sponsoring an event in which I deal with a topic of a book I wrote for a different press?  Because I deal with virtually all the aspects of the topic in one way or another in my textbooks.  And they would like to promote the textbooks.  And so would I.

Think about coming in to the webinar.  Just clink the link, again: https://register.gotowebinar.com/register/4664803831249315341


The Not Old Better Show – Heaven and Hell Book Interview
Q&A on Heaven and Hell



  1. Avatar
    Cathach  April 17, 2020

    They seem to be excluding non-US residents. Could you prevail on them to let us attend?

    [EDIT] Actually, I’ve just received a confirmation email for the webinar even though the page gave a message saying I couldn’t attend. So I guess it’s okay after all. I’ll leave this comment here so that other people aren’t discouraged by that message.

  2. Avatar
    veritas  April 17, 2020

    Amazing that your first textbook above is the most used in colleges/universities. Does not surprise me given your relentless pursuit of study/research. I remember hearing you describe the scholarly workload of Albert Schweitzer, and I could feel the gratification in your voice how it appealed to you. You may finally be reaping the rewards of your sow. May set you up well for the latter years. Ecclesiastes 12; 12, ” But beyond this, my son, be warned: the [g]writing of many books is endless, and excessive devotion to books is wearying to the body. ( NASB )”. 😊 How would you consider your book with Bruce Metzger, ” The Text of the New Testament ?”. Is it a good read/learning tool for lay people and is it along the same lines as your above noted textbooks?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 19, 2020

      It’s the perfect place to start for anyone who is intersted in knowing how the New Testament was passed along by scribes in different ways, places, etc. for centuries. The book is mainly Metzger’s; I just helped with the final revision and added a few sections.

  3. Avatar
    quadell  April 17, 2020

    It is a real challenge to fit a meaningful question into 128 characters! I really had to work on my concision!

    • Bart
      Bart  April 19, 2020

      128 characters? You have 200 words, no?

      • Avatar
        quadell  April 19, 2020

        You asked “128 characters? You have 200 words, no?”

        Here at your excellent blog, it limits you to 200 words. At the Oxford sign-up page, it invites the user to submit a question for Dr. Ehrman, but it limits the question to 128 characters.

        • Bart
          Bart  April 20, 2020

          Ah. Good policy! Most questions can be asked in 100! With hundreds of people signed up, we want to get to as many questions as possible.

  4. Avatar
    MichaelM  April 17, 2020

    Dr. Ehrman, I have a 4th edition of “The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings” and I am wondering how much and what sort of new material is in the 7th edition. I have a similar religious background as you and took my first class in 1974 (!) using “A Study of Early Christianity” by Joseph Tyson. I really enjoyed that class, but your textbook is far and away more complete and more interesting, and of course more up to date. Anyway, I just would like to know how much new material is in the 7th edition. Perhaps my money would be better spent on a different book of yours. Thanks

    • Bart
      Bart  April 19, 2020

      You will certainly get the main material already from teh 4th ed. The substance has not changed over the years MUCH. Though in some ways (e.g., in how I discuss Gnosticism).

  5. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  April 17, 2020

    All three of these textbooks are terrific, both in format and content, and, unlike a lot of textbooks, are very readable. I highly recommend them.

    I have several times asked Dr. Ehrman to write a book putting “it” ALL together in one book. Actually, his main new Testament textbook comes pretty close to doing just that.

  6. Avatar
    darren  April 17, 2020

    I’m unreasonably excited for this. My question would be why protestants came to reject purgatory, but accepted heaven and hell — even though our conceptions of all three aren’t in the bible.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 19, 2020

      They pointed out that it’s not in the Bible and was not part of the Christian tradition until recently. Views of heaven and hell were easily read into the Bible by everyone at that stage, so there wasn’t any debate about them (it’s just now people read the Bible).

  7. Avatar
    mikebyrd20  April 17, 2020

    Do you mean 2-3 pm eastern time? Just checking.

  8. Avatar
    Adam  April 18, 2020

    How is your scholarly book, Otherworldly Journeys: Katabasis in the Early Christian Tradition, going? I’m sure Oxford would want to publish that one!

    • Bart
      Bart  April 19, 2020

      I’ve slowed down my work on it here in the crisis, since everything else is taking up so much time. But I will be doing it with Yale University Press instead of Oxford. I may explain why on the blog at some point. But of course I’m still publishing books with Oxford too! They are a fantastic press.

  9. Avatar
    dankoh  April 18, 2020

    You should mention that the time is Eastern time. Thanks.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 19, 2020

      Ah, yup, should have! But when someone registers, they’ll get the info.

  10. Avatar
    AstaKask  April 19, 2020

    pm what time zone? you have adoring fans all over the world!

    • Bart
      Bart  April 19, 2020

      Mine. 🙂 OK< EST. Anyone who registers will find all the information.

  11. Avatar
    WhenBeliefDies  April 20, 2020

    Thank you for taking the time to do this Webinar Bart – I am in the UK and it’s starting at 7pm for me. It’s definatley helping me get through a rough Monday at work 🙂

  12. Avatar
    Chad Stuart  April 20, 2020

    “Due to overwhelming demand, space may be limited in today’s session. Admittance will be granted on a first-come, first-served basis, so I would encourage you to join as early as possible. The session will open for admittance approximately 15 minutes prior to start time.”

    If you want to watch live, get in at 10:45 am PDT.

  13. Avatar
    Chad Stuart  April 20, 2020

    Very interesting, Dr. Ehrman. Will watch again when the video uploaded.

  14. Avatar
    MichaelM  April 20, 2020

    The webinar was great, thanks for doing that! I had a question that was not asked, but which I’d like your comment. In your textbook you say that perhaps as many as 10% of the population of the Roman Empire at the time of Jesus were Jewish, although most of them lived outside of Palestine. They were so ‘Greek’ that they had to have their scriptures translated into Greek because they no longer spoke Hebrew. So my question is to what extent do you think the concepts of Tartarus and Elysium influenced their beliefs in the afterlife? I suppose this also means excluding the sects of the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, etc, who were primarily still resident in Judea. Which brings up another related question – Were these sects extant outside of Judea?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 21, 2020

      Yes, I think they definitely did. That’s what I was trying to say on the last slide, that hte Christian view that emerges was an “amalgam” of Greek Platonic views with the Jewish views of Jesus. Greeks typically believed in the immortality of the soul that would be punished after death, Jews beleived in the resurrection of the body; Christians ended up with a view similar to both but identical to neither.

  15. Avatar
    pueblo2  April 20, 2020

    Hello Bart,
    Great job. Here’s my question. F. Engels argues in “On the History of Early Christianity,” that “The continued life of the soul after the death of the body had gradually become a recognized article of faith throughout the Roman world. A kind of recompense or punishment of the deceased souls for their actions while on earth also received more and more general recognition. As far as recompense was concerned, admittedly. the prospects were not so good: antiquity was too spontaneously materialistic not to attribute infinitely greater value to life on earth than to life in the kingdom of shadows; to live on after death was considered by the Greeks rather as a misfortune. Then came Christianity, which took recompense and punishment in the world beyond seriously and created heaven and hell, and a way out was found which would lead the labouring and burdened from this vale of woe to eternal paradise. And in fact only with the prospect of a reward in the world beyond could the stoico-philonic renunciation of the world and ascetics be exalted to the basic moral principle of a new universal religion which would inspire the oppressed masses with enthusiasm.” Your thoughts?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 21, 2020

      In broad terms I think he is probably right. But there were plenty of Greeks who believed in life after death. He must mean *bodily* life after death.

      • Avatar
        pueblo2  April 21, 2020

        Yes, Engels means bodily. It’s a fascinating essay on transhistorical commonalities in the history and development of new mass movements and other interesting topics contrasting how Christianity’s promise and program for social transformation after bodily death developed and changed. Among other points relevant to your OUP talk and new book, Engels remarks that: “In the book, [Revelation] there is just as little mention of original sin and justification by faith. The faith of these early militant communities is quite different from that of the later victorious church: side by side with the sacrifice of the Lamb, the imminent return of Christ and the thousand-year kingdom which is shortly to dawn form its essential content; this faith survives only through active propaganda, unrelenting struggle against the internal and external enemy, the proud profession of the revolutionary standpoint before the heathen judges and martyrdom, confident in victory. We have seen that the author is not yet aware that he is something else than a Jew. Accordingly, there is no mention of baptism in the whole book, just as many more facts indicate that baptism was instituted in the second period of Christianity. The 144,000 believing Jews are ‘sealed,’ not baptized.”

  16. Avatar
    McLeod  April 21, 2020

    1 Comment left.The Webinar was live at 20:00 in my country, was present. So i was pretty tired. We do Pest Control, essential service, so i work. Asked a question. Didn’t make it. Maybe next time ✌

  17. stevedemarco
    stevedemarco  April 21, 2020

    I listen to the webinar yesterday and heard many people ask if our concept of heaven and hell came from Greek, Egyptian, Persian, Asian, or even Zoroastrianism philosophy but, I was stunned that no one brought up the book of Enoch. So I have to ask, did that book have any influence on our concept of heaven and hell or did any apocalyptic literature have any influence?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 22, 2020

      Yeah,there were tons of questions people asked that could not be addressed in our short time. In my book I argue that 1 Enoch is the first istance we have in Jewish literature that expresses the idea of a resurrection of the dead. It also supportsthe postmortem existence of the soul.

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