The end is near! Or at least the end of 2016. For some of us this has been a nightmare year that we are glad to see behind us. For others it has been a year of unusual success, prosperity, and happiness, a utopian cornucopia. Whichever camp you are in (most of us are somewhere in between), I hope you can look forward with some hope to what lies ahead.
This will be an end-of-the-year post, summarizing what we have accomplished on the blog over the past twelve months and thinking a bit about what lies ahead. It has been a very good year for the blog. I can start by giving some of the important numbers.
My objective, all along, has been to provide 5-6 posts a week, each and every week. To my knowledge, I haven’t missed yet. This past year I made 281 posts, an average of just over 5.4 per week. So I have kept the pace up. Since starting the blog in April 2012, I have made 1394 posts. Each post is about 1000 words, which means I have so far burdened you with something like 1,400,000 words. Go figure.
The posts have continued to be on a very wide range of topics, as you know, from the historical Jesus, to the Gospels, to the writings of Paul, to the manuscripts of the New Testament, to issues connected with translation, to a wide range of topics on the history of Christianity in the first three centuries, to the Hebrew Bible, to the study of early Judaism, to personal reflections, to … well, to lots of things.
One of the new features I have incorporated into the blog seems to be going very well. That is the “Blast from the Past” which I post once every week or two. This is when I dig something out of the archives that I posted in the past, usually three or four years ago, and repost it, on the assumption that most of us won’t remember the post from the first time around. I know that in most instances I myself don’t remember it, and so I think I can assume most readers won’t. moreover, most members of the blog now were not members then, so they never saw the post in the first place. I’ve tried to pick only posts that I think were most valuable and interesting. The feedback I have gotten from this new feature has been very good.
Feedback generally has been good. Since the beginning of the blog we have allowed comments on posts. Most comments are a reaction to the post, although sometimes readers use the comment function in order to raise a new topic or address a new issue. All comments are always welcome. So far, since the beginning of the blog, there have been 45,366 comments. Really. That’s about 800 a month. My sense is that the number of comments per post is slightly increasing with time (I don’t have statistics on that, but most days there are over 30 now), and some of the comments are obviously easier to deal with than others. I read every one of them, and if an answer is needed, I try to provide one. As you know, most of my answers are terse and to the point. I’m afraid there simply isn’t any way around that until we clone me.
There continue to be two ultimate goals of the blog, one that most of you are most interested in and the other that I’m most interested in (on the assumption that all of us are in fact very much interested in *both*). The first is for me to disseminate knowledge about early Christianity to a broader reading public. I see this as one of my roles as a scholar in the field, who thinks it is a pity that so many scholars in so many fields of inquiry have no interest in making what they know available to the human race at large. The field of early Christianity is of such enormous importance, historically, socially, and culturally (not to mention religiously!) that our world would (and does) benefit hugely from scholarly information about it for the wider public. And so we are working to achieve that here on the blog, and to my knowledge there isn’t anything quite like the blog to achieve these ends.
The second goal (the one that is especially important to me personally) is to raise money for charity. Frankly, as I’ve said ad nauseum (you may be thinking), if it weren’t for the charitable aspects of the blog, I simply wouldn’t do it. It’s not that I don’t enjoy the blog – I do indeed relish the chance to make scholarship available to a wider public. But if we weren’t raising money for those in need, I simply would do other things with my time.
And we are indeed raising money for charity, in a rather big way. This past calendar year we have (as of this morning) raised $115,000. That is $315 a day, each and every day of the year. We should be very proud of that. It’s a lot of money. And I hope the amounts will grow and grow. Please remember that it is dead easy to make a donation to the blog on top of what you pay for your membership fees. Many, many, many thanks to those of you who have done so. May your tribe increase! And whether you have done so before or not, remember – there are still a few hours left in 2016 for your end-of-the-year charitable gift! All donations are completely tax deductible.
Let me close with a plea or two. If you know anyone who would be interested in joining the blog (surely you know *someone*!) please tell them about it and urge them to join. We have kept the membership fees at the same level since 2012 – it is less than 50 cents a week. But we need more and more members, and our only real mode of advertisement is word of mouth. So please, mouth the words!
In that connection, please remember that it is possible to give Gift Subscriptions to the blog to everyone you know and love. Why not do so? It is dead easy (click the button!), it will be a very nice gift, and it will help us meet our goals.
All in all it has been a very good year for the blog. And now I’m looking very much forward to an even better one to come! Happy New Year to all!