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My Approaching Birthday

I turn 64 in just under two weeks – October 5.   I have to admit, for most of this past year I’ve had Paul McCartney ringing in my ears, “When I get older, losing my hair, many years from now….   Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64”….

As I get older, I think more and more about what I value in life, often with regrets for not always valuing what I now, at this point, think is truly valuable, but – for years and years – sometimes throwing myself into things that now seem so ephemeral and rather pointless.  It’s not that I’m a particularly regretful person; on the contrary, I tend to throw myself into the moment with an eye to the future, is i.e., dealing with things I can change/do now, rather than being eaten up with things I can no longer do anything about.

But most of the time I find myself narrowing my values and latching on to fewer things, things that I can truly relish.  I suppose with age one naturally reflects on the limited possibilities and options, as opposed to when one was young and the future seemed almost completely open.   When you truly realize you don’t have forever, you tend to choose better what you really want to focus on.  Or at least I do.

For me that has involved putting lots more time and effort into things I truly value and less into what is simply mildly interesting.  Everyone has their own lists, of course.  But for me, it has meant cutting out TV almost completely; watching (almost) only movies that I know are going to be deep and meaningful and make me think and reflect (not just French drama! J   A couple of weeks ago I saw the new A Star is Born, and thought it was *fantastic*); reading novels that are “classics” for a reason (not necessarily dour and dreary.  Right now I’m reading Evelyn Waugh, whose Brideshead Revisited is absolutely stellar and I found incredibly moving, years ago now; but he has some terrifically funny and insightful other novels, and so I’m having a go at some of them: Vile Bodies just now) (even so, I’m regularly drawn back to the 19th c classics).

I do watch sports: that’s my one pure-entertainment-with-no-noticeable-redeeming value outlet (mainly football, college basketball, golf, and tennis – my wife thinks I’m nuts).  But when I have free time, I spend the bulk of it walking, working out, or reading.

Most important, I have become much more invested in the things that really do matter the most to me: family and friends.    These are investments with the biggest dividends, personally; but their value transcends my personal needs for satisfaction.   They are good also for those I love and cherish.

With all that said, most of my life gets thrown into my research, writing, and teaching.  Hours and hours, just about every day.   Almost all of it I really enjoy, deeply.  I realize that a lot of this is very weird indeed to anyone outside my little universe.   When I’m at a cocktail party with non-academics, there’s simply no way I can talk about my deep life passions (“Yes, I spent this morning exploring how the underworld journey in the Acts of Thomas was influenced by Virgil”;   “UH, right, sorry – I see my neighbor over there.  Nice talking to you….”)   But, on the other hand, so what?  It’s my life, and I decided many, many years ago not to make it conform to what most of the people in our world like or expect….

One of the things I spend a good deal of time on is the blog, of course.  Unlike so many of the other things I devote my hours to, I see the blog principally as a kind of service, a giving-back of the many good things I have to others – both the people on the blog and the people in need that the blog supports through its charities.

I obviously love the blog for all sorts of reasons.  I love communicating what I know with people who are interested in knowing, but who don’t have the technical training in my field either to be at all interested in what the scholars in it say to each other or to understand it in the ways they say it, just as I simply can’t generate any interest in – or come close to understanding – what economists, analytical philosophers, or neuroscientists are talking about in their own fields.   As I have repeatedly said on the blog, most scholars in most fields simply don’t know how to communicate with those outside of it about what it is they do or why it is interesting.  I seem to have that ability for some strange reason, and I think it is important and useful to use it.

Moreover, I enjoy very much getting to know people on the blog who are interested in this material and want to talk about it – getting 20-30 or more comments every day on things I’ve said, many of them highly insightful and interesting; meeting folk at Blog Dinners; and on and on.

So it’s all good.  Which brings me back to my birthday, and to you, my blog members.  I repeatedly hear from blog members who find it extremely helpful for their own thinking about things they are deeply interested in.  Some appreciate it even more, finding it liberating and – so they’ve told me – even life-transforming, not because of the messenger but because of the message, information that challenges perspectives, views, and understandings – sometimes downright harmful – that they had been raised to think simply were true.

That is, of course, one of the principal reasons I do the blog in the first place.  The other is at least equally important to me personally: to raise every bit as much for charity as we possibly can. As you know, every penny that comes in goes to charities to help those in serious need.  The funds come mainly from membership fees, but also from donations.   The donations have come in various amounts over the years, from $5 to $5000 (literally), always from people who appreciate the blog and all that it does.

Are you in that group of people who value the blog for what it gives you?  If so, would you be willing to give back something to it to show your appreciation?

I’m suggesting you do so as a brilliant “When I’m 64” birthday present to me.   I won’t get a thin dime from it myself, so it ain’t gonna line my pockets.  It would go to the charities we all support.  But in terms of person satisfaction, it would give me a very deep award indeed, knowing that something I’ve done and am doing has helped out others who are not as fortunate as I.   I would appreciate it far more than that Lamborghini you were *thinking* about giving me.

Again, it could be any amount from $5 (or less!) to $5000 (or more!).  The point is not the amount per se.  We are all in very, very different circumstances.  But if you want to make a donation, now would be a great time.   Please do!!  Just go to the homepage and hit “Donate” and go from there.   It would make my (birth)day.


Why It Is Hard To Publish a Translation of an Ancient Text
My Conference on Pseudepigraphy

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    tadmania  September 22, 2019

    Thanks for all you do.

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  2. Avatar
    longdistancerunner  September 22, 2019

    Me too
    I turn 64 on the 9/28.
    I made the mistake of getting my prostate cancer treated and along with the side effects, am 6 weeks out still unable to run..
    I’ve run 100,000 miles since 1977 and the sport is my religion ha
    Cartneys song… yeah exactly.
    And Paul Simons song “ bookends”
    Although we haven’t reached 70 yet… it’s reflective on the suddenness of life.
    September 28th would have also been my 23rd anniversary had my wife not passed away from glioblastoma back in 2014…
    I can’t believe it’s been 23 years since that wonderful day..
    I just want to get back to running again.
    If you ever decide on cancer surgery of any kind.. don’t just gloss over the “ side effects” part. Ha
    Lets have a good 64th!

    5
    • Bart
      Bart  September 23, 2019

      Happy 64th!! I’m so sorry to hear about your wife. Long distance running. Wow — I never could enjoy it. Interesting sports for me always involved balls and things to hit them with (baseball, tennis, golf, and racketball….)

      1
  3. Robert
    Robert  September 22, 2019

    I think it may be too late to cancel the order for the Lamborghini …

    1
  4. Avatar
    rivercrowman  September 22, 2019

    Just donated. Also today, I saw on Amazon that the Second Edition of your textbook “The Bible” is now available. So I bought that to see what changes you may have made between the two editions. … Happy Birthday!

  5. Avatar
    jhancock  September 22, 2019

    Yes, we still need you, Bart, and would even be happy to feed you! lol Hope you have a wonderful 64th birthday. Thanks for the reminder about the charities and the good work they do. Happy to help. Thanks, too, for sharing with us your thoughts and reflections and your exceptional scholarship here on the blog.

    1
  6. Avatar
    Bewilderbeast  September 22, 2019

    Added a donation with pleasure (small, I’m afraid, my currency has shrunk alarmingly! When I spent a year on the buckle of the bible belt in the ‘States in 1973 it cost me 0.7 of my Rand for a dollar. It now costs me 14 Rand for one dollar!). I laughed weakly at your “64” experience. Mine was like a mirror image six months and three days before yours. No more TV, reading classics, etc. Have a lovely day, year and life! I’ve loved the blog.

  7. Avatar
    KSS  September 22, 2019

    Well said Bart! At 66 I feel the same way you do about what’s important to me now, and my regrets. As they say, “youth is wasted on the young”. I continue to value your Biblical scholarship! It has helped me immensely in my own faith journey! I also find your approach to critical thinking in general helps me question and investigate many things in regular life. So, we value your work and hope it continues! You are very much appreciated by your bloggers!

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  8. Avatar
    APOCALYPSE  September 22, 2019

    Happy birthday and thank you for your generosity in time for us and inf the money for the needed. I came here after watching one of your debates, and reading the blog with a cup of coffee is one of the early pleasures before I go to the office.
    Thank you again and enjoy your day.

    1
  9. Avatar
    ksgm34  September 22, 2019

    Happy birthday for the 5th! Happy to donate. The blog is a super resource in many ways but I tend to love your personal reflections the most. I’m interested in your line about people having been raised with views and perspectives that can be harmful. I wonder if you meant harmful to society or to the individual or both… recently there seems to have been something of an explosion in understanding of and discussion about religious trauma – this is perhaps too personal a question but I’m curious as to whether this concept resonates with you?

    2
    • Bart
      Bart  September 23, 2019

      I don’t feel any personal trauma, no; I have a very mixed feeling about my past, incredulity that I was sucked into fundamentalism and gratitude that I was! 🙂

      8
  10. Avatar
    godspell  September 22, 2019

    Happy Impending Birthday, Bart.

    Just remember, it’s the thought that counts. 😉

  11. Avatar
    Stewiegriffin  September 22, 2019

    Happy birthday Bart! I just finished reading Triumph of Christianity and i’m also on my second go round with Introduction to the New Testament. I’m looking forward to your next book! 👍

  12. Avatar
    Poe22222  September 22, 2019

    I’ve been meaning to join your blog for nearly a year, and your Pauline (of a different sort!) birthday post tipped me over the edge. Thank you dearly for all of your work! I was raised Christian and no longer consider myself a member of the faith. Unlike you, I am still a theist, but, like you, I harbor no ill will toward Christianity and indeed find much of it redeeming, most of all its emphasize on helping those in need. My understanding of early Christianity and the Bible have increased radically since I began ravenously listening to your debates and interviews on YouTube over the last couple of years, but even more than the knowledge you have given me, I am grateful for your example of honesty and integrity, both intellectual and otherwise, even in the face of criticism – and even when it hurts to speak your truth. I am an artist (musician) and draw some of my greatest strength from other artists who are willing to bare their hearts and minds and share their deepest beliefs no matter what, and I consider you one of them. Hope to meet you at a dinner sometime!

    3
  13. Avatar
    stokerslodge  September 22, 2019

    Bart, best wishes for your upcoming birthday, hope you have a wonderful day. Would you mind recommending a few (4/5) good movies ? 😎

    • Bart
      Bart  September 23, 2019

      Among my favorites: L’Amour; Talk to Her; Manon of the Springs; and Amadeus. But that’s just off the top of my head….

      2
    • Avatar
      Judith  September 23, 2019

      Ikiru (To Live) and My Dinner with Andre

  14. Liam Foley
    Liam Foley  September 22, 2019

    I’m very grateful for your work and this blog. This may sound strange but Christianity had somewhat of a negative effect on me. Though your work is grounded in serious historical and academic scholarship, I have found it very healing and for that I’m even more grateful.

    1
  15. Avatar
    catguy  September 22, 2019

    Appreciate your work on this blog. I have been following you since probably 2008 or so with Great Courses. Have read a couple of your books as well. It is wonderful that you challenge assumptions ingrained into our brains from early on about the Bible and what is accepted thinking within Christian communities. Never thought so much about the word “Pseudo” until I began listening to you. Sounds like a great idea to give to a charitable cause.

  16. Avatar
    4Erudite  September 23, 2019

    OK, just a small thank you for the great info this blog provides, to celebrate your birthday I am going to add an additional $64 USD to my annual donation…Happy Birthday (in advance).

    1
  17. Avatar
    jakethedog  September 23, 2019

    The blog is something I always look forward to and I value it enormously. I have read most of your books (and the great courses series) and now have a bit of an addiction to early church history and early Christianity. I now know WAY more about the Bible now than when I was a practicing Christian. I have many Christian friends still and they won’t even talk to me anymore about the Bible (most Christians who I know, know nothing about Christian history). Keep up the good work. Happy 64th Birthday!

    2
  18. Avatar
    Apocryphile  September 23, 2019

    Happy (almost) Birthday! Of course, when Paul McCartney wrote that song, 64 was indeed old to all of us. These days, hey, 64 is the new 44, right?!

    As I get older (I’m only three years your junior), I find myself increasingly interested in many diverse subjects, from ancient history to cosmology to world religions. I realize I’ll never be a scholar in any of them, but I try to read only books and articles that are written by scholars in these respective fields. I may just be skimming the surface in all of them, but one advantage I think is that you start to see overlaps and connections between things that, I like to think, may not necessarily be visible to someone down in the weeds of his or her specific field.

    As for TV, I also recently discovered that U-Tube has many lectures and programs (some of them yours) by reputable scholars. For example, I just finished watching a fantastic 4-part BBC series on the Wars of the Roses by Dan Jones, a noted historian of medieval England. So there is much good television programming out there if you look for it.

    2
  19. Avatar
    drouhin  September 23, 2019

    Happy Birthday! Small donation made.
    Don’t often comment but value the blog very much. JAPOTNM was one of the most personally important books I’ve ever read, and I’ve enjoyed many others of yours as well.
    I’m an engineer at a software company, but if I met someone at a cocktail party who could speak intelligently about Virgil’s influence on the Acts of Thomas, my day — no, year! — would be made.

  20. JulieGraff
    JulieGraff  September 23, 2019

    Thank you Mr. Ehrman,

    One of your most touching posts…

    One day, I believe you will write that short book… and in each phrasing, there will be a whole universe!

    Because It will come from your heart…

    🙂

    1

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