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My Future Books

I mentioned in my previous post that I’ve been in London for the summer, spending almost all my time reading books.   I should clarify that I’m not *only* reading books while I’m here!  Among other things, once a week I’ve been taking my daily walk (I normally walk an hour a day around Wimbledon, where our flat is) to the large park nearby, and sit on a bench, listening to music with my earphones, watching people play football (a.k.a. soccer) or cricket with their kids, and smoking a very big cigar.   I limit myself to one cigar a week, since if I did what I *wanted* to do, I would smoke three a day.  But our flat is tiny, and there’s no way on God’s good earth that I would be allowed to smoke in it.  So I go to the park.  And sit, and listen to music, and … think deep thoughts.

Some of my most creative thinking time is with plugs in my ears and a cigar in my hand (or, well, mouth) and my eyes clouded over contemplating deeply this thing or that.  Last week I basically came up with the outline of my next book on oral tradition (referred to in my previous post) doing just that.

And the week before I tried to think of what I wanted my books to be over the next ten years.  I’m 58 now; and feel that, professionally, I’m pretty much at my peak.  I’d like to stay there for a long while, before eventually entering into a full time cantankerous state.

I think I’ll sketch out what my idea is for now, for these future books, and then maybe devote some posts to each of them, to show what I’ve been thinking about as I look ahead.  These are the books that – at this point (this could change at any time, like, on Friday) – I think I’d like to write, in this sequence.  The titles will almost certainly change.  This is just what I’m calling them to myself….

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  1. Avatar
    magpie  August 15, 2014

    Well, I guess I have the next ten years’ reading lined up! I wonder if you would consider asking the neuroscientists you find most reliable and interesting to contribute short posts about their research on memory ? Or perhaps post abstracts of their peer-reviewed papers or short selections from their books for popular audiences? I would be interested in similar reports from disciplines that you find useful in your evaluation of oral tradition. This should be a fascinating voyage.

  2. Avatar
    shuhan  August 15, 2014

    I would like you to read “Hadith: Muhammad’s Legacy in the Medieval and Modern World” by Jonathan AC Brown.
    You will learn about how Islam’s earliest community “preserved” hadith, Muhammad’s sayings, in semi oral form until it was put to writing in the early second century of Hijra- look it up :)- aprox. 100 years of semi oral transmission.

    • Avatar
      BrianUlrich  August 16, 2014

      A 30-page review essay of the current state of research into this question was published by Kevin Reinhart in the Journal of the American Oriental Society in 2010, 413-444. The reason Papias on Mark intrigued me (from the earlier thread) is because that is the kind of thing we have huge amounts of for Islamic origins, and even though it all comes from different sources the picture it creates is consistent enough lots of scholars have concluded it is trustworthy, following in the wake of a scholar called Harald Motzki.

      (Not trying to promote my own field on your blog, Bart, btw, just intrigued by the comparisons and wondering if field can cross-fertilize each other more.)

    • Avatar
      Rosekeister  August 16, 2014

      Are there going to be any comparisons with how other religion’s developed their traditions? Buddhism had a long period of oral tradition. Buddhist tradition says that the Buddha’s main disciple then recited all the sutras which he had memorized and they were written down. In later years more of the Buddha’s sutras appeared. In fact in every country Buddhism spread to, more sutras were discovered. It is also interesting how Buddhist teachings changed as the religion moved from country to country and how that might compare to Christianity as it moved from country to country. Just like Christianity, there are many Buddhist books that argue that the teachings never changed. The new teachings are said to express the essence of what the Buddha taught.

      • Bart Ehrman
        Bart Ehrman  August 17, 2014

        I’m not sure. But a lot of the oral literature points out that there are numerous traditions that *say* they have preserved, orally, their traditions verbatim the same over decades or centuries. But unless there is a way to check, there is no way to know if those claims are correct. And when they *have* been checked (e.g., by anthropologists who write down a form of the tradition and then 50 years someone else writes down the “same” traditions) — they are always different!

  3. Avatar
    prairieian  August 15, 2014

    I would slightly modify your title for the first book from “…faulty memory” to something like “…human memory.” The former has a perjorative hint about it that is avoided with the latter, and yet I think addresses one of your fundamental points about the whole business.

    I look forward to this book particularly because it is so crucial to Christianity and so little comprehended (including by myself, needless to add).

  4. gmatthews
    gmatthews  August 15, 2014

    For the scholarly treatment of the oral tradition in book #2 would you work with a scholar or specialist in another field to back you up on your claims concerning memory (and by “work with” and I mean work closely enough to add their name to the cover of the book)? It seems like you’d get nitpicked to pieces by those within and outside of NT textual criticism circles if you step too far outside of your area of expertise and try to exhibit any degree of authority on memory and oral tradition.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 16, 2014

      I certainly would not write the book as if I were a cognitive psychologist or a neurologist!! Anything I say about what we know from other disciplines would be common place findings among experts, widely held views (e.g., the constructive character of memory, or the use of schemas and scripts, or findings about flashbulb memories; etc.).

  5. Avatar
    Silverk333  August 15, 2014

    Yes, “From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity” would be a perfect addition to the college level *New Testament* book we use ( students here in CA used extensively when I took the NT college class). Your right, there isn’t anything up to Constantine that can provide what you can write. We went over early Christianity but for 3oo plus years the education was brief. I find it fascinating and tragic atthe same time how the Oxthodoxy stamped out the cultures, say the Gnostics for example. We have the winners writings but I’m interested in knowing more about mystery religions and all the different forms of *christianity* in competition. Thanks for all you do and your writings, books and educational material. In ref to the previous post yes a neuroscientist or abstracts from peer reviewed papers would be fascinating. However, it (neuroscience) needs to examine you. Well your thinking and writing, how it never stops! Well, yes, I *hope* not, but you know what I mean. Maybe an FMRI test and a report from your personal experience added to the new book. Cheers!

  6. Avatar
    timmermant  August 15, 2014

    As a social scientist I’m really excited about your next book. As a recovering Southern Baptist, I’ve come to see religion as the perfect application of social psychology. I’m not sure if the “neuro”science is necessary. The social & cognitive aspects of memory formation should be sufficient. Elizabeth Loftus is the “queen” of false memory research and it would be very interesting to hear her thoughts on the formation of memories about Jesus. Definitely looking forward to it.

  7. Avatar
    shakespeare66  August 15, 2014

    Personally, I would love it if you did #5 then #4 and then #3 first and then #1 and #2. I know you put in all the reading for #1 already, so it is fait accompli. Alas, it will be a long time for those but will be well worth it when they do come to the presses! Thanks so much for sharing your plans. I think it is an awesome line up!

  8. Avatar
    rrogers  August 15, 2014

    Okay! Dear Bart, I like all of your book proposals, and having read all of your books, I will read these too. But I think the most exciting work you’ve done on this extraordinary blog has been the series dealing with the “Decent-Burial-of-Jesus Debate.” Why not team up with Craig Evans in a discussion book on that topic. Nobody else, just you two! A few mainstream critical scholars, such as yourself, have published discussion-style books with evangelical scholars for public consumption and with great success.

    What do these books accomplish? Well, they’re fun to read and make money for the participants (maybe the money could go to an agreed upon charity, like the Mennonite Central Committee Relief for victims in Israel/Palestine. Everybody trusts the Mennonites, right? And goodness knows, this is important now). But such books also become ideal teaching tools for professors at secular schools. I teach comparative religions at a state university and have a mix of students from religious cultures around the world. I love them all and have learned much from them. But, having survived the damage of a fundamentalist childhood, my greatest compassion is for my conservative evangelical students. They’re good kids, who need to learn about critical scholarship and that polemics (especially the hateful kind) is not the only approach available to them.

    I don’t want to convert them to religious agnosticism (well, not at least right away), but just to move them to considering that “Jim-Wallis” neo-evangelicalism might be a better fit for them than “Al-Mohler” fundy-evangelicalism (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5hmQL61PrQ). Very few of them are going to become professional scholars (needing a firm handle on methodological naturalism), but lots of them are going to become secondary and primary school teachers. I want them to consider and teach the value of mainstream charities and mainstream scholarship. You can make a difference with them by booking-up on such a controversial topic with an evangelical most would trust.

    What is in it for Craig? Well, his appreciation for mainstream scholarship and more gentle engagement of those who think differently from himself should not leave him forever associated with the polemics of the Bird book. Some readers on this blog might say, “He made his bed, let him sleep in it.” But his work, or at least his kind demeanor, deserves better. His association with a mainstream critical thinker would give his ideas greater exposure. As a theological historian I think his apologetic urge might actually be tempered by a friendly book experience with you. He might even be encouraged to imagine that such a book could be considered a contemporary advance on the great Martin Hengel’s little volume. The Introduction to such a Ehrman/Evans book would be key.

    But I’m more concerned that his constituency and my young evangelical students (who are warned off by their pastors from reading anything that might challenge their sectarian world views) are exposed to the wider world. Getting my evangelical students, and even some of the Catholic ones, to read John Dominic Crossan is nearly impossible apart from his debate-style books, in which sadly he does not excel. These students don’t believe me when I tell them Dom is a Christian, too.

    Your research and writing style is more evidential than Crossan’s philosophical musings, and thus better suited to a debate or discussion book. Plus, you seem genuinely to like Craig and people who politely disagree with you. My conservative evangelical and Catholic students will read such a book. They will learn how good scholars of good will can disagree with one another without devolving into polemics. It may not take long to get such a book written and published. Both of you have already done the heavy lifting. You could do this in your sleep. Look how fast the Bird book was cooked up for Zondervan. Do it! And talk Craig into it! Okay?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 16, 2014

      Ha! Good idea. But, well, I have to admit, I’m not a big fan of these back and forth kinds of books. On one hand, they never seem to resolve anything: students who take one side appreciate that side and not the other, and vice versa. On the other hand, the reality is that they do not sell very well. I don’t give a toss about the money. I’m talking about impact. It’s just the case that not very many people read them! Too bad, but true, I’m afraid.

  9. Robertus
    Robertus  August 15, 2014

    In the scholarly version of the Jesus before the New Testament, do you plan on addressing the Aramaic strata of the (oral) tradition and how it was ‘translated/transformed’ into Greek ideas and scripture? Much of what Casey says about written Aramaic sources of Mark and Q is still useful in understanding oral transmission and mistranslation, even if one disregards his dating and the written character of his hypothetical sources. Personally, I think this would be much more interesting than the same old boring discussions of orality and memory, which might be helpful against the rather silly eyewitness position of Bauckham but otherwise not really that interesting.

  10. Avatar
    Hana1080  August 15, 2014

    Gosh .. I’m still trying to catch up on your previous books lol ! Why did Christianity become so popular? What’s the Collective Consciousness that has made it so attractive? It puzzles me.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 16, 2014

      YEs, that’s *another* book!

      • Avatar
        Hana1080  August 16, 2014

        Selfishly I add … I hope soon because this is an itch that doesn’t go away. 🙂 I just don’t get it and keep thinking about it.

  11. Avatar
    Wilusa  August 15, 2014

    All the books for general audiences should be very interesting! The others too, of course, but I’m sure they’d be over my head. I still find to hard to understand how you can determine in what specific ways the oral tradition developed, but I’ll be eager to read the book and find out.

  12. Avatar
    sashko123  August 15, 2014

    Thank you for the personal description of your routine. Cigar, walk, park, music, sitting and being quiet, thinking. I try to go out on my balcony to be quiet and think, too. No electronic distraction with me, just listening to the birds, watching the shadows of the trees. I value my running time, too, and twice a week on my medium-distance runs (6-10 mi.) without an MP3 player, ideas and arguments seem to become clearer and tighter. I’m glad to comment on quiet thinking today. I also like your future book ideas, especially numbers 2 and 5. Have you considered writing a book specifically about being an agnostic in a Christian society or about questions that NT apologeticists attempt to address or How an Agnostic NT Scholar Discusses Matters of Faith with True Believers? Not very snappy. Look forward to tomorrow’s post. Enjoy the rest of your summer.

  13. Avatar
    Scott F  August 15, 2014

    The lovely thing about your pairings of trade/scholarly books is that we lay readers benefit from the top-notch research required to publish your books for academic audiences.

  14. Avatar
    PamelaOConnorChapman  August 15, 2014

    I vote for this one:

    Christians Who Stole the Bible: How the Jewish Bible Became the Christian Old Testament. This would be a trade book for popular audiences dealing with how Christianity started out as a sect within Judaism, but eventually became an anti-Jewish religion, and in the process wrested (or tried to wrest) the Jewish Scriptures from the Jewish people, claiming that in fact the Old Testament was a Christian, not a Jewish book.

  15. Avatar
    Jim  August 15, 2014

    I think for the “yet to be named book” number 6, a book on the history of analyzing fly testicles for determining eschatological events might be of some interest. At least at that time you won’t have to worry if such a book would ruin your academic career. 🙂

    On another note, do you know if there are any plans for make your upcoming sixth edition of “The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings” available in electronic (Kindle etc.) form, or is it still not that kosher to make textbooks available in electronic format?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 16, 2014

      Textbooks usually don’t get published electronically, but for a reason you wouldn’t suspect (or at least that I didn’t). Students don’t like electronic textbooks, even though they prefer electronic everything else….

      • gmatthews
        gmatthews  August 16, 2014

        I always liked printed textbooks (and not just a professor’s loose notes bound together) because at the beginning of the semester I had plenty of cash. I’d either come back from my summer job or my financial aid money was already in. By the end of the semester I had no money and the books had a lot of cash value for resale!

  16. Avatar
    SJB  August 15, 2014

    Ok I’ll bite. What music is playing on the headphones when you’re having those deep thoughts?

    Good luck on your work. Although with your monstrous work ethic I doubt luck will come into it.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 16, 2014

      Ha! I like all kinds of music: when I work, I play strictly classical. I like jazz and folk. I’m not big on opera. Or on most rock after about 1980. But on those occasions I typically listen to pop/soft rock of the 70s or, sometimes, 60s.

  17. Josephsluna
    Josephsluna  August 16, 2014

    A little confusion trying to figure this out
    Where did jesus come from why is it only 30-33?
    Why did john already know of him ? He know of him but didn’t know what he looked liked
    It’s so mysterious? Unless you all know thee answer I’m writing with out doing research
    I just remember where jesus came from ? It goes from John the Baptist straight to it saying
    ” and then there came jesus ” and from my understanding
    John asked jesus to baptize him but jesus said ” no wait ” ( suffer it be so untill ) US? ( as in him and john? ) or thee world to fulfill all rightousness
    I’m gonna stay on the blog ” keeps me busy ” ( I’ll make sure they count and are intelligent with worth asking questions 🙂
    I just liked being answered by some one that knows what their taking about is all
    ” DID JOHN KNOW WHO HE WAS AT THE BEGGING ” he knew he was from god cause he just knew
    But jesus ? He came from no where ? So i guess when every one thought that John was jesus at first
    They got surprise ( and so did john ?) answer as best as possible bart . I always find my self debating with myself on your blog lol.
    What I’m saying is
    John and jesus there is a larger connection than the typical believer sees ?
    WHEN AND WHERE DID THEY MEET ? Jesus came from galilee to Jordan
    “” ok I’m who was leading jesus and john RIGHT INTO EACH OTHER PATHS lol ? ”
    How did jesus know to go right to john and did jesus baptist john like john asked ? before john baptized
    If you can give me a reference or something

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 16, 2014

      Luke’s Gospel indicates that they were distantly related to one another, but that’s almost certainly wrong. Probably John was known about as an apocayptic preacher,and as the other Gospels suggest, Jesus went to join up with his movement.

      • Avatar
        Rosekeister  August 16, 2014

        I think your entire academic life and studies have led to this series of books. With “From Jesus to Constantine: A History of Early Christianity” will you try a different approach than Jesus-Paul-Rome-Constantine? A book whose main emphasis is the original diversity with all the different forms and trajectories Christianity took would be a refreshing change from the same old story repeated with a chapter on diversity. In any case your outline certainly gives your readers something to look forward to even though I’m sure there will be changes to it over time.

      • Avatar
        Rosekeister  August 16, 2014

        “What I’m saying is John and jesus there is a larger connection than the typical believer sees ?”

        Do scholars consider John-Jesus-James as part of one overall messianic movement which would have faded into obscurity as indeed the Jewish-Christians later did fade away if not for the movement of one strand into the gentile world where the stories of Jesus were re-interpreted into the actual physical Son of God walking the earth? I’m phrasing it clumsily, but to 1st century Judaism was Jesus just part of an overall larger movement that foundered on the non-appearance of the Kingdom of God, only surviving in a gentile form and interpretation? Ok, I’ll try one more time and then quit-to the 1st century was Jesus a very minor figure and what became the powerful Church of Rome had little or nothing to do with the historic Jesus, little to do with the Jerusalem believers and even the apostles but everything to do with gentile interpretations which told the stories in a gentile mythological way?

        • Bart Ehrman
          Bart Ehrman  August 17, 2014

          I think typically John the Baptist is seen as leading to a variety of movements, including one connected with Jesus, and Jesus led to a variety of movements, one of them connected with James.

          • Avatar
            FrankJay71  August 18, 2014

            I’ve often wondered if there were groups of John the Baptist followers throughout the Roman Empire into the late first century who may have viewed JTB as a messiah. It seems the sole purpose of his being mentioned in the Gospels is to defer his authority and messianic mission to Jesus. It seems odd to me that the Gospel, which were written outside of Palestine would rely heavily on the JTB stories to confer the authority of Jesus, unless of course JTB there were those outside of Palistine who knew who JTB was and cared what his opinion was Jesus.

            Also it seems that The Gospel of John 1:6 – 1:10 wants us to be clear that JTB is not the light, but that Jesus is. Why would he have to clarify that for us, especially by the 90s AD? I don’t see anything in the other gospels that could cause me to think of JTB as the messiah. Were the traditions outside the Gospel regarding JBT at the time, and did he still have a strong following outside of Palestine?

            Makes me think of the Mandeans, who revere JTB, but consider Jesus an imposter.

          • Bart Ehrman
            Bart Ehrman  August 19, 2014

            Yes, it is widely thought that JB had later followers who continued to see him as the messiah.

      • Josephsluna
        Josephsluna  August 17, 2014

        And that our is point bart right ? Who is to say they never met ? Why is it in there ?
        What if Luke account was the only accurate one? I sometimes feel you scholars aren’t telling us everything you interpret on those original Greek tablets lol ( jk ) and that is why I love your work ” let’s get to the bottoms of things “

      • Josephsluna
        Josephsluna  August 17, 2014

        And another thing the way the author SPIRTS AND RANDOMLY shifts like that is leads to wonder what’s what order the story it’s just letters etc lol

        AND ALSO THE TYPICAL believer doesn’t do his or research of the book of hope and love and peace and heavenly joy
        To ask the question ” I thought the bible states jesus as only 30-33 ?
        Why does it state that jesus ” as a child , young man , adult )
        I thought if the infancy gospel that it speaks of jesus as a child where the leaders of the faith could not handle him Because he knew more about hope and the promise than them. So they rejected him and said
        ” get him out of here “lol

        2:25Behold, there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon. This man was righteous and devout, looking for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 2:26It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 2:27He came in the Spirit into the temple. When the parents brought in the child, Jesus, that they might do concerning him according to the custom of the law, 2:28then he received him into his arms, and blessed God, and said,

        2:29″Now you are releasing your servant, Master,
        According to your word, in peace;

        2:30For my eyes have seen your salvation,
        2:31Which you have prepared before the face of all peoples;

        2:32A light for revelation to the Gentiles,
        And the glory of your people Israel.”

        Ok where’s the rest of the story ” the bible is so random and mysterious some times
        Again I feel those interpret those original Greek tablets are not allowed to expose they read lol
        Just some more question on CIA

  18. Avatar
    JudithW.Coyle  August 16, 2014

    Dr. Ehrman,

    It’s interesting when you allow little glimpses into your life (walking, reading lots of books, cigars).

    Excellence isn’t all that easy to attain/ maintain. Please let your blog continue being fantastic by not taking on too much other work for yourself. You’re already doing a lot!


  19. Avatar
    Slydog1227  August 17, 2014

    Just finished the first of your books I have read, Jesus, Interrupted. EXCELLENT!! I thoroughly enjoyed it. Thank you again for sharing your knowledge and thoughts. I can’t wait to start ‘Misquoting Jesus’ and ‘Forged’… the other two I purchased!

  20. Bethany
    Bethany  August 17, 2014

    Ooo, I want to read number 5! It’s an issue that I’ve always wondered about. On the face of it, it seems so improbable, yet here we are.

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