As I have indicated on the blog before, I like to mix up the various kinds of research and writing projects that I do. My time is not split evenly, but over the years I have written scholarly books for scholarly audiences, trade books for the wider reading public, and textbooks for college-level students. Usually it’s one thing at a time, but as it turns out now I’m in the midst of three tasks – revising two of my textbooks (The New Testament and a Brief Introduction to the New Testament), writing up proposals for two future trade books to submit to my publisher to see if they would agree to publish them, and, principally, working on the next scholarly project.
When I first started thinking about the scholarly project, I came up with the title: “Observing the Dead: Otherworldy Journeys in the Early Christian Tradition.” I may still call it that – as you may know from my other posts over the years, titles usually are the last thing decided when it comes to a book. My current working title, though, is “Otherworldly Journeys: Katabasis in the Early Christian Tradition.”
I’m inclined to go with this other title, for now, precisely because I write both kinds of books – scholarly analyses and popular accounts – and I like the title to reflect the level of book it is so there won’t be any confusion: scholars will recognize a book written for them and the guy next door will recognize a book written for him. “Katabasis” would be a dead give-away. Scholars would know exactly what I’m talking about and my neighbor would know that this ain’t gonna be his cup of tea. (As it turns out, this guy prefers Bud Light, in any event.)
But we’ll see. The publisher might balk at it. They usually do. But this is the same kind of thinking that went into the other books that I wrote dealing with similar topics, one for normal human beings and the other abnormal scholars. And so, two books on New Testament textual criticism. The popular one was called Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why (a title I didn’t pick and that I actually didn’t like very well, but it’s grown on me significantly) and the scholarly one called The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effects of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament. Anyone reasonably awake and sober would probably realize that the second is not going to be very interesting to them unless they can make sense of what the title is talking about.
So too my two books on …
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