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Other Interesting Features of the Graphic Introduction to the New Testament

Here is the final portion of my proposal for the Graphic Textbook of the New Testament.   The earlier part described the sections on the Gospels.  Here I map out the basic coverage of the historical Jesus.  The book will be extremely brief in comparison with my full-blown NT textbook, which comes in at 572 pages.  This one is projected to be 150 pages, and most of it art work.  Yikes!  The challenge is kinda obvious….   But hey, if you can summarize the NT in one sentence (and you can) (in fact a very very short sentence: It’s about the life and teachings of Jesus and his followers….), you can surely do it in 150 pages!

At the end of the prospectus I include a couple of things that always go into this kind of proposal:  marketing ideas; what other books it will be competing with; and when I plan (well, hope) to have it finished.


The Historical Jesus (8 pages)

I will shift gears in the final chapter, away from explaining how Jesus is portrayed in each of the Gospels to asking what he was really like, what he actually said, did, and experienced.  The chapter will begin by explaining the problems the Gospels pose as historical sources for what really happened.  We will have already seen numerous differences among the Gospels.  Some of these are direct contradictions.  So how can we know which is right?  Moreover, all the Gospels were written decades after Jesus’ death by anonymous authors who did not know him or even speak his same language (they wrote in Greek; he spoke Aramaic).   They received most of their stories through oral traditions, as they had been passed along by word of mouth for years and decades.

Given these problems, how can historians know what really happened in Jesus’ life?  After explaining …

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How I Will Write My “Graphic Textbook of the New Testament”



  1. Avatar
    Nichrob  January 28, 2020

    I like your goal….

    “The goal is to send the #2, #3, and #4 (evangelical Christian) books in the field into oblivion.”

  2. NulliusInVerba
    NulliusInVerba  January 28, 2020

    Do you anticipate that this work will say anything about the impact had on the NT by the delay in the Parousia?

  3. sschullery
    sschullery  January 28, 2020

    a proposal about your proposal: I bet you could sell a whole pot-load more of these if you included the actual text of the bible on alternate or facing pages. A sort of illustrated bible! Go after the huge bible market too! What could be handier or a more efficient learning tool, for all of those “does it really say that?” moments? If you really hope to knock down the evangelical market, you could even use the King James version.

    • Bart
      Bart  January 29, 2020

      It would have to be a HUGE book (especially since the textbook will not be talking about every page of the NT!), and the idea is to make it manageable; the consolation is that every NT class in the ocuntry already requires a New Testament.

  4. Avatar
    NTDeist  January 28, 2020

    Dr. Ehrman, it would be neat if you could somehow in your graphics show all the quotes from Jesus and the disciples in Aramaic (with translation). Maybe write it phonetically so the reader could get a sense of what Jesus would sound like when he spoke. One of the few things I really liked about Mel Gibson’s movie ‘Passion of the Christ’ was he had the actors speak Aramaic. Using the historical language in a story or movie is a powerful way to experience that culture.

  5. Avatar
    fishician  January 28, 2020

    Will your Jesus be long-haired and blue-eyed? Thank goodness it’s not considered blasphemy to portray Jesus graphically, although the content might still cause some to declare jihad against you! Have you ever thought of writing a semi-speculative novel of Jesus framed around what little historical evidence we have, incorporating what you think to be his authentic teachings, perhaps giving explanation to how some of his activities were later interpreted as miracles, and how the resurrection visions occurred? You could really spice it up by including the back story of the guy running around in a sheet in Mark 14:51.

    • Bart
      Bart  January 29, 2020

      Yeah, I know NT scholars who have written the historical novel about Jesus. It’s never gone well… Wish I had that talent!

      • Avatar
        Tempo1936  January 29, 2020

        Such a difficult task to Raise questions about the unquestioned “Truth”. For example, 66% of all Americans still claim they believe in Jesus’ virgin birth. Keep up the fight, you are making progress. Five years ago 71% believed in the virgin birth.

        We all admire and commend your creativity and character in educating so many as the very human nature of the Bible.

        Sometimes I read the over the top claim of miracle after miracle and I think the Bible reads more like a superhero comic book than a historical account. Yet so many just believe it because pastors preach it 24/7.

  6. Avatar
    UCCLMrh  January 28, 2020

    Prepared to be the poster boy for those who will accuse you of “dumming down.” You do have the credentials to support a claim to academic rigor, so perhaps you’re the guy for the job. Frankly, as one who authored ten textbooks beginning fifty years ago, I expect your result will indeed dumm down the content. But I’m only literate.

  7. Avatar
    RAhmed  January 28, 2020

    This sounds really neat! I think this should actually be accessible enough that I can have my kids read it in a couple of years. Also, have you heard of “The Manga Bible”? It’s a comic version of the entire Protestant Bible. Here’s a google book link to it:

  8. Avatar
    nichael  January 28, 2020

    Another way to look at this is:

    200 words is a *lot* of text for a single page in a typical comic/graphic novel. So an eight page section on the Historical Jesus is — even if the section is comparatively text-heavy for this sort of medium — something like 1600 words (probably less). Or, roughly, about 2/3 of an average post on this ‘blog.

    I realize you’ve thought about this carefully; but still it will be interesting to see how this all shakes out.

    (But, heck, challenges are what keep life fun, right?)

  9. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  January 28, 2020

    I follow several bloggers, my son being one, who use a lot of photos, cartoons, and visual stuff in their blogs so that there is almost as much visual stuff as there is writing. It took me awhile to get used to this style, but I have done so and find it to be rather creative. Sometimes a picture (like a crowd of a million demonstrating in Iraq) is worth a thousand words.

  10. Avatar
    Biggles  January 28, 2020

    I do think it’s a good idea to try and widen the market for historically educational graphic novels; one of my history courses this past fall made good use of one called “Abina and the important men”, about a former slave who tried to bring her former captors to justice. The graphic novel is a good medium for explaining complex and historically distant issues, and a historical discussion of the New Testament in this form sounds very interesting indeed!

  11. Avatar
    Silver  January 29, 2020

    When I read that you feel the graphic textbook will appeal “because students cannot handle much reading” and then I think how much is required of my grandchildren both at undergraduate level and even before that at secondary/high school for ‘A’ levels (exams in the British education system) I find it sad that you find this so. Also, when you write that some professors do not use textbooks “because they (students) tend to rely on the textbook rather than read the New Testament itself”, do you not think there should be an expectation that they should read both?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 29, 2020

      Yup, it’s sad. But even in the UK it ain’t like it used to be (I have a large family in England, and talk about education with three generations of them!) Yes, professors do have that expectation. And students often figure out ways around it….

  12. Avatar
    godspell  January 29, 2020

    I think one interesting feature would be a segment where Paul and Jesus are a ventriloquist act, and Jesus is the dummy, but the Charlie McCarthy kind, who talks back.


  13. Avatar
    Pattycake1974  January 29, 2020

    I agree with a couple of others that Revelation would be a great stand alone installment.

    Since you’re recommending the graphic texts be used as supplemental material, have you thought about offering other types of tools for the classroom? Such as making your current textbook as well as the graphic installments accessible online. Apps, interactive/online study materials (flashcards for key terms, practice questions and quizzes, etc.,) printables, virtual immersion (geographical virtual tours; webquests), teacher manuals and materials (coaching, answer keys, quizzes, tests,…).

    Anything that is pre-made is a teacher’s dream. It could be pieced out separately or offered as a package.

    • Avatar
      Pattycake1974  January 29, 2020

      Teachers love pre-made PowerPoints with optional quizzes on the last slide too. If you really wanted to kick it up a notch, you could offer automatic grading. 🙂

    • Bart
      Bart  January 29, 2020

      Yes, we have online resources already, lots of them.

  14. Avatar
    RICHWEN90  January 29, 2020

    In the past I’ve turned up my nose at graphic novels, but this work is going to be an exception– and it’s NOT a novel. It’s an exposition of serious scholarship on a serious topic. Revolutionary, is what I think. I’ll add these volumes to my library, for sure. I’m pretty sure there will be a fundamentalist response, but I suspect that their alternatives will be laughable by comparison. I kind of suspect that a few fundamentalists will be throwing these works into bonfires. In some circles a “hysterical” reaction would not surprise me at all. But, hey, if people are buying the books they can do whatever they want with them!

  15. Avatar
    Silver  January 29, 2020

    An off topic question if I may, please.
    In John 20: 1-9 where it speaks of Peter and ‘the other disciple’ running to the tomb, we are told that the other disciple, having noted the rolled-up grave clothes, ‘saw and believed’. In the past I have always read this as the moment when that disciple came to faith. However, I have now noticed that the very next verse (v9) tells us that at that point they did not know it was written that Jesus must rise from the dead. That being the case, what is it that the disciple believed? Was it simply that he came to realise that what the women had said – that the tomb was empty and that someone had taken the body away (v2) – was indeed the case?

    • Bart
      Bart  January 31, 2020

      I think it means he came to believe Jesus was raised, even though he didn’t realize that this had been predicted by the prophets.

  16. sschullery
    sschullery  January 29, 2020

    I suppose your agent or the publisher has done a reality check about the actual market for a supplement. In my experience (20+ years ago and in chemistry) they were for the totally imaginary student who wanted even more to read than the required text, and who wanted to know more about the subject than was going to be on the test, and who had the money to spend on an unnecessary book.

  17. Avatar
    mannix  January 29, 2020

    So when does the movie come out? Think of the cast selection! Tom Hanks as Jesus, Madonna as Magdalene…they may even let you play Paul! Ron Howard as director, etc, etc.

    As for the book art, too bad Stan Lee isn’t with us anymore.

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