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Publishing with HarperOne

Now that I’m in the deep throes of research for my next book, I thought it would be a good time to devote a thread to it.  It’s what I’ve been thinking about day and night — and reading voraciously on – since this past August!  To explain it all, I need to provide a bit of personal background.

The point of this post:  I have decided to change publishers.   The book that just came out last month, Jesus Before the Gospels, is my seventh book with HarperOne, which is an Imprint of HarperCollins, one of the five largest publishing houses in the world.  It has been an absolutely terrific run with Harper’s, an absolute career-changer.  But I’ve decided now – after working with them for twelve years – to move on to something else.  My next two books will be with Simon and Schuster, another one of the “big five,” which is located in New York (HarperOne is in San Francisco).

Why I changed is a long story.   First maybe I should say something about my association with Harper.

As I think I may have mentioned on the blog before, my original idea when I got into writing books was to write only heavy-hitting scholarship on New Testament textual criticism, books for scholars and only for scholars.  My most serious interests were in the field of textual studies; my most pronounced expertise was on the citations of the New Testament in the writings of the early Greek church fathers and on how these citations could help us both reconstruct the original text of the New Testament (since we don’t have the originals) and to write the history of its transmission, as it was changed by scribes over the centuries in different ways in different times and in different places.

It was a rather, uh, specialized field of interest.  And my idea was…

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The New Edition of My Textbook: Reader’s Mailbag April 10, 2016
Evaluating My Debate on the Book of Acts



  1. Avatar
    Samuel Riad  April 8, 2016

    I am currently polishing my Manuscript ready to have it published.
    Any advice on how to market it?
    I am not a famous scholar like yourself. Do I stand a chance?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 10, 2016

      If you don’t have an academic position (and it’s an academic book) it is almost impossible. If it is a trade book and you don’t have a record already, then you probably need an agent. That too, though, is extremely hard. Maybe I’ll add your question to my mailbag list.

  2. Avatar
    RapidRiver  April 8, 2016

    I hate cliffhangers.

    • Avatar
      Patty  April 10, 2016

      It’s just like The Walking Dead finale, but at least we won’t have to wait until October.

  3. Avatar
    RapidRiver  April 8, 2016

    How do we know that the earliest manuscripts of the stories or letters etc. in the bible are copies of copies of copies? How do we know that they are not simply copies of copies, or a copy of an original, or even an original?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 10, 2016

      There are reasons, but they get kind-a complicated. Here’s a very quick stab: it has to do with the kinds of mistakes and the agreements in error. If you have two mss that agree in a textual variant that is judged not to be original but that is not the kind of change two scribes would likely have made independently of one another, then it must come from an earlier mistake made by a different copyists whose work they were copying; which means that they could not be copies of the original but copies of a copy of the original; and if you multiply those kinds of errors so that in different places you have the same phenomenon that could not go back to that *same* copy of the original; then they must be replicating copies made of different copies of copies; and so on….

  4. Avatar
    rivercrowman  April 8, 2016

    Your planned switch to Simon and Schuster prompted me to look around my collection of good books on early Christianity (not written by you) to discover several by James D. Tabor, Chair of the Department of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte that have been published by Simon and Schuster. … Good luck Bart, I want your future books to gain maximum exposure to the reading public!

    • SBrudney091941
      SBrudney091941  April 10, 2016

      I read Tabor’s Paul and Jesus: How the Apostle Transformed Christianity. I found out later that his acceptance of the letter of James as authentic is in disagreement with many scholars including Bart. But he uses it as part of an argument for how un-Pauline Christian beliefs were before Paul, thus supporting Paul’s claim that he received his Gospel from no man. What is strange to me is that he seems to be offering reasons for not calling those before before Paul Christians at all yet continues to call them “the earliest Christians.”

  5. Avatar
    Patty  April 8, 2016

    So you were dissatisfied with how Harper handled Jesus Before the Gospels.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 10, 2016

      Nope, never said that!!! I chose to move before I even gave them my manuscript for the book.

      • Avatar
        Patty  April 10, 2016

        Sorry, that was meant as a question.

  6. Avatar
    Omar6741  April 8, 2016

    Hi Bart,
    All scholars agree that the Lukan Infancy Narrative has a very Hebraic (or Septuagintal or Old Testament) character (because of the language, the diction, the style, the ideas, etc.)
    There are two theories about this: the “Translation Theory” says that Luke used a Greek translation of a text written in Hebrew, and the “Imitation Theory” says that Luke deliberately tried to imitate the Septuagint.
    Can I ask which of these theories you favor and why?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 10, 2016

      Luke 1-2 were almost certainly originally written in Greek; the author is indeed imitating a septuagintal style.

      • Avatar
        Omar6741  April 10, 2016

        Can I ask why you think that Luke 1-2 were almost certainly originally written in Greek?
        Some people argue that these chapters were originally written in Greek since Hebrew was not much used by Palestinian Jews in those days. is that how you would reason?
        I’m not so sure about that, though, given that the Dead Sea Scrolls group used so much Hebrew.

        • Bart
          Bart  April 11, 2016

          Because the same author wrote chs 1-2 who wrote chs 3-24, and those chapters were written in Greek.

          • Avatar
            Omar6741  April 12, 2016

            Could the same author who wrote chapters 3-24 have adapted a Greek translation of a previous texts to his purposes? I ask because the style is universally acknowledged to be different in chs. 1-2, although showing signs of the author of the rest as well.

          • Bart
            Bart  April 13, 2016

            Yes, of course it’s possible. One has to ask if it’s *probable* though, since he does not seem to know Hebrew otherwise.

  7. Tuxedo
    Tuxedo  April 8, 2016

    “I decided that the way to do the book was to explain why I myself find this field so important and so interesting”.
    Bart- a great and one of my favorite Ted talks is Simon Sinek, so always start with why.

    • Avatar
      WendyRWolf  December 26, 2019

      This is the greatest gift of the post
      From my perspective


  8. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  April 8, 2016

    Simon and Schuster! Wow! Congratulations!

    Your New Testament textbook and “Misquoting Jesus” were two very important books for me They are clear, concise, and convincing. They made a “huge” difference for me. Most such books on early Christianity just are not written clearly enough for me. Explaining stuff clearly and concisely for readers like me is your “gift.”

  9. Avatar
    SidDhartha1953  April 8, 2016

    Would you ever consider publishing your own translation of the New Testament, or is that better done by committees of scholars? I’m thinking of the once popular translations of James Moffatt and Charles Williams.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 10, 2016

      I think it’s better done by committee. But even so, I’m not inclined to do my own — it wouldn’t be much better than the NRSV….

  10. talmoore
    talmoore  April 8, 2016

    Dr. Ehrman, I think the reason Misquoting Jesus was such a hit is that it challenged two of the most firmly held beliefs about the Bible amongst the devout laity; namely: divine inspiration and divinely guided transmission. In the first case, the hardcore devout believe every word of the Bible was divinely revealed to the original authors. In the second, they believe every word was copied and preserved word-for-word from God to us. Thus hence the belief in scriptural inerrancy. When you questioned that belief — and backed it up with hard facts and scholarship — that’s when you got everyone’s attention. The fact of the matter is, if you want to get attention from the media and the reading public you have to go after the third rails.

    Speaking of third rails, there’s another third rail in religion that I have yet to see a trade book written by a prominent scholar; namely, what I call the schism-reformation-establishment cycle. Simply put, I’ve notice that most (if not all) religions follow a cycle of schism to reformation to establishment to schism to reformation to establishment, and so on and so forth, etc. etc. in perpetuity. That is to say, a firmly established, universal faith has never (at least for any extended amount of time) been realized. The reasons for this, I believe, are sociological, anthropological and biological, but that’s outside the immediate topic. I’m mainly curious about how this cycle plays out in regards to religion, and in your field, Christianity specifically.

    To give you an example of what I mean, take the very inception of Christianity itself as a sectarian schism within Judaism counter to the established religion centered on the Temple cult, leading to various reforms such as Paul’s push to elevate faith above the Law, and then, eventually, to Pauline Christianity becaming the new establishment faith. But even leading up to its establishment, there were various schisms and reforms, from the Montanists to the Cappadocians to the Theodotians to Valentinians to the Nestorians and so on and so forth. And this cycle continues on. The reformist Lutherans and Anglicans separate from the establishment Catholics. Then the reformist Calvinsts seperate from the “establishment” Lutherans. The reformist Congregrationists separate from the “establish” Anglicans. The Methodist go from reformist to establishment. The Presbyterians go from reformist to establishment. The Baptists go from reformist to — believe it or not — establishment, replaced by the reformist Pentecostals. Presumably, the Pentecostals will one day be the establishment, and a whole new reformist movement will split from it. And the cycle continues. That’s why fringe movements like the Pentecostalists can always claim to be “returning” to the “original” faith, because the “original faith” is actually a reformation movement, and, in practical terms, the whole point was to buck the establishment. (I liken this to the Leninist doctrine of perpetual revolution, where the status quo is, paradoxically, supposed to be the continual bucking of the status quo! So in that regard Christianity could be seen as perpetual revolution as status quo!)

    Anyway, I have yet to see a trade book that exposes this perpetual cycle. Someone needs to write it. Maybe you’re the scholar to write it.

  11. Avatar
    rivercrowman  April 8, 2016

    And thanks for the heads up that you now have a 6th edition of your New Testament textbook for college students. … At age 66 years, I just ordered it, so, in retirement, I can compare its contents to the Third Edition!

  12. Avatar
    Hussaini Abba  April 8, 2016

    I wish you the best sir.

  13. Josephsluna
    Josephsluna  April 8, 2016

    Just want to say good luck with your next book Bart ! I’m sure you know this verse, Who was it Jesus, saying you will know what to do when the time comes. Matthew 10:20. Want to say it is a beautiful day here in the Gorgeous Colorado Springs. Reading your Blog and enjoying nice Mountain Breeze hitting me. Wont give up on the Blog Mr! And Congrats on 4th Anniversary. And if you ever need a gym partner let me know 🙂 I am training for a Physique Competition after all !

  14. Avatar
    mary  April 9, 2016

    Glad to hear you are continueing to write trade books and I am looking forward to your personal background and the new publisher information concerning the next one. I just finished “Jesus before the Gospels”. I particularly appreciated chapter 6 and chapter 8.
    I purchased a couple of your books for scholars and David Lambert’s book. I was curious about them since you had written about them in the blog. They gave me a view into that world even though my understanding is extremely limited in those areas. But I think I will be sticking to trade books from now on.?

    It appeared as though it was a very somber group you lectured to in Florida. I viewed the 3 lectures on Youtube.

  15. Avatar
    nichael  April 9, 2016

    First, best of luck with the change to Simon and Schuster.

    Since you mentioned this, I have a some questions about a couple details of the printing of the books (since I’m in the middle reading JBtG this has been on my mind, and I’ve been thinking about asking about this).

    1] I assume S&S will be as agreeable to including endnotes to your books as Harper One has been. (That is, some publishers appear to be unwilling to include notes in popular/trade books, presumably because they assume most non-professional readers aren’t interested in such things, so it’s not worth the trouble and expense of including them. But speaking for what I assume are many of your readers I find the notes to be essential for following up or learning more about a given topic –one of the main reason I read books like yours.)

    2] Is it possible to include the line that says “Notes for pages XXX-XXX” on the page containing the notes? (For example, I notice that “Peter, Paul and Mary Magdaline”, published by Oxford, has this feature, but the books you’ve published with Harper One does not.)

    Admittedly this is a minor point, and it certainly is possible to browse through the notes to find the right one. But this a very handy feature, especially when you jump into the middle of a passage out of sequence.

    3] Finally, is it possible to include a bibliography (especially a “topic-oriented” bibliography). Again, the reader can search through the notes and text to find a specific external reference, but a bibliography certainly is very convenient when trying to follow up on a given topic.

    • Bart
      Bart  April 10, 2016

      Ah, right, these are all details we haven’t discussed. As a major publishing house, they will, of course, have their own rules and policies, and I’ll obviously abide by them.

      • Avatar
        llamensdor  April 10, 2016

        Yes, but please include the pages x-y feature for your footnotes. Otherwise, it’s devilishly hard for non-scholars like me to use the footnotes efficiently–I lose the flow from text to notes to text, etc.

    • Avatar
      SidDhartha1953  April 10, 2016

      On that same topic: I can imagine that endnotes are useful for researchers who want to review the notes as a whole, but for most of what I read, honest to God footnotes (the kind you find at the bottom of the page you are now reading) are much more useful for non specialist readers. Why have most publishers abandoned that very friendly practice?

  16. Avatar
    spiker  April 9, 2016

    Are you swiching to fiction?

    Giving Dan Brown a run for the money?

    • Bart
      Bart  April 10, 2016

      Ha! No, I’m sticking with non-fiction. Wish I *could* write a novel!!

  17. Avatar
    Prizm  April 10, 2016

    Interesting post, thanks. This might be a bit off-topic, but I wanted to ask: Which bible do you recommend for your students to get for your class? I know you generally prefer NRSV, but which one? Thanks

    • Bart
      Bart  April 10, 2016

      I recommend that HarperCollins Study Bible.

      • SBrudney091941
        SBrudney091941  April 10, 2016

        Are there editions of the HarperCollins Study Bible that you prefer or is there only one?

        • Bart
          Bart  April 11, 2016

          There was an older edition that is probably hard to get now. Just get the one you can find easily on Amazon.

  18. Avatar
    Jana  April 10, 2016

    Me too. I hate cliffhangers! btw: If you had titled your last book “Jesus before Trump” .. it would have been a best seller. 🙂 Obviously I’m joking.

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