Last week I published a guest post by blog member Gary McCarragher, who has just published Revelation: A Novel, about a professor of  New Testament studies at a certain university in the South.  Gary and I had consulted on his work, and how it has seen the light of published day!

We received a lot of good response from his post, and I asked him if he’d be interested in excerpting a bit of the novel for blog readers.   He agreed, and has given us the first two chapters.

As indicated below, you can purchase the book in a variety of places; I just checked and found it here:

Revelation: A Novel – Kindle edition by McCarragher, Gary . Religion & Spirituality Kindle eBooks @

Thanks to Gary!



REVELATION, A Novel, published January, 2023

Editorial and proofreading services: Cath Lauria, Gina Sartirana Interior layout and cover design: Howard Johnson

Photo Credits: Front Cover Image: Abstract self portrait, by Christian Beirle González; Image #100005105, Getty Images.

Author Photo: by Terry Sbani, Woodside’s Photography Studio.

SDP Publishing Published by SDP Publishing, an imprint of SDP Publishing Solutions, LLC.

The characters, events, institutions, and organizations in this book are strictly fictional. Any apparent resemblance to any person, alive or dead, or to actual events is entirely coincidental.

All rights reserved. No part of the material protected by this copyright notice may be reproduced or utilized in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the copyright owner.

To obtain permission(s) to use material from this work, please submit an email request with subject line: SDP Publishing Permissions Department. Email: [email protected].

ISBN-13 (print): 979-8-9862833-2-6

ISBN-13 (ebook): 979-8-9862833-3-3

Library of Congress Control Number: 2022914940

Copyright © 2023, Gary McCarragher

Printed in the United States of America


To Dr. Bart D. Ehrman

Acknowledgments: I would like to thank Angela van Barneveld, Erin McCarragher, Susan McCarragher, Jennifer Cochran, and Kent Patterson for their suggestions and encouragement. I’d also like to thank my editors, Cath Lauria and Gina Sartirana, for their fine contributions, and my publisher Lisa Akoury-Ross, for her support and guidance.

I would especially like to thank Dr. Bart D. Ehrman, the James A. Gray Distinguished Professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, for his valuable contribution. Dr. Ehrman has inspired me to heights I could have never imagined. I consider our extensive collaboration to be the highlight of my career as a writer. With deep respect and appreciation for his immense scholarly expertise, patience, and generosity, I dedicate Revelation to Dr. Ehrman.


The eyes of reason are the eyes of nature, and the eyes of nature cannot see into that which is beyond or above nature.

John Pulsford

Quiet Hours


Reason is man’s instrument for arriving at the truth …

—Erich Fromm

The Sane Society





A bright Friday morning sun, unusually warm for early spring in Chapel Hill, peeked above the oaks, shortleaf pines, and red cedars of the verdant North Carolina landscape and streamed through Bart Trask’s car windshield. He lowered the visor and headed for the Raleigh-Durham Airport. The prospect of having to face his twin brother, James, and especially his Baptist minister father, Pastor Theodosius Trask, tightened his insides. He had prepared a few remarks, a sort of explanation to soften the blows, but it did little to settle his queasy stomach.

As he started on the familiar flight south toward his childhood home of Traskville, Alabama, named after his remarkable great-grandfather John Trask, he tried not to imagine the look on their faces. He considered forgetting his crazy idea, but he knew that he couldn’t possibly do that. As if driven on by some force, the invisible puppet strings of his nature that he could neither resist nor fully understand, he moved forward.

He rolled down the windows, turned up the music, and stepped on the gas.



Bart pulled off the old country road into the Trask driveway, a wide semicircular path wrapping around an enormous laurel oak casting shade over his childhood home. The plantation house, fronted by a two-tiered veranda, white columns, black shutters, and a rooftop observatory, gleamed in the bright late afternoon sun.

His car came to a stop on crackling woodchips next to a wooden swing hanging from a limb of the massive oak, the same wooden swing on which his brother, their sister Junia, and he had spent many a carefree childhood afternoon. He shuffled his feet in the woodchips, ran his hand over the thick, weather-beaten rope holding the swing, and smiled wistfully.

He glanced at the church to the right of the Trask home, a beautiful, red brick High Victorian Gothic structure built in 1905 by his great-grandfather. Over the years Bart had developed a fascination with the architecture, featuring a pair of three-story towers, a cone-shaped roof with gothic arched vents, and stained-glass windows. Through many a Sunday church service he’d marveled at the care and craftsmanship that went into its construction.

He turned toward the house and took a deep breath.


After nearly twenty years of contentious “discussions” with his father, starting in his mid-teens, intensifying during his years at Yale Divinity School where he earned an M.A. in Religious studies followed by his PhD in New Testament studies, and continuing through his years as an Assistant Professor at UNC in Chapel Hill, a truce had finally been declared about a year ago. During all subsequent family gatherings both Bart, the “agnostic from birth,” and his father, the conservative evangelical Christian, had promised to avoid the subject. This did have the desired effect of making things generally more pleasant, but Bart could see in his father’s eyes an ongoing, quiet despair over his lost son.

His mother, Linda, greeted him on the veranda with open arms and a loving smile.

“How are you, my son? Long time no see.”

Bart returned a loving smile. For just an instant, the weight of his concerns lightened. “I’m fine, Mom. How are you? How is everybody?”

“Just fine. Wait until you see your little nephew. He’s grown so big since Christmas. What a joy he is.”

They entered the house. “Your brother is upstairs. Father is out back somewhere. Junia and little Thomas will be over shortly. Go on upstairs and settle in.”

Bart turned toward the familiar thud of boots on the creaking front steps. A moment later his father appeared. “Well look who we have here, our long-lost son,” he said, expressionless. “How are things up in Chapel Hill?”

Bart’s stomach tightened. “Just fine. Yourself?”

“Better than I deserve. Mother, have you seen my reading glasses?”

“No. You probably left them in the church, dear.”

Bart headed for the stairs. He found his brother lying on his bed, reading. He knocked on the open door.

James lowered his book. “Hey.”

Bart smiled and entered. “How’s it going?”

“It’s going,” James said, shrugging.

“Anything new and exciting in your life?”

“Not really.”

“How’s Emily?”

“We broke up a couple of months ago.”

“I’m sorry to hear that. What happened?”

James tossed his book on the bed. “I don’t know. I think she found somebody else. It’s just as well. Anything new with you?”

The time had come, at least with his brother. Despite his preparation, he hesitated.

Just start talking.

“As a matter of fact there is. A couple of things.”

James sat up. “You and Sarah are getting married.”

Bart smiled. “Not exactly. At least not yet. I’ve still got you locked up for Best Man, right?”

James smirked. “We’ll see. So, what’s your news?”

Bart sat on his own bed across the room. “I’ve begun work on a new book, my first for a general audience.”

“New book? On what?”

“The working title is Jesus, The Man They Called God. The exaltation of a Jewish preacher from Galilee.”

“The man they called God?” James took a deep breath. “I think I’ll pass.”

“I know, and that’s okay. It’s really just about the life and times of Jesus. It’s amazing how little the average Christian really knows about him. There are some books out there for a general audience, but nothing like what I have in mind.”

“Have you told Father?”

“Not yet.”

“Good luck. Are you planning to publish it under your own name?”

Bart straightened. “What?”

“I know it sounds strange, but … it’s not just your name. It’s our name. It’s Father’s name. It’s the name of this town.”

A flush of heat came into Bart’s face. “I know, but this is my work.”

“I’m just saying, it’s not just about you.”

“James, it’s not about any of us. I’m just trying to—”

“We know what you’re trying to do.”

Bart grabbed his old wooden desk chair, placed it at the side of his brother’s bed, and sat. “Listen, I know how you feel. It hasn’t been easy growing up and having to deal with a brother who popped out of the womb with different views. I know that all those years of discussions and debates and arguments between me and the two of you, especially Father, made life uncomfortable, even miserable at times, but that’s in the past.”

“So you write a book instead, by Bart Trask, agnostic-slash-atheist.”

“Hey, come on, that’s not fair.”

“You’re going to break his heart.”

“James, I’m simply writing about Jesus. What you make of it—” “

You said there was something else new?” Bart shifted in his chair. “Yes. I’m afraid this one’s going to be tougher to tell you than the book.”

James glanced at the open bedroom door, closed it, and returned to his bed. “What is it?”

Bart walked toward the window. He looked at the church and took a deep breath. “There’s something I’d like to do. It means a great deal to me.” He turned to James. “The reason I want to tell you is because … well, I need your help.”

“You need my help? That’s a new one. You’ve never asked for my help once, ever, your entire life.”

“I need you to help me with Father.”

“With Father?” James frowned. “Are you feeling well?”

“I need his permission for something.”

“Permission? For what?”

Bart returned to his chair. “I’ve begun to think about a series of lectures focusing on Jesus I’d like to take on the road and record for social media. I think if it’s informative and entertaining, a general audience would be interested. I have a rough idea about what I’d like to say in both the book and on social media, but I feel in order to get it right, to present something of real value to the average person on the street, I need to be sure that I can address every imaginable question that may come my way. For that, my scholarship isn’t enough.”

Bart pushed himself forward in his chair. He locked onto his brother’s eyes. “To help me with the book and lecture series, I feel I need to cut my teeth on a fully engaged audience of evangelicals who would be eager to challenge me, from their perspective, with tough questions, no holds barred, you know, give me a really hard time. The question is, where can I get that kind of audience? Then it hit me. Why not here, in Traskville?”

James sat bolt upright. His eyes widened. “What? Please don’t tell me you want to use the church.”

“No, of course not. Remember the old Stafford church, down the street?”

“That falling-down wreck?”

“Stafford says it’s actually in pretty decent shape. He plans to renovate it and re-open the church in the fall. He’s agreed to let me use it as a lecture hall for the next couple of months. I was thinking the lectures could run on Saturday afternoons through the spring and into the summer. I could come in on Friday evenings and go back on Sundays. The flight is only about an hour and a half.”

“You want to give lectures undermining the divinity of Christ less than a mile down the street from Father’s church? Have you lost your mind?”

“James, I have no intention of undermining—”

“Why here, right under our noses, in Traskville? It’s a big country.”

Bart stood. “I just told you, for the audience. I could probably fill a hall at UNC with a mix of liberal Christians, conservative evangelicals, and everybody else in between, but what could I hope to get out of them in that setting other than the usual polite academic pushback? I don’t need polite academic pushback. I need uninhibited, heart and soul, fire and brimstone pushback.” He pointed toward the window. “The people of Traskville, they know me. I’m the infamous lost son who finally came out as an agnostic, stopped going to church, and to the bewilderment of all, went off to the big city to get himself an education on the Bible and Jesus. The whole town of evangelicals is going to want to know what I have to say. As a Trask, I’m someone whose opinion matters to them. What better place to get the feedback I need than here?”

James glared at his brother. “Why the heck should the folks of Traskville be interested in what you have to say? They know you’ve abandoned the faith.”

“Oh, they’ll be interested. I’ve come back to talk about Jesus. If nothing else, morbid curiosity will fill the place to the creaky rafters.”

“The second you open your mouth they’ll be out for blood, or run you out of the place.”

“Maybe, maybe not. I’ll be challenged hard, that’s for sure, but that’s exactly what I need.”

James walked over to the window. “If doing this down the street isn’t bad enough, you have the gall to deliver this anti-Christian message in a church, of all places. Talk about false advertising….”

“James, it’s not anti-Christian.”

“You’re just doing this to shake people’s faith, to pull them away from God.”

“I’m doing no such thing. I’m just a New Testament scholar talking about Jesus. That’s all; nothing more.”

“It’s like Father and I have said to you before. You have no faith in Jesus because you’re incapable of faith. For you, everything has to be proven.” He shook his head. “I guess that’s what your university teaches you.”

“Hey, come on, that’s not fair.” Bart joined his brother at the window. “Look, I’ll admit there are lots of people like that, but believe me, I’m not one of them. I happen to think faith plays an important role in life, but so does evidence.”

James looked out at the church. “Yeah, right.”

Bart gently placed his hand on James’s shoulder. “If I were to ask people to have faith in Alpha-Beta, the God of the universe, would they, just like that, without any additional information? Of course not. Faith is important, but it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. It’s always based on something—information, evidence, call it what you like. There’s no getting around it. This evidence, it’s almost never proof, not even close, but it is the necessary springboard which makes the leap of faith possible. Since Christian faith is based on scripture, it only makes good sense to learn all we can about the text, in all the ways available to us. That’s all I’m trying to do.”

James pulled away. “You don’t think we do that? You don’t think devout Christians study the Bible? Father went to seminary. We’ve spent countless hours studying the Bible. You seem to think that university is the only place to learn anything, that you somehow have a monopoly on wisdom. Well, you’re wrong.”

“I’m not saying that at all.” Bart sat on the wooden ledge just below the window. “Come on, James, you know me better than that. We’ve talked about this for years. I’m very well aware that lots of great scholarship has come from devout Christians studying the Bible from a religious point of view, as a holy book. All I’m saying is that there’s another well-established way to study the Bible. I’m not saying it’s a better way, I’m just saying it’s a different way, a way that can teach us things about the life and times of Jesus that we may not get from a purely devotional perspective.”

James scoffed.

“Hey, listen, I’m not going to say that my approach doesn’t challenge the beliefs of the evangelical Christian. I think it does, but I have no interest in telling anyone, especially Christians, what to believe. What people make of it all is their business.”

“So what do you want from Father?”

“His permission to give the lecture series. I know I don’t need it but, well, it’s a matter of respect. A year ago I may have bulldozed ahead with this, but not now.” Bart rose to face his brother. “Look, I know how you feel about this, James, but I’m hoping you’ll look past that and help me convince Father to at least give me his okay.”

James returned to his bed and picked up his book. “I’m sorry, I can’t do that.”

Bart’s shoulders sank. He returned to his chair. “Can I ask you why?”

James snapped his book shut. “You know why. For the very same reason you feel the need to ask for his permission in the first place. Because a Trask talking about Christ this way, especially right under Father’s nose, would upset him deeply. He doesn’t deserve that, especially from you, his son. If you care about him, you’ll take your little dog and pony show elsewhere.”

Bart straightened. His face flushed. “Dog and pony show?”

“I’m sorry. I can’t help you.”

For a moment, Bart looked directly into his brother’s eyes, then lowered his head and nodded.

“I understand,” he said softly. “Thanks for hearing me out.”

“Are you still going to ask him?”


“You’re going to anger him. You’re going to break his heart.”

Bart looked away. “I hope not.”

“Can you at least wait until after the party tomorrow?”

“Yes, of course.” With a loud exhale and a shake of his head, James got up and left the room, slamming the door behind him.

About the Author Dr. Gary McCarragher was born in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. He received his medical training at McGill University and enjoyed a successful career as a gastroenterologist in the Tampa Bay area before becoming a hospice physician in 2009. As part of his passionate advocacy for hospice, Gary has published multiple newspaper articles on hospice care. Gary also enjoys the arts and music and has performed in community theater, where he received an award for Best Actor. Revelation is his third novel. 275 Revelation A Novel Gary McCarragher [email protected] Also available in ebook format TO PURCHASE: Other books by Gary McCarragher: The Imperfect Offering Unhinged SDP Publishing Contact us at: [email protected]

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2023-03-14T13:55:49-04:00March 26th, 2023|Book Discussions, Public Forum|

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  1. Vega_Dog March 26, 2023 at 5:53 pm

    Is this a new gospel? 😉

    • garymccarragher March 29, 2023 at 10:51 pm

      Well, in the sense that Gospel means “good news” …. 🙂 Thanks, Vega_Dog, for reaching out! If you enjoy the novel, please spread the word!

  2. Monarch March 28, 2023 at 6:55 am

    “The characters, events, institutions, and organizations in this book are strictly fictional. Any apparent resemblance to any person, alive or dead, or to actual events is entirely coincidental.” So, I’m confused. Just forget that I may have some vague recollection of a “Bart” with a “PhD [sic] in New Testament studies” who is a “Professor at UNC in Chapel Hill?” Entertaining enough beginning, but had me a bit confused about how thin the line is between fact and fiction. If we are to take the disclaimer seriously, might there have been some benefit to naming him “Fred” or “Bob,” and having him be a Professor at, say, UGA Athens instead? Or are we not supposed to take the disclaimer seriously? A book seems like a long way to travel having that question looming over my head.

    • garymccarragher April 2, 2023 at 11:30 pm

      Monarch, thanks for the thoughtful comments. Out of deep respect for and gratitude to Dr. Bart Ehrman, who inspired the novel and collaborated with me in the preparation of the manuscript, I chose to use his name and university. Having said that, nothing else about the character Bart is in any way similar to Dr. Bart Ehrman. Furthermore the entirety of the storyline is 100% fictional, bearing no resemblance to actual life events. Thanks for reaching out; I appreciate it!

  3. AngeloB March 31, 2023 at 5:49 pm

    I really enjoyed reading this extract of the novel. Can’t wait to read the whole thing!

    • garymccarragher April 2, 2023 at 11:32 pm

      Thanks, AngeloB!! I’d love to get your feedback! Please reach out on my website

  4. FrankLoomer April 1, 2023 at 7:41 pm

    I’m thinking of getting it. But right off, “Bart”? based in any way on anyone we all know here? My instinct says that even our Bart has a driving motivation to repudiate his evangelical beliefs and also, spread the word. He and Michael Shermer might say that’s not really it, but I’m skeptical. Not a complaint from me on this, mind you. From the two chapters so far, I’ve found Bart’s contra to his brother disingenuous. Secular historical studies on traditional Christianity have almost been nothing but undermining of those beliefs. I wonder how many members here have or still go through family conflict’s such as Bart’s? Book jacket is intriguing.

    • garymccarragher April 2, 2023 at 11:56 pm

      Thank you, Frank, for these thoughts. The book was certainly inspired by Dr. Ehrman, but as per the disclaimer, neither the book nor the storyline are based on his life. My choice of the name and university are purely out of respect for Dr. Ehrman. Please see my comments above to Monarch, in which I touch on this.
      Regarding Bart’s contra to James, I wish to point out that Bart states at some point that he does indeed have an issue with conservative evangelicalism, if not with Christianity in general. Your point is well taken. It is altogether reasonable to question his professed sincerity since he has to know that his views do challenge the faith (he admits this). In the novel, people do actually challenge Bart on this and at several points Bart himself even struggles with this issue. Fascinating, I’d say!!! Thanks so much for bringing this interesting aspect of Bart’s personality up for discussion. I’d be interested in any further thoughts you might have after reading the entire book since the issue does come up in other places. Thanks again!!

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