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Self-Reflection on The Process of Writing a Book

Every author has different parts of the research and writing process that they enjoy the most.  Which means there are other parts they enjoy the least.  And it really varies from one author to the next.

My wife, a Shakespeare scholar, especially loves the reading she does in preparation for a book.  There are lots of others like her, people who just want to read, read, read, and then read some more.

I have to admit, this is not the most enjoyable part of my work, for me personally.  I do enjoy reading – which is a good thing, since I spend so many waking hours doing it; but reading for research can often be very hard, even grueling work.

That’s because serious scholarship is itself hard.  It’s not an easy read.  It’s not like reading your favorite novel.  And when you’re reading research for a book you have to read closely and intensely.  The first step, as I’ve said before, is knowing how closely and intensely: is this a book or article that I can skim over to get the basic point?  Or one that I need to read sections of very carefully?  Or one that I have to devour word by word to get the entire thing down?  Part of the skill of being a researcher is deciding which is which.  Get that wrong, and your project is sunk.

Whatever I read carefully I …

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Why Would I Call Myself Both an Agnostic and an Atheist? A Blast from the Past
Non-Disclosure Agreements



  1. talmoore
    talmoore  June 4, 2018

    “I typically can crank our 12,000 to 13,000 words a day without much difficulty.”


  2. Avatar
    Judith  June 4, 2018

    This is very interesting to me!

  3. Avatar
    Tricia  June 4, 2018

    What I hate about writing is that I never felt called to be a writer. Rather the “call” has been to share what my conversion experience has given me. And I have self-published–which makes me even more insecure. But, after 8 books, I’m done writing. And now I’m in a worse phase, sharing what I’ve written. Argh.

  4. John4
    John4  June 4, 2018

    Do you just use your regular word processing app for taking notes on your reading, Bart?

    Or, something else?

    Many thanks! 🙂

  5. Avatar
    john76  June 4, 2018

    I do a lot of reading in Philosophy. The difficulty there is an author may go hundreds of page, or even to another book, before clarifying a concept. Understanding Philosophy is just as much an act of memory as it is reason – preserving in mind what you have yet to understand.

  6. Avatar
    ask21771  June 4, 2018

    How do we know the whore of babylon isn’t the Roman Catholic Church

    • Bart
      Bart  June 5, 2018

      Because it didn’t exist at the time of the writing, and because the text says it is the *city* that rules over all others (not a church). (see Rev. 17:18)

      • Altosackbuteer
        Altosackbuteer  June 6, 2018

        Excellent. As you know, many Catholic-hating Protestants believe that the RCC is the Whore of Babylon.

  7. Avatar
    Pegill7  June 4, 2018

    In your debate with D’Souza you stated that you were an agnostic but not an atheist, but since then I believe you claim to be an agnostic/atheist. If someone claims to be an atheist doesn’t that mean that he/she KNOWS that there is no God? Obviously no one can know that, but just doubt it as the agnostic claims to do. Am I missing something?

    • Bart
      Bart  June 5, 2018

      I’ve dealt with that issue on the blog before — but I think it’s time for me to deal with it again! I’ll do so soon.

      • Avatar
        Tricia  June 5, 2018

        I’d like to hear your thoughts–on being an atheist or agnostic. That you are is apparent in your writing. But yet your writing, because it is not contained within doctrinal boxes, is more interesting and informative to me than the usual Christian garbled gook…..And yet I’m an irreversible, and ever amazed, convert. Ah.

        • Bart
          Bart  June 7, 2018

          I”ve talked about this on the blog before, but maybe I’ll address it again — it’s been a while.

    • talmoore
      talmoore  June 5, 2018

      Atheism doesn’t mean you know there is no God. It simply means that you have not been convinced there is a God. I’m an atheist. When I’m asked if there is a God, I don’t say absolutely not. I say, probably not. I’m willing to accept a small chance that there is a God, but as far as I can tell, there does not appear to be a God.

  8. Avatar
    ardeare  June 5, 2018

    The journey is always greater than the destination, assuming we ever really reach a destination.

  9. Altosackbuteer
    Altosackbuteer  June 5, 2018

    Professor, may I please kindly impose upon you for a short opinion?

    I have written a paper which I intend to submit to a peer-reviewed scholarly periodical.

    The paper adjusts and fixes the date(s) of the destruction of the FIRST Temple of the Jews.

    Basically, in the Talmud (Aruvin), it says that the destruction of BOTH Temples occurred a) on the 9th day of the month of Av in their respective years, which b) was in the first year of the 7-year Jewish cycle of smitta for the Holy Land itself, and c) on a Sunday.

    Since the Jewish calendar was (and remains) lunar-based, any occurrence of the 9th day of a given Jewish month depends upon when New Moon falls, and I can go back and calculate this with an astronomy program, and then apply Maimonides’ Rule to the practice of observation of the New Moon in Jerusalem.

    I have used this technique to verify that, yup, the 2nd Temple fell on the 9th of Av, on Sunday, in 70 AD. It is astronomically plausible, and verifies what is already universally known about the 2nd Temple being destroyed in 70 AD.

    Therefore, my argument is, if Talmud Aruvin is correct about this date, then it is correct about the date of the destruction of the 1st Temple, too.

    By using my Wayback Machine function, I can determine that the traditional date of the destruction of the 1st Temple — 586 BC — is incorrect, but both 582 and 589 BC work. And, NO OTHER DATE in the entire 6th century BC works at all.

    In the brief 2 weeks or so since I joined this site, I think you’ve come to know me as someone who is unusually well informed about many of the things within your professional purview.

    Could you please kindly recommend to me a possible periodical?

    Thanx very much.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 5, 2018

      What I usually tell my graduate students is to look carefully at which journals published the articles they found most germane and important for their research for their own article, make a list of the ones that seem most appropriate to their particular take on the issue, and go with the top one on the list.

    • Avatar
      truthseekerofallthings  June 7, 2018

      Any proof that the JW chronology of the year 607 B.C. for the destruction of the first temple
      in these findings to make it correct?

      If the 70 year desolation of Jerusalem is to be understood literally then it would be 607 B.C.

      Almost every religion has a bit of truth to it if not more.

      Could the JW be right about this one thing

      • Altosackbuteer
        Altosackbuteer  June 8, 2018

        NO TRUTH AT ALL.

        You are asking the RIGHT person. I have investigated the JW claim and it fails. And I’ll tell you why.

        1) As you know, the Jewish calendar is lunar-based, where days commence at sundown and months commence on the sighting of the thin crescent moon after sundown. That means, within certain technical limitations (which would take a book to cover adequately — and I have written such a book!), it is possible to determine when the New Moon was first sighted in Jerusalem after sundown. This is Day 1 of that given month.

        2) The Talmud (Aruvin) has said, both Temple were destroyed on a) the 9th day of the month of Av, in b) the first year of a 7-year smitta cycle of sabbatical rests for the Holy Land itself, and c) on a Sunday.

        Calculating the occurrence of smitta is EASY. To do so, just take the current Hebrew year and divide by 7. If there is no fraction, that is a smitta year; the following year is the first year of the following cycle. (This trick was taught to me by the Mormon PhD astronomer John Pratt.)

        For example: We know that the 2nd Temple fell in August in the year 70 AD. Was this the first year of smitta? The civil year 70 AD corresponds to the Hebrew year 3830 (This year 2018 corresponds to 5778 — do the math.) Divide 3830 by 7 and you get 547 with a remainder of 1.

        So the year 70 qualifies in that respect. But — in that year, did the 9th of Av fall on a Sunday? By using the astronomical program, I can PROVE that it did. Therefore, Talmud Aruvin qualifies in all respects.

        I figgered, if Aruvin were reliable for the 2nd Temple, it should be reliable for the 1st Temple too. So I went through the entire 6th century and early 7th century BC (to cover the JW angle) — and I found NOT ONE DATE in that entire CENTURY!!

        What went WRONG?

        Then I recalled that my friend Sir Dr. Colin J. Humphreys has written a book The Mystery of the Last Supper in which he argues that Jesus was using an OLD-style calendar not used in Judea in his time but still used in Galilee by Jews and Samaritans in Galilee based on the FINAL SIGHTING of the OLD Moon in the MORNING before New Moon. If this true, all days of the Jewish calendar would fall a couple of days earlier than they do in the current New Moon based calendar.

        So I ran my numbers again, and BINGO! I found TWO possible dates which satisfy the requirements of Aruvin in all respects.

        The traditional date of the destruction of the 1st Temple is 586 BC. I found that either 582 or 589 BC are possible. Close enough for government work, as my late dad used to say!

        By the way, the JW date doesn’t work in this case, either. I checked that too.

    • Avatar
      truthseekerofallthings  June 7, 2018


      Any proof in your findings that the JW chronology of the year 607 B.C. for the destruction of the first temple in these findings is correct since the 70 year desolation of Jerusalem, if to be understood literally, would indicate that as the most probable

      • Altosackbuteer
        Altosackbuteer  June 8, 2018

        I answered your question above in detail.

        The short answer is, the JW date is not possible. 607 BC is Year 5 of the smitta cycle current in that yer.

        The Talmud proved itself reliable with stating the conditions of the date of the destruction of the 2nd Temple. Assuming it is reliable for the 1st Temple, JW is hopelessly wrong.

        Given the choice between the Talmud and JW, I go for the Talmud EVERY time.

    • Avatar
      truthseekerofallthings  June 7, 2018


      ▪ Secular historians say that Jerusalem was destroyed in 587 B.C.E.*

      ▪ Bible chronology indicates that the destruction occurred in 607 B.C.E.

      ▪ Secular historians base their conclusions on the writings of classical historians and on the canon of Ptolemy.

      ▪ Some writings of classical historians contain significant errors and are not always consistent with the records on clay tablets.*

      THE Bible says that the Jewish captives were to be exiled in Babylon “until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah.” When were they released? In “the first [regnal] year of Cyrus king of Persia.” (2 Chronicles 36:21, 22, New International Version) Biblical and secular history agree that this exile in Babylon ended after Cyrus conquered Babylon and freed the Jews, who returned to Jerusalem in 537 B.C.E. Since the Bible explicitly says that the exile lasted for 70 years, it must have begun in 607 B.C.E.

      However, most scholars date the destruction of Jerusalem at 587 B.C.E. This allows for only a 50-year exile. Why do they conclude that? They base their calculations on ancient cuneiform documents that provide details about Nebuchadnezzar II and his successors.1 Many of these documents were written by men who lived during or close to the time of Jerusalem’s destruction. But just how sound are the calculations that point to the date 587 B.C.E.? What do these documents really show?

      To answer those questions, consider three types of documents that scholars often rely on: (1) The Babylonian chronicles, (2) business tablets, and (3) astronomical tablets.

      ● The Babylonian chronicles.

      What are they? The Babylonian chronicles are a series of tablets recording major events in Babylonian history.2

      What have experts said? R. H. Sack, a leading authority on cuneiform documents, states that the chronicles provide an incomplete record of important events.* He wrote that historians must probe “secondary sources . . . in the hope of determining what actually happened.”

      What do the documents show? There are gaps in the history recorded in the Babylonian chronicles.3 (See the box below.) Logically, then, the question arises, How reliable are deductions based on such an incomplete record?

      ● Business tablets.

      What are they? Most business tablets from the Neo-Babylonian period are legal receipts. The tablets were dated to the day, month, and year of the reigning king. For example, one tablet states that a transaction took place on “Nisan, the 27th day, the 11th year of Nebuchadrezzar [also known as Nebuchadnezzar II], king of Babylon.”4

      When the king died or was removed and a new king came to the throne, the remaining months of that regnal year were considered the accession year of the new ruler.*5 In other words, the transition of one king to the next took place in the same Babylonian calendar year. Accordingly, tablets of the new ruler’s accession year should logically be dated during months after the last month of the former king.

      What have experts said? R. H. Sack examined numerous business tablets from the Neo-Babylonian period. In 1972, Sack wrote that new unpublished British Museum texts placed at his disposal “completely upset” previous conclusions regarding the transition of rule from Nebuchadnezzar II to his son Amel-Marduk (also known as Evil-merodach).6 How so? Sack knew that tablets showed Nebuchadnezzar II to be still ruling in the sixth month of his last (43rd) year. But these newly deciphered tablets from the accession year of the following king, Amel-Marduk, were dated to the fourth and fifth months of what had been assumed to be the same year.7 Clearly, there was a discrepancy.

      What do the documents show? There are further discrepancies in the transition of one king to another. For example, the documents show that Nebuchadnezzar II was still ruling in his tenth month​—six months after his successor is assumed to have begun reigning.8 A similar discrepancy exists with the transition between Amel-Marduk and his successor, Neriglissar.9

      Why are these discrepancies significant? As mentioned earlier, gaps in the history documented by the Babylonian chronicles suggest that we may not have a continuous chronological record.10 Could others have ruled between the reigns of these kings? If so, additional years would have to be added to the Neo-Babylonian period. Therefore, neither the Babylonian chronicles nor the business tablets provide a basis to establish with certainty that Jerusalem was destroyed in 587 B.C.E.*

      ● Astronomical tablets.

      What are they? Cuneiform tablets that contain descriptions of the positions of the sun, moon, planets, and stars, coupled with such historical information as the regnal year of a particular king. For instance, the astronomical diary shown below records a lunar eclipse that occurred in the first month of the first year of King Mukin-zeri’s reign.11

      What have experts said? Experts agree that the Babylonians had developed extensive charts and schemes to predict when eclipses would most likely occur.12

      But could the Babylonians project backward to calculate when eclipses had occurred in the past? “It is possible,” states Professor John Steele, “that some of the earliest predictions could have been made by projecting the scheme backwards when the text was compiled.” (Italics ours.)13 Professor David Brown, who believes that the astronomical charts included predictions made shortly before the recorded events, acknowledges that it is conceivable that some of these were “retrocalculations undertaken by scribes in the 4th and later centuries BC.”14 If these are retrocalculations, could they really be considered absolutely reliable unless corroborated by other evidence?

      Even if an eclipse did occur on a certain date, does this mean that the historical information the writer of the tablet assigns to that date is accurate? Not necessarily. Scholar R. J. van der Spek explains: “The compilers were astrologers, not historians.” He describes sections of the tablets that contain historical records as “more or less casual,” and he warns that such historical information must “be used with caution.”15

      What do the documents show? Consider the example of VAT 4956. The opening line of this tablet reads: “Year 37 of Nebukadnezar, king of Babylon.”16 Thereafter, it contains detailed descriptions of the position of the moon and planets in relation to different stars and constellations. Also included is one lunar eclipse. Scholars say that all these positions occurred in 568/567 B.C.E., which would make the 18th year of Nebuchadnezzar II, when he destroyed Jerusalem, 587 B.C.E. But do these astronomical references irrefutably point only to the year 568/567 B.C.E.?

      The tablet mentions a lunar eclipse that was calculated as occurring on the 15th day of the third Babylonian month, Simanu. It is a fact that a lunar eclipse occurred on July 4 (Julian calendar) of this month during 568 B.C.E. However, there was also an eclipse 20 years earlier, on July 15, 588 B.C.E.17

      If 588 B.C.E. marked the 37th year of Nebuchadnezzar II, then his 18th year would be 607 B.C.E.​—the very year indicated by the Bible’s chronology for the destruction of Jerusalem! (See the time line below.) But does VAT 4956 provide further corroborating evidence for the year 607 B.C.E.?

      In addition to the aforementioned eclipse, there are 13 sets of lunar observations on the tablet and 15 planetary observations. These describe the position of the moon or planets in relation to certain stars or constellations.18 There are also eight time intervals between the risings and settings of the sun and the moon.18a

      Because of the superior reliability of the lunar positions, researchers have carefully analyzed these 13 sets of lunar positions on VAT 4956. They analyzed the data with the aid of a computer program capable of showing the location of celestial bodies on a certain date in the past.19 What did their analysis reveal? While not all of these sets of lunar positions match the year 568/567 B.C.E., all 13 sets match calculated positions for 20 years earlier, for the year 588/587 B.C.E.

      One of the places where the lunar observations fit 588 B.C.E. even better than 568 B.C.E. is shown in the tablet reproduced on these pages. On line 3 of that tablet, we read that the moon was in a certain position on the “night of the 9th [of Nisanu].” However, the scholars who first dated the event to 568 B.C.E. (astronomical -567) acknowledged that in 568 B.C.E., the moon was in that position on “the 8th of Nisanu and not on the 9th.” To support dating the tablet to 568 B.C.E., they postulated that the scribe erroneously wrote “9” instead of “8.”20 But the lunar position in line 3 finds an exact match on Nisanu 9 of 588 B.C.E.21

      Clearly, much of the astronomical data in VAT 4956 fits the year 588 B.C.E. as the 37th year of Nebuchadnezzar II. This, therefore, supports the date of 607 B.C.E. for Jerusalem’s destruction​—just as the Bible indicates.

      • Altosackbuteer
        Altosackbuteer  June 8, 2018

        I don’t care about “Bible Chronology.”

        587 BC was a LONG time ago. Honest historians could EASILY make mistakes going that far back into time when the information is skimpy.

        In the Jewish commentaries, King Cyrus released the Jews about 18 years before the 70 years was up. God CAN DO THAT.

        In the Book of Genesis, God prophesied that the Children of Jacob would sojourn in Egypt for 400 years — but if you look at the Rashi commentary, he says, at most, they were in Egypt only for 210 years. Just do the math of so-+-so begat so-+-so when he was X number of years old. God can commute sentences, is all. Part of the aspect of being the God of Justice is that the Great Judge can commute sentences if He desires.

        You asked, “However, most scholars date the destruction of Jerusalem at 587 B.C.E. This allows for only a 50-year exile. Why do they conclude that?” Maybe it’s because this is what the rabbinical commentaries say. And before you go and denigrate the Jews for being mistaken — save your arrogance. This is THE JEWISH BIBLE we’re talking about here. Ought not THE JEWS understand what THEIR Bible says better than the rest of us?

        I don’t need Babylonian astrological / astronomical tablets. I have all the information I need from my astronomy program — tons more exact and precise than Babylonian tablets — and Talmud Aruvin — which my (HOPEFULLY FORTHCOMING!) paper will demonstrate IS RELIABLE for the date of the 2nd Temple, and therefore can be counted upon for the 1st Temple.

        As you know, the traditional date of the destruction of the 1st Temple is 586 BC. You have correctly noted that some favor 587 BC.

        I think, these dates ALMOST got it spot-on correct. They came thisclose to the right date.

        See my notes above for more details about this. Basically, I could not find any dates by assuming that the Jews used a New Moon based calendar before the Babylonian Captivity, but once I adopted Colin Humphreys’ theory of an Old-Moon based Jewish calendar (he claims they used it before the Babylonian Captivity), 582 and 589 popped right up.

        589 BC is only two little years removed from 587 BC. I would go with that one if I were you.

        FORGET about the JW date.

        You might like my 1st book, about calculating the dates of the Nativity and Crucifixion. Go to:
        http://www.thesevenbignoahidelaws.com, for ordering and other info.

  10. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  June 5, 2018

    Thanks for sharing this with us. You are an unusually creative person.

  11. Avatar
    Eirini  June 5, 2018

    Thank you Dr. Ehrman! You inspire me a lot! I just got my first article published in The Swedish exegetical yearbook. It is a translation of The Apocalypse of Paul NHC V,2 from Coptic to Swedish and an analysis of valentinian sacramentalism represented in the Apocalypse and it’s importance for the afterlife. It will be printed in November and I’m super excited. Days I feel tired of all the reading and writing I read your blog or listen to your pod and that surely helps! Although I’m just a student now I hope to write trade books about early Christianity and gnosticism one day for a Swedish audience. And for that to happen I will of course continue to support and read your blog! 😉

    PS. My partner listened to your interview with Sam Harris the other day. He came home and said: “Eirini! There was a guy called Bart Ehrman on Sams pod today. You should listen to it! Finally I understood how Christianity came to be!” I just looked at him and laughed! Of course it had to be Bart to make a associate professor in computer science and AI finally get it. Funny!

  12. Avatar
    John Murphy  June 5, 2018

    “That’s because serious scholarship is itself hard. It’s not an easy read. It’s not like reading your favorite novel.”

    Can you recall the first book of serious scholarship that you had to read? Did you think, “Gosh. Maybe this course of study ain’t for me”?!

    • Bart
      Bart  June 7, 2018

      Ah, that’s a good question. I think I’ll add it to the mail bag.

  13. Avatar
    truthseekerofallthings  June 5, 2018

    God introduced this fundamental division of time on the first “day” of the period during which he prepared the earth for mankind, when diffused light evidently penetrated the swaddling bands, thus causing the moisture-covered earth to experience its first day and night as it rotated on its axis through the light of the sun. “God brought about a division between the light and the darkness. And God began calling the light Day, but the darkness he called Night.” (Ge 1:4, 5) Here the word “Day” refers to the daylight hours in contrast with the nighttime. However, the record thereafter goes on to use the word “day” to refer to other units of time of varying length. In both the Hebrew and the Greek Scriptures, the word “day” (Heb., yohm; Gr., he·meʹra) is used in a literal and in a figurative or even symbolic sense.

    A solar day, the fundamental unit of time, is established by one complete rotation of the earth on its axis, as from the time the sun leaves a meridian, the highest point it attains at midday, until it returns to it. This solar or civil day is currently divided into two periods of 12 hours each. The forenoon period is indicated by the Latin ante meridiem (a.m.) and the afternoon period by the Latin post meridiem (p.m.). However, in Bible times various other methods were used for dividing the day.

    The Hebrews began their day in the evening, after sunset, and ended it the next day at sunset. The day, therefore, ran from evening to evening. “From evening to evening you should observe your sabbath.” (Le 23:32) This follows the pattern of God’s creative days, as indicated at Genesis 1:5: “There came to be evening and there came to be morning, a first day.”​—Compare Da 8:14.

    The Hebrews were not the only ones who reckoned a day from evening to evening; the Phoenicians, Numidians, and Athenians also did so. The Babylonians, on the other hand, counted the day from sunrise to sunrise; while the Egyptians and the Romans reckoned it from midnight to midnight (as is commonly done today).

    Although the Hebrews officially began their day in the evening, they sometimes spoke of it as if beginning in the morning. For example, Leviticus 7:15 says: “The flesh of the thanksgiving sacrifice of his communion sacrifices is to be eaten on the day of his offering. He must not save up any of it until morning.” This usage was doubtless simply a matter of convenience of expression, to indicate overnight.

    As mentioned in the creation account, the daylight period is also called day. (Ge 1:5; 8:22) In the Bible it is divided up into natural periods: the morning twilight or morning darkness, just before the day’s beginning (Ps 119:147; 1Sa 30:17); the rising of the sun or dawning (Job 3:9); the morning (Ge 24:54); noon or midday (De 28:29; 1Ki 18:27; Isa 16:3; Ac 22:6); the time of the sunset, marking the day’s close (Ge 15:12; Jos 8:29); and the evening twilight or evening darkness (2Ki 7:5, 7). The times for making certain offerings or the burning of incense by the priests were also time periods known to the people.​—1Ki 18:29, 36; Lu 1:10.

    What is the time “between the two evenings”?

    With reference to the slaying of the Passover lamb on Nisan 14, the Scriptures speak of “the two evenings.” (Ex 12:6) While some commentaries on Jewish tradition present this as the time from noon (when the sun begins to decline) on until sundown, it appears that the correct meaning is that the first evening corresponds with the setting of the sun, and the second evening with the time when the sun’s reflected light or afterglow ends and darkness falls. (De 16:6; Ps 104:19, 20) This understanding was also that offered by the Spanish rabbi Aben-Ezra (1092-1167), as well as by the Samaritans and the Karaite Jews. It is the view presented by such scholars as Michaelis, Rosenmueller, Gesenius, Maurer, Kalisch, Knobel, and Keil.

    There is no indication that the Hebrews used hours in dividing up the day prior to the Babylonian exile. The word “hour” found at Daniel 3:6, 15; 4:19, 33; 5:5 in the King James Version is translated from the Aramaic word sha·ʽahʹ, which, literally, means “a look” and is more correctly translated a “moment.” The use of hours by the Jews, however, did come into regular practice following the exile. As to “the shadow of the steps” referred to at Isaiah 38:8 and 2 Kings 20:8-11, this may possibly refer to a sundial method of keeping time, whereby shadows were projected by the sun on a series of steps. (Shadow That Went Ten Steps Back).

    The early Babylonians used the sexagesimal system based on a mathematical scale of 60. From this system we get our time division whereby the day is partitioned into 24 hours (as well as into two periods of 12 hours each), and each hour into 60 minutes of 60 seconds each.

    In the days of Jesus’ earthly ministry, the practice of dividing the daylight period into hours was common. Thus, at John 11:9 Jesus said: “There are twelve hours of daylight, are there not?” These were generally counted from sunrise to sunset, or from about 6:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. So, “the third hour” would be about 9:00 a.m., and it was at this time that the holy spirit was poured out at Pentecost. (Mt 20:3; Ac 2:15) When Jesus, tired out from a journey, was sitting at Jacob’s fountain it was about “the sixth hour,” or noon, which was also the time when Peter became very hungry at Joppa. (Joh 4:6; Ac 10:9, 10) It was also about noon when darkness fell over all the earth until “the ninth hour,” or about 3:00 p.m., when Jesus expired. (Mt 27:45, 46; Lu 23:44, 46) This ninth hour was also called “the hour of prayer.” (Ac 3:1; 10:3, 4, 30) So, “the seventh hour” would be about 1:00 p.m. and “the eleventh hour,” about 5:00 p.m. (Joh 4:52; Mt 20:6-12) The night was also divided into hours at that time.​—Ac 23:23

    There are times when the Hebrews used ‘day and night’ to mean only a portion of a solar day of 24 hours. For example, 1 Kings 12:5, 12 tells of Rehoboam’s asking Jeroboam and the Israelites to “go away for three days” and then return to him. That he did not mean three full 24-hour days but, rather, a portion of each of three days is seen by the fact that the people came back to him “on the third day.” At Matthew 12:40 the same meaning is given to the “three days and three nights” of Jesus’ stay in Sheol. As the record shows, he was raised to life on “the third day.” The Jewish priests clearly understood this to be the meaning of Jesus’ words, since, in their effort to block his resurrection, they quoted Jesus as saying: “After three days I am to be raised up,” and then they requested Pilate to issue a command for “the grave to be made secure until the third day.”​—Mt 27:62-66; 28:1-6; note other examples in Ge 42:17, 18; Es 4:16; 5:1.

    No names were used by the Hebrews for the days of the week, except for the seventh day, called the Sabbath. Reference was made to the various days by their numerical order. In the days of Jesus and his apostles, the day preceding the Sabbath was called the Preparation. (Mt 28:1; Ac 20:7; Mr 15:42; Joh 19:31) The practice of naming the days after the names of the planets and other heavenly bodies was pagan. The Romans named the days after the Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, and Saturn, but in northern Europe, four of these names were later changed into the Germanic equivalents of the Roman gods whom the days represented.

    Sometimes the word “day” is used to indicate a measure of distance, as in the expressions “a day’s journey” and “a sabbath day’s journey.”​—Nu 11:31; Ac 1:12

    In prophecy a day is at times used to stand for one year. This can be noted at Ezekiel 4:6: “You must lie upon your right side in the second case, and you must carry the error of the house of Judah forty days. A day for a year, a day for a year, is what I have given you.”​—See also Nu 14:34.

    Certain specific numbers of days given in connection with prophecies are: three and a half days (Re 11:9); 10 days (Re 2:10); 40 days (Eze 4:6); 390 days (Eze 4:5); 1,260 days (Re 11:3; 12:6); 1,290 days (Da 12:11); 1,335 days (Da 12:12); and 2,300 days (Da 8:14).

    The term “day(s)” is also used with reference to a time period contemporaneous with a particular person, as for example, “the days of Noah” and “the days of Lot.”​—Lu 17:26-30; Isa 1:1.

    Other cases where the word “day” is used in a flexible or figurative sense are: “the day of God’s creating Adam” (Ge 5:1), “the day of Jehovah” (Zep 1:7), the “day of fury” (Zep 1:15), “the day of salvation” (2Co 6:2), “the day of judgment” (2Pe 3:7), “the great day of God the Almighty” (Re 16:14), and others.

    This flexible use of the word “day” to express units of time of varying length is clearly evident in the Genesis account of creation. Therein is set forth a week of six creative days followed by a seventh day of rest. The week assigned for observance by the Jews under the Law covenant given them by God was a miniature copy of that creative week. (Ex 20:8-11) In the Scriptural record the account of each of the six creative days concludes with the statement: “And there came to be evening and there came to be morning” a first, second, third, fourth, fifth, and sixth day. (Ge 1:5, 8, 13, 19, 23, 31) The seventh day, however, does not have this ending, indicating that this period, during which God has been resting from his creative works toward the earth, continued on. At Hebrews 4:1-10 the apostle Paul indicated that God’s rest day was still continuing in his generation, and that was more than 4,000 years after that seventh-day rest period began. This makes it evident that each creative day, or work period, was at least thousands of years in length. As A Religious Encyclopædia (Vol. I, p. 613) observes: “The days of creation were creative days, stages in the process, but not days of twenty-four hours each.”​—Edited by P. Schaff, 1894.

    The entire period of the six time units or creative “days” dedicated to the preparation of planet Earth is summed up in one all-embracing “day” at Genesis 2:4: “This is a history of the heavens and the earth in the time of their being created, in the day that God made earth and heaven.”

    Man’s situation does not compare with that of the Creator, who does not reside within our solar system and who is not affected by its various cycles and orbits. Of God, who is from time indefinite to time indefinite, the psalmist says: For a thousand years are in your eyes but as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch during the night.” (Ps 90:2, 4) Correspondingly, the apostle Peter writes that “one day is as a thousand years and a thousand years as one day.” (2Pe 3:8) For man, a 1,000-year period represents some 365,242 individual time units of day and night, but to the Creator it can be just one unbroken time period in which he begins the carrying out of some purposeful activity and brings it on to its successful conclusion, much as a man begins a task in the morning and concludes it by the day’s end.

    YHWH is the Originator of our universe in which time, space, motion, mass, and energy have all been proved to be inescapably interrelated. He controls them all according to his purpose, and in dealing with his creatures on earth he makes definite time appointments for his own actions toward them, right down to the “day and hour.” (Mt 24:36; Ga 4:4) He keeps such appointments with the utmost punctuality.

    • Altosackbuteer
      Altosackbuteer  June 8, 2018

      I’ll give you good advice which Dr. Ehrman gave me.

      If you want people to read your postings, TRY to make them as short as you can.

      I fully realize that is sometimes hard. I make long(er) postings myself. But I TRY. You should too.

  14. Pattycake1974
    Pattycake1974  June 6, 2018

    Reading books of scholarship about the Bible is a mentally taxing endeavor for me. Sometimes the author will refer to words in Greek so I have to look up the word. If there’s a lot of scholarly jargon, I have to look that up too. Once that’s done, I have to go back and reread the passage. Just a few pages can wear me out! But, it does stick with me more than reading a trade book. I guess it’s because I’m concentrating so hard on it.

    I had no idea creative writing would be so difficult either. My pet project started out as a novel then I decided I’d rather it be a novella series. Now it’s both a novella and a graphic novel. Some days it makes me want to cry.

    • Altosackbuteer
      Altosackbuteer  June 8, 2018

      Just keep at it. Over the course of time, you will slowly appreciate how much you’ve been learning and absorbing.

  15. Avatar
    rivercrowman  June 6, 2018

    Things I appreciate very much about your books are the Index, foot-Notes, and, in the case of your text book Suggestions For Further Reading. In your book under construction, I suspect I’ll discover a note or two referencing “The Birth of Purgatory” by Jacques Le Goff. You mentioned the book in your comments on a recent post. I’m now only two-thirds of the way through it! You do an amazing amount of researching, reading, highlighting, planning, etc. Best of luck on the writing part.

  16. galah
    galah  June 6, 2018

    I’m not a fast writer but I think it’s fair to say that I’m a consistent researcher. I’ve only been chipping away at the same subject for the better part of three decades.

  17. Avatar
    truthseekerofallthings  June 7, 2018


    The most ancient testimony pointed to is that of 1 Peter 5:13: “She who is in Babylon, a chosen one like you, sends you her greetings.” A footnote in the New American Bible, a modern Roman Catholic translation, identifies this “Babylon” as follows: “Rome which, like ancient Babylon, conquered Jerusalem and destroyed its temple.” Yet, this same Catholic translation acknowledges that, if Peter wrote the letter, “it must be dated before 64-67 A.D., the period within which his execution under Nero took place.” But Jerusalem was not destroyed by the Romans until 70 C.E. So at the time Peter wrote his letter no correspondency existed between Babylon and Rome.

    Thus the idea that Babylon means Rome is simply an interpretation, but is not supported by fact. It was questioned even by Roman Catholic scholars of past centuries, including Peter de Marca, John Baptist Mantuan, Michael de Ceza, Marsile de Padua, John Aventin, John Leland, Charles du Moulin, Louis Ellies Dupin and the renowned Desiderius (Gerhard) Erasmus. Church historian Dupin wrote:

    “The First Epistle of Peter is dated at Babylon. Many of the ancients have understood that name to signify Rome; but no reason appears that could prevail with St. Peter to change the name of Rome into that of Babylon. How could those to whom he wrote understand that Babylon was Rome?”

    Aside from references to “Babylon the Great” in the book of Revelation, only one city is called Babylon in the Holy Scriptures. That city is the Babylon situated on the Euphrates. Could this have been the place from which Peter wrote?

    Yes. Though Babylon declined after its fall to the Medes and Persians, it continued to exist. There was a sizable Jewish population in the area of Babylon in the early centuries of the Common Era. Says The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia: “Babylonia remained a focus of eastern Judaism for centuries, and from the discussions in rabbinical schools there were elaborated the Talm[ud] of Jerus[alem] in the 5th cent[ury] of our era, and the Talm[ud] of Babylon a cent[ury] later.”

    Peter must have meant just what he wrote. This becomes clear from a decision he made some years before writing his first inspired letter. In a meeting with Paul and Barnabas, he agreed to continue devoting his efforts to spreading the gospel among the Jews. We read: “Recognizing that I [Paul] had been entrusted with the gospel for the uncircumcised, just as Peter was for the circumcised (for he who worked through Peter as his apostle among the Jews had been at work in me for the Gentiles) and recognizing, too, the favor bestowed on me, those who were the acknowledged pillars, James, Cephas, and John, gave Barnabas and me the handclasp of fellowship, signifying that we should go to the Gentiles as they to the Jews.” (Gal. 2:7-9, New American Bible) Accordingly, Peter would reasonably have worked in a center of Judaism, such as was Babylon, rather than in Rome, with its predominant Gentile population.

    The claim that Peter was in Rome thus has no basis in the Bible’s own testimony. But what about other ancient writings?


    Clement of Rome, of the first century C.E., is often presented as one who confirms Peter’s stay in Rome. He wrote:

    “Let us set before our eyes the illustrious apostles. Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labours; and when he had at length suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him. Owing to envy, Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance, after being seven times thrown into captivity, compelled to flee, and stoned. After preaching both in the east and west, he gained the illustrious reputation due to his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, and come to the extreme limit of the west, and suffered martyrdom under the prefects.”

    Concerning these comments, Roman Catholic scholar Lardner remarked:

    “From these passages I think it may be justly concluded that Peter and Paul were martyrs at Rome, in the time of Nero’s persecution. For they suffered among the Romans, where Clement was bishop, and in whose name he was writing to the Corinthians.”

    But is this really what Clement said? True, Clement mentions both Peter and Paul. But nowhere does he say that they both suffered a martyr’s death at Rome. He refers only to Paul as preaching “both in the east and west,” implying that Peter was never in the west (serving, rather, in the east, as at Babylon). Thus Clement’s testimony actually argues against Peter’s having been in Rome.


    Another early source cited in support of Peter’s residence at Rome is Ignatius, of the late first century and early second century C.E. Ignatius told Christians at Rome: “I do not, as Peter and Paul, issue commandments unto you. They were apostles; I am but a condemned man.” In explanation of these words, The Catholic Encyclopedia says: “The meaning of this remark must be that the two Apostles laboured personally in Rome, and with Apostolic authority preached the Gospel there.”

    Is the conclusion of The Catholic Encyclopedia sound? Did Ignatius say that both Peter and Paul were in Rome? No, he simply stated that, as apostles, Paul and Peter issued commandments. Be it remembered that commandments can be issued by means of letters, through messengers or even verbally when one is visited by people from other places. There is no need for the one commanding to be personally present in a particular city.


    But some may say, Ah, but did not Irenaeus definitely say that Peter was in Rome? According to the extant writings of Irenaeus (second century C.E.), he did. We read: “Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church.” There is also a reference to the “universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul.” Nevertheless, Irenaeus may not have made these statements. Why not? Because the original Greek writings of Irenaeus are lost. These words attributed to him are translated from a poor Latin version found some hundreds of years later. A Latin scribe could have easily added the points about Peter. That there were similar forgeries is admitted by Louis Ellies Dupin, Roman Catholic church historian. He says:

    “The Catholics invented false histories, false miracles, and false lives of the saints to nourish and keep up the piety of the faithful.”

    The strongest evidence against the statements claimed to be made by Irenaeus is their disagreement with the Bible. As evident from the letter to the Romans, there were Christians in Rome before the apostle Paul ever came to that city. This is acknowledged in the introduction to the book of Romans in the Catholic New American Bible:

    “Since neither early Christian tradition nor Paul’s letter to the Romans mentions a founder of the Christian community in Rome, it may be concluded that the Christian faith came to that city through members of the Jewish community of Jerusalem who were Christian converts.”

    Neither Peter nor Paul, by laboring in Rome, founded the Christian church there. However, on the day of Pentecost 33 C.E., Peter spoke to “sojourners from Rome, both Jews and proselytes,” at Jerusalem. (Acts 2:10) This may be the basis for the traditions that credit Peter with the founding of the church at Rome. But, as the facts show, it is not a sound basis on which to build one’s faith.


    Thus, seeming historical evidence for Peter’s stay at Rome, under close examination, proves to have no real foundation. This is also true of claimed archaeological evidence. Excavations brought to light remains of what is thought to have been a small funeral monument. Those who link this monument with the tomb of Peter base their conclusion on the assumption that he was in Rome. Concerning the bones that were found, the New Catholic Encyclopedia tells us:

    “Anatomical and geological examination indicate that these bones are of the 1st century; among them are the bones of a man of large frame. But there is no way of proving that they are the bones of St. Peter.”

    Hence there is no solid evidence, either archaeological or historical, to establish Peter’s stay in Rome. Biblical evidence is to the contrary. The claim of the Roman Catholic Church concerning the “Apostolic Primacy of Peter” is therefore false!

    • Altosackbuteer
      Altosackbuteer  June 8, 2018

      I will tell you a story.

      As you know, the Roman Catholic Church bases its claim to Primacy on Matthew 16, The Salutation, in which Jesus re-names Simon as Simon Peter, and says, You are Peter (which is a pun which works in Greek; “Peter” in Greek means “rock”) — and upon this rock (which I, Jesus, said that you, Peter, are), I will build my church.

      I used to play in a German beer garden band with a fellow who attended Harvard Divinity School. He either was a classmate or a student of the world-famous Prof. Harvey Cox — who even himself once played trumpet in our band!

      My friend told me, Harvard has in its collection a very rare manuscript of Matthew. He told me it is from the 1st Century, though Prof. Ehrman tells me this is impossible. But whatever; it’s OLD.

      My friend told me, he had seen the manuscript with his own eyes, and the entire section of The Salutation WAS MISSING!

      My friend concluded, The Salutation was added by a later redactor who inserted it into the text in order to give a retroactive and FALSE justification from Jesus that the Roman Church was Prime.

      If The Salutation is a forgery, the Catholic claim of Primacy is garbage.

  18. Rick
    Rick  June 9, 2018

    “16,000 words in a day.” Wow, that is unimaginable as I look at it from the “other end of the spectrum”… As one who wrote letters and short reports. I have literally taken all morning on a letter’s (to the Congress from the Secretary of Defense) opening paragraph!

    Interesting anecdote: I have an attorney friend who will not let his junior attorneys who practice in court write with a word processor… they must dictate for an old school stenographer! He says it preserves their ability to do oral argument.

    • Bart
      Bart  June 10, 2018

      Well, that paragraph was no doubt far more weighty and important!

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