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Steps Toward Publishing the (a) Book

I am now nearly done with the draft of my book Jesus Before the Gospels (whatever it will eventually will be called), and want to say sundry things about the actual writing of the book here near the end.   (Before I do:  if any of you has any questions about the topic I’m covering or anything relevant you would like me to post on, let me know:  if I don’t have issues to address involving memory, the historical Jesus, oral tradition, and so on, I’ll move on to other things on the blog.)

First, in an earlier post I gave members of the blog an option of reading the book in manuscript form in advance.   In case you missed it, here is the offer, which is still open and will be for another three days only.   I am using this opportunity as a way of raising money for the blog (well, for the Bart Ehrman Foundation, which, as you know, gives all the money raised by the blog to charities dealing with hunger and homelessness).   And so, I will give anyone who is able and willing to donate $1000 a chance to read the book (you’d have a month) and make comments on it before I send it into the publisher.  It’s a lot of money, I know.  But some people on the blog can afford it, and it would give you an unusual chance to read the book in progress.

I will obviously take everyone’s comments into account when preparing the final draft.   When I say the book is in progress, I mean that basically, as far as I’m concerned, it’s good to go.  Still, when readers tell me it needs changes, I pay attention.   I will not be looking so much for typos (these normally get caught in the process of sending to the publisher, having proof readers go over it, going over it myself, having an editor go over it, etc. etc.) as comments about substance and writing style.   My very favorite comment, the one I really want, is “It’s perfect in every way; don’t change a thing!”   OK, I rarely get that comment, but still, it’s one of the options.

Several people have already taken me up on the offer and we have raised several thousand dollars already.   Possibly we can raise some more!

I’ve never had lay people  …

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Another Jewish Miracle Worker
Help! My Views of Memory



  1. Avatar
    Jason  May 4, 2015

    Do you ever try to hide Easter eggs in the versions you send to the publishers? Word games or scholarly inside jokes?

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    James  May 4, 2015

    William Lane Craig correctly asserts (I think–am I right?) that Peter, James, Mary Magdalene (and others, though, Matthew says some doubted) came early to believe they had seen the risen Lord. How accurately to Corinthians, Luke, Matthew record or reflect their memories? Or is it the reports of others of which we read? How close can we get to the very origins of the central dogma of Christianity, Jesus coming back to life?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 6, 2015

      I discuss all this at some length in my book How Jesus Became God.

  3. Avatar
    dfogarty1  May 4, 2015

    I am really looking forward to this book. Here’s my worry. You are set to make significant comment about memory, neurology and psychology. These are critical issues with respect to the Development of any religion. I wonder whether you might be savaged by those who think you’re going out of your lane. I don’t share this view. I just worry that this is one criticism that might be leveled.

    I intend to husband the funds to get the pre-reading.

    • Bart
      Bart  May 6, 2015

      Yes, that’s why I’m having real experts on memory read it for me first.

      • Avatar
        Adam0685  May 6, 2015

        I think this will be the main approach that your critics will take in trying to discredit your thesis. They will try to write it off like they wrote off Reza Aslan (by the way, I don’t agree with Reza’s thesis myself, but many of his critics arguments was he doesn’t have a PhD in NT). They might take this approach with your book, regardless of whether what you say is accurate. However, many many many more will appreciate what you say and recognize it’s validity and will engage the material you present.

        • Avatar
          Adam0685  May 6, 2015

          Oh, having a leading memory on expert write a forward to it might help your critics focus on the material, but then maybe not…

  4. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  May 4, 2015

    Quite a process! What a lot of intensive work! Thanks for sharing this information about the process. It sounds much like producing a “baby” and it’s getting close to time for a glass of champagne.

    With regard to “memory,” it would be interesting to see how different readers of this blog have different memories of the chapter summaries. Here is my “gist” CliffNotes summary from “memory”:

    1. Chapter 1 – Significant historical people, like Abraham Lincoln, are remembered in different ways by different groups of people.
    2. Chapter 2 – Jesus was/is also remembered in different ways by different groups of people.
    3. Chapter 3 – Eyewitness memories are often unreliable. Moreover, the Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses anyway. Furthermore, accounts of Gospel events changed and were “misremembered” as these accounts were orally transmitted prior to the writing of the Gospels.
    4. Chapter 4 – Much written in the Gospels consists of historical “gist” memories, but much written in The Gospels about the last week of the life of Jesus was “misremembered.”
    5. Chapter 5 – People living in oral cultures, including those living in first century Palestine, have/had no better memories than we have today. Moreover, much written in the Gospels about the birth and life of Jesus, prior to the last week of His life, was also “misremembered.”
    6. Chapter 6 – Different groups have different “collective memories” of events like the Civil War and the life and death of Jesus.
    7. Chapter 7 – In conclusion, after the death of Jesus, both historical “gist” information and “misremembered” information, some of which is “collective memory,” was orally transmitted about Jesus for several decades before the Gospels were written by anonymous authors who were not eyewitnesses to the events they describe.

  5. Avatar
    RGM-ills  May 5, 2015

    I will just begin “Forged” in a couple of weeks.

  6. Avatar
    Pattycake1974  May 5, 2015

    Why does it take a full year to publish? Why so long?

  7. Avatar
    tawfiq  May 5, 2015

    Fascinating subject and one I am especially interested in. Would you be willing to share the list of books you read in preparation for writing this book?

    Thank you.

  8. Avatar
    Brian  May 5, 2015

    What I’d like to know is if you’ve discovered tendencies in the ways that we remember and misremember that bear on how likely a particular biblical story is.

  9. Avatar
    alexius105  May 5, 2015

    Where can I see the manuscript?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 6, 2015

      If you’re willing to make the donation, I’ll send it to you!

  10. Avatar
    Stephen  May 5, 2015

    Prof Ehrman

    It’s been pointed out that while all the Gospel writers describe Jesus’ shared last meal with his disciples before his arrest only Luke (following Paul?) contributes the idea that Jesus’ followers were to celebrate the meal repeatedly “in remembrance of” Jesus. Are you going to discuss this aspect of conscious, institutionalized memory in your book? Shared memory as a form of worship? Perhaps Paul’s “word from the Lord” took a tradition he inherited and made it into a mechanism to bind the followers of Christ in his communities together in response to controversies within the developing church?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 6, 2015

      No, I decided not to deal with that aspect of things. A bit complicated for a general reader. But I thought about it!!

  11. Avatar
    madmargie  May 5, 2015

    I am anxiously awaiting the book!

  12. Avatar
    Tom  May 5, 2015

    I believe you mentioned some time back that you were thinking of doing a book on how the Hebrew Bible became the Xtn Old Testament.

    Is it still in the back of your mind?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 6, 2015

      Yup, it will probably be the next one, currently scheduled to be two years after this one.

      • Avatar
        Tom  May 6, 2015

        I am looking forward to it already.

        It’s really great to have this blog and be able to keep track of your book in progress. A rare glimpse into the creative process.

  13. Avatar
    Jim  May 5, 2015

    Hoping that the process goes smoothly and that your upcoming book gets fast tracked to an earlier publication date.

    Just a what if type question. Do you think that Paul could have been a source of some oral traditions that made their way into the gospels? For example, the gospel writer of Mark may or may not (?) have read any of Paul’s letters, but maybe heard about the bread/wine symbolizing Jesus’ body/blood described in 1 Cor 11.23-26 by way of oral transmission. He then incorporated the story as he heard it into Mark 14.22-24. In other words, Paul was the original source of this symbolism, as iirc James Tabor has suggested.

    There is no way of know this for sure, but I was wondering what you thought about Paul being an originator of a couple of oral traditions that made their way into the gospels?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 6, 2015

      It’s possible. But Paul claims that he got the tradition from others.

  14. Avatar
    Jim  May 5, 2015

    Hey, a historical moment … well for me anyway; the first time I ask more than one question on the same post thus providing a double measure of annoyance.

    Could you consider devoting a post (sometime when/if you get some spare time) on your thoughts on the Matthew Conflator Hypothesis?

    For those who are interested in an outline of MHC, Allan Garrow has summarized this hypothesis and compared it to both the two source and the Farrer hypothesis at: http://www.alangarrow.com/mch.html


    • Bart
      Bart  May 6, 2015

      I’m afraid I don’t know what the hypothesis is.

      • Avatar
        AGarrow  May 6, 2015

        The Matthew Conflator Hypothesis (MCH) starts with Mark, then Luke uses Mark, then Matthew conflates related material in Mark, Luke and other sources. My videos explaining the hypothesis have received some great comments – e.g. http://blog.christilling.de/2015/01/alan-garrow-presents-matthew-conflator.html ; Prof Richard Bauckham describes them as ‘brilliant’ and ‘compelling’.

        A feature of the MCH is that it includes the possibility that Matthew sometimes conflates Luke with Luke’s own source – the latter qualifying as a mini ‘Q’ inasmuch as these sayings are, ultimately, used by both Luke and Matthew. I’ve just posted a second set of videos arguing that an example of such a ‘Q’ has been available, but overlooked, for 130+ years. http://www.alangarrow.com/extantq.html

  15. Avatar
    cchen326  May 19, 2015

    Would you consider narrating with your own voice for the audible version of this book? I have your other books on audible and hearing someone else voice doesn’t always feel compatible. I know some other authors narrate the book they put on audible.

    Would you consider narrating with your own voice for the audible version of this book?
    Is there a reason why most authors don’t narrate the books they put on audible besides time?

    • Bart
      Bart  May 19, 2015

      I did that with one of my books (I think it was Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code). It’s very time consuming and difficult! I’ve never been asked to do others, but if asked I think I wouldn’t do it. I’m not a professional reader and it is a very trying experience!

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