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Suggestions for Improving the Blog (Its Content)

In my previous post I discussed some of the ideas that had been put forth for increasing the amount of money that the blog takes in – which is my ultimate goal, as I’ve repeatedly said.  I realize that for most of you (all of you?), that’s *not* the ultimate goal.  Most of you are interested in what the blog can provide by way of substance and content.  So, on that topic….

I have tried to vary my posts since this endeavor started over two years ago now, and looking at the categories in which the posts appear, I think that has worked pretty well.   And so far I have not run out of things to say and, to my knowledge, I have not yet repeated a post.  Maybe I have and didn’t notice, and you were too kind to point it out!   (Sometimes I have had ideas and searched only to see, yup, did that one already….)

I have received a number of good suggestions about possible ways to change the blog to make it more attractive both to current members and to potential users.   Here are three that have especially struck my fancy, the first of which I’ve mentioned before as I’ve been mulling it over for … forever.

 

1.  A Discussion Forum.

I have thought about this, planned to do this, almost did it, decided to wait on it, thought about it some more, and on and on.   A discussion forum would allow those of you making comments to go back and forth directly with one another without having to go through me.  No mediator, per se –you could talk directly to each other on either the topics of my posts or on anything related that you felt like.  It would have to involve the CIA (Christianity in Antiquity).  And there would be a moderator who would approve all the posts to make sure things didn’t get out of hand and nasty, and that no one was dominating or trying to dominate the conversation.  If things got a bit crazy we might have to limit the number or length of comments.   But it does seem like a good idea to me.  To you too?  If so, let me know.  I don’t really see a downside, but if you do, let me know.

The deal is, though, that I simply don’t have time to moderate.  A couple of you, back in the winter, volunteered, but your personal circumstances may have changed and possibly you can’t do it now.  So let me ask: is there someone on the list who might be willing to do it?  QUALIFICATIONS:  you would need to be reasonable conversant with early Christianity to be able to make sure everyone stays on track and you would need to devote something like 15 minutes a day (?  20? I’m guessing) on, say, five days a week.

If people want this kind of forum, and we decide to go ahead, I would choose a moderator and we would give it a test run for, say, a month, and then re-evaluate.  What do you think?

 

2.  What Am I Reading?

A couple of people have suggested that I devote some posts to the research that I’m doing as I’m doing it, i.e., that I talk about some of the things that I’m reading.  I think this is an excellent idea.

I take notes on just about every book and article that I read.   I have to say, this (writing down notes) is a major pain in the backside.  It’s a part of the job I really don’t like.   My standard way of doing my research is to spend part of a day reading – whacking my way through a book, reading a few articles, whatever.  I try to vary what I do, since I have a dreadfully low threshold of boredom, and need  to keep things lively – which means diverse.  And I’ve gotten extremely good at being able to know what in a book or an article I really need to master, what I need to read carefully, what I need only to skim, and what I can completely skip over.   This was a talent I started to develop already in high school, when I was working on my debate topic for the year, and had mounds of material to get through.  These days I attack a book by “sucking its marrow out” (that’s how I describe it to myself): getting the really important stuff out of it and then moving on.

Anyway, I highlight everything I read.   And then, the next day (I can never bring myself to do it the same day), I summarize the book (or articles) on a computer file and pull out all the really important quotations, if there are any, that I want to use.  Some books I can summarize in a paragraph.  Some take many pages.  It just depends on how relevant it is for my work (and how good it is!).   But then I almost never have to reread a book; I have my notes on it permanently.  (Unless I decide I need more detailed notes for some reason).

Anyway, it would be quite easy (I think….) to devote an occasional post to one of the things that I’d been reading, highlighting, and taking notes on recently.   I’m thinking, at this point, of maybe having a post a week like this – the most interesting thing that I’ve read that previous week.   What do you think?  My hunch is that I’ll try it for a month or two, and see if people enjoy it or not.

 

3. Guest Posts?

One suggestion that I receive a lot is: wouldn’t it be good to have *other* scholars contribute guest posts to the blog, to get some other perspectives and points of view?   I think the answer is: ABSOLUTELY YES!!   The problem is that it is easier to want than to achieve.  I have asked a *number* of fellow scholars, of different persuasions/interests/expertise to contribute one or more posts to the blog.   So far, if you’ve been paying attention, I haven’t had a lot of success.  Most flat-out say no thank you.  Some put me off and never do it.   The reason?  Well, they’re busy and they have too many other things to do.   But I will keep at it.  Feel free to suggest names and topics to me (some of the names that regularly get mentioned – I won’t name them here – simply won’t do it, I’m sorry to say).

Well, many of you made many other good suggestions — and they’re all in the hopper.  I appreciate the thought that went into them.   Many thanks again for responding to my request.

 

 


Clarification!
National Cathedral Lecture – Misquoting Jesus

53

Comments

  1. Avatar
    ben.holman  August 11, 2014

    Dr. Ehrman,

    I think a list of recommended reading could be cool, separated by topic. As for guest scholars, and posts: A back and forth on the blog between you and Tom Wright debating Apocalyptic (the meaning of “coming of the son of man”; did Jesus’ predictions failed; if the genre/passages are primarily intended literally or metaphorically; etc.) would be awesome! His views are gaining tons of popularity in the evangelical apologetics community, and I think a resource where its countered in a scholarly way, to point people to would be great. Gotta make that happen!

    Best,
    Ben

  2. Avatar
    mary  August 11, 2014

    My 2 denarius: I like the idea of posts of what you are reading (#2) and your research. The discussion forum (#1) is good too. The guests posts (#3) are of some interest but not on the top of my list.

  3. Avatar
    willow  August 11, 2014

    Good morning.
    Short, and sweet, as they say:
    #1 and #3, would most certainly be nice; #2, however, would be absolutely WONDERFUL!

  4. Avatar
    TomTerrific  August 11, 2014

    I think a discussion forum would be a bad idea. It would likely be dominated by a few motormouths who think they know something. You recently cautioned a commentor to limit his/her questions to one a day. I get enough of that type in the regular comments.

    OTOH, an occasional update on your current project(s) would be very welcome as well as guest posts.

  5. Fearguth
    Fearguth  August 11, 2014

    I strongly endorse suggestions 1 & 2.

  6. gmatthews
    gmatthews  August 11, 2014

    I like the idea of a forum and have been hoping for a while that we’d see one. I would volunteer to be a moderator as well. I’m a moderator on other unrelated forums.

  7. Avatar
    qaelith2112  August 11, 2014

    I’ve enjoyed Joe Hoffman’s writings. He has written some quite lengthy highly substantive essays on his own blog, but hasn’t posted much in the past 6-12 months. Most of what he has written in the past year have been bits of poetry or miscellaneous commentary on things unrelated or only very peripherally related to his primary work. I’d like to see more of his primary work.

  8. Avatar
    Wilusa  August 11, 2014

    Topic #1 – I don’t see the necessity for it, since even now, if we choose, we can reply to someone else’s Comment. Maybe, with the change you contemplate, people would feel more comfortable about doing that? I sort of like things the way they are now, because I assume most of us – like me – aren’t very knowledgeable.

    Topic #2 – Sounds great!

    Topic #3 – I’ve never been anxious for posts by other scholars.

  9. Avatar
    Wilusa  August 11, 2014

    Just a question, for whenever you have time to get to it…how do scholars *know* people in Jesus’s day didn’t make the distinction we do between dreams and waking visions? I’m not denying it, just – quite seriously – wondering how you’ve determined it.

    I’ve realized I’d put more faith in a possibly-veridical dream, because dreams themselves are “normal” phenomena, and most of us believe “visions” are *ab*normal. But I’d never let a dream convince me a person who’d died was still alive in the sense Jesus’s followers seem to have believed he was – alive, in the same identity, in this dimensional realm.

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 12, 2014

      Good question. I asked my student Jason Combs, who is writing a dissertation on a topic that involves this question. This is what he replied:

      There are more words in Greek than we have in English for “vision” and “dream”. So, just from the standpoint of translation, it is impossible to find direct equivalents. Today we tend to distinguish between visions and dreams in terms of consciousness or control of rational faculties (was the person asleep or awake?), but our understanding of these concepts is heavily influenced by post-enlightenment rationality and post-Freudian psychology — approaches to the mind and to individual identity that did not exist in antiquity. Granted, some ancient authors were more precise with their words than others. For instance, Artemidorus, the second-century dream interpreter, defines the several of the terms. He says that an ENUPNION (often translated as “dream”) is an insignificant dream, a HORAMA (often translated as “vision”) is a significant dream with an obvious meaning, and an ONEIROS (also translated as “dream”) is a significant dream that requires allegorical interpretation — this last one was Artemidorus’s speciality. Most ancient authors, however, did not use these terms in such a technical way, and very few were consistent. Sometimes an author would use terms translated as both “vision” and “dream” when describing the same event. So, the best approach when reading about “visions” or “dreams” in ancient texts is to pay close attention to how the authors themselves demonstrate that such phenomena are significant. Some ancient authors do emphasize that the dreamer/visionary was awake or was in between asleep and awake, others suggest that the same dream/vision occurred multiple times or that another person had the same dream/vision. Some describe an object (apport) being transmitted from the dream-world into the waking world, others verify their experience based on its agreement with a Homeric story or a work of art. When a dream/vision is particularly significant, most authors will use combinations of these characteristics.

      • Avatar
        BrianUlrich  August 12, 2014

        Marginally related point possibly of interest to the room: A historian named A. Roger Ekirch has argued, mainly in the context of British history, that human sleep patterns have undergone a significant shift with the spread of artificial lighting, and links this to cultural shifts involving how we perceive sleep, night, dreams, and perhaps “visions,” as well.

      • Avatar
        Wilusa  August 15, 2014

        Thanks for the quick reply! I wish your student well with his dissertation.

  10. Robertus
    Robertus  August 11, 2014

    I think moderating posts in a forum, especially approving each post one-by-one would quickly become a full-time job. It might work out here better than on other forums since members have to pay to be here. Forums I’ve visited in the past (all free) do not approve posts in advance but intervene when one member flags a post as problematic. That might work OK here and be less work. Internet fundamentalists and Christian or atheist apologists do not bode well for this being an easy job, certainly not one I would like to volunteer for! But it is a great idea, even if I do say so myself.

    • Avatar
      Adam0685  August 13, 2014

      If not a “report abuse” option for those who get out of hand, creating a form where people can report an out of hand user rather than a out of hand post might make the moderating part manageable, rather than having all posts read by a moderator before being approved.

  11. Avatar
    Adam0685  August 11, 2014

    1. Discussion forum: Good idea. Many be a feature that causes some who are on the fence to join the blog.
    2. What you’re reading/projects you’re working on: Really good idea. Will expose readers to other cutting-edge research.
    3. Guest posts: You can also frame your request in terms of focusing on the benefits of posting—such as giving them an opportunity to discuss a topic or issue they recently wrote on in book, which may be an incentive to contribute (and by doing so, indirectly promote their book!), since you have thousands members as well as thousands of people on Facebook who see a preview of your post.

  12. Avatar
    cjcruz  August 11, 2014

    All good ideas, and please do not forget the “gift a membership” functionality.

  13. Josephsluna
    Josephsluna  August 11, 2014

    Funny thee Greek format of
    Number down word
    Is similar to gospel of Thomas
    And they supposedly found or has been around before
    As found wise
    They found Plato ( Greek ) writing with the gospel of peter etc lol

  14. Avatar
    toddfrederick  August 11, 2014

    1. I like the idea of discussion among members, but it must be kept to a theme, be academic in nature, and respectful. I have seen such open blogs and they often deteriorate to the level of name calling, obscenity, or postings of long scriptural passages to prove one point or another. It must be moderated with rules for postings. I have the time and somewhat of a background to help but my current WiFi connection is terrible….2. I like the idea of you giving book reviews. such would be helpful to many of us since we often can’t financially afford to buy books sight-unseen. A preview would be very appreciated….and, 3. I have always benefited from the guest posts you have had in the past and the videos of presentation. I know a scholar who is doing work on the Gospel of John and other writings of John who would be very happy to post articles on specific biblical issues…he has some very interesting ideas and interpretations, all based on textual materials or the writings of other early Christian authors….His name is James David Audlin. I could provide contact information and his previous books can be found listed on amazon and through his publisher.

  15. Avatar
    doug  August 11, 2014

    I like the idea of hearing about the things you’ve been reading. I’m often looking for good books or articles to read. I’d also be interested in learning who some of your favorite scholarly authors are on the NT and early Christianity.

  16. Avatar
    JimmyLLang  August 11, 2014

    I would like to see others guest post who were fundamentalist that turned agnostic/atheist/or at least very skeptical. What were defining moments and issues for them. This would be similar perhaps to the series Pete Enns has recently done on his blog.

  17. Avatar
    Damiano  August 11, 2014

    Dear Prof. Ehrman,
    first and foremost thank you so much for sharing your passion with us! I really appreciate this and I can only imagine how busy your schedule must be also without this blog. So, thank you! For the same reason I feel a bit hesitant to suggest anything which could lead to any additional workload… But if I may throw in my two cents (hopefully it’s not an inappropriate idiom on this blog 😉 here it goes:
    Would it be possible to add a place where people drop questions to you? Similar questions from different members could be pooled together and you would need to answer only once so to speak. I’m asking because members ask you questions sometimes which are not directly related to the topic dealt with in the post while others feel at odds with this habit. For instance, I’ve been wondering if Acts 18:12-17 is a later interpolation (Crispus vs. Sosthenes; discontinous narrative?) wanted to ask you but wasn’t sure where. I was tempted to go back to one of your older posts dedicated to Acts but… well, I guess I made my point. In any event: THANK YOU!
    Greetings from Zurich

  18. Avatar
    Hana1080  August 11, 2014

    It’s not just content which is all ready rich if not unequaled but accessibility that drives contributions. One of your readers suggested a format that was more “mobile friendly” and I think it is a solid suggestion… I’m taking a page from Yahoo’s flickr site which has undergone a massive change to become more mobile friendly. The result has been a sudden if not explosive increase in viewer numbers. Also, given your books popularity, is there an insert that also mentions not only this site but your compassionate dedication to helping others in need? (My books are all kindle or ibook editions so I might no be receiving inserts or dedication pages). I’ve also noticed that Barnes and Nobles offers a “loan” program at a sharp discount for the one book I can’t afford yet The Bible. Is it possible that your own site could set up a library kind of opportunity where books could be rented for short periods of time and the proceeds go also to your charity? Just brainstorming and wishing you well.

  19. Avatar
    Hana1080  August 11, 2014

    As far as content, I like as well your mixed media blogs. Do you know which types of blogs gain more attention than others?

    • Bart Ehrman
      Bart Ehrman  August 12, 2014

      We’ve just started a statistical analysis. But I can tell easily which facebook posts, from the blog, get the most attention.

  20. Avatar
    jgranade  August 11, 2014

    Suggestion for Guest Posts – how about Richard Friedman (Univ. of Georgia) for insight on the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible?

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