In this week’s Mailbag I deal with a question about how a book written for a popular audience becomes a bestseller, specifically with regard to Misquoting Jesus, my book that has sold the best of all by far. QUESTION: In your previous answer to me you indicated that what makes a bestseller, in the end of the day, is massive media attention. My question now is what sparks this attention. In other words, why, out of all your books, did Misquoting Jesus receive a great attention from the media? RESPONSE: Ha! It’s a great question. I’ll start by saying that if there were a sure-fire formula for how to get media attention, every author in the planet would do it and we would *all* be on the NY Times Bestseller list! But the reality is that there are hundreds of books sold every day in English (I was told some years ago that it’s about 600 per day, but I have no way of knowing if that is right or not; maybe someone [...]
As I understand the question in this Readers’ Mailbag, it is about why my claims about scribes who changed the texts they were copying are so controversial, with some (conservative evangelical) scholars claiming that I overemphasize the differences in our New Testament manuscripts. Here is the question: QUESTION I was wondering how textual critics can even know how the text of the New Testament probably wasn’t corrupted a lot as you would say. What would make it probable? RESPONSE: One of the most interesting things in the rather loud and vociferous denunciations of my book Misquoting Jesus by conservative Christian scholars is that rarely (I can’t remember a single instance, in fact – maybe someone else knows of some) did they dispute any of the facts I marshal in the book. So far as I know, the facts are not in dispute. There were three books written in response to my book, one called Misquoting Truth; another called Misquotes in Misquoting Jesus; and another called Lost in Transmission. I think there was another as [...]
Here's an old interview, way back in October 15, 2006, on my book, "Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why." The Interview was done in Bryant Park in New York City during the New York Times Great Read in the park, with C-SPAN2 Book TV. (Ten years ago now! See what a Spring Chicken I look??? Ah to be young again....) Please adjust gear icon for pseudo high-definition.
I mentioned my mentor, Bruce Metzger, in a recent post. In this blast from the past, I reprint a post I did almost exactly four years ago, in response to a question that I was then asked about how Metzger, a devoted Christian and minister of the church, responded to the fact that I (one of his closest students) lost my faith. The question generated a series of posts on related topics, but here is the one where I actually answer the question: Bruce Metzger Beliefs I have come now, by an unusually circuitous route, to answer the question that got me started in talking about my relationship with Bruce Metzger, my work for the NRSV Bible translation committee, my view of the NRSV as a translation, the textual problems of Luke 22:19-20 and 22:43-44 and, well sundry other things. The reader’s question was how Metzger responded to my loss of faith. When I first got to know him, I was a strong evangelical Christian. In the years before he died, I had become [...]
Sometimes I hear someone criticize me, or another author, by saying “he just wants to sell books.” That has always struck me as a very strange thing to say. Of course I want to sell books. Why else would I write books? Would I want to write books so no one would read them? Has there ever been an author on the face of the planet who wanted to write a book that would not be read? What people actually *mean*by that comment, of course, is far more sinister, snide, and offensive. What they mean is: “he will say anything in a book in order to get people to buy it.” There may indeed be authors for whom this is true. I can’t speak for them, only for myself. And for myself, this is one charge that I really bristle at. Almost no one of course comes out and actually makes the charge directly. But it must be what they mean, since, as I just pointed out, no one actually faults someone for writing a [...]
On March 15, 2007, I had an interview with Patty Satalia for a Pennsylvania State University on Demand Program called "Pennsylvania Inside Out," on my book "Misquoting Jesus: The Story Behind Who Changed the Bible and Why" . In the interview I discuss how the modern Bible was shaped by mistakes and intentional alterations that were made by early scribes who copied the texts. I also explain how realizing this led me to shift my way of thinking about the Bible. We also get into the question -- then very pressing still -- about Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code. It seems so long ago now that everyone was talking about it! Please adjust gear icon for 720p High-Definition:
When my book Misquoting Jesus came out, I had a number of radio and television interviews, including this -- one of my favorites, on the The Diane Rehm Show (December 5, 2005). The show is produced at WAMU 88.5 and distributed by National Public Radio, NPR Worldwide, and SIRIUS satellite radio. This episode was called "Who Changed the Bible and Why?" In the interview I talk about how scribes copying the NT made both mistakes and intentional changes, and how some of these changes involve widely held beliefs about the divinity of Jesus, the Trinity, and the divine origins of the Bible itself. Other issues were raised as well, including, for example, homosexuality as understood in Jesus' time and the Christmas holiday. Please adjust gear icon for 720p High-Definition:
In my previous post I discussed the strategies behind giving a title to a scholarly book. When it comes to trade books, written for popular audiences, it is a different ballgame altogether. Whereas scholarly books are meant to sound erudite and learned, or if they are meant to be “clever” then only clever to those on the academic inside who catch the allusions, trade books are meant to be witty and intriguing for a general reader, and a sign that the book will be really interesting and about something that the reader wants to learn more about. In the best cases, the reader – a non-scholar – should read the title and think, “Huh, I’d like to know about that!” or “Huh, I wonder that that’s about.” The trick is to be able to grab a reader’s attention without being overly sensationalized, and that’s a very fine line indeed. It’s hard to know whether a title will accomplish its task or not. I thought my last book “How Jesus Became God” would be a real [...]
Here is a version of my lecture "Misquoting Jesus." Some of you have seen a different version of the lecture (I'm sure I've posted one!); I'm particularly fond of this particular one, both because of its setting in the Washington National Cathedral and because, well, I just think I was on better form than usual. The lecture was given on Feb. 6, 2007.
I have decided to add a new feature to my blog. There have been a number of video's recorded of my lectures and interviews, and I thought it might be interesting to post these on occasion here on the blog combined with my added comments. My most successful popular book so far has been Misquoting Jesus. After it was out for a while and finally "took off," I got asked to give a bunch of lectures on the topic. In fact, I still *do* give lectures on the topic. Well, usually, it's the same lecture! So I won't be posting every one of them -- one is enough. This is one of the earlier ones I did, at Stanford University on April 25, 2007. This was part of Stanford's Heyns Lecture Series. The lecture was given at Cubberley Auditorium, Stanford University Campus. The lecture was called "Misquoting Jesus: Scribes Who Altered Scripture and Readers Who May Never Know." The original flyer announcing the event is here in PDF format. One of [...]