6 votes, average: 5.00 out of 56 votes, average: 5.00 out of 56 votes, average: 5.00 out of 56 votes, average: 5.00 out of 56 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5 (6 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)
You need to be a registered member to rate this post.

The Flukes of Life and My Teaching Career

I’ve been concerned for the past months (among many other things, of course) about PhD’s trying to get teaching positions in colleges and universities. Even when there is not an economy-busting pandemic, it’s hard. Very hard. Many years ago when I was on the market, I had an awful time trying to find a job .

Oddly enough, I see now, I posted on this very topic, on this very date during the first year of the blog (2012). Here’s what I said then.


My students are alternatively comforted and chagrined to learn how hard it was for me to get a teaching position. It makes them feel good that they are not alone, but bad that they too might have a hard time – even harder. I was on the job market while I was writing my dissertation.. And even though there were job openings, I couldn’t get an interview to save my soul. Part of the problem was that my PhD was from a theological seminary, and a lot of the jobs were at secular institutions – state universities, private colleges, and the like. Most places simply don’t want to take a chance on someone who has been trained in a theological environment. Especially someone like me at the time. I had never set foot in a secular setting since high school! Starting when I was 17, I was at Moody Bible Institute (3 years), Wheaton College (2 years), and then Princeton Seminary (7 years). Yikes!

And even theological schools and Christian colleges were not, by and large, interested in me, in no small measure because of my area of expertise. Greek manuscripts? Patristic citations of the New Testament? Didymus the Blind??? Are you kidding? Most places wanted someone who was an expert on the letters of Paul, or the Gospel of John, or biblical hermeneutics, or – well, or anything besides what I was an expert in.

I tried my best to convince schools that I was not a typical textual critic and that I had broad range across the New Testament and related fields. I could teach Introductory courses in NT and OT, courses on Paul, on the Synoptics, on John, on … you name it! And I published articles in other areas of NT studies to prove it. But it was a tough job market, and no one saw any reason to take a chance. There were tons of other candidates who actually looked like the sort of thing they were looking for. The cards were really stacked against me.

I don’t believe in miracles, but if I did, this would be one. I was …

To read the rest of this post, you’ll need to be a blog member. It’s easy to join. And why not? You get five posts a week, and the vast majority of them, unlike this one, are not about my story but about history — the history of the NT and earliest Christianity. Interested in that? The membership fee is small, and every penny goes to help those in need.

You need to be logged in to see this part of the content. Please Login to access.


Does Basic Information about the NT *Matter*? My Pop Quiz
Why Is This Happening To Us?



  1. Avatar
    plparker  August 21, 2020

    When I first saw the title of this post I thought you were going to talk about planning your classroom work in a pandemic. How’s that going? It sounds like the in-person teaching is on again, off again. How do you cope with those uncertainties?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 23, 2020

      Yeah, maybe I’ll post on that. Not optimal, but I have a *fantastic* class of first year students.

  2. Avatar
    Steefen  August 21, 2020

    Was there an in-depth vision from Jesus to Paul for Paul to get verbatim Jesus and Jerusalem Church accounts (for example, the last Supper, 1 Cor. 11:23-25.

    As a second example, here, these verses have the same meaning:

    Call down blessings on your persecutors–blessings, not curses. – Romans 12: 14

    Bless those who curse you, pray for those who treat you spitefully. – Luke 6: 28

    The Beatitudes could be an extrapolation from Paul’s thoughts, based on his in-depth, knowledge dump via vision from Jesus. // I am thinking Oral Tradition from Paul could be a first draft, while later, with the gospels, thoughts are extrapolated, organized, and polished more.

    These are two examples, but there is a Jesus-Paul debate which speaks of how Paul was or was not so indifferent to the accounts of Jesus’s life presented in the gospels.

    Question: How do you explain the verbatim and similar accounts in Paul with the gospel accounts? Was it the powerful conversion vision or did gospels use Pauline letters to crystallize gospel accounts of Jesus? Thank you.

    • Bart
      Bart  August 23, 2020

      Catchy one-liners and set liturgical sayings are teh ones most likely to be repeated in very similar ways in different contexts, without literary dependence (think of how many people say the Lord’s prayer the same, but NOT because they are reading the same texts; it’s just how they learned it.)

      • Avatar
        Steefen  August 26, 2020

        Jesus declared, “This is my blood … drink.”

        James declared, “Brothers, listen to me! … abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals, AND FROM BLOOD. For Moses has been proclaimed in every city from ancient times and is read in the synagogues on every Sabbath.” Acts 15: 13, 20-21.

        The catchy one-liners and set liturgical sayings of the Last Supper was no part of the Jerusalem Church connected with James. James accused Paul and threatened him with punishment for saying circumcision was unnecessary. He surely did not bend on this.

           Any Israelite or any alien living among them who eats ANY blood—I will set My face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from his people.
           …I have given the blood to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar…
        Leviticus 17: 10-11

  3. Avatar
    JeffreyFavot  August 21, 2020

    It was no fluke at all. God is sovereign over all matters in his creation. He orchestrated that very day in eternity past. God seen how much work you put into your education and career field. What a grace, to know you’d go on to write the books you have and He still allowed you to get your dream job. Amazing grace.

  4. Sherwinnipeger
    Sherwinnipeger  August 21, 2020

    Out of curiosity Dr. Ehrman, so why the interest in the past? Why not about the future instead? (like CRISPR DNA, or new innovations in technology maybe, etc.)

    I meant (not in a bad way), to know what probably happened in antiquity and to know the origin of the circumstance that influenced history is great. But that’s it, it already happened can’t do much to change the past.

    Even sometimes I try to slowly unfold things (some of your lectures in youtube & podcast) in front of the eyes of my fundamental relatives and friends,most stiffened their backs in defense. They take it as if I’m challenging their faith or satan has taken over me. I’m not sure if knowing the most probable truth in the history of antiquity will make a significant change (if it will it is probably a very slow progression). Because so many chooses not to use their “God” given brains.

    • Bart
      Bart  August 23, 2020

      I”m very interested in the future! It’s not an either or! But the grounds for “studying” it aren’t the same.

  5. Avatar
    GeoffClifton  August 22, 2020

    Yes, life is often like that and, as Professor Ehrman says, others’ misfortunes can sometimes be the making of people. One historical example I can think of is Oliver Cromwell – an obscure nobody who would have remained an obscure nobody, who just happened to inherit a significant amount of money (following the death of a close relative) at an opportune time thereby catapulting him into the gentry class and thence into Parliament and ultimately he became Lord Protector (effectively an absolute ruler) of England. Yes, life is a funny thing.

    • Avatar
      Kirktrumb59  August 24, 2020

      And look what happened eventually to Cromwell. Luke I:52 in reverse, then a 180 degree turn to the original. Couldn’t have happened to a nicer guy.

  6. Avatar
    Steefen  August 22, 2020

    If you had gone back to get a second graduate degree or a second PhD in one of the more in-demand fields, would that have helped? Were you fearful that might be required?

  7. Avatar
    veritas  August 22, 2020

    I always wonder how we(fortunate ones) call unexplained/meaningful life occurrences, funny things. I think most of us who lives a fairly comfortable life can attest to this. The question that troubles me is , * What is the source of this unique selection that gives many hope and a chance in life and many more despair and no chance? I am not implying an existence of a God, rather why do so many around the world are left with no chance or hope like we enjoy and life becomes no opportunity for them but a matter of surviving and inevitably death ?

  8. Avatar
    JeffreyFavot  August 23, 2020

    Dr Ehrman,

    What do you think about Eusebius’ testimony about Jesus family being brought before the emperor at the end of the first century. They were asked whether they came from the line of David and they confirmed it to be true. Your thoughts

    • Bart
      Bart  August 24, 2020

      I think it’s absolutely inconceivable that the Roman emperor would have the least interest at all in who was following Jesus or related to him at the end of the first century. At the end of the third century, possibly. See my book The Triumph of Christianity if you want to know why.

    • Avatar
      bethallen  August 26, 2020

      You and Dianne Bergant have been instrumental in my faith journey – know your flukes have provided significant meaning and purpose for me in my seeking and efforts to lead a values-based lifestyle.

  9. Avatar
    AndrewB  August 23, 2020

    Hello, Dr. Ehrman,

    While teaching & researching at a university would be the ideal, failing that, what would have been the next best form of employment for you in your perspective, considering your interests, knowledge, and skills? Is there a runner-up job that biblical scholars-who-can’t-get-a-uni-position aim for? (When they’re atheists-agnostics)?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 24, 2020

      Nope, nothing in particular. Research Librarian? When it looked like I wouldn’t be getting a job in 1987, I started exploring secretarial options.

  10. Avatar
    Isaac  August 26, 2020

    Hello Bart,
    What an absolute waste of an intellect and erudition if you did not end up where you are. Thank Heavens for Rutgers!

You must be logged in to post a comment.