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Threads and Comments on the Blog

This post will discuss several issues connected with the blog; hopefully that will be of some interest to anyone who pays good money to be on it.  If you are ever inclined to make a comment on any of the posts, or a comment on any of the comments, then please do read the bit at the end.

I think this is a good moment to pause a second and think about the blog.   I have spent the last two and a half months on a thread that came out of nowhere.  For those of you with long memories, you will recall that back in April I was in the middle of a completely different thread, about my current understandings of where the traditional Christian view of the afterlife (that you die and your soul goes to heaven or hell) came from.  This is connected to my current book project that I am tentatively calling “The Invention of the Afterlife: A History of Heaven and Hell” (or some such thing).

This is the second book of a two-book deal that I negotiated two years ago about this time with my new publisher Simon & Schuster.   The first book was/is The Triumph of Christianity: How A Forbidden Religion Swept the World.  That book is done and in production, scheduled to appear on February 13.  I am completely finished with it, apart from working out with the publisher the cover design (a very difficult process in this case).   When I secured my contract with Simon & Schuster, we agreed that this first book would be about how Christianity went from being the beliefs of a handful of rustic day-laborers in a backwater of the Roman empire a short while after Jesus’ death to becoming, within four hundred years, a religion of 30 million converts and the official religion of Rome, then to become the most important political, social, cultural, economic – not to mention religious – institution the Western world has ever seen.  How did *that* happen???  That’s what the first book is about.

The second was a “book to be named later.”  In other words, Simon & Schuster gave me a contract on the second book even though we didn’t know what it would be about  When I finished writing Triumph last year I decided that next I wanted to work on the history of heaven and hell, that is, the historical development of these foundational doctrines within the Christian tradition.   I started doing some serious research on the topic in the fall and through the winter, and was writing a fairly sustained thread of posts on that – was smack dab in the middle of the thread, in fact, back in April – when I decided to interrupt the thread with a single post explaining what I had done on the last day of my undergraduate course on the New Testament, the day before.

On that day, every semester, I tell students something about myself that they have wanted to know: what I really believe and why I have come to believe it.  This is something that never comes up during the semester, since I teach about the New Testament from a historical perspective, not from the point of view of my personal religious beliefs.   I basically tell the students the story of my faith journey for about 30 minutes, then take 15-20 minutes of questions, on anything the students want to ask.

My idea on the blog was simply to list via bullet points what I covered in those 30 minutes.  I started explaining it on a post and realized I would need two or three to do a proper job of it.  Then more.  Then more.  As I’ve indicated, that was two and a half months ago.  I’ve done almost nothing else on the blog since.

So, I’m done with that now.  Thank God, you might say.

But it does make me wonder: is this an appropriate and useful sort of thread for the blog?  The blog is really about the New Testament and the history of early Christianity from Jesus up through the end of the fourth Christian century, and all connected issues.  I try to deal with topics of major interest to anyone intrigued (greatly or slightly) about such things, covering such areas as the Hebrew Bible, religion in the Greek and Roman worlds, the life and teachings of the historical Jesus, the life and letters of Paul, the authorship of the writings of the New Testament, the formation of the Christian canon of Scripture, the Apostolic Fathers, heresy and orthodoxy in early Christianity, the role of women in the church, persecution and martyrdom of early Christians, the formation of early Christian doctrine, the spread of the Christian religion, the conversion of the emperor Constantine, Jewish-Christian relations in antiquity, and …. And just about everything else of interest to those who are … interested.

So this thread has been a different thing.  And now it’s done.  And I would like feedback – not on the thread per se, but on the blog.  My sense is that it is best to mix it up by having (mainly ) academic discussions, and (some) personal discussions; to talk history and to talk about matters of personal importance (personal to me; personal to you).  But what do you think?

Also, while we’re talking about the blog, let me make a few comments (and welcome suggestions) about comments that you and your fellow blog-members make on my posts and on each others’ comments.

  • First, please do feel free to comment on each and everything you like!
  • The blog is set up so that I have to read and approve every comment before it appears.
  • I approve of the vast majority of all comments.
  • When I do not approve a comment (this is an important point) it is almost always for one of the following reasons:
    • The comment is not respectful of another person or his or her views. This blog is remarkable for the cordiality we all show one another, even when we disagree.  I do not allow name-calling or branding or overly snide remarks.  We need to keep it civil, even if that is not the typical style for Internet exchange.  I often have to make a judgment call, and probably don’t make the right one always.  But I do my best to weed out inappropriate comments.
    • The comment borders on the proselytizing. It doesn’t matter to me if you are Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, pagan, atheist, or anything else – you are welcome on the blog and welcome to state your views.  But if it looks like you are trying to convert someone, I will not allow that here.  There are lots of borderline cases, as many of you know, but I do my best to keep us on point (and the point is not to convert others)
    • The comment is not relevant to the purposes of the blog. Sometimes people sound off on other things, and these days, of course, it is tempting for *ALL* of us to state in rather forceful terms our political views.  I myself have exceedingly strong political opinions (especially these days), but I am not allowing myself to go there on the blog, and I sometimes will not accept comments if they too go there, without some kind of connection to what the blog is supposed to be about.
  • A final and also very important point: If you have a lot to say, and enjoy making very long comments – fair enough!  But let me note two realities:
    • It is hard, virtually impossible, for me, myself, personally to interact at length with lengthy comments, lengthy questions, or multiple questions all embedded in a single comment. I wish I had more time to deal with blog issues: but I don’t have, given the other demands on my time and life.  So I do the best I can.  I hope you’ll understand.
    • If you want your voice to be heard by others on the blog, you are FAR more likely to get a hearing if your comment is short and to the point than if it goes on and on and on. I know it’s hard to write succinctly, but you’ll simply get more people to hear you if you do.

So, please give me comments about the blog, the threads, the comments, and anything else.  And please feel free to ask me questions for the mailbag.  I think things are going very well, and I’m hopeful that all things will simply get better with time.

 


Lecture at Washington & Jefferson College
Teaching Religion as an Agnostic

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Comments

  1. Denglish1020  July 25, 2017

    Everything on this blog matters to me. I respect the scholarly threads, but I also respect the personal threads as well. I joined this blog because I was on a journey from being an evangelical Christian to being an agnostic. Much of your personal journey reflects my personal journey. I also wanted to better understand the foundations of the faith I once adhered to. I came to be an agnostic based on my own observations and insights, but the blog has helped me put it all into perspective. Also, I’m happy that the money I spend on being here all goes to help others. I look forward to a new entry each day




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    • tcasto  August 4, 2017

      My thoughts exactly. The blog and the many other Ehrman publications have hepled me to finally express what I have felt for most of my life.




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  2. RVBlake  July 25, 2017

    I enjoy the Blog immensely. I arrived about the time you began posting about your growing disbelief, which resonated with me. I look forward to reading about historical Christianity, which I find to be a fascinating subject about which I could learn more.




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  3. Boltonian  July 25, 2017

    Keep going, Bart. Having run a blog myself, I know that you won’t please everybody all the time. Personally, I would have preferred you to have finished the thread on Cephas/Peter first but nonetheless I found this topic fascinating.

    Re-your ground rules, I heartily approve. My solutions are:

    1) I don’t read anything that smacks of proselytizing – there are one or two regulars who have sailed a bit too close to the wind, IMO, and I now do not read their comments;
    2) I don’t read anything that is longer than two paras (bullet points are ok) or is not relevant to the thread;
    3) There is only one frequent contributer who, in my experience, comes close to rudeness, so I now no longer read his/her comments.

    Having said that, I am sure that I have been guilty of 2) but I hope not 3) nor, I think, 1).




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  4. exPCman  July 25, 2017

    This posting motivates me to get up from my seat in the balcony (where I have lurked for some time) to comment on this most recent theme, which I have found most fascinating. So no, I do not respond to this announcement that this theme has now come to an end with joy or relief … or regret … but with great appreciation for your having shared with us your “faith journey.” Thanks!!!!!




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  5. Rthompsonmdog  July 25, 2017

    Look forward to your posts whether scholarly or more personal.




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  6. ddecker54  July 25, 2017

    Bart –

    I’ve been on the blog for about 6 months and enjoy it quite a bit. I very much appreciate your remarks about how you edit the comments. Lately, I haven’t looked at the comments because, in my opinion, some of them have slipped through your editing criteria, particularly proselytizing. The only suggestion I may make is for you to tighten up some of those edits, and I’ll try the comments section again.

    I very much look forward to your book on the afterlife. I live in Georgia and yesterday attended a funeral service for the father of a dear friend. The services were administered by a Southern Baptist preacher and so he quoted Psalms (“…the shadow of the valley of death..”), referred to the story of Lazarus, etc. but his talk was peppered with descriptions of what the deceased is now experiencing “being able to see God”, “living with a glorified body”, etc. I could not help but wonder how these beliefs came to be so prevalent knowing full well that they were inventions of the early Christians.

    Thanks for your time.




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  7. jhague  July 25, 2017

    I think the blog is going very well. I appreciate all of the time you put into your posts and comments.




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  8. RonaldTaska  July 25, 2017

    1. This 2 and 1/2 months of blogs have been the best of your blogs and is the making of a good autobiography. That is my two cents worth. These blogs have been incredibly helpful to me, Thanks so much.

    2. Oddly and unexpectedly, the recent political stuff has greatly affected my religious views because it has demonstrated, in my humble opinion, how a large group of people can become dogmatically convinced of something that, based on overwhelming evidence, makes absolutely no reasonable sense, at least to me. Did something similar happen with early Christianity? I think it is a reasonable question and it is not meant to be disrespectful.




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    • Bart
      Bart  July 26, 2017

      Yes, I know what you mean. As to early Christianity, it’s a great question — but unanswerable I’m afraid. I wish we could take some scientific surveys from, say, the year 90, 190, 290, and 390!!




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  9. antoinelamond
    antoinelamond  July 25, 2017

    I totally agree with you.




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  10. RonaldTaska  July 25, 2017

    I would be curious to know how the responses to this series of 2 and 1/2 months of blogs have gone in general. Can they be placed in categories in some way? Have there been any responses that have changed your views about anything in anyway?




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    • Bart
      Bart  July 26, 2017

      Most (there have been many) have been extremely positive. One or two have suggested I don’t know what I’m talking about. 🙂




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      • godspell  July 26, 2017

        Speaking for no one but myself, I stated (as a fact) that there are subjects you are better-versed in.

        Honestly, you could not have picked a subject anyone is less well-versed in, but there are those who have devoted themselves to things like The Problem of Evil, and whether God likes us or not, and you know very well that those of your readers who are of similar beliefs to yourself are going to feel more comfortable speaking out in a situation like this.

        The positive comments came, best as I could tell, entirely from those who are also atheist/agnostic. But everyone should be interested in the early history of Christianity, and there has been a great deal of diversity on this blog, which I should think would be encouraging to you.

        Why risk that by turning it into a series of religious tracts?

        And yes, that’s what you’ve been handing out the last few months.

        And I doubt you made a single convert, but neither do those Jehovah’s Witnesses who keep showing up in our building, and it never seems to discourage them.

        Nice people. Snappy dressers.

        😉




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        • Pattycake1974
          Pattycake1974  July 27, 2017

          Hey godspell,

          If I’m understanding you correctly, you think Bart has been pushing the idea that there’s no God. And forcefully so. From my perspective, he’s just been trying to clear up some misunderstandings about how he lost his faith. I don’t see that he’s advocating for atheism.




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          • GTGeek88  July 29, 2017

            Spot on, Patty.




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          • godspell  July 30, 2017

            You didn’t understand me correctly.

            I’m not at all convinced Bart doesn’t believe there’s a God.

            It’s just not the God he wanted.

            Everybody observes the world around them, and comes to conclusions.

            Vastly differing conclusions.

            Making one suspect that personal experiences and observations, however valuable and interesting, are not in themselves proof of anything.

            And therefore, not what the study of history is about, and this blog is supposed to be about the study of history. Many scholars who are easily Bart’s equal have come to very different conclusions than him about Life, the Universe, and Everything.

            It went on much too long and yes, he is handing out tracts,but I suppose just about everybody does that. And certainly everybody with a blog. 🙂




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          • Bart
            Bart  July 31, 2017

            On the contrary, I don’t believe in God! (Not just the God I was raised with or would have liked to believe existed)




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          • godspell  July 31, 2017

            Then how are you an agnostic? Leaning in any direction? You passively disbelieve, while atheists actively do so? These labels are not very helpful, are they?

            And why are you so angry at a being (if God can be called that, and Scotus Erigena suggested otherwise) that never existed?

            If you truly disbelieved in God, you woudln’t be increasingly obsessed with the perfect world you think that God both could and should have created.

            Even though that perfect world would also be a world utterly devoid of both freedom and faith.

            Without which, a human life is meaningless.




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          • godspell  July 31, 2017

            Hmm, thought I’d responded, don’t see it.

            My response is that if you completely disbelieve in God, how can you be so angry at Him/Her/It/Whatall.

            Belief is never yes/no, on/off, black/white. Belief is analog not digital (same is true for life). You can’t get rid of your past beliefs by changing them–they continue to impact you throughout life. Not merely what you believed, but how you believed it. What is a fundamentalist? Somebody who wants to not merely know the truth, but possess it, as a static unchanging entity, a universal constant. Does this only apply to theists? Not hardly. It’s a habit of thought that crosses many a conceptual divide.

            Your recent posts have reminded me of those people who don’t believe in Santa, and will never forgive Him for not stuffing that pony down their chimneys when they were ten. 😉




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      • SidDhartha1953  August 1, 2017

        Curious to be told you don’t know what you’re talking about — when you’re talking about yourself.

        I appreciated your willingness to disclose the process that led to your abandonment of belief in a Deity. It was interesting in part because it is very different from my own process of unbelieving and, later, coming to a place where belief and unbelief are not the issue.
        On the whole, I read more for the scholarly content, but again, the personal asides are good too. They reassure me I was neither stupid nor crazy, at least on account of the things I used to believe without doubt.




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  11. Pattycake1974
    Pattycake1974  July 25, 2017

    I enjoy the mixture of topics. It would be nice if we were allowed to edit our comments up until the time they’re moderated. Sometimes I realize it wasn’t necessary to type out a novel, or I want to add something, but it’s too late. There’s no take-backs.

    On some of the previous threads, the posts are numbered in order. (Part 1, Part 2, etc…) Numbering them might keep you from repeatedly answering the same questions when people come into the thread at random times.




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    • Bart
      Bart  July 26, 2017

      I’d suggest you (not just you, but everyone) edit your comments before sending them off. Once they’re off that’s it! Some people have asked me to enter edits for them, but I really can’t do that. But everyone’s in the same boat and most readers are entirely sympathetic.




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      • Pattycake1974
        Pattycake1974  July 27, 2017

        I haven’t been clear about the reasoning behind editing our comments. I thought maybe it was because, hey, we wrote it so we have to own it type of thing. When we submit a comment, we have 5 minutes to edit, cancel, or save it. I guess my question is, why only 5 minutes?




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        • Bart
          Bart  July 28, 2017

          We use a system that sets the limits for us. But why not simply read through your comments and edit them before submitting them? It doesn’t take any more time than doing it later! (Plus, if it was later than 5 minutes, some readers may have already read what you originally said by then!)




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          • llamensdor  July 29, 2017

            I was in the construction business for decades, and one day a laborer said to me, “How come there’s not enough
            time to get it right the first time, but there’s always enough time to repair it later?”




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  12. DavidBeaman  July 25, 2017

    Yes, please keep the personal stuff limited. I respect you and your scholarship, but it is the scholarship that is the most interesting and useful to me. You are somewhat of a celebrity writer and some people are drawn to celebrity, but I am not. If I were in a position to be a personal friend of yours, it wouldn’t be because of your celebrity; it would be because of who you are as a human being.

    As for the last part of your post about comments, I agree with you completely.




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  13. Silver  July 25, 2017

    I think it is a fantastic blog and you have the balance right. I am particularly grateful that you tolerate questions which are not always germane to the thread in progress. For me it is a matter of asking when the thought occurs!




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  14. godspell  July 25, 2017

    These things can get out of hand. We can all understand that. I look forward to returning to serious historical discussion, and I hope I have never given the impression I feel that I deserve a personal response to all of my posts here.

    I will say, however, that if this discussion of your personal beliefs–which are precisely that, as as deserving of respect as anyone else’s–had continued much longer, I’d have seriously considered unsubscribing.




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  15. cwhetstone  July 25, 2017

    I have enjoyed reading about your Journey. Along the way we learned a lot about what it takes to pursue a Doctorate (hours and years of reading, research, and writing. )
    Thank you for sharing your personal story of your Christian experience. I own several of your books and enjoy your blog very much.




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  16. stokerslodge  July 25, 2017

    Re ‘ My sense is that it is best to mix it up by having (mainly ) academic discussions, and (some) personal discussions; to talk history and to talk about matters of personal importance (personal to me; personal to you). But what do you think?’. I second that emotion Bart. Keep on keeping on!




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  17. dgdelta  July 25, 2017

    Prof. Ehrman, I find your books and blog fascinating reading. The blog gives a sense of immediacy…an almost intimate window into your thoughts. As a former Presbyterian and current Humanist, I have a nearly prurient interest in learning the true history of the Bible and Christianity…something about being lied to as a child. You and Finkelstein are my favorite authors.

    The recent posts didn’t hold my interest so much, but you certainly didn’t lose me as a reader. I know there is more history to come.

    Thank you.




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  18. Carl  July 25, 2017

    Mainly academic discussions and some personal discussions sounds like a good brew to me. It is quite a privilege to be allowed to ask such technical questions off the cuff, and if it was strictly academic I would still consider that I am getting an absolute bargain.

    I like the personal discussions too. If the New Testament is a collection of viewpoints on how different authors understood God on a personal level, then it is certainly relevant and useful. It felt like the last thread went through a similar process that early Christians probably experienced, and it allowed us to explore and test our own beliefs. Adding greater context. In my opinion.

    I felt that it was done in a respectful manner without any hidden agenda, considering that you were essentially sharing your personal opinion on what can be a very emotive subject. On the comments, good to know what the parameters are. They are very fair and will keep them in mind. Always interesting to read the many diverse viewpoints.




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  19. kadmiral
    kadmiral  July 25, 2017

    Yes, please continue to blog from time to time on your own personal past and present experiences/beliefs concerning how you interact and have been/are affected by all you discuss on the blog; you are human, and so are we. It is a good thing.

    Something that would be helpful is to have clearer categorization for your varied posts. I still can’t figure out how to access “Bart Revisits Debates” posts, for example. Maybe I just don’t get it though.




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    • kadmiral
      kadmiral  July 25, 2017

      Oh, I think I figured out how to access the past posts.




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  20. rivercrowman  July 25, 2017

    Bart, I enjoy your blog and would continue to renew if you tripled the annual fee (something I’ve suggested more than once). Your blog is a restful alternative to listening to my born-again neighbor who has persistently tried to get me to “accept Jesus.” I was only slightly taken aback when you shared a personal note that one of your children became an atheist at age eight. … At what age did you give him his first Bible?




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    • Bart
      Bart  July 27, 2017

      Hmm… I’m not sure I ever *did* give him a Bible. Maybe that was the problem!




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  21. Michael Toon  July 25, 2017

    Bart,

    It is my personal view (and I think it is the view of a decent segment of subscribing members of the blog) that the posts that explores the personal, very human Bart, are much appreciated. You happen to be one of the most important NT scholars in modern memory (and to my memory, one of a few academics who is actually trained in a specific field of New Testament textual criticism) (a category of technical study that makes you say often: “It is not for the faint of heart,” etc. etc.)

    One of the principle reasons why that is important is because it strongly indicates how committed YOU are to uncovering the FACTS for establishing what the original words were in the manuscript tradition. And Christianity, as you noted several times, has largely gave the Western world its culture, philosophy, and a number of things as matters of raw history.

    Which gets us to the foundation of our beliefs (or the renouncement of them after long, painful, sustained periods of self-reflection). So when the academic Bart occasionally opens up about how he has personally to come his conclusions of he finds a world where an interventionist God is not present in it, after decades of solid belief, it becomes a matter of DEEP interest to many of us.

    For example, and a very important one, when you post your ruminations on the problem of suffering in the world, or, when you write articles during holidays to encourage to kindly and warmly remind people that grinding poverty, homelessness, and stinging pain simply don’t go away by wishful thinking; that in the interest of unifying this world, we have communal obligations to easing the plight of others who are subjects of less-than-ideal circumstances than our own; we (WE!) pay attention with considerable interest to all this!




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  22. justyn  July 25, 2017

    I only joined the blog at the beginning of the “thread” you mentioned, although I have read some of your other posts from your archives.

    I’ve really enjoyed reading your thread, and it has particularly resonated because elements of your journey mirror my own experience, so thank you.

    To answer your question “is this an appropriate and useful sort of thread for the blog?” I would certainly say that it is *because* it is a blog! I’ve read around 5 or 6 of your books. Your books carefully explain the subject matter at hand, sometimes alluding to your past beliefs, but always staying focused on the topic. So your blog is exactly where I would expect to turn for some more personal background on you, the author. A blog is more freeform and doesn’t have to be as carefully directed as a book, and would lose some of its character if it was.

    Of course I am also looking forward to more posts on other subjects!




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  23. Steefen  July 25, 2017

    I like the blog.
    Diversion into what you really believe? Didn’t bother me.




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  24. UCCLMrh  July 25, 2017

    I like your plan of mostly posts based on your academic work, with occasional detours to talk about other issues. Now you’ve explained your personal belief journey at considerable length, and I’m looking forward to hearing mostly about your academic work for a while. That’s the part I’m more interested in.




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  25. flshrP  July 25, 2017

    Keep doing what you’re doing. I find something of interest in almost every thread that’s started on the blog.

    I don’t mind lengthy posts to threads provided the usual standards of punctuation and paragraphing are followed. I really detest run-on sentences of more than 100 words and 1000+ word stream of consciousness paragraphs. These abominations are not worth my time to even attempt to read and understand. That’s a shame because very often good ideas and information are sacrificed by such sloppiness. To me these shortcomings indicate a lack of clear thought on the part of the person posting to the thread.




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  26. Judith  July 25, 2017

    Discovering you and your books, debates and the blog are among the most important happenings in my life.




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  27. hasankhan  July 25, 2017

    JiI like the fact that we can interact with you and other members of the blog. And your personal views gives us insight into your thinking which is useful when reading your work. As long it’s related to theology in general or Christianity in particular, it’s great. Political views, etc are not useful on this blog I think.

    I’ve been posting long comments lately just to give detailed answers to some questions your post raises. I try to keep therm shorter now.

    Finally for Muslims, Quran is extension of same message that was given to earlier prophets (including Jesus) so I find it super interesting to compare and quote verses of Quran to provide alternate view on a topic, missing information, answer to questions, etc. Since we believe sayings and teachings of Jesus are misquoted in bible and often corrupted that’s why there are contradictions, confusions, etc

    So quoting Quran as the missing link is the intention so we can have intellectual and respectful discussion.

    Is there any problem with that?




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    • Bart
      Bart  July 27, 2017

      No problem here. I do want to emphasize that this blog is really about scholarship on early Christianity and its implications, not about any of the other great religions of the world. But anything relevant to what we are talking about is always welcome!




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  28. gwayersdds  July 25, 2017

    I want to be one of the first to buy your Heaven and Hell book. It sounds like it will be fascinating. I truly enjoy reading the blog even if it does seem to go off on a tangent occasionally but that is what keeps it interesting and keeps it from becoming stale.




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  29. doug  July 25, 2017

    It was inspiring to me to read about how you faced the problems of the world and made hard decisions in your thinking and actions. Ideas don’t exist in a vacuum. They often affect how we live (such as this blog existing because of Bart’s ideas and values). Thank you for that mix of ideas and life. I would welcome more of this mixture; it makes the ideas more interesting.




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  30. Robert  July 25, 2017

    I am usually more interested in scholarly discussions here, but I did very much appreciate your sharing your personal story of belief and loss of faith. Was really surprised by the speaking in tongues part and would love to hear more about it but I suspect that might also be somewhat embarrassing from your current perspective.




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  31. Pattycake1974
    Pattycake1974  July 25, 2017

    When I reply to someone’s comment, can you tell if I’m replying to, say, dragonfly? Or does it all look the same? I put dragonfly’s name in the comment today, but I didn’t to a couple of others, so I’m just wondering if I should be doing that all the time.

    If you reply to me, then I reply to you, can you see that I’m commenting to your reply?




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    • Bart
      Bart  July 27, 2017

      I only can see that you are replying to someone else; I don’t see what s/he said that you are replying to. But what I see is not what you see, and I’ve never been quite clear what it is a regular member of the blog sees (as opposed to what I do)




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  32. Duke12  July 25, 2017

    I, too, greatly appreciate the lack of trolling in the blog comments. That in itself is well worth the price of admission. I also appreciate your emphasis on clearly explained evidence.




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  33. John Uzoigwe  July 25, 2017

    Dr. Bart how did Christians came up with the idea of Jesus being the only begotten son of God considering what the scriptures says in Genesis 6: 1-4.




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      Bart  July 27, 2017

      “Only begotten” is a translation of a Greek word that literally means “unique” (“only begotten” is simply a bad translation that is commonly found in older versions of the English Bible). The idea is that others can be sons / children of God, but Jesus is unique among them. He is THE Son of God.




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      • RVBlake  July 27, 2017

        Since you’ve brought up the topic of translation, I don’t think I’m going too far afield . I’ve read somewhere, in some atheist tract, that the original Biblical term for Mary was the Hebrew word “amah,” meaning “young girl.” The author of the tract went on to say that a mistranslation into Greek resulted in the word “virgin.” Any truth to that?




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          Bart  July 28, 2017

          No, that’s not quite it. (It’s kinda close, but not really there.) It would take a while to explain, so I think I’ll add the question to my Mailbag and answer there.




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  34. Hormiga  July 25, 2017

    Speaking entirely for my agnostic/atheistic self, I’m mostly interested in your explanations of academic and technical points concerning the origins and structure of the New Testament and related matters — what your books are about, in other words. An occasional short excursion into personal and theological matters doesn’t hurt, but that’s not really my cup of tea.

    P.S.: I’d love to see a discussion of just what beliefs John the Baptist, Jesus and Paul had in common and where they differed, where those beliefs came from (late Second Temple apocalypticism, as I understand it) and who else shared them both before and after Jesus’s ministry.




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  35. plparker  July 25, 2017

    I like the current mix. I wouldn’t change a thing. Keep up the good work!




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  36. wostraub  July 25, 2017

    Dear Bart — Thanks for the invitation for comments!

    Since my own journey away from the Christian faith resulted from my career-long background in physics and math (I was a devout Southern Baptist for many years), I would like to see you address some of the pertinent issues associated with physics, particularly quantum mechanics and cosmology.

    You’ve alluded on occasion to a desire to know more about these topics yourself, but since you’re not a specialist you may want to feature guest blogs from scientists who have experienced their own journeys, either into or out of the faith. There’s no shortage of notable scientists out there, and since you’re a “notable” yourself you shouldn’t have much trouble getting them to participate.

    Again, much thanks.




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      Bart  July 27, 2017

      I”m very interested in, and read about, cosmology, but I’m a complete amateur; and quantum mechanics — no way. But if you know of any experts — or if anyone on the blog already is an expert — I’m open to the idea of guest posts, so long as they stick to the intention of the blog.




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    • dragonfly  July 28, 2017

      Wostraub, what does quantum mechanics and cosmology have to do with early Christianity?




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  37. Ronhenn  July 25, 2017

    I like the losing-your-faith discussions since I went through a similar experience. I also find it interesting to hear about your classes and what goes on in them. I suspect many feel the same way.




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  38. webattorney  July 25, 2017

    I enjoy reading about your “personal” posts on how you became a fundamentalist and how you became an agnostic. Very interesting. Maybe you should have several Moderators (certain long time members whom you trust more) so approving posts take less of your time.

    By the way, this site is one of the few sites where I actually feel I learn something every time I read some posts and comments.




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  39. dragonfly  July 25, 2017

    This thread about your personal journey has been good. The comments have been interesting. I’ve been a bit surprised by how much some people seem to be against the conclusions you’ve reached. Almost as if it affects them personally.




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  40. NancyGKnapp  July 26, 2017

    In my opinion, you are the moderator and we depend you to keep us on track. I agree the blog should stick to the scholarly approach to the different aspects of Christianity from the beginning of the movement to around the 4th century.. I did appreciate your faith journey only because it made me ponder my own journey.. But, the comparison of faith journeys is not the purpose of the blog. I am reading your books and also studying your Great Courses. The blog for me is an extension of the classroom. I feel like I am back in school in a good way. I can hardly wait to learn about your research into the afterlife.




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  41. zipzom  July 26, 2017

    This is a fantastic blog. I love the frequency of the regular posts. The website is easy to use with great functionality and content. The content strikes the perfect balance between academic discussions and personal reflections. I have particularly enjoyed the last thread relating to your faith journey and why you believe what you do. Please continue doing what you do and supporting charities through the blog. Thank you.




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  42. Triassicman  July 26, 2017

    Hi Bart, I do enjoy the blogs diverse topics both academic and personal. Your personal beliefs and how they changed over time through your search for truth is inspiring. I remember the day when my brother destroyed my belief in Santa Clause and all my older siblings laughed at how I had been duped into believing in such a man. I healed emotionally rather quickly as my parents explained that the story was given me to make Xmas a more happy event. I had an entirely different experience when I discovered that my Christian beliefs were also false. This was because my parents still believed fervently in them and were deeply disappointed in my departure from the faith. I discovered that a lot of my emotions (love) for the faith were conflated with my love for my parents. It has been 40yrs since I became agnostic yet I still feel a sense of sadness that I disappointed my parents. I suspect other people hang on to their faith, and ignore facts that might threaten it, due to this factor.




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  43. Seeker1952  July 26, 2017

    I found your personal views very valuable and appropriate. (I’ve saved them as a good summary of something very close to my own views.) But, while extremely interested to hear your personal views, I do think that your scholarship should continue to be the main point of the blog. Otherwise, it might lose its gravitas. For example, I would love to hear your personal political views too but realize that would dramatically change the nature of the blog. In the political arena, the blog might become little else but (often less than thoughtful) opinions.

    I wonder if you could sometimes leave questions for readers to reflect on and perhaps respond to. Not that I would expect you to respond to all of them, especially, if is as likely, the reader responses are lengthy. Perhaps other readers could respond though.




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  44. Gabe_Grinstead  July 26, 2017

    Just wanted to say that your blog is great. No complaints.




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  45. Wilusa  July 26, 2017

    The first thing I want to say is that I think the subtitle for the “Triumph” book is terrific! I can’t wait to read it – and I’m sure the title and subtitle will appeal to people who are browsing in bookstores.

    About the blog: I love it, and I don’t see any need for changes. When there are topics that don’t interest me – like the Hebrew Bible – I don’t complain, because I know they are of interest to others, and you’ll eventually get back to topics that interest me. I enjoyed reading about your spiritual journey (though most of us knew the gist of it already), because it, and the comments, kept me continually being reminded of how different all our paths have been. Fascinating.

    For example, I’ve realized I hadn’t thought *anyone* believed “speaking in tongues” took place in the modern world! I thought the idea was just that when the Holy Spirit entered a group of disciples at that “Pentecost” after Jesus’s death, it miraculously gave *them* the ability to speak in the languages of the places they’d go to proselytize.

    But hey, I’m also still wondering about Cephas and Peter!




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    • llamensdor  July 29, 2017

      You’re not interested in the Hebrew bible? The New Testament is meaningless without it. Why do you think Christians made the Jewish scriptures part of their canon?




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      • Wilusa  July 30, 2017

        All of us have different interests! My only interest in the New Testament is that an open-minded reading of it reveals irreconcilable differences among the four Gospels. And I learned that from Bart’s video courses, without even having to read it.

        I am interested in speculation about the real lives of Jesus, Judas, et al. A “human interest” thing – I know at the outset that I don’t share any of their beliefs. I hope I’ll be able to read talmoore’s planned novel!




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  46. sladesg  July 26, 2017

    I enjoy the mix of scholarship and personal stories, but I’d lean towards the scholarship simply because I crave knowledge so much. I will say, however, that I’ve very much enjoyed the personal anecdotes simply because I’ve found myself in a similar frame of mind, growing up in a Christian household/community but then starting to question the information passed on to me from others. It’s nice to see that you (seemingly) bear no ill will towards Christians, and that you aren’t trying to “proselytize” them to atheism. At the end of the day, it’s simply about facts, and where those lead us that we should be concerned with. Thanks again for what you accomplish and passing that on to others!




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  47. ronaldus67
    ronaldus67  July 26, 2017

    The blog is just great! I have to admit that I’m a little ‘addicted’ to it. Though I’m not acting on an academic level, I find your writing style very accessible. Well, at least for an ordinary bloke like me. I appreciate the fact that you integrate your personal views once a while. I think that matters a great deal. Maybe personal views and beliefs are subjective by definition. However, you always leave room for your audience to develop their own opinion by thinking critically. All in all your blog is of high quality.




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  48. anthonygale  July 26, 2017

    I like the blog and agree that it is best to keep it mostly academic while allowing some personal discussion. If we didn’t have personal opinions and feelings about the topics, I don’t think we’d be interested in them or on the blog in the first place. Many of us have (or have had) strong religious beliefs, so there is much value is sharing our experiences and ideas with those who can relate. But it could easily turn into something it isn’t meant to be if taken too far or done too often.




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  49. bamurray  July 26, 2017

    I appreciate the diversity of topics on the blog. I’d especially like to encourage you to continue to post (occasionally) the scholarly/technical posts.




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  50. twiskus  July 26, 2017

    This is a phenomenal blog. Truly, it is. I have found it VERY helpful to hear some personal side (especially how things affected/worked out for your immediate family) as I am in the situation myself of no longer believing my fundamentalist Christian roots and being married with 3 young kids. Your academics (books and debates, especially) have been crucially instrumental in my journey. Thank you!




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  51. Jay  July 27, 2017

    Hello Dr. Ehrman. First day here. First hour in fact.

    I’ve been struggling with certain aspects of my fundamentalist Christian faith for years. I finally decided to stop ignoring the doubts, dig deep, and figure out why so many things didn’t add up. That search led me to your many YouTube debates — and those led me here.

    I am extremely grateful for your work and honest scholarship — but intimidated by the many, many ramifications for my life. Everything seems upside down and inside out for me. As I watch the dominoes fall, so do life-long positions on everything from politics to tastes in music to… well… everything.

    So I sincerely appreciate the historical work and evidence. But I’m equally hungry for personal deconversion accounts like yours. I have not read your last 2 months of posts. But I’m eager to.

    One last word of thanks… Thank you for not being a rabid anti-theist-type like so many on YouTube, etc. It’s your honest, scholarly, and nonthreatening approach that made your difficult teachings accessible to me.

    I like your “Happy Agnostic” position.

    OK. First comment done. From here on… brevity. =)




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  52. John4
    John4  July 27, 2017

    I love your blog, Bart. I read it first thing each morning, before turning to the news section of my electronic paper. Your blog works for me the way George Dolan’s old front page column in the Fort Worth Star Telegram worked for my Dad: a way to ease into the morning over a cup of coffee (or, in my case, Postum, lol).

    Your blog, it seems to me, is about you and your life’s work. I have very much enjoyed the “you” threads: this recent one about your faith journey, your “Metzger and Me” thread, and others. The “you” threads provide helpful context for the “life’s work” thread.

    I am thrilled that you will answer our questions here.

    Many, many thanks! 😀




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  53. nbraith1975  July 27, 2017

    A list of why I like this blog:
    1. It makes ME think.




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  54. TheologyMaven  July 28, 2017

    I’d say “keep the mix”. I like the blog best as it is like having a class at school only cheaper (my school is $700 per unit and suppose this was 4 units each quarter, four quarters, that would be 11,200), with no tests and papers required! From an expert in the field! With all the $ going to charity! What’s not to like?
    No it’s not exactly the same, but having excellent teacher and community of people interested in the topic who all contribute from different angles. It’s kind of all the best of learning for me. Thank you so much for doing this!




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  55. Chasdot  July 28, 2017

    Bart, your books, this blog and your Great Courses series has provided me a wealth of information on my own personal journey and I wish to thank you for that.

    As an academic and a previous religious conservative, I heavily rely on the blog (and especially the apocalyptic part) to use in discussion at our annual LBGTQ conference (we have a four college consortium) in very Northern NY to understand why religious conservatives (Southern Baptists and Independent Baptists particularly) act the way they do.

    The organizer of the conference sought me out this year and said, “We always want to include you because you help us understand how and why the other side, who we really don’t understand, acts and thinks the way they do.” Bart, without the variety of the blogs, books and Great Course series, I could not have done this. I’m already tenured at one of the four colleges, so this conference doesn’t help further my career, but it does help those young men and women who may feel “unabled” to feel “enabled.”




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  56. GTGeek88  July 29, 2017

    I’ve enjoyed the thread on how your beliefs changed over time. We’re all human and it’s nice to hear the backstory sometimes. And, of course, I like the scholarly articles, also. As for the comments you don’t approve, I want to emphasize once again how cute my cat is. 😉




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  57. Elizabeth.  July 31, 2017

    Great mix of academics and personal story! I’m usually an occasional reader, coming here for information on a particular subject or to see if there are new personal reflections, which I find very informative and helpful. I have probably 8 of your books, and absolutely love having information I count on as including almost everything currently known about a topic, treated with extreme fairness. It’s unbelievably wonderful to know that this blog is actually helping to relieve suffering (the very issue that has caused so many of us to work through the beliefs we were taught as kids). What a gift. Thank you, Bart




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  58. Jason  July 31, 2017

    Part of what makes your writing so compelling is the story behind the why. When an apologist writes about The Bible, you can usually take it for granted that it will be proselytizing and that the viewpoint will not be unbiased. When an atheist talks about the Bible in an informed way, suddenly it becomes interesting. I think this is completely appropriate.




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  59. bmay  August 1, 2017

    I enjoy all your posts, personal and historic. I have for a long time now, strived to learn as much as I can about an authors personal views since these so often influence their thinking or otherwise provide insight into their world view. Most of the authors I read are long gone but it is fun and interesting to read such a lively blog by an active writer, especially one as good as you. Keep it coming and thank you for all your hard work!




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  60. rburos  August 1, 2017

    The holy trinity of my self development on the New Testament is 1) Your books (starting with your NT Textbook with reading suggestions), 2) Your videos on Youtube (especially the debates to provide the counterpoint), and 3) Your blog. Your thread of your personal journey is actually important because it shows a “conversion” (it’s a bad word I know) filled with academic humility and respect for the subject, unlike so many agnostics that just have an axe to grind. I hope you don’t change a thing.




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  61. stevenpounders  August 10, 2017

    I am a little late in adding my two cents here, but I have really appreciated the perspective you’ve shared on your own beliefs and how you came to them. I welcome such occasional digressions. Christian biblical scholars (of whom I know many, having attended and taught at Christian universities) constantly share their belief perspectives. We would be remiss not to listen to the belief perspective of a biblical scholar who is agnostic.

    Well done.




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