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Weekly Readers’ Mailbag: March 4, 2016

Time for the Weekly Readers’ Mailbag.  This week I will be dealing with three questions that have come in about my books and writing habits.  If you have any questions you would like me to address in this format, go ahead and ask!

***************************************************************

QUESTION:

Which of your books didn’t do well? I’ve often guessed that your least-selling trade book would be either

 

RESPONSE:

The reader who asked this question was referring to my comment that I’ve now written seven books with my publisher HarperOne and that of the six previous ones, five sold extremely well.  The questioner wants to know which one did not.

So I have been very fortunate with my Harper books.   The first one I did was Misquoting Jesus.  To everyone’s enormous surprise, it became a bestseller.  The reason everyone was surprised was, at least in part, because of the topic: it was about the Greek manuscripts of the New Testament.  Who in the world wants to read about that?  It turns out that the answer is: lots of people.   It made the New York Times bestseller list and eventually reached #5.  That was entirely because of the media attention I got for the book; I did tons of radio and TV, some of them amazing venues, from Fresh Air with Terry Gross and the Diane Rehm Show to both the Daily Show with Jon Stewart and the Colbert Report.   That was an amazing time.

Four of the other five books also got good media attention and also made the NY Times Bestseller list:  Jesus Interrupted, God’s Problem, Forged, and most recently How Jesus Became God.

The one that didn’t make it was a book that my publisher was not eager for me to do and that we almost didn’t publish as a print-book: Did Jesus Exist.  We knew going into it that this would be a very small niche market, since the vast majority of human beings on the planet know that Jesus existed, and those who doubt it are not only in a tiny minority but are not, as a rule, interested in learning why they are wrong.  Our plan was to publish the book only electronically, but we decided at the last minute to go to print.  So we never thought it would it get much media attention and we were right; even though the sales have been fine, it is not one of my best sellers.

 

QUESTION:

I can’t wait to read your new book Jesus Before the Gospels. At some later time I wonder if you can comment more on how you research, prepare for and write a new book like this. It sounds like you have a good system down. I’d like to know more.

 

RESPONSE:

I may devote a whole post or two at some point to my writing process, as there is a longer story to be told.  But here I’ll give just the salient points.  Basically, for me the vast majority of the work for a book, in terms of time commitment, is in the reading and research.  My policy for a long time now has been to publish a new trade book (for a general audience) every two years, and to squeeze in my scholarly research and my text book writing somehow in between.

So, for the trade book.  All my books so far have been about topics that I have thought, read, and taught about for years – usually since my early days in graduate school at the end of the 1970s.   Most of the books have involved topics I have taught PhD seminars on.  So I usually have a good idea about the scholarship in the field before even deciding to write the book.  But when I agree to write it, I then have to throw myself into the scholarship big-time.

And so I start with a bibliography of essentials (normally I know these off the top of my head, since I’m already familiar with the topic and the issues) and I read-read-read, amassing new bibliography all the time based on what I’m reading, mastering that bibliography, learning of new books in related fields, reading those books, getting more bibliography from them, and so on – hundreds of books and articles.   On my good weeks, even when I’m teaching and giving lectures here and there, I can usually get through about four or five books.  I take notes on everything I read.

I do that for, usually, about a year and a half.  Then, when I’ve read everything that I think I need to read, I review every single note I’ve taken on every single book and article, and start outlining the book.  I make a basic outline of the whole thing, with a sense of what each chapter will focus. On.  I then go through the outline and expand it by adding the detailed arguments I need to make.  Then I expand it some more.  I end up having a different large outline for each chapter.  I then reread all my notes again and plug in what I want to say into each large outline.  By the time I’m done, I have a very detailed outline.

And then I write the book.  The writing itself only takes about two weeks.  I write simply as fast as my fingers will fly over the key board.  My process is to write a chapter a day – with maybe two hours the next day to wrap it up.  I then spend the rest of that second day revising.  The third day I do the next chapter.  And so on for two weeks.  On a typical day I’ll write solid for about seven hours, get a work out in, have a nice dinner and a glass of wine or two (OK, or three), get a good and long night’s sleep, then get up and do it again.

I then revise it a couple the whole thing a couple of more times.  I then send it to friends in the field for comments.  When I get their comments back I revise it again (for style and substance).  I then send it to my editor.  He makes suggestions on style and comment.  I make a final revision.  And then it’s done.  The process ends up taking about two years.  Then it’s on to the next thing!

 

QUESTION:

And when you get a chance, give us a little hint about your next trade book.

 

RESPONSE:

Yes, I am hot on the trail of the next book, in my research phase, reading massively for it, with shelves full of books to get through.   I will say a lot more about the book soon on the blog.  For now:  it’s about how Christianity went from being a tiny, unknown, sect of Judaism located in Jerusalem, to becoming the religion of the Roman empire.  How did that happen?  If Jesus’ followers after his death numbered, say, 20 people (lower class, illiterate, peasants from rural Galilee), how, actually, did they convert so many people that within 300 years (by the time of the conversion of the emperor Constantine) there were some 6 million Christians in the world?  That by the end of the fourth century they were some 30 million, half the empire, and the official religion of Rome?  How do you get from 20 people to 30 million in 350 years?

Specifically, what is it exactly that Christians were telling people to get them to convert?  Why were people willing to leave the pagan religions they were born and raised in to become Christian?  What historical, cultural, and social factors — not to mention religious issues — came into play?  And what did Western culture both gain and lose through these massive conversions?

The plan right now is to call the book The Triumph of Christianity: How Faith in Jesus Destroyed the Religions of Rome.


The Memory of Jesus’ Triumphal Entry
My First Interview on Jesus Before the Gospels

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Comments

  1. Avatar
    Judith  March 4, 2016

    Now there’s a title I like, Dr. Ehrman. 🙂

  2. Avatar
    shakespeare66  March 4, 2016

    I loved the brief description of your writing process. I used to tell my students that writing is hard work and that the more they work the process of it, the better the product.

    I love what you are working on, and it is a story that needs to be told. It will no doubt be a fascinating read. Is this also one that Harper has approved and that you will publish with them?

  3. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  March 4, 2016

    Whew! I still think you must have a doppelganger or two or three.

    With regard to the new book, I am currently, off and on, reading “Zealot.” The author gives about a half-dozen specific examples of Jewish apocalyptic preachers claiming to be the Messiah, a couple of whom, according to the author, were even crucified. If the author is correct about this, then the logical question becomes why did the life and death of Jesus develop into such a “huge” religion and the other prophets disappeared from history. Obviously, the claim of the Resurrection was a “huge” factor.

    • Avatar
      llamensdor  March 6, 2016

      The guy who wrote “Zealot” is not a friend of Jews or Christians. He’s a very bright man and amazingly articulate (I heard him on C-Span speak during an interview for hours without a hem or a haw), but his work is deeply flawed. In his view, Jesus was a revolutionary planning an armed rebellion, but he never presents any evidence for this and of course it’s ridiculous. I have heard him state that the Jews were not the original monotheists–not even close to it–it was Zoroaster. This is all part of what I perceive as his anti-Semitic, anti-Christian views. From reading Zealot you might think that he is now a Christian–but on careful reading you’ll realize he’s still a Muslim. That’s okay, but it weighs heavily in the balance when you consider his book.

  4. Avatar
    Stephen  March 4, 2016

    Really, as few as 20? I always understood that the gospels exaggerated Jesus’ influence in his own time but would you discount Paul’s received tradition that there were 500 followers available to have a vision of the risen Jesus? What do you think of the idea that there would have been a small core of dedicated followers in Jerusalem and perhaps a larger community left from his ministry in the Galilee?

    thanks

    • Bart
      Bart  March 5, 2016

      Well, 20 in the NT anyway: the eleven remaining disciples and a handful of women. I don’t think Paul’s “500” can be trusted anymore than the claim in the Old Testment that over 600,000 men were among those who escaped Egypt in the Exodus (not counting women and children!), or that Jesus fed 5000 people, again not counting women and children….

  5. Avatar
    Wilusa  March 4, 2016

    Re Question 1: I wasn’t surprised at “Did Jesus Exist?” having had the least sales, because so few doubt he existed. But I myself – while I forget when I became convinced (probably by your video courses) that a single “significant” Jesus existed – had indeed questioned it! I was appalled, though, on reading all the ridiculous claims of the mythicists. I had merely thought the Gospel narratives might have conflated stories about a number of different men having the common name Yeshua. (The way modern Christians tend to conflate the birth stories in Matthew and Luke into a single narrative.)

    Re Question 2: It amazes me that you can do all that, and still have time to teach!

    Re Question 3: I’ll be eager to read what you’ve concluded. My unscholarly self can’t help thinking that pre-Constantine, most conversions to Christianity were based on its promises – and threats – about the afterlife…and on those claims allegedly having been part of “ancient” Jewish teachings. Once people had been converted, their descendants were probably subjected to indoctrination almost from the cradle – just as young people are, sadly, today.

  6. Avatar
    godspell  March 4, 2016

    Bart, let me say that I greatly appreciated you taking the time to get that book out defending Jesus’ existence–there was a real threat that the ‘Myther’ faction could take hold, and promulgate their anti-historical views as fact, to people who lack the background to know what nonsense it is. Even people like Richard Dawkins (who should know better and I think probably does) were taking this movement seriously, without openly embracing it. Sort of dog-whistling about it, you might say. It was on its way to becoming a tenet of atheism, even while many atheists angrily critiqued as a pointless distraction based on pseudo-scholarship. Willful ignorance is never easy to fight.

    You must have known going in that you were going to be attacked as never before for this ‘heresy’. Christians don’t, as you say, get excited over the question of Jesus’ existence as a historical figure, and most don’t even know that anybody has questioned it. I’ve argued with enough people online on this subject (never having met one in real life) to know that there is a sizable minority of atheists who are fanatical on the subject. I use that word advisedly.

    Because of your high profile in this area of historical study, your well-written and coherent arguments, and the fact that so many already knew you as someone who had persuasively questioned many aspects of Christian belief (and had come over to atheism/agnosticism from evangelical Christianity), you may well have helped turn the tide, and prevent this idea from achieving more mainstream acceptance.

    The book was, I know, written in the midst of a larger project, and I want to say, I did buy your book about How Jesus Became God as soon as it was available.

    However, the library I work for had a copy of Did Jesus Exist? and I must confess, I just borrowed that one.

    Your sacrifice is duly noted. 😉

  7. Avatar
    maryhelena  March 4, 2016

    Bart: ”…..the vast majority of human beings on the planet know that Jesus existed,..”

    And how do they know that? The vast majority of people that *know* that Jesus existed were taught that idea as children. An inherited memory. A memory, a distorted memory, that needs to be changed in order to be meaningful for the society we live in today. (as your new book shows how early memories were changed by the gospel writers to suit their own situation…) It is the gospel gist memory that can open up a road forward because that is the memory that reflects Jewish history. Sometimes, in order to move forward, it is necessary to go back, to know where we have come from. That means, in connection with the gospel story, that it’s gist memory needs to be validated by Jewish history; Jewish history takes prominence over any distorted memory of it.

    Yes, I know your views on the ahistoricist position. However, sometimes, entrenched positions do give way to other views – that after all, is how intellectual evolution functions. Those who become ‘heretics’ don’t choose what is always a difficult route. The ideas they hold requires of them to make a stand, as it were. Their good faith should not be discounted as of no relevance. That way led to the horrors of the Inquisition. In our modern world opposing ideas have their place. It’s often from the rubbing together of opposing ideas that new insights can emerge. And that, surely, is what everyone in this debate seeks – forward movement towards understanding early christian origins.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 5, 2016

      My point is that people tend not to read a book that tells them what they already know. Whether they are right in knowing it is another question. Scholars who study the matter know it because of the evidence.

    • Avatar
      godspell  March 5, 2016

      History needs to be revised constantly, as our knowledge of the past is expanded upon–but there is a very real danger that in revising history with an agenda, we’ll end up distorting it beyond repair. Yes, ask questions–but the people who questioned Jesus’ existence went in believing they already knew the answer, as determined to prove their assumptions true as any religious dogmatist.

      Your mind should be open, but the admission shouldn’t be free. There’s an entrance fee that you need to charge, and that fee is knowledge. Not what you want to believe. Not what’s convenient for you–and it would be convenient, for many who feel oppressed by Christian belief, to say Jesus did not exist. But he did. And the path to freedom is not to deny that, but to find out more about who he really was, and what he really said and did. And in the light of that knowledge, we can shape our differing beliefs out of reality, instead of wishful thinking.

  8. Avatar
    Adam0685  March 4, 2016

    Great post!!

    One thing that still perplexes me is the prominence of miracle stories in the gospels. They are not just a footnote of the story, but a substantial part of it. Jesus’ earliest followers, as least the writers of the gopsels, clearly believed they happened. They’re in our earliest source-Mark. Not so much in Paul. How has historical scholarship accounted for the prominence of miracle stories in the gospels and their early attestation?

  9. Avatar
    Boltonian  March 4, 2016

    Hi Bart

    Very enlightening.

    I am interested in how Christianity developed intellectually, especially during the formative early centuries. What were its major influences, apart from the Old Testament? For example, how much of Plato, Aristotle, the Stoics, Philo, Plotinus etc, can be identified in the early writings and doctrinal discussions? Do any of your books cover this area of research?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 5, 2016

      There is very little philosophical influence on most of the writers of the NT, although there are interested parallels between Paul and the Stoics, and the Fourth Gospel is similar in important ways to Philo.

  10. Avatar
    Petter Häggholm  March 4, 2016

    Just how sure can we be of Jesus’s historicity?

    Don’t misunderstand—I am not advocating mythicism (I’m on your side of that divide!). On the other hand, I’m sure that you will agree that when apologists claim that we have more evidence of the historical Jesus than Julius Caesar or Tiberius (and I’ve heard this again and again), that’s simply ridiculous, as not only is the literary evidence staggeringly superior, but we also have archæology, inscriptions, coins, and so on. I don’t BELIEVE that Paul invented Jesus, but I think the idea deserves a tiny but non-zero probability: He didn’t…but he could have; surely stranger things have happened in human history? Jesus would have been a lot easier to invent than Julius Caesar!

    I’ve read Did Jesus Exist? and seven or eight of your other books, so I have a layman’s understanding of what the evidence is, and find it persuasive enough to think it’s more likely than not to be true. I realise that you may not be enthusiastic about, say, running your premises through Bayes Theorem and calculating the probability of historicity to two decimal places, but do you have a general sense to impart on how strong the case for Jesus is on a scale from, say, a euhemerised Zeus to Gaius Julius Caesar?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 5, 2016

      If Zeus is 0 and Julius Caesar is 10, then I’d say Jesus is somewhere between 9 and 10. He can’t be as high as Caesar, given the enormous evidence for Caesar, including writings he produced!

      • Avatar
        Omar6741  March 6, 2016

        I like that scale of certainty for the existence of Jesus!
        Can I ask for your certainty ratings for the following facts about Jesus?
        (1) He was born to a woman betrothed/married to a man named Joseph.
        (2) He had brothers, children of his mother and Joseph.
        (3) He was born in Nazareth.
        (4) His public career began after his baptism by John the Baptist and ended with his death.
        (5) His Aramaic/Hebrew name was Yeshu’a.
        Thanks!

        • Bart
          Bart  March 7, 2016

          I’d say they are all between 9-10, though the first maybe a bit less.

        • Avatar
          Pantera  March 9, 2016

          His Hebrew name was actually Yehoshua (“Joshua”), meaning “YHVH is salvation” The contracted form is Yeshu’a. The name “Jesus” comes, of course, from the Greek spelling, “Ieosus” (the final “s” being a Greek masculine ending). The Aramaic pronunciation is “Isho.”

    • Avatar
      godspell  March 5, 2016

      I certainly think there’s more evidence for the existence of Octavian/Augustus than Jesus. He did, after all, rule a huge portion of the world for decades, and found an empire that lasted for many generations.

      And yet ponder this–we know he wrote his memoirs.

      And we don’t have a single copy of them.

      If you wanted to, it would not be that hard to come up with an “Augustus was a myth” theory. Leonidas of Sparta–where’s the evidence for him? Wartime propaganda written by the Greeks–with nothing from the Persians to back it up (nothing from the Persians to prove that war even happened!).

      And we have nothing whatsoever written about Alexander the Great that was written in his lifetime. Not one eyewitness account from any of the peoples he conquered.

      I don’t envy those who study ancient history.

  11. Avatar
    flshrP  March 4, 2016

    Thanks for sharing your research and writing methods. Very interesting.
    I went through that process about 17 years ago when I wrote a history of the U.S. manned spaceflight program in the 20th century. I figured I had the cred since I spent 32 years working in that field. Three years of research using all the sources I could get my hands on (NASA, USAF, AEC/DOE, university science libraries in the U.S. and abroad, etc) followed by a year of writing, revising and editing. I managed to reduce it from 1800 pages to about 1400. No way that size book could be published in paper print so I e-published it on CD. Lot of fun going through that process. A real learning experience.

  12. TracyCramer
    TracyCramer  March 4, 2016

    Great title! That will sell to the masses like me. (The Triumph of Christianity: How Faith in Jesus Destroyed the Religions of Rome)

    I can see the flames your editor no doubt will select to be prominent on the cover.

  13. TracyCramer
    TracyCramer  March 4, 2016

    You’ve piqued my interest. How many books sold on average for your NYT’s list of books, and the mediocre selling Did Jesus Exist?

  14. Avatar
    Omar6741  March 4, 2016

    Professor Ehrman,
    Do you agree with those scholars who say that in the New Testament the word “nazoraius”, as opposed to “nazarenus”, refers to some Jewish messianic sect of which Jesus was already a member (before his public career)?
    Thanks,

    • Bart
      Bart  March 5, 2016

      I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that claim!

      • Avatar
        Omar6741  March 5, 2016

        Margaret Barker here does not talk about Jewish messianic sect, but thinks that “nazaraios” refers to some kind of religious identity (not necessarily dependent on “Nazareth”):

        “The Jewish religious leaders have him arrested and
        killed, but according to John, the notice on his cross did not say simply ‘The King of the
        Jews’. It said ‘Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews’ (John 19.19). That is how the words
        are usually translated. But ‘of Nazareth’ here is not the usual word Nazarēnos; it is
        Nazōraios, and Jesus’ followers were called Nazōreans (Acts 24.5). This suggests that the
        Greek word did not mean ‘of Nazareth’ but came from the Hebrew nāṣar, which meant to
        guard, preserve or keep. In the Talmud, Jesus was called the nôṣrî.1
        The Nazōreans would then be the preserved or guarded people, neṣûrîm, and with different vowels, they would be the guardians or preservers, nōṣrîm, which became the Hebrew name for the Christians.”

        http://www.margaretbarker.com/Papers/TemenosJesusintheGospelofJohn.pdf

        There are others who have said similar things, and it is a small step to claiming that “Nazaraios” meant a religious sect taking its name from some passage in Isaiah about the shoot from Jesse (I will look up some references).

      • Avatar
        Pantera  March 9, 2016

        Was the name “Nazarene” because he was from a place named Nazareth, or did that identifier have some other significance?

        Jesus’ immediate followers called themselves Derech (The Way), Anayyim (the Meek), B’nei Or (the Sons of Light), and other self-identifiers according to Robert Eisenmann.

        So where does the term “Nazarios” or Nazarene come from?

        • Bart
          Bart  March 10, 2016

          It’s much debated. Some think it derived from the notion that Jesus was from the “root” (NZR) of David (Isa 11:1)

  15. Avatar
    toejam  March 4, 2016

    A few weeks ago I presented a lecture for ‘Brisbane Atheists’ (down here in Oz) on this very question of the factors that helped Christianity grow in those early centuries. I shaved it down to 9 key factors:

    1. The Apocalyptic Kickstarter (i.e. how events such as the destruction of Jerusalem, Mt. Vesuvius, turmoil in Rome, etc. in the late 1st century may have made a lot of people tune into the apocalyptic expectations of the early Christians)

    2. God Fearers (i.e. the phenomenon of gentiles attracted to the seemingly ‘exotic’, ‘disciplined’ and ‘ancient’ Judaism was already there before Christianity. Christianity came along saying “Yeah, you can have all this too and you don’t have to get circumcised or follow kosher laws!” A match made in heaven! Similar today to how many Westerners are attracted to somewhat watered down versions of Eastern religions)

    3. Early Christian Healthcare (i.e. much more effective and accepting than other religious cults of the time – See Hector Avalos’ book “Healthcare the the Rise of Christianity”)

    4. The Portrayal of Jesus as a Mediterranean God (i.e. the gospels and other stories about Jesus as effective propaganda tapping into cultural memes of the time – see David Litwa’s “Iesus Deus: The Early Christian Depiction of Jesus as a Mediterranean God”, Andrew T. Lincoln’s “Born of a Virgin?” etc.)

    5. Active Proselytization (i.e. unlike other mystery cults, Christians were actively encouraged to go out and evangelize.)

    6. Early Divisions within Christianity Contributed to its Long Term Success (i.e. I kind of used an ‘evolutionary’ concept – the more variation between offspring, the greater the chances are that *one* will take off. Probably my weakest point, looking back on it)

    7. Encouragement of Personal ‘Experiences’ (i.e. psychological factors, playing on people’s feelings of guilt and/or helplessness etc. – not necessarily in an intentionally deceptive way)

    8. The Narrative of Persecution (i.e. See Candida Moss’s “The Myth of Persecution” – again, how propaganda helped generate sympathy for Christians)

    9. The Conversion of Constantine (fairly obvious one)

    I’d love to know how close or far I am from your ideas…

    • Bart
      Bart  March 5, 2016

      Interesting! Yup, I’m going to have a very different take! Much more in line with Ramsey MacMullen.

  16. Avatar
    john76  March 4, 2016

    Your next book on the success of Christianity sounds interesting. Here are my thoughts. The original Christians clearly wanted to convert the world:

    (1) Matthew 28:16-20 New International Version (NIV) The Great Commission: 16 Then the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. 17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted. 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

    (2) a. Sending out Emissaries (Deuteronomy 1; Luke 10:1-3, 17-30)

    Just as Moses had chosen twelve spies to reconnoiter the land which stretched “before your face,” sending them through the cities of the land of Canaan, so does Jesus send a second group, after the twelve, a group of seventy, whose number symbolizes the nations of the earth who are to be conquered, so to speak, with the gospel in the Acts of the Apostles. He sends them out “before his face” to every city he plans to visit (in Canaan, too, obviously). To match the image of the spies returning with samples of the fruit of the land (Deuteronomy 1:25), Luke has placed here the Q saying (Luke 10:2//Matthew 9:37-38), “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few; therefore beg the Lord of the harvest to send out more workers into his harvest.” And Jesus’ emissaries return with a glowing report, just as Moses’ did.

    Nota Bene:
    A crucified messiah was clearly a “stumbling block” for most Jews (1 Cor 1:23), but at least some Jews, like Paul, believed Jesus’ atoning death, burial, and resurrection fulfilled Jewish scripture (1 Cor 15: 3-4). The scriptures Paul is referring to here probably include Psalm 22, Isaiah 53, and following Matthew 12:40, the account of Jonas and the big fish. In any case, following accepted hermeneutic protocol, since the account of the passion, burial, and resurrection of Christ serves a theological function as scripture fulfillment for the original Christians, there is no reason to think there is any historical core to any of these three reported events, since the original Christians would have had reasons to invent them. So, the crucifixion does not meet the criterion of embarrassment. Just as the writers of the Hebrew scriptures may have invented a story about Moses receiving the ten commandments from God on top of the mountain so that their laws would appear to have impressive authority, so too might the original Christians have invented stories about Jesus’ divinity because they wanted to lend authority to Jesus’ ethical message. Clearly, in the ancient world, people were willing to lay down their lives in support of an ethical cause (e.g., Socrates). That’s not to say we have reason to think the passion/empty tomb/resurrection narratives were “noble lies,” just that the criterion of embarrassment can’t be used here to rescue an historical core.

    • Avatar
      llamensdor  March 8, 2016

      I’ve had many Christians (some very well-credentialed) tell me the Jews could not accept Jesus because he was crucified, and that was how criminals were treated and it was too embarrassing for them to have to acknowledge him. I have discussed the matter with a number of Jews (some equally well-credentialed) and none of them agreed with this interpretation. Jesus was obviously a victim, they typically told me, a decent person cruelly punished by the vicious Romans. I keep wondering why Christians can be so adamant about crucifixion being inherently contaminating. The Romans crucified thousands of Jews on more than one occasion, and it is absurd to believe that anything in Jewish scripture or ethics condemns these people as evil or contaminated.

  17. Pattycake1974
    Pattycake1974  March 4, 2016

    I think as an act of solidarity, all the members of the blog should drink at least 3 glasses of wine before responding to your posts. That’s what I’m doing from now on.

    I like the title of the new book. I hope the powers that be keep it. What I’d like to know is why it takes so long to publish the book once you’re finished writing it?

    • Bart
      Bart  March 5, 2016

      It takes a year normally, just because the publisher has a backlog of titles they’re trying to publish, and the whole process is complicated. It isn’t just a matter of running a copy off on a printing machine!

  18. Avatar
    dragonfly  March 4, 2016

    I would love to know what Paul said to the gentiles he was converting. He successfully converted many people who had never heard of Jesus, had no concept of a messiah, and even the idea of monotheism would have been hard for them to fully appreciate. And there were no gospels at the time (that we know of) either. Well done Paul!

  19. Avatar
    plparker  March 5, 2016

    Thanks for these answers. When taking research notes and compiling outlines for a book do you use standard word processing applications, or do you use any of the specialized applications out there for authors or researchers to help outline and organize their work? Do you use a database?

  20. Avatar
    RonaldTaska  March 5, 2016

    Two Questions:

    1. Lately, stimulated by your excellent book “How Jesus Became God”, I have been meandering through some reading trying to sort out if early Christianity could have borrowed some of its core ideas about the divinity of a human, a Resurrection of a human, a human dying for the sins of mankind from other religions, including pagan religions. I have read several times what you wrote in the book about the Roman and Jewish exaltation of humans into gods. Do you think such core ideas, as I have listed above, were common during the time of Jesus as illustrated by Mithras, Osiris, and even Lao Tzu (Taoism). If so, did these various religions borrow from each other or did they spring from some common, universal, perhaps psychological, human need, wish, or view of the world???? Is there a good book that is written clearly for a lay reader on this subject?

    2. Another related question, which is perhaps covered in the book that you are now writing, is why did Christianity become “huge’ while these other religions died out? Thanks.

    • Bart
      Bart  March 5, 2016

      1. I don’t know of any book like that, off hand; 2. Yup, that’s what my book is about!

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