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What Do We Call It? Coming Up with a Book Title.

I am at a critical juncture in my current writing project, and thought I could provide an update on my progress over a few posts.  Today I talk about titles

As I earlier indicated on the blog, I am tentatively calling the book:  The Triumph of Christianity: How the Followers of Jesus Destroyed the Religions of Rome.   I’m not sure what the final title will be – this is just what I’m working with for now.   The main title (Triumph of Christianity) is pretty secure, I think.  It is what I proposed to my publisher (Simon & Schuster) when I first floated a prospectus of the book before them to see if they were interested in publishing it, and they were (and I think are) enthusiastic about it.  The subtitle is simply the best I could come up with.  I rather like it, but I’m not sure they will.

Titles are complicated affairs, as I’ve mentioned (a long time ago) on the blog.  For an *academic* book (that is, a scholarly book written for scholars), most of the time, the author comes up with the title and the publisher goes with it.   I think for all of my academic books, the publishers have simply called it what I wanted to call it.  But that is changing a bit these days: publishers are becoming a bit more interventionist, even with academic titles.

The reason is that…

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  1. Liam Foley
    Liam Foley  August 9, 2016

    Here is a suggestion for a title. Christianity Triumphant: How a small band of believers rose to become the religion of an Empire.

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    thelad2  August 9, 2016

    Hello Bart. Saw on Amazon the other day that Larry Hurtado is about to release a similarly themed book called “Destroyer of the Gods.” Great title, but I don’t know much more about it.

    • Bart
      Bart  August 11, 2016

      Yes, I saw that too! We seem to write on similar topics!

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    Pattycake1974  August 9, 2016

    You’ve called it The Triumph of Christianity so much that I’m attached to it now. If a certain word doesn’t quite express what I want to convey, I will right-click on it in Word. It gives a small list of synonyms. I’ve also googled synonyms. Just focusing on the word “destroyed,” here’s what Word came up with:
    The Triumph of Christianity: How the Followers of Jesus Demolished the Religions of Rome
    The Triumph of Christianity: How the Followers of Jesus Devastated the Religions of Rome
    The Triumph of Christianity: How the Followers of Jesus Ruined the Religions of Rome
    The Triumph of Christianity: How the Followers of Jesus Wrecked the Religions of Rome
    The Triumph of Christianity: How the Followers of Jesus Smashed the Religions of Rome. haha, like Hulk!

    Synonyms for triumph are–victory, accomplishment, success, and conquest. Triumph sounds better than any of those in my opinion.

    Some of the synonyms for destroyed sound rather catchy and intriguing!

    • Avatar
      Pattycake1974  August 9, 2016

      Actually, no, those synonyms are terrible. They sound like a hostile takeover.

      • Avatar
        Michael Sommers  August 12, 2016

        “Actually, no, those synonyms are terrible. They sound like a hostile takeover.”

        It seems to me that that is exactly what it was.

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    Jimmy  August 9, 2016

    Why does misquoting Jesus have a different title in Europe?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 11, 2016

      Because the European publishers thought they had a better idea. So much for *that* idea!

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    clairemcdougall  August 9, 2016

    Yes, titles are the worst! I lost out on my own title in my first published book (also with S&S)
    To my mind, your sub-title should bring in the word “Pagan,” not just “Religions of Rome.” I think there is more at stake here; its implications are further reaching than just Rome. What was lost in the religious paradigm when Christianity took over? Sub-title: “Loss of the Pagan Paradigm”? Otherwise, who really cares about the religions of Rome( (As far as pagan religions went, the Roman version was not the most profound!)

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    spiker  August 9, 2016

    Not directly relevant, but I’ve read that a variant, say in 300 manuscripts counts as 300 variants, is that true?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 17, 2016

      Sorry — this question got lost in the shuffle! No, when scholars are estimating the numbers of variants, they are not counting 300 mss that have one variant as 300 variants.

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    rivercrowman  August 9, 2016

    How the Followers of Jesus *Destroyed* the Religions of Rome. … Bart, destroyed sounds abrupt. How about Defeated?

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    Pattycake1974  August 9, 2016

    Rivercrowman: Defeated is a good replacement word.

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    James Chalmers  August 9, 2016

    Do the (pretty much fixed) title and (still tentative) subtitle of your new book cohere? The new religion offered something positive and remarkably appealing. Its destructive force derived from this positive appeal. Paul and the other exponents of the new religion did not so much dwell on the deficiencies of paganism as they did the virtues of the new religion, the saving power of belief in the risen Jesus and (early decades) his imminent return. The existing subtitle wrongly suggests Paul and the rest preached “seek and destroy pagan targets,” But they put up and proclaimed a new message more than they described and sought to destroy an old one.

    It could logically be the case that the religions of Rome were destroyed and in their place came nothing, or something possessed of no lasting appeal.

    • Bart
      Bart  August 11, 2016

      Yes, one of my points will be that Christian leaders really did want to destroy the pagan religions.

  10. Josephsluna
    Josephsluna  August 9, 2016

    Warmest wishes with the new book and its success. I am sure it will be very educational and have knowledge people deserve. Thank you very much for working so hard on it and it is not going unappreciated! Back to school my self Bart. I will make sure I always support your blog and it’s purpose wherever I may go and end up.

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    RonaldTaska  August 9, 2016

    A very interesting process!

    “Misquoting Jesus” was an extremely important book for me in my religious quest. It is also clearly and concisely written which is no easy feat. I encourage readers of this blog to read it. I do, however, like the title “Lost in Transmission” much, much better and I believe it more accurately describes the subject of the book.

    As to any suggestions from me about a book title of yours or much of anything, I think it is pretty unlikely that I, a writer of a few book chapters and academic papers, would have much constructive to say about the writing of one who has written over 30 books, many of them really terrific books. Plus, I have no academic training in your field. I wish it were otherwise because it is a fascinating field. For now, it is more than enough that I stay up with reading your blogs and your books. As incredibly productive as you are, just my reading what you write is no small task for me. Keep going, Your work means so very much to me.

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    Eric  August 9, 2016

    Isn’t there a verse in Proverbs about not judging a book by its cover? 🙂

  13. talmoore
    talmoore  August 9, 2016

    Dr. Ehrman, if you want the title to catch people’s attention and sell like hotcakes, you only need a simply three word title: “WHY CHRIST WON”

    And in the subtitle you can be clearer, like “How Christianity Triumphed While Civilization Collapsed”.

  14. epicurus
    epicurus  August 9, 2016

    I also dislike it when books have chapter titles that are trying to be funny, but give no clue as to what the chapter is about. It’s annoying enough in a bookstore, but terrible if you are online at Amazon, then it’s very difficult to decide if the book if worth buying.

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    Samuel Riad  August 9, 2016

    Great post.
    To be honest, I didn’t like the title “Misquoting Jesus” precisely because of the reason you have mentioned: I think it is a bit misleading.

    I am faced by the same dilemma now, thinking of a title for my book.
    As I have mentioned before, it is about a lapsed Christian who, believing the writers of the New Testament have misquoted the Jewish scriptures to advance Jesus as the Messiah, decides to do the same thing to their own words. The book also deals heavily with Gnosticism.
    I thought of many titles:
    Bible Games
    The Jesus They Never Knew
    Tears in Gethsemane
    Jesus UnChrist: How Prophecies Can Still Be Faked.

    I have finally settled on
    The Gospel of Lie: An Old Man Wrestles With God

    Your post alarms me that it might be too sensationalist. The title may seem reactionary or juvenile and it says virtually nothing about the contents.
    Any ideas?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 11, 2016

      It needs to be descriptive and enticing. I like The Jesus They Never Knew.

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    llamensdor  August 10, 2016

    I think the current subtitle is compelling, but I’m not sure what it means. Are you referring to all the pagan cults, including emperor worship? Does it also include Judaism? Is supersessionism (sp?) the same as destruction? Perhaps the purpose of this subtitle is to be challenging and to invite inquiry. How do you feel about the subtitle–does it work for you? Frankly, I think that’s the most important issue. You’ve written many books, some best-sellers, and you have a solid and reliable core of repeat buyers. I’m sure Simon & Schuster believes you know your market better than they do.

    • Bart
      Bart  August 11, 2016

      Yup, the Christian leaders really did want to wipe out all opposition!

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    bensonian  August 10, 2016

    Instead of …Destroyed the Religions of Rome, how about …Replaced the Religions of Rome? Not as sexy, but who knows, it might be more straightforward. It is difficult to know without reading the book first.

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    Wilusa  August 10, 2016

    I still think “Jesus Before the Gospels” would have been better titled – as you considered at one point – “In Memory of the Messiah.” A great play on words!

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    herculodge  August 10, 2016

    The tentative title seems strong, but I lean toward changing the subtitle word “Destroyed” to “Conquered.”

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    marcrm68  August 10, 2016

    Holy War !
    The Triumph of Christianity, and the Destruction of Paganism

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