Most people who contact me about a book they would like to write – or that they have written – are not talking about a work of scholarship (though some are); they are talking about a book that they would like to publish that “reaches the masses.” They have some ideas about early Christianity, the historical Jesus, the life and writings of Paul, the Gospels, the entire Bible, or some related topic, and they would like to publish a book to make their views known.
I never encourage them.
This will probably be the most intellectually snobbish post I’ve ever made on this blog, but I think maybe I should just tell it like it is. In my view, no one should write a book if they lack the necessary expertise. And expertise doesn’t come from wanting to have it or wishing to have it. It comes from years of hard work – in this case, intellectual work – after being trained sufficiently to be able even to *do* the work. I may really, deeply want to play second base for the Yankees (in fact, I did want to!). But there’s really not much point in my writing Derek Jeter to ask him how we can make that happen. It ain’t gonna happen. I just don’t have the ability.
Why do people think that it’s different when it comes to writing a book? My guess is that there are lots of reasons. For one thing, all of us know that there are truly awful books out there on just about every subject, and when we run across one, we say, “Hey, even *I* could do better than that!” Moreover, we now live in a world where it is possible to “publish” your thoughts just by typing them up and hitting the right sequence of keys and *presto*: they are in the public sphere (on the Internet). That makes us think that writing a book is pretty much like *that*.
But I’m afraid it’s not like that. My view – here is where the intellectual snobbishness kicks in – is that…
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