Thursday, April 19, 2012

Those of us in the cheap seats can only gaze longingly at the doyennes of the private suites at sporting events, and now a private suite has opened up in the Bible blogosphere: Bart Ehrman has a blog! This looks like a little more than your paste and cut Blogger or WordPress dealy - this looks real, sophisticated, sharp and shiny. There are a couple of interesting features. One, you must pay to see how the 1% think: "Members who join the site will be given fuller access to Bart’s deeper ideas and thoughts." Those in the bleachers will get what is known in stadia and arenas as "an obstructed view". Two, the payment will go to superb causes, fighting hunger and homelessness, so for those who are tired of wading in the kiddie pool, and want to dive into the deep end of Ehrman, know that the money is going for excellent causes.

My question is whether people will want to pay for this blog ($25.00 a year; monthly fees available on a one time basis). If to support a worthy cause, that is one thing, but will enough do it to gain access to Ehrman's musings? Ehrman's books are bestsellers and he has appeared on Stephen Colbert and in many other media, how much more depth is there for him to sell which is not found in his very accessible work or is not already available for free?

My own thoughts on the scholarship of Ehrman are not completely kind, or better, they are mixed. His translations of the Apostolic Fathers for the Loeb Classical Library, which I use regularly, and his textual work is fine, scholarly work. When he tries his hand at any deep thinking, about the nature of  biblical interpretation, history or philosophy, at even an undergraduate textbook level (I used his The New Testament Writings 2nd Edition. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004, for a number of years), he is out of his depth. He is, therefore, one of those biblical scholars who are superb technicians, like skilled plumbers or pipe-fitters, but incapable of wrestling with philosophical hermeneutics or what is proper data for history. On the other hand, the man must get full credit for having always and honestly staked out his ground about where he is coming from when he deals with the Bible; it is an admirable trait.

Still, it is hard not to be a little jealous or resentful (I hope that has not seeped through) when you see a Bible blog open that is so bold to charge money, when it is hard enough to draw people to your page for free. For instance, when I decided to start this blog after writing at America Magazine for a number of years, I decided to accept advertising, and it is for a similar reason that Ehrman is charging for his blog: I told my wife that I would donate all the money gained from advertising on this blog to Feed My Starving Children, a wonderful charity in the Twin Cities that we support. That is still where my advertising money would go, but after almost four months, I have not yet earned enough money to be sent a check. I do not much agree with Ehrman on many issues related to biblical studies - especially the revelatory nature of the texts - but I do hope he is successful as the money he brings in will go to excellent causes. But feel free to send your friends here, too, as for free I will give you all the shallow and deep thoughts I have! I cannot promise what percentage of shallow to deep thoughts are on supply; I suppose if you keep diving in and hitting your head on the bottom of the pool, that will be a clue you are not in the deep end. You can do with my thoughts what you will, but if you click on the ads on this page, I can assure you that when the first check comes, if it does, it will go to Feed My Starving Children.

UPDATE: See Tim Henderson's post at Earliest Christianity and Mark Goodacre's at NT Blog.

John W. Martens

Follow me on Twitter @johnwmartens