I apologize for an unusually long break in blogging, but I did some traveling and took some time off during spring break, and then since then have been busy with matters related to the publishing of the books I have been writing during my sabbatical. As a result, I now have a double dose of good news to share about my John the Baptist writing project. Soon after I sent Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company a proposal for one of the books I have been working on, they quickly indicated they wanted to publish them both. They made quick decisions and issued contracts, so that I can now announce the following as forthcoming with Eerdmans:
– Christmaker: A Life of John the Baptist, which is a biography of John the Baptist for a general audience.
– John of History, Baptist of Faith: The Quest for the Historical Baptizer, which is a detailed academic monograph with all of the crucial arguments that underpin my story of his life: the continuity between him and Jesus that allows us to use the latter to fill in our picture of the former; what Mandaean sources can contribute to this area; how the Infancy Gospel of James provides evidence about the infancy story John’s followers told; what Q tells us about John the Baptist (and what John the Baptist tells us about Q); how Gnosticism got started in the circle around John; and much else.
I feel as though every chapter in the latter book could easily be a book of its own, and deserves to be, yet I don’t think anyone wants a series of books about John the Baptist akin to John P. Meier’s A Marginal Jew. At least, I don’t think more than a few people want that yet, but I hope they may after reading my book! The academic monograph will provide the detailed discussions of everything controversial about the story of John’s life as I reconstruct it. Writing two books rather than just one has seemed to me to work much better than trying to do both these things in one volume. The result will, I hope, be rather like the combination of John Dominic Crossan’s Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography and his The Historical Jesus: The Life of a Mediterranean Jewish Peasant. The latter is far too detailed to be of interest to general readers and doesn’t tell Jesus’ life story, while the former provides a narrative that wouldn’t persuade scholars and historians without the details. I’m hopeful offering both big picture narrative and detailed discussion in separate books will provide what any interested reader is looking for. Many people will, I suspect, read both, starting with one or the other depending on what motivates their interest.
I am grateful not only to the folks at Eerdmans for their enthusiasm for what I have written, but also to BBH Literary for serving as my agents on the trade book for a general audience and their role in getting things to this point.
Now, back to writing both books, with a serious new burst of enthusiasm as a result of having signed contracts (and a deadline for submitting the manuscripts)!
In the meantime, feel free to pre-order my next book which will be out from Eerdmans later this year: The A to Z of the New Testament: Things Experts Know That Everyone Else Should Too. If you’re wondering whether it is a book you’ll enjoy, think of it as an overview of the academic study of the New Testament that meanders through interesting questions and themes rather than going book by book or method by method. I originally considered calling the ABCs of New Testament Study but realized (and was told by readers of drafts of the manuscript) that it starts with the ABCs but takes you far beyond that, so that even people with some extent of knowledge of the New Testament said they learned new things from reading it and thought about familiar topics in new ways. As far as the style, imagine a book about the New Testament written by someone like Pete Enns, but for fans of Friends and Star Wars rather than baseball.
If readers of this blog have any questions about any of those books of mine that Eerdmans will be publishing, please ask. I’m happy to say more! In the meantime, thank you for reading my blog and for the encouragement so many of you provide to me in the research and public scholarship that I do.