Illiterate Evangelists, Illegitimate Gospels? A Rebuttal of Bart Ehrman’s Argument

I recently finished reading Bart Ehrman’s book Did Jesus Exist?: The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth. There are things to like about the book and things I disagree with (one will want to inject oneself with a healthy dose of elitism vaccine before wading into the book, for example). There are several arguments he makes that seem very silly, and one in particular stands out. His argument in that passage is that there’s no chance that the Gospels were written by Jesus’s disciples, since most people in that time and place were illiterate. In his own words (footnotes removed):

Several significant studies of literacy have appeared in recent years showing just how low literacy rates were in antiquity. The most frequently cited study is by Columbia professor William Harris in a book titled Ancient Literacy. By thoroughly examining all the surviving evidence, Harris draws the compelling though surprising conclusion that in the very best of times in the ancient world, only about 10 percent of the population could read at all and possibly copy out writing on a page. Far fewer than this, of course, could compose a sentence, let alone a story, let alone an entire book. And who were the people in this 10 percent? They were the upper-class elite who had the time, money, and leisure to afford an education. This is not an apt description of Jesus’s disciples. They were not upper-crust aristocrats.

Even if we concede for the sake of argument, and only for the sake of argument, that St. John (for example) couldn’t write anything at all, let alone Greek, Mr. Ehrman here has outsmarted himself, and made himself confused with modern ideas of authorship. I think the foundation of his argument can be easily dismantled with a single picture:

Icon of St. John and St. Prochorus. By NN (Russische Ikone) (Ökumenisches Heiligenlexikon (public domain)) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

There—I hope that clears up for Mr. Ehrman how it is a first-century Palestinian fisherman like the Apostle John could have possibly written the beautiful Greek of the Gospel that bears his name.

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“Counting Corpses” in Drabbledark and “The Internet of Annoying Things” in Asymmetry

My flash fiction story “The Internet of Annoying Things” was published in Asymmetry Fiction today. Check it out and let me know what you think!

As well, my flash fiction story “Counting Corpses” is reprinted in the forthcoming anthology Drabbledark: An Anthology of Dark Drabbles. Drabbledark will be released on July 20, 2018, but is available for pre-order right now! “Counting Corpses” was first printed in the charity Shadow Box Anthology in October 2005 and reprinted in Issue 2 (November 2016) of Spirit’s Tincture.

Here is the list of authors and stories included in Drabbledark:

Aditya Deshmukh – “Sunlight”

Alex Shvartsman – “Chill”

Alison Faye – “Prisoner”

AM Kalmus – “Repast”

B.B. Blazkowicz – “Amongst Marble and the Dead”

Bart Van Goethem – “The Choice”

Brandon Barrows – “Broken”

Brenda Anderson – “The Lady on the Bus”

C Cooch – “Death Rush”

Carol Rosalind Smith – “The Devil Within”

Chloe-Helen Morgan – “Tepid Toes”

Christina Sng – “Luci”

Christina Sng – “The Future Conquerers”

Clio Nima – “The Annual Visit”

Craig Faustus Buck – “The Hatbox”

Dan Allen – “Virgil’s Load”

Daniel Pietersen – “The Ebbing Tide Calls”

Danielle DeLisle – “Body Jewelry”

David Afsharirad – “Tiny Door”

David Bernard – “Autumn Leaves”

David Bernard – “Inspiration Point”

David Rae – “What Alice Wants”

Dennis Mombauer – “The Rusted Island”

Denny E. Marshall – “The Program”

Denzell Cooper – “A Lonely Road”

Diane Arrelle – “A Small Misunderstanding”

Diane Arrelle – “Not Worried”

Douglas Prince – “A Time and a Place”

Douglas Prince – “On a Wing and a Prayer”

Douglas Prince – “The Thing in the Walls”

Edward Ashton – “The Light”

Edward Palumbo – “The Basement”

Elizabeth Dearborn – “Skin and Bone”

Elizabeth Dearborn – “Suicide Hotline”

Ericka Kahler – “The Road Warrior”

Ethan Hedman – “Lost Life”

Ezekiel Kincaid – “Alien Autopsy”

F.E. Clark – “Earth Angel”

Gabrielle Bleu – “Self-Destruction by Steel”

Gary Cuba – “Ranger Ned Comes to Save the Day”

George Nikolopoulos – “The Mirror in the Bathroom”

Hamilton Kohl – “The Waxing of a Blood Moon”

Holly Schofield – “Lesson Learned”

I.E. Kneverday – “Dr. Albie”

Jack Wolfe Frost – “The Smell”

Jade Swann – “Midnight Imposter”

James Ebersole – “Feralization”

Jan Kaneen – “Blood Will Out”

Jason Plouffe – “Tricks for Kids”

Jennifer Moore – “Poison Pen Letter”

Jillian Bost – “Iron Will”

Joachim Heijndermans – “I Slew the Blackwing”

John H. Dromey – “An Ineffable Situation”

John H. Dromey – “Enchanted Leftovers”

John H. Dromey – “Next Time Look in the Cabbage Patch”

John Kujawski – “Blood Transfusion”

Jonathan Ficke – “Dark Godess”

Jonathan Ficke – “The Thirst of War”

Karen Heslop – “There’ll Always be Tears”

Karl El-Koura – “Counting Corpses”

Karl Lykken – “All You Love Is Need”

Kim Plasket – “Grave Error”

Kim Plasket – “Something”

Lindy Greaves – “For Sale in Myanmar”

Maddy Hamley – “Techitis”

Melanie Noell Bernard – “Dirge”

Michael Balletti – “Secret Rendezvous”

Michael Carter – “The Pickup”

Michelle Ann King – “Precious Things”

Mike Murphy – “Head Case”

Mikko Rauhala – “No Rapture”

Nico Bell – “The Candy Factory”

Nora Weston – “An Undeniable Truth”

P.R. O’Leary – “I Do”

Patrick Crossen – “It’s a Living”

Patrick Winters – “Bogeyman”

Patrick Winters – “Poor Nathan”

Patrick Winters – “The Basement”

R.G. Halstead – “Love and Hate”

River Rivers – “Xi’s Beast”

Robert Dawson – “Confession”

Russell Hemmell – “Silicon Twins”

Sara Codair – “Gala Down”

Scott Hughes – “It Knocked”

Scott King – “Feasting for Gods”

Shaun Avery – “Walkers”

Shawn Klimek – “The Jealous Wish”

Simon Pinkerton – “Parasite”

Stella Turner – Retribution

Stephen D. Rogers – “We are the Glittereans”

Steve Campbell – “She’d Expected To See Some Blood”

Stuart Conover – “Pushing Forward”

Tamlyn Dreaver – “Blood Rain”

Tamlyn Dreaver – “The Woods Behind the House”

Tamoha Sengupta – “The Trunk”

Tianna Grosch – “Human in Any Other Form”

Tianna Grosch – “Saturn’s Final Rotation”

Tianna Grosch – “Six More Weeks of Winter”

Tiffany Michelle Brown – “Survival”

Wendy Nikel – “The Blackbird King”

Will Shadbolt – “Ghosts of the Past”

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“The Internet of Annoying Things” sold to Asymmetry Fiction

My flash fiction story “The Internet of Annoying Things” sold to Asymmetry Fiction. Check it out when it’s published on June 25!

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“The End of All Wishes” sold to Persistent Visions

I’m late to report this on the blog, but I did a Snoopy happy dance a few weeks back after selling my fantasy short story “The End of All Wishes” to Persistent Visions. The editor, Heather Shaw, was very gracious and kind in her acceptance letter. I’m very excited to share this one—I’ll post an update when the story is published.

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A Devil’s Gospel: Released!

eBook cover for "A Devil's Gospel"

A Devil’s Gospel is now available for instant purchase at the following retailers in ebook format:

And the paperback is available for purchase from Amazon (check with your local bookstore for special ordering if you prefer. The ISBN is 978-1-988798-00-4).

You can also read the first chapter for free on this website.

Links to Blog Posts

During Lent 2017, I’ve been posting updates on A Devil’s Gospel every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. Now that the series is complete, below are the links to all the posts, in the order they were published:

Hope everyone has a blessed Easter celebration and year ahead!

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A Devil’s Gospel: What Surprised Me Most About The Bible (Spoilers Ahead)

eBook cover for "A Devil's Gospel"In my post on March 10, I promised to share with you what I thought was the most surprising thing about the Bible through a lengthy excerpt from A Devil’s Gospel. Throughout my life I’ve read the Bible many times over, often starting at Genesis and reading straight through to Revelation (because I’m a bit OCD that way), sometimes reading different books as the mood struck me. But it was only in reading the Bible through very carefully, trying to keep the entire narrative in mind while writing this novel, that I realized how amazingly well the story fits together, like a glorious puzzle put together one piece at a time over thousands of years by hundreds of different hands.

In the post from last month, I talked about how Christ’s shadow falls on almost every page of the Old Testament; in the excerpt below from near the end of the novel, the protagonist begins to see some of those surprising connections. It would’ve been tedious in a novel to list all the pre-figurements, but it really is incredible to read the Old Testament books in the light of Christ,  and realize how those stories, written thousands of years before, so beautifully prefigure His life, death, and resurrection.

As with my post this past Wednesday, this post comes with the warning that it contains heavy spoilers for the novel. So I’ll repeat that if you’re planning to read the book and would like to preserve the experience untainted, you may want to bookmark this page and return to it later. Now, without further delay, here is the excerpt:

 

Before King David conquered Jerusalem and made it his capital, I thought, as I watched Jesus drag His cross through its dusty streets, a man was called by God and given a promise and then a test. He was told to travel to this place and to sacrifice his beloved child, his son of promise.

Almost two thousand years earlier, I’d watched that son walk up the mountain in obedience to his father, carrying himself the wood on which he would be sacrificed. Abraham had told his son what at the time I took to be a lie, that God Himself would provide a lamb. And yet here is that Lamb, I thought, bruised and bleeding, the wood of Its sacrifice weighing It down.

“Behold the Lamb of God,” the Baptist had said, “who takes away the sins of the world.”

Why hadn’t those words meant anything to me before? Why hadn’t I connected them to the words of Isaiah, written hundreds of years earlier, about the Lamb who would be led to the slaughter, the Man who would take on Himself humanity’s sins, the Righteous One whose bruises would heal the world?

Satan and Cain couldn’t understand what Abel was doing, I remembered, when he offered to God the life of an innocent lamb. To be truthful, none of us understood the point of all the sacrifices, why the blood of countless animals was poured out on the altar and enough grain to feed the populations of the world a hundred times over burned up. The point was to point to You, wasn’t it? I thought, looking at Him. Nor could we understand why God’s people had to give up the best of what they had, but that answer now seemed as obvious as the first.

The Lamb of God, I went on thinking, who said more than once, “My body is truly food and My blood is truly drink.” The Passover Lamb slaughtered so that the people of God could eat His flesh and place His blood on their lips, the doors of their bodies.

Before Aaron was priest, Melchizedek was priest; and before Saul was king, Melchizedek was king. A thousand years before Jesus was born, another king, David, wrote down these words of the Lord: “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” And two thousand years before Christ, Melchizedek the Priest-King offered to God a sacrifice of bread and wine.

More passages and scenes from scripture returned to me, and I saw them in a new light, the light of Christ, and I finally understood them.

What was once lost through disobedience in the Garden of Eden was regained through obedience in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Out of one tree humanity through Adam had plucked the fruit of sin and corruption; out of the tree of the cross, I was certain, humanity through Christ would pluck the fruit of redemption and restoration. The first was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, which brought death, but the second was the Tree of Life, which would bring everlasting life to anyone who ate of its fruit, as Jesus Himself had said.

Isaac rode a donkey for three days, not knowing that he was supposed to be sacrificed when he reached his destination. Jesus rode a donkey to the same place, but He knew exactly what awaited Him in Jerusalem. “For three days you’ve been dead, Isaac,” Abraham told his son, “but today the Lord has brought you back to life.” Jesus is going to die, I thought; but He isn’t going to stay dead.

Joseph was sold for silver by his own brothers; Jesus was sold for silver by one of His Twelve. Joseph was handed over to foreigners and bound and led away, and so had Jesus been, only the night before.

But that wasn’t the end of the story, of course, and even as I watched Jesus cough blood and almost collapse, I knew it wasn’t the end of His story either. “From the depths of the dungeons I was lifted up to the right hand of the king,” Joseph once told me, “and people all over the world are saved from starvation because I was sold into slavery.”

Before then, though, Joseph interpreted the dreams of two of his fellow prisoners, Pharaoh’s baker and his butler. The first dreamt of bread, the other of wine; the first meant death, the other meant a release from imprisonment and a restoration in as many days—in three days. The Son of Man, Jesus had said, will be handed over to be killed, but He will rise again on the third day.

The chief priests, the elders, the Pharisees, and the scribes thought they were being clever: if they stoned Jesus to death, He might be remembered and revered as a martyr, and might have been just as problematic for them in death as He had been in life. But who would continue to honor the name of a Man who’d been executed by Roman crucifixion? The shame would force even His greatest supporters to distance themselves from Him. Isn’t their thinking reasonable? I thought. Isn’t their strategy wise? Hadn’t Peter—Peter, mighty Apostle; Peter, who had told Jesus he’d follow Him anywhere, even unto death—on the very night he made that promise, even before Jesus was handed over to the Romans, hadn’t Peter denied so much as knowing his Master?

Their thinking was reasonable and their strategy was wise indeed. But they should have remembered the words of Isaiah on what God does to the wisdom of the wise and those who take council in secret and work in the dark.

Because it was in death by crucifixion that Jesus would carry the wood of His sacrifice up the mountain, as Isaac had done. It was in crucifixion that He would be lifted up and all who looked at him would have to look up at Him, as if in worship. It was in crucifixion that His arms would be stretched out to either end of the cross beam so that even as He died He would hold His arms open in welcome to the whole world.

It was with outstretched arms that He could clear the way to salvation, just as Moses had stretched out his hands to part the Red Sea; and it was with outstretched arms that He could conquer, just as his army had conquered because Moses stretched out his arms.

Words and images from scripture continued to flash in my mind like shooting stars lighting up the night sky. Here was the meaning of the rock Moses had struck with his staff, from which water had flowed to quench the thirst of the Israelites; here the meaning of the bitter water made sweet when Moses dipped a tree into it; and here was the copper snake placed on a stick, so that whoever was bitten and looked up at it would survive, as Jesus Himself had said.

And, of course, I thought of the words that had terrified Satan since the beginning. For who else was the seed of the woman except the One born of a Virgin Mother? Delight in His crucifixion while you can, Satan, I thought. You’ve bruised His heel, but He will crush your head. Because Jesus was indeed the Passover Lamb, but the story didn’t end there. After the Passover came the Exodus, when the people of God were led to freedom from the tyrant’s rule.

While I had these thoughts, Satan didn’t cease from jeering and laughing. Sometimes he’d scream in Jesus’ ears and sometimes in mine, alternating between us when he saw he wasn’t getting anywhere with either one.

“Do you see, Enoch?” he said at one point, when Jesus fell on His way to Golgotha. “This so-called Son of God isn’t strong enough to carry His cross by Himself, but needs the help of another!”

Lost in thoughts that delighted me as much as Jesus’ suffering delighted Satan, I hardly heard what he was saying.

Did God have this planned all along? That was the question that had tortured me since the beginning, but now I could answer it at last: Yes! Most gloriously: Yes!

And with that I end my Lenten series of blog posts for A Devil’s Gospel. Thanks to everyone who joined along for the ride!

The novel officially releases this Palm Sunday (April 9). You can also pre-order it anytime before then.

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A Devil’s Gospel: Why I Wrote This Novel (Spoilers Ahead)

eBook cover for "A Devil's Gospel"In last Friday‘s post, I mentioned that many years ago there was a publisher who was seriously considering buying the rights to A Devil’s Gospel. A member of their selection committee wasn’t comfortable with one of the themes of the novel, so I wrote an “afterword” to explain why I structured the novel the way I did. Today I’d like to share with you an edited version of that afterword, with the warning that it contains heavy spoilers for the novel. If you’re planning to read the book and would like to preserve the experience untainted, you may want to bookmark this page and return to it later.


Why I Wrote A Devil’s Gospel

Although A Devil’s Gospel is a work of fiction, it is a work of theological fiction and I’ve endeavored throughout not to deviate from the view of salvation as it is understood in traditional Christianity. In fact, one of my purposes in writing the novel was to demonstrate in a short, hopefully entertaining narrative, specifically that traditional view of salvation history and of God.

At the core of the work, though, is a piece of theology some Christians might find objectionable: the protagonist is an angel who rebels against God but is then redeemed by Christ’s incarnation, death, and resurrection.

It isn’t that most churches teach that devils can’t be saved. The traditional position on this question is rather that we should concern ourselves with our own salvation and that of our fellow human beings, about which we’ve been told everything sufficient, rather than the salvation of devils, about which we don’t know very much definitively, and which really isn’t our business.

So why do I mind the business of the devils in this novel?

Because I believe it is the corrective measure that is required today. In much of the modern world, Christians and non-Christians alike have a view of God that has been shaped by a very particular understanding of salvation. Under this view, the Lord is a wrathful, angry God of punishment, who will send tornadoes to wipe away entire cities of the unrighteous and earthquakes to topple down the houses of His enemies. Fire and brimstone preaching has lead too many Christians to create an idol in their minds, a fire and brimstone deity who will consign their own mother to Hell if she doesn’t belong to their small community, or if her understanding of God is slightly different than their own. Those with a sense of compassion eventually grow disillusioned with this idol, as well they should; those with intellectual honesty can’t countenance such a god, whose pettiness and temperament equals that of Zeus, as well they shouldn’t.

What Christians and non-Christians need now is a reminder of the true God, the One revealed in the Old and New Testaments, the One whose mercy and love is so radical that many “religious” people ignore it or apply it only to themselves and never to those they consider their enemies. Do I believe that Satan and his devils can be redeemed?  I don’t know, but I do believe that nothing is beyond God’s power. And, perhaps most importantly, I don’t doubt the answer to the question of whether God desires the devils to repent.

This is the Good News that modern Christians need to hear. Even a devil can be restored through the power of Christ’s love. Far from a damning God foaming at the mouth to condemn as many as He can, the Biblical understanding is rather of a loving Father who will do anything in His power (which is limited by the gift of free will He granted to His creatures) to save as many as He can.

On first glance, though, it may seem dangerous and maybe even blasphemous to feel sympathy for Satan and his devils, since they are the enemies of God and of humankind. This position, however, still misses the radical love at the center of being a follower of Christ. St. Isaac the Syrian says that as Christians our hearts should burn with love “for the whole of creation, for humanity, for the birds, for the animals, for demons, and for all that exists.”

“Love your enemies,” Jesus said, “and pray for those who persecute you.” Who is a greater enemy to humanity than Satan?  Who is a greater persecutor?

It is true that we have more pressing concerns than the salvation of the devils. But reflecting on such a possibility is worth doing if it serves as a reminder of the true nature of the loving Creator. And, if we’re blessed, such reflection may even nudge us toward having more love for all of His creation, including the devils who are our chief enemies, which will re-shape our hearts to that of the great saints of the Christianity and, and ultimately, to that of Christ Himself.

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A Devil’s Gospel: Rublev’s Trinity Icon

Old cover for A Devil's GospelOn March 17, I shared the cover I did for the draft of A Devil’s Gospel. The cover image is of Rublev’s trinity icon, which I felt perfectly encapsulated one of the themes of my novel. The “surface” depiction is of the story told in Genesis 18: Abraham is sitting in the door of his tent when the Lord appears to him. Abraham looks up and sees three men; he runs to them and bows in front of them. Then Abraham addresses one of them as “My Lord” and invites them to stay and rest. It turns out that one of the men is indeed the Lord (and He tells Sarah, who is very old and barren, that they’ll have a son) and the other two are angels.

For Christians, it’s clear that the man who is called Lord (Yahweh) in this passage is the pre-incarnate Christ. And very quickly, Christians saw this story of Abraham and Sarah extending hospitality to the three heavenly beings as a foreshadowing of the revelation that God is triune.

Rublev’s icon is a masterpiece for many reasons (how brilliant of him that the faces of each figure is exactly the same, for example), but exploring or contemplating the beautiful icon is beyond the scope of this post.

For my purposes, I loved how well it encapsulated the idea of Christ’s shadow (which I posted about on March 10): this strange story of three men, one of whom is the Lord, suddenly gaining deeper levels of significance in the light of Christ’s incarnation and His revelation of the triune nature of the Godhead.

eBook cover for "A Devil's Gospel"So why didn’t I use it for the final cover? There were two reasons. One (and based on advice from my wife), I wanted something more accessible to a wider audience; I think Rublev’s icon, beautiful as it is, might be intimating or off-putting to the reader who wants to pick up a fast-paced thriller that happens to retell the story of Christianity. Two, something that Father Thomas Hopko said in a recorded lecture has stuck with me ever since I heard it. Father Tom, who used to be Dean of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary, said that he’d tried very hard to get St. Vladimir’s Press to stop using icons on the covers of their books. He wasn’t successful, and I believe I understand the reasons why (for the right book, using an icon as the cover image is irresistible—and of course, Orthodox churches use icons as the covers of their bulletins). But his argument sticks with me—icons are holy objects of veneration; they shouldn’t be printed on paper that might end up in the trash, or trampled on, or in a stack under a bunch of other books.

I haven’t always followed his advice (the covers for the Father John books, for example, use details of an icon called the Ladder of Divine Ascent), but the force of his argument is enough to make me pause and be sure there isn’t a better alternative. In this case, I felt there was.

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A Devil’s Gospel: The (Long) Path to Publication

On March 17, I shared the “throwback” cover of A Devil’s Gospel and promised to talk about the path to publication for this novel.

First, I’ll say that the book took me a very long time to write, in part because I was working through the relevant portions of the Bible and several commentaries as I was writing each chapter. In the summer of 2010, I finally felt the manuscript was ready to shop around. I did seriously consider independently publishing the novel (which is in part why I designed the throwback cover and bound together a proof copy to give to my girlfriend at the time, now my wife), but I thought only in terms of print books and hadn’t heard of print-on-demand publishing. The costs were prohibitive. I wasn’t interested in ebooks or aware of how big they were becoming.

The way (I thought) traditional publishing worked, one had try to land an agent first. So over the next year I submitted queries and sample chapters. I’m no stranger to following submission guidelines—I’ve been submitting my short stories to magazines since 1998—and I know that different editors have quirks and ways they want to see manuscripts presented. But submitting to agents was a whole other kettle of slush. Many wanted a one-page synopsis; others wanted it in three pages, and some in five. Some wanted a marketing plan. Others wanted you to fill out a questionnaire with very specific questions. Some wanted cash for an “expedited review.” (I find it relatively easy to avoid scam magazines, but in novel-length publishing, it was a lot harder to tell legitimate agents and publishers from scammers).

I dutifully wrote, and trimmed, and expanded to match each guideline, and sent off query after query. Often I never heard back (so I guess I’ve been waiting for an answer for almost seven years now on several queries!)

In the meantime, I’d discovered that, in fact, many writers advised getting an agent once you’ve landed a publishing deal. I remember one piece of advice (I forget from who) went something like: “When the publisher calls with an offer, say you’ll have your agent contact them. Then go get yourself an agent.”

I decided to forget about agents for a while and try a prominent Christian publisher that I felt was perfect for my novel. I sent them a query, and within a week they requested the full manuscript. Once the selection committee had had a chance to review the full manuscript, the acquisitions editor (who was a delight to deal with and kept me informed throughout the process) told me I had reason for cautious optimism, though there was one dissenter on the committee who wasn’t sure about the subject matter. (I quickly wrote an afterword explaining the rationale for the perspective the book takes and sent it to the editor). The decision on the book was deferred from one acquisitions meeting to the next until, finally, it was decided that the publisher would get out of fiction and focus on nonfiction.

The whole process had taken almost 40 months, but with the exception of the result, it was positive throughout and made me feel good about my book’s chances. I spent the next four years submitting to several different Christian publishers. On two occasions I never heard back on the query and, after a year of waiting, gave up and moved on to the next publisher.

But the world had moved on too. Self-publishing was becoming a real, viable thing. Print-on-demand technology meant one could have one’s books printed, bound, and shipped off to customers with zero direct cost on each transaction. What’s more, ebooks had exploded and it seemed like everyone was reading on their phones, tablets, and the new breed of super-slick dedicated e-readers like the Kindle. That completely leveled the playing field—on an ebook store, a professionally produced self-published (or indie-published) ebook looks no different than a traditionally produced one.

I dipped my toes into self-publishing waters with Ooter’s Place and Other Stories of Fear, Faith, and Love and The Lost Stories: A Series of Cosmic Adventures (both collections of previously published short fiction). My wife (then still my girlfriend), coming from an academic perspective, had deep reservations about me self-publishing my previously unpublished novel-length work. So I made a deal with myself: I’d keep A Devil’s Gospel out on submissions but would indie publish the new novel I was working on, Father John VS the Zombies. I finished writing that book in the summer of 2012 and saw it in print before the end of the year. That same summer, I’d submitted A Devil’s Gospel to what I thought was a traditional publisher, which turned out not to be (I posted about that).

The experience with Father John was dangerous for my traditional-publishing aspirations. The path to publication for Father John took months and was fun. The path to publication for A Devil’s Gospel…well, two years later (at the time), it still hadn’t been published and I’d spent precious writing time working on variations of query letters and synopses that I suspected the intended recipients had never actually read in some cases. And I’d unwittingly walked into a vanity publishing trap.

Still, a deal was a deal and I was committed to keep trying the traditional publishing route with A Devil’s Gospel. On to the next query.

In the summer of 2013, my wife and I took a trip to Greece and I was inspired to start working on the sequel of Father John, which became Bishop John VS the Antichrist. I finished writing that book in the summer of 2014 (don’t ask me why it seems summer is my productive novel-writing season) and saw it in print by spring of the following year.

A Devil’s Gospel was still out with a publisher so I waited…and waited…and waited. By the end of 2016, though, I knew that I didn’t want to pursue a traditional publishing deal. There were too many well-publicized horror stories of publishers behaving badly: their contracts grabbing rights with both hands, rights that they had no intention of exploiting; insisting on non-compete clauses; giving the writer a pittance for ebook royalties; and maintaining poor record-keeping practices, which meant that many writers couldn’t believe their royalty statements (even if they thought their publisher was acting in good faith, which wasn’t always the case).

Although my indie published fiction hasn’t been overly successful in financial terms (I make more selling a short story to a professional magazine than I currently get from a year’s worth of sales of my indie-published books), it’s been successful in a way that’s much more important to me.

In 2017, when I realized that this Easter would be the last one East and West would celebrate together for another 17 years, I decided that was the kick in the pants I needed to start the process of publishing A Devil’s Gospel myself. It pleased me to say that it would be released on Palm Sunday, and not have to specify which one.

I’m excited to have the story out in the world. And to put it out into the world, I don’t have to jump through any query or synopsis hoops, don’t have to wait for anyone’s permission, don’t have to contort my story to meet someone else’s guidelines or biases.

This the story I want to tell, in the way I want to tell it.

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A Devil’s Gospel: Pre-order!

I’m very pleased to announce that the ebook of A Devil’s Gospel is now available for pre-order at the following fine retailers:

The ebook pre-order price is 50% off regular price, so get it while it’s cheap! After you place your order, it’ll be auto-delivered to your device on Palm Sunday (April 9).

And if you’re in the US or the UK, you can also order the paperback version from Amazon (more stores, and more countries, coming soon). If you order it now, you should have it in your hands by Palm Sunday too!

If you need some convincing, you can read the first chapter for free.

So choose your flavor, paperback or ebook!

The author holding paperback and ebook copies of A Devil's Gospel

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