Brief Note on Pre-Ordering Historicity of Jesus

Cover of Richard Carrier's book On the Historicity of Jesus. Medieval icon image of Jesus holding a codex, on a plain brown background, title above in white text, author below in white text.On the Historicity of Jesus is expected to be out by the end of June. I have not received a firm confirmation of that; it all depends on how much time the publisher takes to do a print run and distribute stock. I am reasonably sure it can’t be much later than that (I think worst case scenario would be end of July).

The publisher, Sheffield-Phoenix, located in the UK, is offering an opportunity to pre-order the book, in either hardcover or softcover (note the enormous price difference: $35 soft, $95 hard; this is typical now in academic publishing). You can do that at the publisher’s website, where you can also get a look at a description of the book and its extended table of contents.

But I must issue a word of caution. I was not going to blog the book’s availability until Amazon was offering a pre-order. This is because Amazon typically gives the best prices (although they in part do that by abusing and exploiting workers, something worth concern). Although you can pre-order from England now, direct from the publisher, not only does that mean you have to pay full list price (Amazon sometimes can undercut that; we’ll have to wait and see to find out if it does in this case), but also shipping (which you can often get waived for purchases through Amazon). And I can’t guarantee it will be faster. Amazon is vastly more efficient than most publishers, and though you’d think a publisher would fulfill its own pre-orders faster than it can deliver stock to Amazon and Amazon distribute its own pre-orders from it, one should hesitate to bet against Amazon. The only thing counting against it is that Sheffield distributes in North America through the Society of Biblical Literature, so that could produce enough of a delay in getting stock to Amazon US that Sheffield can beat its shipping and handling velocity, even crossing the sea.

Maybe none of this will matter. Pre-ordering through Sheffield might be the fastest way to get a copy in hand, even for people in the Americas. And it might not be significantly more expensive. I don’t know. So I just want my readers to be aware that I can’t promise either. And though sometimes sales direct through a publisher give an author a double royalty (this is the case for several of my other books), this is not the case here. So it won’t likely affect me either way.

Update: Amazon is now showing separate order pages for the hardcover and the softcover. Last I looked (and this can constantly change) they are offering a slight discount only on the former, but free shipping on both.


  1. says

    So excited for this! Thanks for the info about amazon vs. publisher, I’d never given much thought about it and I’m glad that in this case, it doesn’t affect you either way.

  2. ACN says

    I’ve been trying to move away from Amazon for my purchases recently anyway.

    Pre-ordered my copy from the publisher.

    • says


      Those who have the means and want to protest Amazon’s brutal labor practices, buy direct from Sheffield!

      (I’m just aware not everyone is privileged enough to do that.)

      Note, however, that the actual printing (and I assume distribution) of Sheffield titles is done by contract through independent companies like Lightning Source, which has production facilities in the UK and the US–and I do not know the union or labor policies at the US facility, for example (the largest of which is in Tennessee). I’d like to know, if anyone does know. Better labor policies there than at Amazon? Or same?

    • scoobie says

      That’s a shame. I’ve been waiting avidly for this but I guess I won’t be ordering mine for a good long while. Has electronic publishing yet to arrive in academia? I thought *I* was late to the epub party but since I got a tablet last year and discovered Calibre and Moon Reader I no longer get books. That’s ‘get’ as in ‘understand’ :). As for a hardback edition… Really? Do people still want those?!

      Anyway, I wish you lots of success with this and please keep up the good work!

    • says

      I share your views.

      Note that academia doesn’t “get” either. Or so far as I can tell.

      When they do understand the idea of producing ebooks, they do so at outrageous prices. They often sell them for usually 2 to 3 times the list price of a paperback, and that’s paperback by academic list prices, which is already ten dollars over trade average (e.g. this example is typical–note that that’s even just a 256 page book!). Not getting the point of an electronic edition at all. (Except insofar as “the point” for them is profit, which contradicts the whole idea of what an academic press is supposed to be about; but then note that actual for-profit presses aren’t so foolish as to charge anywhere near such rates for e-books; so even on that score, a fail.)

      Hardcovers are also a screwy idea (except when beautifully produced and affordably sold, e.g. Harvard Press sometimes gets this right). Increasingly often the list prices are not justified by the added cost (hardcovers only cost a little more to produce than soft; I know, I self-publish, so I know what the actual manufacturing costs are). I can only conclude they are based on raping academic institutions (students, faculty, libraries). A library can buy a softcover and bind it hard on its own for a fraction that cost (I know, I used to work in an academic library, including in the capacity of processing softbacks for in-house binding in hardcover). Indeed, I myself can do that (binding a single book using a local craftsman…seriously, an actual artisan in a shop…is cheaper for me, as an individual, than the actual list prices academic presses are charging for hardbacks…and that’s well before we add institutional economies of scale). So…

      The excuse that they need to do this to recoup losses is no longer true. With Publishing On Demand (which actually many academic presses now use…e.g. Sheffield simply buys units from Lightning, a POD) there isn’t even any overhead. It’s not like in the past when you had to run a fixed number of books and store them and pray they all sell. Now you just print each book as it is bought, and the printer keeps their take from the purchase price, and the publisher doesn’t spend a dime out of its own pocket. Which is why I, as just a guy with a desk and an internet connection, can publish books at zero cost, and thrice the profit. Even hardbacks (if I wanted to; the demand isn’t high enough usually to bother: cheaper softbacks sell much better).

      So, I just have to conclude Academic Presses are still stuck in 1995. Even granting that they are honest enterprises, and not parasites running a scam on our education system (some, e.g. Routledge, I have a very hard time being that charitable with).

      End soapbox.

    • Antonio says

      The status of electronic publications in academia are changing, albeit slowly. I could publish my PhD thesis (in computer science) purely electronically, something that was not possible a few years ago, although my field is certainly “biased” towards progress in this direction. The number of purely digital yet still respected and peer-reviewed journals and conferences is increasing as well.

      Still, I am constantly annoyed by the fact that I can’t get scientific publications in an format suitable for eBook readers, and with an open and exchangeable format for annotations, and hyperlinked bibliographies (with links to, at least, the abstracts). All we have are databases with rather unreliable, post-hoc digitalizations based on OCR-scans of PDFs. And that’s the situation in freaking computer science where you would expect better.

  3. says

    I am very surprised about the sub-title: “Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt”
    Does that reflect the content of your book?
    That looks to me to be a change from your ultra-positive position in favor of a mythical Jesus.
    Cordially, Bernard

    • says

      Tsk, tsk, Bernard. Will your delusions never end?

      I have never advocated an “ultra”-positive position in favor of mythicism. I have always stated it with caveats and as a preponderance of probabilities, and never as a certainty, nor as something that has been established in the field, but as something that has yet to be. Indeed I have been very meticulous about this. I assume, then, that you have negative hallucinations whenever reading my writings on the subject, and just literally don’t see all the words.

  4. dutchdelight says

    About the soft- and hardcover editions… Do you get more royalties for the hardcover? (Not asking for all the price details, but am i right in assuming you’ll get a significantly higher compensation for a sold hardcover compared to a softcover?

    I think i’ll want the hardcover regardless, but knowing it benefits the author as well would make the choice easier for me :)

    • says

      Do you get more royalties for the hardcover?

      Probably not for a while. And I am not certain how much more (I won’t know until I see the first annual report late next year).

      I earn 10% of net on all units sold, and typically a unit listed at thrice the price will have a larger net as well (which I can also infer from the author discounts). But I do not earn anything for the first 100 units. So any hardcovers bought in that first 100 sales won’t affect my returns at all.

      So someone keen on benefiting me the most would have to wait a while before buying a hardcover, long enough for at least 100 other units to have been sold. And I won’t know when that happens, so I won’t be able to tell anyone (I only get paid yearly, and reports and payouts often have a delay of two to three months, so I will only see the first sales report sometime around September 2015).

      I say if you want it as soon as possible, just get what you want and can afford. But if you aren’t in a hurry, wait a quarter and then buy (I might be making royalties by the second quarter, if the rush to get early copies is large enough the first quarter; its second quarter would be Oct-Dec 2014).

      I know that’s all confusing and frustrating information. Welcome to 21st century academic publishing. Sorry.

  5. shadowspade says

    I am almost embarrassed at how excited I am to read this book. It’s like Saturnalia in June (or July)!

  6. junego says

    No way could I wait for the ebook, so I ordered mine through the publisher a week ago (paperback). This kinda feels like waiting for Christmas morning when I was a kid, which is either dumb or terribly ironic.

    When the ebook does finally come out I may donate the physical book to my local library ;^}

  7. says

    Richard— I really hope this book addresses why the legend of Jesus— whether you want to believe in a historical figure, or a mythical one— came to be in the timeframe of the 30s ad. I am really struggling with this answer right now, and am not finding strong enough sources to adequately research. I am hoping your book provides some insight on this. I strongly suspect that the book of Daniel had something to do with this particular timeframe– but struggle to find historical validation other than some of the things you have mentioned in the past, such as the early church fathers calculations that lead to around 30 ad or so. I have also seen a few posts about the people in Qumran believing the messiah to be coming around 26 ad— but haven’t been able to fully vet this out. Anyway, this is a troublesome topic for me. Christians will assert that Jesus appeared during this time– and matches up to Daniels prophecies because he truly was the messiah. But if there was another logical reason– there was enough people who reworked Daniel and came up with the 20-30s ad as the estimated Jesus, a hidtorical man could pattern himself after this notion, claiming he was the messiah, or he could have been placed in his timeframe by those who were “inventing” the persona of Christ based on these prophecies. This would easily negate the Christians assertion that this is proof of the messiah. I just haven’t found enough information to prove my theory just yet— but am hoping you have some good stuff on this in your book. I don’t want to believe the Christian alternative because I can’t disprove the miraculousness of how Daniels dates supposedly line up with Jesus’ life. I want to show that there could be other equally plausible reasons for this!! Sorry for the rant, but no body ever really addresses this issue!!

    • says

      I really hope this book addresses why the legend of Jesus…came to be in the timeframe of the 30s ad.

      I do, yes. In fact, I do what historicists don’t do: I also propose an explanation for how it came to be in the timeframe of the 70s BC, among Christians east of the Roman Empire.

      Historicists like to gloss over the fact that what may well have been half of world Christendom placed Jesus a hundred years earlier. Simply because they were Christians outside the Roman Empire. But Christianity was not constrained by political borders. It grew across both empires (Roman and Parthian) equally.

  8. Tal says

    Is there a reason why you didn’t chose an artwork of a compatible with atheism, non-supernatural normal mortal Jesus for the cover?
    Like Reza Aslan had for “Zealot”.

    • says

      Huh? A book about Jesus being a myth has a picture of a mythical Jesus on it. That is atheist.

      I think maybe you are mistaking my thesis. I am arguing there wasn’t a “non-supernatural normal mortal Jesus.” That there has only ever been a mythical one. Like Christians perpetually imagined…yet took literally.

    • The Divine Council says

      I am not sure I get Reza Aslan’s views on the historicity of Jesus. He does a great job of pointing out how unreliable the Gospels are but then uses quotes from the Gospels to create a profile of Jesus.

      I listened to an interview of his on YouTube and he was using the “Give unto Caesar…” quote from Jesus to help define Jesus’s character. If the Gospels are so unreliable how do we even know Jesus or anyone in the early first century said this?

      Anyway, I am waiting for the audio book of On The Historicity of Jesus. I hope you do the narration yourself, Richard, like you have done previously (unless you can get Will Patton or Scott Brick who are two favorites of mine … just kidding).

      I am guessing no audio book for at least six months, though.

    • says

      Aslan presumes historicity. He doesn’t argue for it. He is just another of hundreds of scholars who argue over “what kind of historical Jesus,” and forget to even ask if they have skipped a step and should first be asking “whether any historical Jesus.”

      But you picked a good example either way: we can be pretty sure Jesus never uttered the “render unto Caesar” line because when Paul says the same thing about paying taxes to his congregations, he never quotes Jesus or appears at all aware Jesus ever said anything on the matter at all (much less something so pithy and authoritative it could hardly not be quoted). Additionally, the whole scene is so obviously a commentary on the Fiscus Judaicus, which was imposed after the Jewish War (and thus long after Jesus), that it is literarily naive to think it was ever uttered by Jesus.

  9. Chris12071401 says

    Really looking forward to this book. I have just received a £25 Amazon voucher by filling out online surveys. I am a mature student attempting to change my life studying what I am passionate about rather than remaining an office wage-slave. Studying Religion, Philosophy and Theology, I have referenced/cited Richard’s books several times in my coursework the last couple of years and have had, so far, ‘first class’ success. I have no doubt this book will help for my final year, too.

    Being a mature student, however, I therefore have next to nothing in money and fill out copious online surveys to get books like this! A lil tip for students and people on low incomes – online surveys get you a book twice a year!. Therefore I have been waiting for it to appear on Amazon UK. As yet (9 June) it isn’t available to pre-order. I shall be checking regularly. Thank you, Richard.

    • says

      In answer to this comment elsewhere about the “we” passages in Acts:

      My view is that we don’t know for sure why, all we have are competing theories of differing merit, but none of those of top merit (i.e. with the highest probabilities) get Craig what he wants.

      We can rule out the eye-witness theory, not only because when eye-witnesses use this mode of discourse, they identify who they are (a rather universal practice, conspicuously missing even from Luke’s preface), but more importantly because we can demonstrate from literary theory that the entire book is bullshit (I survey that evidence in chapter ten of OHJ).

      Likewise the “fool us” theory would entail the entire book would be in first person; it can’t explain the weird shifting from one to the other at random places (which from a literary perspective is bizarre even by ancient standards–writers even in those days were taught to make such transitions intelligible, i.e. explain why the narrator has changed).

      The “copying a source” theory is not very likely because, again, a writer would say that (indeed, the value of naming a source to the authority of a narrative was universally recognized; so why would Luke not capitalize on that?), or convert the discourse to match the one they are using (i.e. they’d convert all first person to third when adapting the source). And it’s not very useful because those sections are entirely in Lucan style, so he was not copying a source but rewriting it in his own style–which leaves us incapable of knowing which parts are from his source and which parts he is changing or adding, even if he was using a source.

      The most credible theory is the novelization thesis: religious novels frequently resort to first person discourse, especially in sea narratives. That is not a proof. But there is no theory that can claim any higher probability, given such observations as the above.

      On exposing acts, the writings of Richard Pervo are central (I cite a few others in OHJ), esp. The Mystery of Acts. The best case for authenticity is well known to be Hemer’s The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History, but it is seriously flawed by some really bad logic, on which see my remarks (and quotations of other academic reviewers) in Not the Impossible Faith, pp. 174-80.

      More resources are cited in OHJ.

  10. gshelley says

    After seeing on your facebook page it is now at amazon, I went ahead and ordered. They are claiming ig might take 2-3 days to ship, but has estimated arrival June 19-20.

    That gives me most of a week to read Theissen’ Historical Jesus, which I have started, but though it is fairly comprehensive, it is frequently completely uncritical and absolutely starts with a historical Jesus as a premise, not ending with it as a conclusion. But, I want to have familiarity with the other side before reading your, even if I am not going to get an honest and intellectually rigorous defence of a historical Jesus.

    (On a side note, I am not sure which I prefer, acknowledging that the TF as in most reconstructions is still much more positive than neutral, and explaining that by saying it was less positive than Christian stories, so relatively neutral, or just ignoring the terms such as “wise man” that were not commonly used by Josephus, and certainly not about criminals, and so claiming it was actually neutral)

  11. gshelley says

    Regarding the “render unto Caesar line”, it’s good that actual scholars are also unconvinced by the argument that “Paul didn’t mention anything Jesus said or did, because the people he was writing to already knew it all, so would have been insulted to be reminded) I have seen from Historicitists

    • says

      Some have attempted that argument. It generally doesn’t get a good critical response. Not least because Paul is happy to cite and quote the Lord elsewhere in his letters, dispelling any “he wouldn’t do that” argument. And as Lüdemann has pointed out, Paul obsessively quotes and cites the Scriptures–even though his audiences are supposed to already know them, too. Etc.

  12. Foxcanine says

    In regards to buying your book, will it ever be available for the Nook? I’m looking forward to reading it. Thanks.

    • says

      I’m not sure. I think this time around the odds are good if Sheffield lets me produce the ebook edition under my own imprint. But if they want to do it, or contract it to a third party, then I have no idea what platforms they will format and sell to. This will all be discussed next week, when their staff are back in (the key players have been on vacation or attending conferences).

  13. says

    As a donor, I’m getting a copy soon. I decided to also go ahead and buy a hardback. I didn’t notice until just now where you said you don’t get extra commission on the first 100 copies. Crap, sorry about that chief. Well, at least I knocked one down off that first 100.

    I’ve checked some of the early reviews. I’ve seen a couple that were mostly positive. They generally found, at least in their opinion, some of your arguments not as strong as you believe them to be. But still were overall positive.