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The Lapsed Evangelical Critic

Bart Ehrman's doubt as a student at Moody has turned to agnosticism.
2006This article is part of CT's digital archives. Subscribers have access to all current and past issues, dating back to 1956.

In his most recent book, Misquoting Jesus, New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman tells of his conversion and subsequent doubt. Ehrman grew up in a liberal Episcopal church but in high school had a "born-again experience." "There was a kind of loneliness associated with being a young teenager, but, of course, I didn't realize that it was part of being a teenager—I thought there must be something missing."

According to Ehrman, a Youth for Christ leader took advantage of that loneliness and told him "with a powerful message that the void we felt inside (We were teenagers! All of us felt a void!) was from not having Christ in our hearts." Eventually Ehrman relented, accepted Christ, and found relief in being "saved."

Ehrman then attended Chicago's Moody Bible Institute for three years and excelled. But the more he looked at the Greek text of Scripture, the more he struggled with what he saw as a deep fallacy beneath the surface. The New Testament's inerrancy depended on having original texts, but all we possessed were copies—copies of copies. And these were filled with copyists' errors, some accidental, but some intentional, he felt.

This led to further work in the Greek New Testament at Wheaton College, where study of textual criticism brought his struggle to a head: "I kept reverting to my basic question: How does it help us to say that the Bible is the inerrant word of God if in fact we don't have the words that God inerrantly inspired?"

Further study at Princeton "opened the floodgates." If one solid error could be found—and the Mark 2:26 reference to Abiathar as high priest during the days of David (according to 1 Sam. 21:2, Ahimelech was the high priest) was a turning point—the way was open for Ehrman to believe ...

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