His own faith a little beaten up, the prolific author
Bart Ehrman never tires of probing beneath
the rocks of religious belief.
by Kathleen Kearns
hen he was a graduate student at Prince-
ton Theological Sem-
inary, Bart Ehrman
had a dream. He was
supposed to be in a tennis tournament -
he was a tennis player when he
was younger - but they would-
n't let hinl play. They told hinl he
had to string the rackets instead.
He and his good friend Jeffrey
Siker decided the dream was
about the unglamorous academic
work in which both were
immersed, the close analysis of
ancient religious manuscripts. It
became a running joke between
them; stringing the rackets served as a
metaphor for the behind-the-scenes task of
establishing the texts on which scholars
These days Ehrman definitely is in the
game, front and center before the crowds.
His latest book, Misquoting Jesus: The Story
Behind VV7~0 Changed the Bible and VV71-}" has
spent a number of weeks on The New York
Times best-seller list. National Public Radio
has interviewed him, The Washington Post
has profiled him and Jon Stewart has called
MisquotingJesus "a helluva book."
The James A. Gray Distinguished
Professor and chair of Carolina's religious stud-
ies department - a department until now
not prone to producing rock stars -
Ehrman clearly loves to play.
He regularly tells his under-
graduates that if anyone can beat
him in racquetball or Bible
trivia, he'll give them all A's.
Now 50, he has produced 19
books and has four more on the
way, He's been known to beat
the deadlines his publishers set
by several years, a feat all but
unknown in the publishing
world. He thrives on the intel-
lectual exchanges, public and private, that
his latest book has generated, and he has
jumped into the unfolding discussion over
the newly authenticated Gospel ojJudas,
which puts a considerably different spin on
the actions of the apostle whom New Tes-
tament accounts say betrayed Jesus. When
academic colleagues criticize Misquoting
Jesus - and a few have - he relishes the
opportunity to match wits, to quote
chapter and verse to make his points. "That's
the fun ofscholarship!" he says.
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