In doubting his faith,
'what I was most qfraid
if was that it would lead
to a kind ifchaotic, amoral
existence. It didn't happen,
and I don't think it does
happen. I still think
teachings like you ought
to love your neighbor
as yourselfare true.
Even if I don't believe
in an afterlife, I still
think that's how
you ought to live.'
Ehrman has written 19 books and
has four more on the way. Several
of them have drawn the kind of
popular attention rarely associat-
ed with academic works.
May /J/I IIe 2006
with it religiously is something you need
to deal with."
Faded faith, strong beliefs
The recipient of several University
awards for excellence in teaching, Ehrman
actively encourages discussion among his
students, online, in recitations and in the
formal debates run by his teaching
assistants. He has the undergraduates take stands
on topics such as whether the New Testa-
ment condemns modern practices of
homosexuality or whether Paul's views of
women are oppressive. Whether they agree
with his take on the Bible or not, he wants
them engaged with the material.
His graduate students consider them-
selves lucky to work with him, said Jared
Anderson, who is one of them."He has a
gift of demanding a tremendous amount
but not making you feel bad if you don't
get there. I've learned a tremendous
amount about how to teach from him."
"He is an excellent mentor," said Kim
Haines-Eitzen, a former graduate student
and now a professor of religious studies at
Cornell. "His students know him to be
very heavy handed with the red pen. He
paid a lot of attention to our writing, to
the way we construct arguments, to our
use of evidence. He's really excellent at
honing in on what the argument is and
how we support it."
If Ehrman demands that others learn to
play the academic game skillfully, he's
equally demanding of himself. Witness that
prolific output: his next book, called Peter,
Paul and Mary Magdalene, was to be
released in May. ("He's a machine," Ander-
son said. "He's really, really quick, and we
all hate him for it,"Jeffrey Siker com-
mented with a laugh.) The reasons Ehrman
pushes himself so hard remain elusive -
"he's not the most disclosive person,"
Anderson said - but it's tempting to see
some proselytizing zeal as a f.1ctor.
"In all Bart's writing," said
Haines-Eitzen, "the line between argument and
trying to persuade readers can have behind
it kind of a missionary impulse."To her, the
autobiographical element of Misquoting
Jesus has an underlying message that a fun-
damentalist who comes to know what
Ehrman knows will have to change his or
her view. "There's a little bit of an implied
audience of readers who have had a similar
kind of experience or still hold that funda-mentalist view," she said."I'm nervous
about missionary impulses of all sorts."
KATHLEEN K EARNS is afreelance writer in
Chapel Hill .
Bart Ehrman also isfeatured in the spring
2006 issue if Endeavors, UNC's magazine
about research and creative activity that is
published three times a year. Life members
if the GAA receive each issue if Endeavors
as a membership benefit mailed with the
Review. Annual GAA members and others
can read Endeavors online at research.nnc.