Bart speaking:  I often get asked how someone can be a scholar of the NT, understand all its critical problems, and yet still remain a Christian.  That’s a mystery to many people.  But it’s not a mystery to biblical scholars.  I was looking back through old posts and saw that in the first year of the blog, eight years ago now, I asked my friend Jeff Siker, a well-published NT scholar and long time professor of NT at Loyola Marymount, if he would explain why despite all he knows, he remains a believer and an active member of the church.  He has agreed to allow me to republish the two posts he made and is happy to answer questions about them.

Jeff is the author of a number of books, including Jesus, Sin, and Perfection in Early Christianity, Homosexuality in the Church, and Liquid Scripture: The Bible in the Digital Age.

Here is the first of his posts.

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When I first went to Princeton Theological Seminary to begin the Ph.D. program there in New Testament Studies, one of the first individuals I met in the graduate study room was Bart Ehrman.  (This was back in 1983.)  There were several long tables with chairs in the room, and each graduate student had managed to commandeer an end of one of the tables, marked by various piles of books and coffee cups.  Bart had his own stack of books and 3 x 5 notecards as he was busy collating (collecting and comparing) the Gospel citations from the 4th century theologian Didymus the Blind (Bart’s first published book).  I remember asking him what it meant for a blind man to use a particular version of the Gospel text.  His response was something like, “Good question!”  And we’ve been friends ever since!  He regularly whipped me in racquetball (and I mean whipped), and we spent many long evenings playing backgammon, smoking a cigar or two, and talking NT and theology, among other things.

At the time he was working part-time pastoring a Baptist church in the Princeton area.  His educational pedigree demonstrated a clear fundamentalist-conservative trajectory (Moody Bible Institute, Wheaton College, then Princeton Seminary for his M.Div. and finally his Ph.D. in text criticism with Prof. Bruce Metzger, the most important and prolific text critic of the time and author of The Bible in Translation; and Bart was his prized student).  Despite his very conservative background, he was open to all kinds of questions and issues, and he had clearly moved significantly away from his most fundamentalist days that had included the assertion of biblical inerrancy.  His understanding of the Bible had developed a critical edge, which often happens to individuals with conservative theological roots.

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