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Learning to Teach at Moody

I will not be continuing this autobiographical thread (thread within a thread) for much longer (you may be glad to know), but I do want to get to the ultimate point (for the thread outside the thread), which is why by a couple of quirks/flukes I ended up better equipped to write books for general audiences than most of my colleagues in my PhD program.   The first has to do with what happened with me back in my days at Moody when I was learning tons about what was actually in the Bible (and the fundamentalist way of interpreting it all) (which, at the time, of course, I thought was the *only* correct way to interpret it).

At Moody, every semester we were required to engage in some kind of formal ministry (“Practical Christian Experience”).  Everyone at Moody had to do one semester of “door-to-door evangelism,” where we were taken to one neighborhood or another somewhere in a suburb of Chicago, and literally knocked on doors to talk to people to try to convert them.  This was the Moody version of the Mormons.  So I did that one semester (with no success, I might add).  Apart from that one requirement, we had lots of options.

And so I did different things each of my first four semesters there.  One semester I went to Cook County Hospital once a week to assist in the chaplain’s office, visiting some very sick people with “the good news.”  I suppose they especially needed it, though I was fairly clueless about how to actually be of any use to them.

One semester I was a radio counselor…

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How I Discovered Textual Criticism
Moody Bible Boot Camp



  1. Benjamin
    Benjamin  August 30, 2016

    Very well, it makes perfect sense that why your Moody and fundamentalist training prepared you for life. I can relate to this. Not many others know why it matters to us, to them, it’s only a few words in the bible. Why die for it? To me at the time, it was life and death. It matters, and this is why I even took some Biblical Hebrew in college, and years later, I would attend services of Divine Liturgies at both the Holy Transfiguration Monastery and St Mathews (Syrian Orthodox Church), and stayed there to learn something about my ancient faith. I taught Sunday School classes, attended training by Child Evangelism Fellowship, and even applied to Princeton Theological Seminary, wanting to learn more about Assyrian Christianity and church history from this Moffett. All these, I can trace to my fundamentalist training as a teenager. it gives me a structure and a way of life that to this day, baffles my friends and family. Even though I no longer believe in the Rapture, I live as if there is one. For in my subconscious, I live this life as if there is a god, and he has called those to attend his wedding banquet, but in reality, “many are called (to come to the wedding feast), I have chosen (to come) the feast myself,” The life I live, I live to the son of God. It no longer is. baffles everyone around me, but I am still, after all, a fundamentalist. This part cannot change. What say you?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 31, 2016

      My view is that *every* part can change! But we all have to go where we think the truth leads us.

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    RonaldTaska  August 30, 2016

    Wow! This explains a lot.

    I have been struggling with this type of church education for quite awhile. For many decades, I thought such education did more good than harm resulting in people doing more good than harm. Now, I am not so sure. A by-product of this type of religious education all too often is a closed mind which has difficulty critically examining crucial questions and uses confirmation bias to spin and discount any new evidence presented to it. I now actually think this is a terrible thing to do to young minds. For example, teaching that Noah and the Ark is historical, rather than legendary, really closes the door on thinking critically. Even, if one interprets it as a “story” revealing a “truth,” what is the “truth” in a God drowning all but 8 humans? What a horrible thing to teach kids. So, although I really work at it, tolerating even liberal Christianity has become progressively more difficult for me. I wish it were otherwise, but it’s not. How have you done it?

    • Bart
      Bart  August 31, 2016

      By knowing liberal Christians who are much smarter and wiser than me!

  3. talmoore
    talmoore  August 30, 2016

    Dr. Ehrman, as a curious atheist myself (some might say a masochist), I regularly listen to Moody radio down here in Florida, so I can experience what the other 20 to 30% of the American population believes. It’s like listening to a transmission from an extraterrestrial civilization. The other day the hosts were discussing methods of convincing Mormons how they have it all wrong. The idea of a guy living in early 19th century upstate New York being a prophet of God, well, that’s just silly. But an uneducated guy living in the 1st century backwoods of Galilee, well, you’d be a fool not to believe he was God the Almighty Creator of the Universe in the flesh!

  4. Avatar
    Wilusa  August 30, 2016

    At this point, it’s fascinating! Yes, your experience in making complex topics understandable and interesting to teenagers at that still-early stage of your own life undoubtedly served you well in later years. But I’m sure you were only able to do it because of a natural *talent*.

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    rburos  August 30, 2016

    I’ve said a few times, that your ability to create a narrative is what sets you apart. Studying doesn’t give you that skill, regardless of how in depth it is. Now I see–TOPIC, conducted over and over again with difficult audiences is it. I retired from the military and now teach, and have often said the military knows nothing about leadership compared to secondary teachers. What a formative experience you had!

    Continue this thread for as long as you wish

  6. Avatar
    Hank_Z  August 30, 2016

    Bart, your TOPIC acronym for teaching difficult material seems pretty darned good. I know you take your teaching seriously. What have you replaced TOPIC with (whether or not it’s an acronym)?

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    Cornelius  August 30, 2016

    I’m currently taking my first college level course on the Bible. It’s a New Testament course, and I just recently found out that up until this year, the professor had been using your textbook. The only reason he stopped using it is because people complained that you were an agnostic! Yikes! Religious studies are tricky business.

    Anyways, you’d be happy to know that in the “recommended readings” section at the end of most chapters (in the new book by Stephen Harris) there was at least one of your works listed as a recommendation!

    • Bart
      Bart  August 31, 2016

      Wow — I think it’s odd to take an author’s personal religious beliefs into consideration when considering whether to use his historical assessment of the Bible. It’s either history or it’s not!

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    gabilaranjeira  August 30, 2016


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    Tempo1936  August 30, 2016

    Professor, is there evidence that some of the
    The Beatitudes and renouncing materialism were taken from the teaching of Buddhism. I think the Buddha lived about 500 years before Christ and may have had followers in the Galilean area?
    Both Jesus and Buddha issued many moral commandments .
    A few examples which were given include

    JESUS: “A foolish man, which built his house on sand.”
    BUDDHA: “Perishable is a city built on sand.” (30)
    JESUS: “Therefore confess your sins one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed.”
    BUDDHA: “Confess before the world the sins you have committed.” (31)
    JESUS: “In him we have redemption through his blood, the foregiveness of sins.”
    BUDDHA: “Let all sins that were committed in this world fall on me, that the world may be delivered.” (32)
    JESUS: “Do to others as you would have them do to you.”
    BUDDHA: “Consider others as yourself.” (33)

    • Bart
      Bart  August 31, 2016

      The biggest problem is that there is no evidence of any Buddhism/Buddhists in first century Galilee. But, great mindes think alike!

      • Avatar
        Tempo1936  August 31, 2016

        I read there could have been Buddhist missionaries traveling in this area as there was a lot of trade with India and the Judaea area was a common route . Also There appears to be Buddhistic elements in the Teaching and extreme life style of John the Baptist and also in Essenism.
        The word ‘Essene’ could have evolved from the foreign pronunciation of the Indian word ‘Eeshani.’ Eeshan is Shiva (the Hindu God) .
        Do you think Jesus was influenced by Essenism ?

        • Bart
          Bart  September 2, 2016

          I don’t know of any evidence there were Buddhist missionaries there. But I’d love to see the references (from ancient sources) (as opposed to raw speculation)

      • Avatar
        Wilusa  September 2, 2016

        OK, I can’t resist pointing this out! Those “great minds thinking alike” *might* suggest reincarnation. Not necessarily the Buddha reincarnating in Jesus…just ordinary people subconsciously remembering things they’d heard when they were ordinary people in another part of the world, and the ideas beginning to circulate. Or, *Jesus* subconsciously remembering what he’d heard when he was an ordinary person in another part of the world.

    • talmoore
      talmoore  August 31, 2016

      We know that Jews in 1st century Palestine were familiar with some of the religions and philosophies of the subcontinent, because Josephus himself quotes or reconstructs the final speech of Eliezer ben Yair, the leader of the Zealots at Masada, just before the Romans took Masada, and in that speech Josephus has ben Yair make specific references to the beliefs of the Indians (e.g. transmigration of souls, punative vs. exaltory reincarnation, etc.). Now whether Eliezer ben Yair actually expounded those ideas in his actual, historical speech is certainly up for debate (because we only have Josephus to rely on). Even still, it shows that Josephus himself was aware of the philosophies of the subcontinent, and that Josephus didn’t think it was unrealistic that a Jewish revolutionary leader like Eliezer ben Yair would be aware of those philosophies, as well. So it’s not a stretch to presume that the ideas of Indian religion and philosophy were known — at least to some — in 1st century Palestine.

  10. Terianne
    Terianne  August 31, 2016

    Sorry you’re not continuing the autobiographical thread, because it’s kind of resonated with me. I’m interested in early Christianity as history, but it’s always the human aspect that fascinates me. As someone whose religious beliefs are “under construction” I love hearing other people’s thoughts on their religious/spiritual journey. So thank you for this thread, and I hope you’ll “go there” in the future when it seems right. Facts are essential, but not everything.

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    Jayredinger  August 31, 2016

    Morning Bart, I know this is off topic,(no pun intended) but how was the canon of the OT established. I am thinking in particular of the book of Esther which does not seem to have any theology in it.

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    jmmarine1  August 31, 2016

    Like you, I remember those days, 30+ years ago attending bible college, mine was the old Detroit Bible College (DBC). Like you, I am deeply conflicted over them. I still have 3 dear friends from those days who I would never have met otherwise, yet I cannot help but think of all those topics I could have covered were it not for memorizing Ryrie’s Dispensationalism Today and Basic Doctrine books. I had converted in mid-August of 1980, and by the first week of September of that same year, I was enrolled in DBC and car-pooling with one of my professors, Gary Habermas (Gary was the only Prof. not from Dallas Theological Seminary). During my first day of classes, I was instantly spotted by a Type A fundamentalist and he made me his special project when he saw me leafing through my brand new bible looking for Matthew, starting at Genesis.
    It was now my second semester and Gary had left for Liberty University, and I was sitting next to my fundamentalist project manager when an outside speaker was introduced to the class. He had just written a book and was now touring. This author had 2 PhDs and had decided to move his family from the suburbs of Los Angeles right into the heart of South-Central LA to street preach. He was an aggressive, self-righteous speaker and he made his pitch. During Q & A he fielded questions regarding his safety and that of his family and cash-flow. The answers were pretty obvious; God will protect, one is never afraid when they are in God’s will, and the like… I was interested in the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JW) at the time, so I asked if he interacts with them during his street preaching. He said that he often argues with them, and that there were many in his neighborhood. My follow up was to ask his strategy in dealing with their arguments. He said that he dealt with them properly by dealing with them biblically. I followed up with ‘excuse me’, to which he said, ‘you heard me, I deal with them properly by dealing with them biblically.’
    The Q & A ended, and no one asked him for clarification. I turned to my project manager and asked, ‘when this guy deals with JW, how does he deal with them?’ He replied, ‘biblically.’ Through clenched teeth, I repeated, ‘when this guy deals with JW, how does he deal with them?’ ‘I have no idea’ was the reply. I noted that this individual had just told this crowd everything they needed to know by saying absolutely nothing. The hourglass had been turn-over on my newly embraced faith, though it would be many years before a formal break.
    Sadly, the sub-culture that was evangelicalism at that time was all too pervasive. Many years in the Christian book business simply added to this insanity. One day I was working in the store when a couple I knew had come in to chat and shop. I needed to attend to someone else and they wandered into the shelving. I saw that they met a couple (they did not know previously) who I would later find out was in town from Oklahoma. The two couples were chatting when I was called over for a question. The man who was known to me pointed at a book and asked me about it. I mentioned that it was one of a series showing the 5 views of various topics; the Millennium, the second coming, hell, and the like. This particular book, I pointed out was about the 5 views of justification and its relation to sanctification.
    ‘What on earth are you talking about?’ was his follow up. I said that the book was about the 5 views theologians have worked out around justification and its relation to sanctification. ‘No, what are those words you are using?’ ‘Justification and sanctification’ was my reply. ‘Listen, I have no idea what you’re talking about, all I know is that if you name something in the name of Jesus, you can claim it.’ The man from the second, Oklahoma, couple spoke up, ‘amen, brother (in the direction of the name/claim fellow), all I know is that if you name something you can claim something.’ Two couples, unknown to each other just 10 minutes prior, had both quoted the same summary of their NT faith, yet neither knew the most basic vocabulary of their religion. I was now shaking the hourglass in order to hasten the last of the grains to an end.
    Frankly, I like your autobiographical threads, and input from the membership, as well.

    • Benjamin
      Benjamin  August 31, 2016

      I attended Prairie High School in my senior year. That was 1984-1985. I went on to study biology but my passion is theology. I remembered a lot of my fundamentalist teachers and friends. They served and worked for nothing. A lot of them genuinely believe the message that God will damn the infidels and burn them in hell. Of course we didn’t say these words. We tell the unbelievers that God loves them and has a plan for them. Years later, by some chance I served on the Board of Prairie Bible Institute, and your Gary Habermas , now renown author, n teacher on the topic of resurrection is also on the Board. I bought him lunch one time and chatted with him. He does look like a fundamentalist, the American style. I think our Canadian funfies are less aggressive then these Liberty University fundies. My bible college president Jon Ohlhauser went to Liberty and Gary was his professor. This man became our president at PBI and shut down our grad school, my high school, fired the entire bible department because they disagreed on his vision to turn Prairie into a vocational school instead of remaining as a Bible college. At the end, he proposed to sell bible college property and move to Drumheller to start another school. The folks in Three Hills ran him out of town. Our brand of fundamental ism is crazy but not that aggressive. I think after I signed off as a board member, this was the last coffin nail. I no longer am a fundamentalist like I was. I revere Jesus and his teaching found in the bible, but I no longer am a hateful fundie. I gradual found peace in growing organic food, raising children, and thinking God, often wonder how hateful, intolerant I was and how such a jerk I was when I was his n the movement. I found peace with nature, and some day I will die. I hope to make this world a better one, and I no longer think about eternal life, for I know it may not be the original teaching of the bible. Lloyd Geering taught that immortality of the soul is something early Christians added or rather adopted from other philosophers. I am at peace with it now. My view is closer to the book of Ecclesiastes.

      Good luck. It is good to hear someone who knows Gary Habermas. He sure is firm fundamentalist, and his buddy Locona debated our Ehrman here on resurrection. I think the Lord Ehrman had them beat. Confounded, and troubled.?

      • Benjamin
        Benjamin  August 31, 2016

        Sorry for typos, I don’t know how to change them from my Kindle Fire?

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    Hickman777  August 31, 2016

    Thanks for reminding me of what I forgot to include a few days ago in my reply when I was scrambling to come up with what I managed to gain at Moody. My Assignments included hospital visitation, teaching a middle school Bible class, preaching at Cook County Prison, open-air evangelism, and, all through my 3rd year, preaching the Sunday morning sermon at Pacific Garden Rescue Mission. It was always a challenge to grab the attention of my audience – whether of prison inmates, of a bustling crowd in downtown Chicago, or of “recovering” alcoholics. I learned a lot. Thanks for the memories!

  14. Avatar
    obrienma  August 31, 2016


    Hope you were able to enjoy the Bookbinder soup and Dover Sole at the Drake–a religious experience indeed!

    A former Chicagoan 🙂

  15. Benjamin
    Benjamin  September 1, 2016

    It makes perfect sense now that Gary was educated from Detroit Bible College. BTW, the website never mentions it, WIKI only mentions the U of Detroit where he has a Masters and a Ph D from Michigan State. I know why. Many of these ‘academics” are ashamed that they had a bible college beginning. When I was on the Board of PBI, this is something a lot of people feel inferior about when they consider themselves to those who went to a proper university or college. The only way that these inferior post secondary institution is to be more righteous and more ‘religious’ than thou, if you will. I was told on the Board by board members, that our PBI is in an economic depressed area of Alberta, and that bible college is a second choice to the liberal arts universities.

    This bible college training is under-pinning all Gary’s speeches and debates. For when one is trained to be so certain of his own thoughts, one has no room for others. Our Bart Ehrman has a certain trait of this in the bible thoughts, except he has been ‘saved’ and ‘liberated’ by folks at Princeton who taught him the beauty of tolerance and scholarship, His passion for the truth as a fundamentalist trained person has not been diminished. This is why it makes him such a good person. His search of truth and his willingness to help others, no doubt has been deeply influenced bu his own reading of the bible, passages of the Minor prophets and teaching of Jesus found in the gospel of Mathews. I am not able to escape this as a person, even to this day. My fundamentalist roots are deep, and the holy teaching of LE Maxwell, “Hoping for nothing.” “To know Christ and to make him known” I still help others where I could at work. I do free work at times. I ask little in return. All that, I can trace to my childhood fundamentalism. Can Bart comment on this comment about his under-pinning rationales for doing what he does and his attitude to those who oppose his views, that he is more pastoral than a hard headed atheist, and why he is uncomfortable to be called an atheist.

    • Benjamin
      Benjamin  September 2, 2016

      I watch Gary Habermas debating in England and lied that he does not subscribe to inerrancy, etc to provide proofs to his arguments. What a lie that he consistently disguised to be a critical scholar, just because he has a doctorate does not mean he has gone through a critical thinking process, Many of these guys flood the market with ‘New Testament scholars’ and perhaps hoping in the future to drown out your voice. You are lucky in that modern American religious landscape is going south, and most of these young kids today will not grow up knowing anything in the bible. As much as the Evangelicals claim that conversion rates are up, the bleeding from within is just as much or worse. About 80 % loss after college, and these are not coming back. So, perhaps in the future, in the landscape of American Christianity, about 5 % or so would be the hard core fundamentalists. May “God” help us all.

  16. Avatar
    Deva758  September 4, 2016

    Coming from a fundamentalist independent Baptist church background, I really appreciate how you were able to see something positive from your training and put it to a practical use.

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