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The Book of Bart

Studying various historical translations of the Bible led to the ultimate crisis of faith for writer Bart Ehrman, formerly a born-again Christian.
Studying various historical translations of the Bible led to the ultimate crisis of faith for writer Bart Ehrman, formerly a born-again Christian. (By Win Mcnamee -- Getty Images)

To get an idea of how complicated this can be, consider: Greek, the lingua franca of the day, was written without capitalization or punctuation.

Here, you play biblical translator. Look at this, an example in English, from Ehrman's book:

godisnowhere

Does it say: God is now here.

Or: God is nowhere.

Sorting out these mysteries is the life Ehrman saw for himself since he was an uncertain teenager in Lawrence, Kan. He attended Trinity Episcopal on Vermont Street in Lawrence, but he and his family were casual in their faith. Lost in the middle of the pack in school, Ehrman felt an emptiness settle over him, something that lingered at nights after the lights were out, when the house was quiet.

One afternoon he went to a party at the house of a popular kid. It turned out to be a meeting of a Christian outreach youth group from a nearby college. In private talks, the charismatic young leader of the group told the 15-year-old Ehrman that the emptiness he felt inside was nothing less than his soul crying out for God. He quoted Scripture to prove it.

"Given my reverence for, but ignorance of, the Bible, it all sounded completely convincing," Ehrman writes.

One Saturday morning after having breakfast with the man, Ehrman went home, walked into his room and closed the door. He knelt by his bed and asked the Lord to come into his life.

He rose, and felt better, stronger. "It was your bona fide born-again experience."

The void in his heart was filled. The more he read the Bible, he says, the closer he felt to God.

His devotion soon engulfed him. "I told my friends, family, everyone about Christ," he remembers now. "The study of the Bible was a religious experience. The more you studied the Bible, the more spiritual you were. I memorized large parts of it. It was a spiritual exercise, like meditation."


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