My colleague at SWBTS in Fort Worth, Ishwaran Mudliar, hails from India. He did an MDiv at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and then an MA and PhD at Johns Hopkins University in Hebrew Bible and Northwest Semitic Philology. He was gracious enough to take the time to answer a number of questions that I posed to him.
Could you describe your ethnic and religious heritage?
I was born to Hindu parents in Mumbai (formerly Bombay), India. My father is still a Hindu, but my mother received Christ in May 2006. My two younger brothers embraced Mormonism. Our family left India when I was two years old. We resided in several regions, yet Seattle, Washington was home from 1979-1989, and that is where I graduated from high school. My cultural upbringing is mostly American, although as an adult I spent three years in India, and have taken a few trips there too.
Could you describe some of the challenges you faced as a young man?
When I was age four, my father developed a mental problem which remains with him today. When I was 15 years old, my parents divorced—an unusual occurrence among Indian Hindus. As a result, we lived with my mother who stayed in Seattle, but my father returned to India. The divorce was the impetus to my desire to know the truth regarding religious questions, but at the same time I faced a dilemma with a nominal exposure to Hinduism and my disenchantment with its tenets. At this point, I became a Mormon thinking that it had the answers but only to find that it contained fatal errors. Finally, I had a close romance that suddenly ended when I was 19. The broken relationship was the climax in this series of incidents that drove me in my quest to know the truth about ultimate questions.
Could you describe how you came to faith?
My parents were religious pluralists. Because of this worldview, when we lived in Georgia they allowed my brothers and me (age 10) to attend an independent Baptist Sunday School bus ministry. We were clearly given the gospel and appreciated the Christians we met. After a few months, we moved from that region and so we were unable to attend the church. Like other youngsters in the suburbs, I pursued sports and music and did not care much for God, family, or studies. In the meantime, my parents’ marital conflicts increased. During that period and after the divorce, my brothers and I became Mormons through missionaries at our doorstep. However, a couple of years later I became less convinced that Mormonism proclaimed the truth. This was because of a Christian friend of mine who was an Assemblies of God pastor’s son. He knew the Bible and Mormonism, and engaged me in friendly debate. At this time of doubt, a year-long high school romance distracted me from spiritual quests. However, it ended suddenly and made me more sensitive again to the things of God. I had a deep sense of my sin and the need to be reconciled to my Maker. Although I could not sort out the confusion of my religious experiences, I had confidence in Jesus and the Bible. So I prayed as I was taught at age 10, by repenting of my sins. I did not have a Bible at the time so I went to a bookstore to purchase one. I began reading from Genesis to Revelation and encountered Christian radio programs. Many programs helped me to understand the Scriptures, but I was most drawn to those that taught the Bible verse by verse. Learning the content was important, yet it was the teaching of Walter Martin that had the greatest impact on me because he answered the why-questions and assisted me in evaluating my past religious exposure in the light of Scripture. It took me about three years to possess full confidence that the Bible was the word of God and that Jesus Christ was the only way of salvation.
When and how did you come to know that you should attend seminary?
I was pursuing a business career with success and enjoying it. However, as a young Christian, I was basking in the knowledge of the truth. Passages such as Ecclesiastes 2:11, 17, Ephesians 1:3-14, Philippians 3:7-8, and Romans 9:1-5 had an extraordinary effect on me, and gave me an intense burden to be a channel of communicating the truths of God to others. That in turn led me to the conviction of pursuing a preaching and teaching ministry. The logical conclusion was that I should go to seminary to become equipped.
What pushed you into Old Testament studies?
On the one hand, it seemed inescapable to me as a Christian: If Jesus and the apostles were immersed in the Old Testament, so should I be. On the other hand, I noticed how often the Old Testament was neglected, misunderstood, and even maligned, both inside and outside the church throughout history and in modern times.
What was the question asked and answered by your dissertation?
My dissertation was a textual study of the book of Malachi. I analyzed the Hebrew and Greek texts of Malachi going variant by variant and verse by verse. I undertook to determine which text most often contained the original readings and found the Hebrew Masoretic Text to be the one.
Are there particular topics on which you hope to write in the future?
Yes, Semitic languages, theology, and the exegesis (and text) of Genesis to Deuteronomy and Hosea to Malachi.
Hearty thanks, Dr. Mudliar, for sharing your story with us! It is a joy to hear of the way the Lord worked in your life, and we pray God’s best for your ministry.
Dr. Mudliar has hinted that he will be starting a blog soon, so keep an eye out for that. When we learn of it we will certainly link to it.