I am Put Here for the Defense of the Gospel: Dr. Norman L. Geisler: A Festschrift in His Honor

IAPHFDOTG

I Am Put Here for the Defense of the Gospel: Dr. Norman L. Geisler:

A Festschrift in His Honor

Edited by Terry L. Miethe

Pickwick Publishers | 2016

480 pages

Order at Wipf&Stock and use “Geisler” as a 40% off coupon code!

Or purchase from AMAZON. 

Contents

Preface by Ravi Zacharias · xi

Introduction by Terry L. Miethe · xiii

Tributes to Norman L. Geisler

Thanks for the Memories by William E. Nix · xxi

A Tribute to Norman L. Geisler by Patty Tunnicliffe · xxiii

A Personal Story by John Ankerberg · xxvii

Yesterday, Today, and Forever: Personal Reflections on a Favorite Professor

by Timothy Paul Erdel · xxix

A Tribute to Dr. Norman L. Geisler by Mark M. Hanna · xxxii

Personal Experience with Norm by Grant C. Richison · xxxiv

Biographical Reflections about Norm Geisler by Winfried Corduan · xxxv

Norma Turbulenta: “Stormin’ Norman” by Donald T. Williams · xxxvii

Apologetics

chapter 1: Using Apologetics in Contemporary Evangelism by David Geisler · 1

chapter 2: Distinctive Elements of a Judaeo-Christian Worldview by William E. Nix · 22

chapter 3: Our Faith Seeks Their Understanding: Evangelistic-Apologetics & Effective Communication by Ramesh Richard · 57

Biblical Studies

chapter 4: Beware the Impact of Historical Critical Ideologies on Current Evangelical New Testament Studies by F. David Farnell · 76

chapter 5: Building Babel: Genesis 11:1–9 by Thomas Howe · 99

chapter 6: The Task of Bible Exposition by Elliott Johnson · 122

chapter 7: God’s Ultimate Purpose for Creation by Grant C. Richison · 135

chapter 8: Text Versus Word: C. S. Lewis’s View of Inspiration and the Inerrancy of Scripture by Donald T. Williams · 152

Philosophy

chapter 9: Some Features of Finite Being in St. Thomas Aquinas by Winfried Corduan · 169

chapter 10: Unamuno and Quine: A Meta-Philosophical Parable Concerning Faith, Reason, and Truth by Timothy Paul Erdel · 192

chapter 11: Open Theism, Analogy, and Religious Language by Joseph M. Holden · 204

chapter 12: Defending the Handmaid: How Theology Needs Philosophy by Richard G. Howe · 233

chapter 13: Aristotle: God & The Life of Contemplation, or What is Philosophy & Why is it Important? by Terry L. Miethe · 257

chapter 14: The Enlightenment, John Locke & Scottish Common Sense Realism by Terry L. Miethe · 281

Ethics

chapter 15: Big Data, Big Brother, and Transhumanism by J. Kerby Anderson · 297

chapter 16: Using Expository Preaching to Address Ethical Issues in Our Day by Walter C. Kaiser, Jr. · 307

chapter 17: Moral Absolutes and Moral Worth: A Proposal for Christian Ethics Inspired by Norman Geisler by Richard A. Knopp · 317

chapter 18: A Christian Response to Homosexuality by Patty Tunnicliffe · 346

Other Religions & Cults

chapter 19: Why They Blow Themselves Up: Understanding Islamic Suicide Bombers from a Christian Perspective by John Christian · 370

chapter 20: A Theological and Apologetical Assessment of Positive Confession Theology by Ron Rhodes · 382

Norman L. Geisler’s Impact

chapter 21: The Impact of Norman Geisler on Christian Higher Education by Wayne Detzler · 400

chapter 22: A Detroit Yankee in King Cotton’s Court: Love Expressed in the Thought and Writings of Norman Geisler by Paige Patterson · 417

Tabula Gratulatoria: Testimonials to Dr. Geisler’s Impact on our Time · 427

“Geislerisms” · 431

About Norman L. Geisler · 433

IAPHFDOTG-frontandback

Mike Licona on Inerrancy: It’s Worse than We Originally Thought

Mike Licona on Inerrancy: It’s Worse than We Originally Thought

By Dr. Norman L. Geisler
November, 2011

 

Some Background Information

A closer look at Mike Licona’s book on The Resurrection of Jesus reveals even more problems than at first thought.  Our original focus was on his denial of the historicity and inerrancy of the resurrection account of the saints in Matthew 27.  He called this “poetical,” a “legend,” an “embellishment,” and literary “special effects” (see 306, 548, 552, 553).  Against Licona’s view, we set forth “Ten Reasons” for the historicity of this text.  And, as evidence that it was a denial of the historic ICBI (International Council on Biblical Inerrancy) view on inerrancy, we provided “Six Reasons” (www.normangeisler.com).  Thus, both the historicity and inerrancy of the text which are firmly established are tragically denied by Licona.

Strong Reaction to Licona’s View

Licona’s denial of the historicity and inerrancy of the Matthew 27 text led to a strong reaction among many evangelicals.  Here are some of the more important ones:

First, Licona made a private attempt to convince one key Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) leader that his view was orthodox.  When this failed, a source close to the situation revealed that once Licona realized that his view would not be widely accepted by the SBC pastors and churches, he decided that he had better resign his SBC position at NAMB (North America Mission Board).

Second, another noted SBC leader, Dr. Al Mohler, spoke out against Licona’s view on his web site, concluding, that in his treatment of the Matthew 27 text that “Licona has handed the enemies of the resurrection of Jesus Christ a powerful weapon — the concession that some of the material reported by Matthew in the very chapter in which he reports the resurrection of Christ simply did not happen and should be understood as merely ‘poetic device’ and ‘special effects’….  He needs to rethink the question he asked himself in his book — ‘If some or all of the phenomena reported at Jesus’ death are poetic devices, we may rightly ask whether Jesus’ resurrection is not more of the same?’…. He asked precisely the right question, but then he gave the wrong answer….”  Mohler added, “It is not enough to affirm biblical inerrancy in principle. The devil, as they say, is in the details. That is what makes The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy so indispensable and this controversy over Licona’s book so urgent. It is not enough to affirm biblical inerrancy in general terms. The integrity of this affirmation depends upon the affirmation of inerrancy in every detailed sense” (www.AlbertMohler.com, emphasis added).

Third, Southern Evangelical Seminary (SES), where Licona was recently listed as a professor, abolished his position after discovering his view and decided not to have him teach there any longer.  After the faculty examined Licona directly, one source close to the event wrote that “He definitely denies inerrancy.  He even said that if someone interpreted the resurrection accounts as metaphor and therefore denied the historicity of the Gospel accounts, that would not contradict inerrancy.  That was unbelievable.”  As a result, “SES formulated a statement formally dismissing him from any faculty appointment or position at SES, and that we believe he denies inerrancy as we understand it” (emphasis added).

Fourth, ISCA (International Society of Christian Apologetics), a scholarly society to which Licona once belonged, has officially condemned his view.  After a meeting of the  ISCA leadership on October 6, 2011 they posted the following on their web site (ISCA–apologetics.org): “The ISCA executive Committee voted a motion to go on record saying ‘we believe denying historicity of Matthew 27:50-53 is in conflict with ISCA doctrinal statement.’”  This would exclude Mike Licona and those who hold similar views from membership in ISCA.

Fifth, the Evangelical Philosophical Society scheduled Licona to offer a defense of his view at the EPS meeting on Thursday, November 17th in a paper titled: “When the Saints Go Marching In: History, Apocalyptic Symbol, and Biblical Inerrancy.” But, by allowing him to defend this unorthodox position they are acting contrary to the membership requirements on their website which affirm, “To be a member of the Evangelical Philosophical Society (EPS), one must agree to the following doctrinal affirmation: “The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and therefore inerrant in the original manuscripts” (emphasis added).  This is especially so in view of the fact that EPS borrowed its doctrinal statement from its originating organization, the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS), whose framers and members opposed Licona type views and which subsequently adopted an ICBI interpretation of its view on inerrancy which clearly opposes Licona’s view (see below).  As the founder and first president of EPS, I can speak to this issue directly.  How sad it is to see in one’s life-time an organization founded on a strong view of inerrancy deviate so far from it.

Eventually, Licona gathered a few names in support of his view and then almost immediately they were withdrawn. It is reported that at least one professor from a Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) school found it necessary to withdraw his name in support of Licona when the president of his School objected that he did not speak for the institution. Nonetheless, some long-time Licona friends, like Dr. Gary Habermas and Dr. David Beck of Liberty University, continued to support him.  Indeed, despite their strong fundamentalist background (Jerry Falwell being their founder),Liberty University has offered Licona a position on their faculty—thus placing its approval on a view denying the historic view on inerrancy!

It is Worse than First Thought

            Up to the present, the focus has been primarily on Licona’s denial of the historicity of the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27.  However, there is more—much more.  Three other views of Licona cry for attention:

First, Licona suggested that the appearance of angels at Jesus’ tomb after the resurrection is also legendary.  He wrote: “It can forthrightly be admitted that the data surrounding what happened to Jesus is fragmentary and could possibly be mixed with legend, as Wedderburn notes.  We may also be reading poetic language or legend at certain points, such as Matthew’s report of the raising of some dead saints at Jesus death (Mt 27:51-54) and the angel(s) at the tomb (Mk 15:5-7; Mt 28:2-7; Lk 24:4-7; Jn 20:11-13” (185-186, emphasis added).  This extends the infiltration of legend beyond Matthew to all the other Gospels as well. What is more, Licona offers no clear hermeneutical way to determine from the text of Scripture what is legend and what is not.  Calling a short unembellished Gospel account with witnesses “weird,” as Licona does (527), is certainly not a very clear test, especially when the passage is directly associated with the resurrection of Christ (as Matthew 27 is).  Many New Testament scholars think the bodily resurrection of Christ is weird too.  Rudolf Bultmann, the Dean of NT scholars, called it “incredible,” “senseless,” and even “impossible” to the modern mind (Kerygma and Myth, 2-4).

Second, Licona claims to believe in the general reliability of the Gospel records, “even if  “some embellishments are present.”  He adds, “A possible candidate for embellishment is John 18:4-6” (306, emphasis added) where, when Jesus claimed “I am he” (cf. John 8:58), his pursuers “drew back and fell on the ground.” Again, there is no indication in this or other New Testament texts that this account is not historical.  It is but another example of Licona’s unbiblical “dehistoricizing” of the New Testament which ICBI explicitly condemned by name (see below).

Third, Licona’s basic problem is methodological.  He adopts an unorthodox methodology.  One’s theology is not the only thing that can be unorthodox.  There can be methodological unorthodoxy as well.  As noted in our “Ten Points” article, the method of determining genre adopted by Licona and his supporters is clearly unorthodox.  It was pronounced such by the ICBI framers (The International Council on Biblical Inerrancy).  Licona said clearly, “there is somewhat of a consensus among contemporary scholars that the Gospels belong to the genre of Greco-Roman biography (bios).”  Then he goes on to say that “Bioi offered the ancient biographers great flexibility for rearranging material and inventing speeches,…and they often included legend.  Because bios was a flexible genre, it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins” (34, emphasis added).  Little wonder Licona has gotten himself into trouble.  A bad methodology leads to a bad bibliology and to bad theology.  At root, then, Licona’s basic problem is methodological.  Like Robert Gundry before him who was asked to resign by The Evangelical Theology Society (in 1983), Licona’s view is a form of methodological unorthodoxy.  So, it is not just a matter of a passage or event here or there that is the problem.  Rather, it is a radical unbiblical method that undermines the divine authority of the entire New Testament text.  And as the faculty at SES where he taught discovered, it is “unbelievable” to hold that such a method could even deny the resurrection and yet one’s belief in inerrancy would still be considered orthodox.  Such a false claim to inerrancy is vacuous since the Gospel affirmations could be completely false—in that they did not correspond to any historic reality—and yet the Bible would still be considered completely true!

In brief, two main errors in Licona’s methodology stand out.  First, his genre decisions are made “up-front” based on extra-biblical data.  On the contrary, one should approach every text with the historical-grammatical method to determine within the text, its context, and by other Scriptures what it means. Then, and then alone, is he in a position to know its genre. Second, even then, categories of genre made up from extra-biblical sources (like Greco-Roman history) are not the way to determine the genre of a unique piece of literature like the Gospels.  For it may be—as indeed we believe it is—that the Gospels are a unique genre of their own, namely, Gospel genre where redemptive history is still real history.  What is certain is that whatever aid extra-biblical material may have in our understanding of the text, no extra-biblical data is hermeneutically determinative in interpreting any text of Scripture.  It may help in understanding the meaning of words and customs, but it cannot be used to determine whether a text is historical or not historical.

The ICBI framers were explicit on this point.  First, the ICBI view authorized only the “grammatical-historical” method of interpreting the Bible (Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy [CSBI], Article XVIII), defining it as “interpreting the Bible according to its literal, or normal, sense.” Second, it spoke against “dehistoricizing” the text of Scripture.  Third, it says explicitly that “Scripture is to interpret Scripture,” not extra-biblical literature used to interpret biblical literature.  Fourth, it denounces a quest for “sources lying behind it [Scripture] that lead to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching…” (emphasis added).

As for the later ICBI statement (“The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics”) that “we value genre criticism as one of many disciplines of biblical study” (CSBH, Article XIII), it goes on quickly to say that “We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual.”  And this is precisely what Licona does to Matthew 27 and other scriptures.  Further, the next article adds, “We affirm that the biblical record of events, discourses and sayings, though presented in a variety of appropriate literary forms,corresponds to historical fact.”  And “We deny that any event, discourse or saying reported in Scripture was invented by the biblical writers or by the traditions they incorporated” (CSBH, Article XIV, emphasis added).  As a member of both ICBI drafting committees, I can confirm that it was precisely views like Mike Licona’s that we had in mind when formulating these statements.

Conclusion

As Professor Al Mohler aptly concluded (above) of this misguided method, “Licona has not only violated the inerrancy of Scripture, but he has blown a massive hole into his own masterful defense of the resurrection”(emphasis added).  For “If some or all of the phenomena reported at Jesus’ death are poetic devices, we may rightly ask whether Jesus’ resurrection is not more of the same…. He asked precisely the right question, but then he gave the wrong answer. We must all hope that he will ask himself that question again and answer in a way that affirms without reservation that all of Matthew’s report is historical” (emphasis added).

Copyright © 2012 NormanGeisler.net – All rights reserved

A Response to Mike Licona’s Defense of Dehistoricizing the Resurrection of the Saints in Matthew 27

A Response to Mike Licona’s Defense of Dehistoricizing the Resurrection of the Saints in Matthew 27

Norman L. Geisler

I wish to express my appreciation to Mike Licona for his belated response to some of the issues I raised about his view over two months ago.  While this response was no doubt prompted by the superb treatment of the matter by Dr. Al Mohler that was just placed on his web site, Licona’s response is better late than never. Before addressing Licona’s defense of this view, it is noteworthy that he acknowledges that it is a denial of the historicity of the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27 and says clearly, “which is my position.”  Indeed, he has still not retracted his in-print view that this event is a “legend.” As for Licona’s defense of his view, he offers several arguments.  Let me address them briefly.

First, he claims that his view is in accord with the doctrine of inerrancy. However, the Evangelical Theological Society, which is the largest group of scholars in the world based on inerrancy, pronounced the same kind of dehistoricizing of the Gospel record as incompatible with its view on inerrancy. Indeed, they requested that Robert Gundry resign (by an overwhelming vote) for holding a similar view which dehistoricized sections of the Gospel of Matthew.  Licona makes no mention of this crucial fact, but insists on redefining inerrancy to fit his errant view. However, in the light of the Gundry decision, Licona has no grounds on which to stand to claim his view is consistent with the historic view of inerrancy, which was embraced by the founders of ETS.

Second, Licona appeals to the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI) statements on inerrancy to support his view of “deshistoricizing” Matthew’s account.  However, the ICBI statements on this matter specifically refer to this process as being contrary to inerrancy.  Indeed, as one of the framers of the ICBI statements, I can verify that we explicitly had Gundry’s views in mind when we condemned dehistoricizing the Gospel record. An official ICBI statement declared, “All the claims of the Bible must correspond with reality, whether that reality is historical, factual or spiritual” (Sproul,Explaining Inerrancy (EI), 43-44).  Also, “We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis…and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture,” not extra-biblical texts used to determine the meaning of the biblical text.  Further, the ICBI framers said: “We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying behind it that leads to relativizing,dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claims to authorship” (Article XVIII). Also, “Though the Bible is indeed redemptive history, it is also redemptive history, and this means that the acts of salvation wrought by God actually occurred in the space-time world” (Sproul, EI, 37). Again, “When the quest for sources produces a dehistoricizing of the Bible, a rejection of its teaching or a rejection of the Bible’s own claims of authorship [then] it has trespassed beyond its proper limits (Sproul, EI, 55). Also, “We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual” (Explaining Hermeneutics (EH), XIII). “We deny that any event, discourse or saying reported in Scripture was invented by the biblical writers or by the traditions they incorporated” (EH XIV bold added in all above citations). Clearly, Licona’s views are not exonerated, but condemned, by the framers and commentaries of the ICBI statements.

Third, Licona begs the question by assuming that we should approach the Gospel record by not prejudging whether it is historical or not.  However, it is not a bias to consider the Gospel records as historical for several reasons: (1) They present themselvesto be giving history (cf. Matt 1:1, 18; 2:1). Luke, for example, claims explicitly that he is recording accurate history (Luke 1:1-4), and Matthew records the same basic historical events as Luke; (2) Luke also provides historical crosshairs with eight historical figures (Luke 3:1-2), all known to have lived at that time; (3) All the main events of Matthew are taken to be historical, even by Licona, including the birth, life, works, words, death and resurrection of Jesus. Why then should not the rest of the book be considered historical as well? Thus, the burden of proof rest on anyone who denies the historicity of a section of the Gospel.  And to comb through contemporary extra-biblical sources, as Licona does, to find legendary material that seems similar to something in the Gospels and then use it as hermeneutical determinative of what the Gospel writer meant is a completely misdirected way of interpreting Scripture. What is more, the presumption of the historical nature of the Gospel is supported by the weight of nearly two thousand years of the Christian Church.  Furthermore, as I mentioned in a previous Open Letter, there are crucial differences between this type of extra-biblical literature and the biblical text?

Fourth, Licona refers to using “authorial intent” to determine the meaning of a statement, but he refuses to take the “authorial intent” of the meaning of ETS and ICBI statements on inerrancy seriously.  If authorial intent is definitive in the meaning of a text, then as an ICBI framer, I can verify that Licona’s Gundry-like views of dehistoricizing Matthew 27 are not compatible with the ICBI statements.  In fact, we had the very thing in mind when we spoke against “dehistoricizing” the biblical narrative by that very name.

Fifth, what is more, Licona violates another standard hermeneutical principle by taking ICBI texts out of contexts.  The ICBI statements only allow the use of extra-biblical data to “clarify” the meaning of words in the biblical text and “prompt” a reexamination of the biblical text itself, which is the final authority.  ICBI never allowed extra-biblical data to be hermeneutical determinative of the meaning, nor of the historicity of the text. As Dr. Mohler correctly noted, they cannot be used to “invalidate” the teaching of a biblical text.  In fact, ICBI explicitly condemns this extra-biblical practice used by Licona and affirms that “Scripture is to interpret Scripture” and that by the “grammatico-historical” method alone. Nowhere did ICBI claim that extra-biblical writings were to be used to override the meaning of biblical writings as understood in their context and by other Scriptures.  In fact, it stated just the opposite (see above).

Sixth, not only does Licona violate sound interpretive principles, but he draws a false analogy between using symbolic language and dehistoricizing a text.  For example, simply because the Bible speak of Satan under the figure of a “dragon” (an example Licona gives) does not mean there is no literal Satan, nor a literal fall of Satan and a third of the angels (Rev. 12).  In fact, the book of Revelation even interprets these symbols as referring to literal persons and event (cf. Rev. 12:9).  Therefore, the use of symbolic language and figures of speech in the Bible in no way justifies taking the individuals and events as non-historical and legendary, as Licona does with the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27. The ICBI statements make this very clear.  What is more, no such language is used in the simple unembellished accounts of the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27, which Licona denies as historical.

Seventh, Licona ignores virtually all the arguments we presented for the historicity of the resurrection of these saints in Matthew 27 and then claims that we beg the question in favor of the historicity of the event in question. To state just a few of these arguments given in favor of historicity of the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27: (1) It occurs in a book that present itself as historical (cf. Matt 1:1,18); (2) Numerous events in this book have been confirmed as historical (e.g., the birth, life, deeds, teachings, death, and resurrection of Christ); (3) It is presented in the immediate context of other historical events, namely, the death and resurrection of Christ; (4) The resurrection of these saints is also presented as an event occurring as a result of the literal death and resurrection of Christ (cf. Matt. 27:52-53); (5) It has all the same essential earmarks of the literal resurrection of Christ, including: (a) empty tombs, (b) dead bodies coming to life, and (c) these resurrected bodies appearing to many witnesses.  In view of all of this, there is simply no reasonably way one can dehistoricize the resurrection of these saints, particularly based on alleged similarities with extra-biblical stories and expressions.  Indeed, to dehistoricize the resurrection of these saints is to dehistoricize the resurrection of Christ which is said to be the cause of it.

Eighth, Licona claims the extra-biblical literature containing phenomena similar to the raised saints in Matthew 27 may provide insights pertaining to how Matthew intended for us to interpret his raised saints. However, in support Licona offers more false analogies such as the use of figures of speech of events today.  But no one claims that the “earth-shaking” events of 9/11 were non-historical or poetic devices used to describe what every eye-witnesses knows to have taken place in the actual space-time continuum. We validate the historicity of this event by the eyewitnesses who experienced the event  and who recorded it as actual history. If someone 2,000 years from now interprets the events from 9/11 as apocalyptic or legendary, then they will be in error.

Ninth, it is understandable that Licona would be “grateful to the Southeastern Theological Review for their invitation to participate in a round table discussion on the meaning of this text and the solution” that he proposed.  However, we must be careful not to place too much weight on such a meeting, particularly because some of those involved have already placed approval on his view in a recent Open Letter released by Licona. Hence, it may be a case of the fox guarding the hen house!  There are far bigger and better scholarly circles than this, such as, the nearly 300 international scholars who formed the ICBI statement on inerrancy and its statements which declare that views like Licona’s were incompatible with the view of full inerrancy which declared that the Bible is wholly and completely without error and denied all dehistoricizing of the Gospel record.

Tenth, Licona claims that to reject a view like his is to “stifle scholarship.”  In response, we do not wish to stifle scholarship but only to reject bad scholarship.  Further, as Evangelicals we must beware of desiring a seat at the table of contemporary scholarship, which is riddled with presuppositions that are antagonistic to Evangelical Christianity. Indeed, when necessary, we must place Lordship over scholarship (2 Cor. 10:5). We do not oppose scholarship, but only scholarship whose presuppositions and methodological procedures are opposed to the Faith once for all committed to the saints.

Unfortunately, Mike Licona refers to Dr. Mohler and me as “detractors.”  In response, I would like to repeat that I have both love for Mike as a brother in Christ and respect for him as a scholar.  However, I have a higher respect for the truth of God’s inerrant Word and for my duty to defend it.  And I am firmly convinced that the Gospel record is seriously undermined by this kind of Second-Temple, pro-legendary interpretation that denies the sufficiency of the historical-grammatical interpretation of Scripture and flies in the face of nearly two centuries of Christian consensus on the historicity of the Gospel record. Hence, while I am not a detractor, I do believe that Dr. Licona needs to be a retractor of this serious challenge to the complete historicity and full inerrancy of the Bible.  Since he has expressed some doubt about his own view in his previous Open Letter, I would hope that his doubt about his own hermeneutics would not decrease and that his certainly about the inerrancy of the whole Gospel record, including this text, would increase.  I am praying to that end.

 

Copyright © 2012 NormanGeisler.net – All rights reserved

Open Theists and Inerrancy Clark Pinnock on the Bible and God

Open Theists and Inerrancy:

Clark Pinnock on the Bible and God

by Norman L. Geisler

Pinnock on the Bible

The Bible is not Completely Inerrant

“This leaves us with the question, Does the New Testament, did Jesus, teach the perfect errorlessness of the Scriptures? No, not in plain terms” (Pinnock, SP, 57).

Although the New Testament does not teach a strict doctrine of inerrancy, it might be said to encourage a trusting attitude, which inerrancy in a more lenient definition does signify. The fact is that inerrancy is a very flexible term in and of itself” (Pinnock, SP, 77).

“Once we recall how complex a hypothesis inerrancy is, it is obvious that the Bible teaches no such thing explicitly. What it claims, as we have seen, is divine inspiration and a general reliability” (Pinnock, SP, 58).

“Why, then, do scholars insist that the Bible does claim total inerrancy? I can only answer for myself, as one who argued in this way a few years ago. I claimed that the Bible taught total inerrancy because I hoped that it did-I wanted it to” (Pinnock, SP, 58).

For my part, to go beyond the biblical requirements to a strict position of total errorlessness only brings to the forefront the perplexing features of the Bible that no one can completely explain and overshadows those wonderful certainties of salvation in Christ that ought to be front and center” (Pinnock, SP, 59).

The Inerrancy of Intent, not Fact

Inerrancy is relative to the intent of the Scriptures, and this has to be hermeneutically determined” (Pinnock, SP, 225).

“All this means is that inerrancy is relative to the intention of the text. If it could be show that the chronicler inflates some of the numbers he uses for his didactic purpose, he would be completely within his rights and not at variance with inerrancy” (Pinnock, SP, 78)

“We will not have to panic when we meet some intractable difficulty. The Bible will seem reliable enough in terms of its soteric [saving] purpose,… In the end this is what the mass of evangelical believers need-not the rationalistic ideal of a perfect Book that is no more, but the trustworthiness of a Bible with truth where it counts, truth that is not so easily threatened by scholarly problems”(Pinnock, SP, 104-105).

 

The Bible is not the Word of God

“Barth was right to speak about a distance between the Word of God and the text of the Bible” (Pinnock, SP, 99).

The Bible does not attempt to give the impression that it is flawless in historical or scientific ways. God uses writers with weaknesses and still teaches the truth of revelation through them” (Pinnock, SP, 99).

What God aims to do through inspiration is to stir up faith in the gospel through the word of Scripture, which remains a human text beset by normal weaknesses [which includes errors]” (Pinnock, SP,100).

A text that is word for word what God wanted in the first place might as well have been dictated, for all the room it leaves for human agency. This is the kind of thinking behind the militant inerrancy position. God is taken to be the Author of the Bible in such a way that he controlled the writers and every detail of what they wrote” (Pinnock, SP, 101).

The Bible is not Completely Infallible

The Bible is not a book like the Koran, consisting of nothing but perfectly infallible propositions,… the Bible did not fall from heaven…. We place our trust ultimately in Jesus Christ, not in the Bible…. What the Scriptures do is to present a sound and reliable testimony [but not inerrant] to who he is and what God has done for us” (Pinnock, SP, 100).

He Rejects Warfield’s View of Inerrancy

Inerrancy as Warfield understood it was a good deal more precise than the sort of reliability the Bible proposes. The Bible’s emphasis tends to be upon the saving truth of its message and its supreme profitability in the life of faith and discipleship” (Pinnock, SP, 75).

He Rejects ICBI View of Inerrancy

Therefore, there are a large number of evangelicals in North America appearing to defend the total inerrancy of the Bible. The language they use seems absolute and uncompromising: `The authority of Scripture is inescapably impaired if this total divine inerrancy is in any way limited or disregarded, or made relative to a view of truth contrary to the Bible’s own’ (Chicago Statement, preamble). It sounds as if the slightest slip or flaw would bring down the whole house of authority. It seems as though we ought to defend the errorlessness of the Bible down to the last dot and tittle in order for it to be a viable religious authority” (Pinnock, SP, 127).

He Holds a Dynamic View of Inspiration, not Plenary Inspiration

“In relation to Scripture, we want to avoid both the idea that the Bible is the product of mere human genius and the idea it came about through mechanical dictation. The via media lies in the direction of a dynamic personal modelthat upholds both the divine initiative and the human response” (Pinnock, SP, 103).

“Inspiration should be seen as a dynamic work of God. In it, God does not decide every word that is used, one by one but works in the writers in such a way that they make full use of their own skills and vocabulary while giving expression to the divinely inspired message being communicated to them and through them” (Pinnock, SP, 105).

 

He Redefines Inerrancy and Rejects the Prophetic Model

“The wisest course to take would be to get on with defining inerrancy in relation to the purpose of the Bible and the phenomena it displays. When we do that, we will be surprised how open and permissive a term it is” (Pinnock, SP, 225).

At times I have felt like rejecting biblical inerrancy because of the narrowness of definition [!! See previous quote] and the crudity of polemics that have accompanied the term. But in the end, I have had to bow to the wisdom that says we need to be unmistakably clear in our convictions about biblical authority, and in the North American context, at least, that means to employ strong language” (Pinnock, SP, 225).

“Paul J. Achtemeier has called attention to the inadequacy of the prophetic model for representing the biblical category of inspiration in its fullness-The Inspiration of Scripture: Problems and Proposals” (Pinnock, SP, 232, n. 8).

He Holds that there are Minor Errors in the Bible

“The authority of the Bible in faith and practice does not rule out the possibility of an occasionally uncertain text, differences in details as between the Gospels, a lack of precision in the chronology of events recorded in the Books of Kings and Chronicles, a prescientific description of the world, and the like” (Pinnock, SP, 104).

What could truly falsify the Bible would have to be something that could falsify the gospel and Christianity as well. It would have to be a difficulty that would radically call into question the truth of Jesus and His message of good news. Discovering some point of chronology in Matthew that could not be reconciled with a parallel in Luke would certainly not be any such thing” (Pinnock, SP, 129).

“I recognize that the Bible does not make a technical inerrancy claim or go into the kind of detail associated with the term in the contemporary discussion. But I also see a solid basis for trusting the Scriptures in a more general sense in all that they teach and affirm, and I see real danger in giving the impression that the Bible errs in a significant way. Inerrancy is a metaphor for the determination to trust God’s Word completely” (Pinnock, SP, 224-225).

 

He Holds that The Bible Contains Myth and Legend

“In the narrative of the fall of Adam, there are numerous symbolic features (God molding man from dirt, the talking snake, God molding woman from Adam’s rib, symbolic trees, four major rivers from one garden, etc.), so that it is natural to ask whether this is not a meaningful narration that does not stick only to factual matters” (Pinnock, SP, 119).

“On the one hand, we cannot rule legend out a priori. It is, after all, a perfectly valid literary form, and we have to admit that it turns up in the Bible in at least some form. We referred already to Job’s reference to Leviathan and can mention also Jotham’s fable” (Pinnock, Sp, 121-122).

“Thus we are in a bind. Legends are possible in theory–there are apparent legends in the Bible–but we fear actually naming them as such lest we seem to deny the miraculous” (Pinnock, SP, 122).

“When we look at the Bible, it is clear that it is not radically mythical. The influence of myth is there in the Old Testament. The stories of creation and fall, of flood and the tower of Babel, are there in pagan texts and are worked over in Genesis from the angle of Israel’s knowledge of God, but the framework is no longer mythical” (Pinnock, SP, 123).

“We read of a coin turning up in a fish’s mouth and of the origin of the different languages of humankind. We hear about the magnificent exploits of Sampson and Elisha. We even see evidence of the duplication of miracle stories in the gospels. All of them are things that if we read them in some other book we would surely identify as legends” (Pinnock, Sp, 123).

He Holds Robert Gundry’s View of Midrash in Matthew

“There is no mythology to speak of in the New Testament. At most, there are fragments and suggestions of myth: for example, the strange allusion to the bodies of the saints being raised on Good Friday (Matt. 27:52) and the sick being healed through contact with pieces of cloth that had touched Paul’s body (Acts 19:11-12)” (Pinnock, SP, 124).

“There are cases in which the possibility of legend seems quite real. I mentioned the incident of the coin in the fish’s mouth (Matt. 17:24-27)…. The event is recorded only by Matthew and has the feel of a legendary feature”(Pinnock, SP, 125). [Yet Gundry was asked to resign from ETS by 74 percent of the membership.]

Pinnock on God

The Bible Has False Prophecy

“Second, some prophecies are conditional, leaving the future open, and, presumably, God’s knowledge of it” (Pinnock, MMM, 50).

“Third, there are imprecise prophetic forecasts based on present situations, as when Jesus predicts the fall of Jerusalem (Pinnock, MMM, 50).

“…despite Ezekiel, Nebuchadnezzar did not conquer the city of Tyre; despite the Baptist, Jesus did not cast the wicked into the fire; contrary to Paul, the second coming was not just around the corner (1 Thes. 4:17)” (Pinock, MMM, 51 n.66).

 

Even Jesus Made a False Prophecy

…despite Jesus, in the destruction of the temple, some stones were left one on the other” (Mt. 24:2)” (Pinnock, MMM, 51 n.66).

 

God is not Bound to His Own Word

“God is free in the manner of fulfilling prophecy and is not bound to a script, even his own” (Pinnock, MMM, 51 n.66).

“We may not want to admit it but prophecies often go unfulfilled…” (Pinnock, MMM, 51, n.66).

God is Limited and Corporeal

But, in a sense, creation was also an act of self-limitation…. Creating human beings who have true freedom is a self-restraining, self-humbling and self-sacrificing act on God’s part” (Pinnock, MMM, 31).

“As regards space, the Bible speaks of God having living space in the heavens:… Let’s not tilt overly to transcendence lest we miss the truth that God is with us in space” (Pinnock, MMM, 32).

“If he is with us in the world, if we are to take biblical metaphors seriously, is God in some way embodied? Critics will be quick to say that, although there are expressions of this idea in the Bible, they are not to be taken literally. But I do not believe that the idea is as foreign to the Bible’s view of God as we have assumed” (Pinnock, MMM, 33).

” The only persons we encounter are embodied persons and, if God is not embodied, it may prove difficult to understand how God is a person….Perhaps God uses the created order as a kind of body and exercises top-down causation upon it” (Pinnock, MMM, 34-35).

 

God’s Foreknowledge is Limited

It is unsound to think of exhaustive foreknowledge, implying that every detail of the future is already decided” (Pinnock, MMM, 8).

“Though God knows all there is to know about the world, there are aspects about the future that even God does not know” (Pinnock, MMM, 32).

“Scripture makes a distinction with respect to the future; God is certain about some aspects of it and uncertain about other aspects” (Pinnock, MMM, 47).

“But no being, not even God, can know in advance precisely what free agents will do, even though he may predict it with great accuracy” (Pinnock, MMM, 100).

“God, in order to be omniscient, need not know the future in complete detail” (Pinnock, MMM, 100).

 

God Changes His Mind

“Divine repentance is an important biblical theme” (Pinnock, MMM, 43).

“Nevertheless, it appears that God is willing to change course…” (Pinnock, MMM, 43).

“Prayer is an activity that brings new possibilities into existence for God and us” (Pinnock, MMM, 46).

 

God is Dependent on Creatures

“According to the open view, God freely decided to be, in some respects, affected and conditioned by creatures…” (Pinnock, MMM, 5).

“In a sense God needs our love because he has freely chosen to be a lover and needs us because he has chosen to have reciprocal love…” (Pinnock, MMM, 30).

The world is dependent on God but God has also, voluntarily, made himself dependent on it…. God is also affected by the world.” (Pinnock, MMM, 31).

God is not in Complete Control of the World

This means that God is not now in complete control of the world…. things happen which God has not willed…. God’s plans at this point in history are not always fulfilled” (Pinnock, MMM, 36).

“Not everything that happens in the world happens for some reason,…. things that should not have happened, things that God did not want to happen. They occur because God goes in for real relationships and real partnerships” (Pinnock, MMM, 47).

“As Boyd puts it: ‘Only if God is the God of what might be and not only the God of what will be can we trust him to steer us…'” (Pinnock affirming Boyd, MMM, 103).

“Though God can bring good out of evil, it does not make evil itself good and does not even ensure that God will succeed in every case to bring good out of it” (Pinnock, MMM, 176).

It does seem possible to read the text to be saying that God is an all-controlling absolute Being…. but how does the Spirit want us to read it? Which interpretation is right for the present circumstance? Which interpretation is timely? Only time will tell…” (Pinnock, MMM, 64).

God Undergoes Change

“For example, even though the Bible says repeatedly that God changes his mind and alters his course of action, conventional theists reject the metaphor and deny that such things are possible for God” (Pinnock, MMM, 63).

“I would say that God is unchangeable in changeable ways,…” (Pinnock, MMM, 85-86).

“On the other hand, being a person and not an abstraction, God changes in relation to creatures…. God changed when he became creator of the world… ” (Pinnock, MMM, 86).

“…accepting passibility may require the kind of doctrinal revisions which the open view is engaged in. If God is passible, then he is not, for example, unconditioned, immutable and atemporal” (Pinnock, MMM, 59, n.82).

 

He Admits Affinity with Process Theology

The conventional package of attributes is tightly drawn. Tinkering with one or two of them will not help much” (Pinnock, MMM, 78).

“Candidly, I believe that conventional theists are influenced by Plato, who was a pagan, than I am by Whitehead, who was a Christian” (Pinnock, MMM, 143) [Yet Whitehead denied virtually all of the attributes of the God of orthodox theology, biblical inerrancy, and all the fundamentals of the Faith!!!]

 


 

All italic emphasis in original, bold emphasis this author’s emphasis.

SP–Clark Pinnock, The Scripture Principle (San Francisco, Harper & Rowe: 1984).

MMM–Clark Pinnock, The Most Moved Mover (Grand Rapids, Baker: 2001).


Did Clark Pinnock Recant His Errant Views?

By Norman L. Geisler

December 1, 2003

It Would Seem That He Did

It is widely believed that Clark Pinnock changed his views on whether the Bible has errors in it and thereby convinced the ETS Executive Council and Membership that his views were not incompatible with the inerrancy statement of the ICBI. As a result, both the Executive Council recommended and the membership voted on November 19, 2003 to retain him in membership.

It would seem that Pinnock did in fact recant his earlier view for several reasons. First, his restatement satisfied the Executive Committee who examined him. Second, his restatement convinced the membership of ETS who gave him a 67 percent vote of approval. Third, the paper he read at ETS left the impression that he had changed his view. Fourth, his written statement indicates that he made a “change.” Fifth, he wrote in his paper and said orally to the membership that he accepted the ICBI statement on inerrancy which would indicate a change. Finally, upon reading the Executive Committee report and hearing Pinnock’s paper, I too got the impression he had changed his view.

To cite the ETS Executive Committee about their decision, “This is a direct result of extensive discussion with Dr. Pinnock, including his clarifications of many points, and his clarifying and rewriting of a critical passage in his work, retracting certain language therein” (Letter October 24, 2003 from Executive Committee to ETS membership, p. 1, emphasis added in all quotes). They added, “The day ended with Dr. Pinnock disavowing– voluntarily and unprompted–some of the affirmations in note 66 [of Most Moved Mover which claimed that a number of biblical prophecies, including one by Jesus, were not fulfilled as predicted] (ibid., 3). Thus, “the Committee reveals its belief that, in the light of Dr. Pinnock’s clarifications and retraction of certain problematic language, the charges brought in November 2002 should not be sustained” (ibid., 3-4). They also said “Dr. Pinnock…has clarified and corrected parts of what he wrote” (“ETS Executive Committee Report on Clark H. Pinnock October 22, 2003,” p. 2).

On The Contrary

In spite of all of this, there is good evidence that Pinnock never really recanted his views on inerrancy. First, he never used the word “recant” of his views in either written or verbal form. Second, he never used any synonyms of recant when speaking of his views on this matter. Third, even if it could be shown that he actually changed his view on prophecy, he has never recanted his position on numerous other statements that are incompatible with the ETS statement on inerrancy.

When one reads carefully what the ETS Executive Committee said of their decision to approve of Pinnock’s views, it does not really say he recanted his views but only his way of expressing them. It wrote: “This is a direct result of extensive discussion with Dr. Pinnock, including his clarifications of many points, and his clarifying and rewriting of a critical passage in his work, retracting certain language therein” (Letter October 24, 2003 from Executive Committee to ETS membership, p. 1). Likewise, as we will see below, what Pinnock said was only a recantation of how he expressed his view, not of the view itself.

I Answer That

Once we understand Pinnock’s view, it is not difficult to explain why he appeared to change his view when in reality he did not. It grows out of his view of truth.

Pinnock’s Intentionalist View of Truth

When Pinnock speaks of the truth of Scripture, he does so in terms of the author’s intention. An error is what the author did not intend. Hence, an intended “truth” can actually be mistaken or not correct and still be “true” by Pinnock’s definition. This came out clearly in Pinnock’s answer to a question after his paper. When asked whether he would consider an inflated number in Chronicles an “error,” he responded, “No,” since exaggerating the numbers served the intention the author of Chronicles had in making his point. So, what is incorrect, mistaken, and does not correspond to reality, is not considered an “error.” Of course, by this intentionalist view of truth all sincere statements ever uttered, no matter how erroneous they were, must be considered true. Clearly, this is not what the ETS framers meant by inerrancy. Ironically, even the Executive Committee itself disavowed such a view in principle when they excluded “various forms of views explicitly affirming errors in the text (though condoned by appeals to so-called ‘authorial intent’).” See the “Executive Committee Report on John E. Sanders October 23, 2003,” p. 6. Unfortunately, they did not apply what they said to Pinnock himself.

That Clark Pinnock holds an intentionalist view of truth is clear from his many statements on the matter. He wrote, “All this means is that inerrancy is relative to the intention of the text. If it could be shown that the chronicler inflates some of the numbers he uses for his didactic purpose, he would be completely within his rights and not at variance with inerrancy” (Pinnock, The Scripture Principle (hereafter SP, 78). Again, “We will not have to panic when we meet some intractable difficulty. The Bible will seem reliable enough in terms of its soteric [saving] purpose…. In the end this is what the mass of evangelical believers need–not the rationalistic ideal of a perfect Book that is no more, but the trustworthiness of a Bible with truth where it counts, truth that is not so easily threatened by scholarly problems” (Pinnock, SP, 104-105). Finally, “Inerrancy is relative to the intent of the Scriptures, and this has to be hermeneutically determined” (Pinnock, SP, 225).

It is important to note that the ETS Constitution implies a correspondence view of truth when it speaks of one making “statements” that are “incompatible” with the Doctrinal Basis of the Society (Articles 4, Section 4). Further, even the Executive Committee affirmed a correspondence view of truth (“ETS Executive Committee Report on John E. Sanders Oct 23, 2003,” p. 2). But if this is so, then their action was inconsistent since on a correspondence view of truth Pinnock has unrecanted statements that claim the Bible affirms things that do not correspond to the facts (see below under nos. 4, 9, 10).

Pinnock’s Statement About ICBI is Misleading

Both in his paper and verbal presentation at ETS (11/19/03) Pinnock said he affirmed the ICBI statement on inerrancy. Many took this as an indication of his recanting. However, this is not the case since Pinnock is on record as viewing statements on “truth” as being what the author intended. But this is clearly not what they meant. But Pinnock seems unaware that the ICBI framers explicitly ruled this intentionalist view of truth out in favor of a correspondence view of truth. They wrote, “By biblical standards of truth and error is meant the view used both in the Bible and in everyday life, viz., a correspondence view of truth.” It adds, “This part of the article [13] is directed toward those who would redefine truth to relate merely to redemptive intent, the purely personal or the like, rather than to mean that which corresponds with reality.” It goes on to claim, contrary to Pinnock [SP. 119], that “the New Testament assertions about Adam, Moses, David and other Old Testament persons” are “literally and historically true” (R.C. Sproul, Explaining Inerrancy: A Commentary, Oakland, CA: ICBI, p. 31). But Pinnock clearly denied this (see no. 14 below).

So, Pinnock does not believe the ICBI statement on inerrancy which emphatically repudiates his view. In point of fact, Pinnock does to the ICBI statement what he does to the ETS statement; he reads them through his own intentionalist view of truth. In both cases, Pinnock is clearly in conflict with the meaning of the framers. On a correspondence view of truth, which is what the framers of both ETS and ICBI held, Pinnock’s view embraces errors in the Bible, that is, statements that do not correspond to the facts.

Further, Pinnock’s alleged recantation is not all encompassing. Pinnock did say that he was willing to make “changes” in his writings, but he did not tell us which ones. Indeed, he did not even say clearly that any of these changes would involve the admission of errors. He wrote: “I am 100% certain that, were we to sift through the text of The Scripture Principle as we did with the Most Moved Mover, some phrases would have to be improved on and some examples removed or modified.” Indeed, he added, “I am sure, were we to go through it carefully, changes would be in order” (“Open Theism and Biblical Inerrancy” a paper given on November 19, 2003 at the ETS annual meeting, p. 4). He spoke only of removing or modifying illustrations, improving phrases, and the like. There is not a single definitive word about admitting any error to say nothing of recanting four pages of quotations we presented the ICBI Executive Committee from Pinnock’s writings.

As to the ETS Executive Committee’s decision, a careful look at its language will reveal that Pinnock never recanted any of his views. Consider again the statements of the Committee. It speaks only of “clarifying and rewriting of a critical passage in his work, retracting certain language therein” (Letter October 24, 2003 from Executive Committee to ETS membership, p. 1). Notice that the only thing that was “retracted” was “certain language,” not his view. Indeed, Pinnock claims that his view remained the same, for he said, “I was not intending to violate it [the ETS inerrancy statement]. My clearing away the ambiguity is what made possible a positive verdict in my case. And I could do it sincerely since it had never been my intent to violate inerrancy here or elsewhere in my work” (Pinnock, ibid., 3). Pinnock said the same of statements he made in The Scripture Principle: “It was not and is not at all my intent to deny inerrancy…” (Ibid., 4). By this logic, no sincere author has ever made any error either in any of his or her books since they never intended to do so.

The Committee also said, “The day ended with Dr. Pinnock disavowing–voluntarily and unprompted–some of the affirmations in note 66 [of Most Moved Mover in which he claimed that a number of biblical prophecies, including one by Jesus, were never fulfilled] (October 24, 2003 letter from the ETS Committee to the membership, p. 3). Thus, “the Committee reveals its belief that, in the light of Dr. Pinnock’s clarifications and retraction of certain problematic language, the charges brought in November 2002 should not be sustained” (ibid., 3-4). But here again the only retraction was only of “problematic language,” not of his actual view on the matter which remains unrecanted.

The same is true of another use of the word “corrected” by the Committee with regard to Pinnock. They wrote: “Dr. Pinnock …has clarified and corrected parts of what he wrote” (“ETS Executive Committee Report on Clark H. Pinnock October 22, 2003,” p. 2). But here again it is not a correction of his view which was in error but of the language he “wrote,” that is, the way he expressed it.

Conclusion

In summation, although at first blush it would appear that Pinnock recanted all previously held views incompatible with the ETS inerrancy statement, the contrary evidence demonstrates that he did not recant any of these views. Certainly, he nowhere recants all of them. And even one of them is sufficient to show that he embraces a view that is incompatible with the ETS statement on inerrancy. Rather, using his intentionalist view of truth he claims he believes in inerrancy as understood by the ETS and ICBI framers, when in fact he does not.

But if Pinnock did not really recant his errant views, then what of the validity of the ETS acceptance of them as compatible with its inerrancy statement. It is bogus.
There is a way Pinnock can clear the air. All he has to do is to repudiate in unequivocal and unambiguous language all of the following statements he has made that are contrary to the ETS framers view of inerrancy:

1) “Barth was right to speak about a distance between the Word of God and the text of the Bible” (Pinnock, SP, 99).

2) “The Bible does not attempt to give the impression that it is flawless in historical or scientific ways” (Pinnock, SP, 99).

3) “The Bible is not a book like the Koran, consisting of nothing but perfectly infallible propositions…” (Pinnock, SP, 100).

4) “The authority of the Bible in faith and practice does not rule out the possibility of an occasionally uncertain text, differences in details as between the Gospels, a lack of precision in the chronology of events recorded in the Books of Kings and Chronicles…, and the like” (Pinnock, SP, 104).

5) “Did Jesus, teach the perfect errorlessness of the Scriptures? No, not in plain terms” (Pinnock, SP, 57).

6) “The New Testament does not teach a strict doctrine of inerrancy…. The fact is that inerrancy is a very flexible term in and of itself” (Pinnock, SP, 77).

7) “Why, then, do scholars insist that the Bible does claim total inerrancy? I can only answer for myself, as one who argued in this way a few years ago. I claimed that the Bible taught total inerrancy because I hoped that it did–I wanted it to” (Pinnock, SP, 58).

8) “For my part, to go beyond the biblical requirements to a strict position of total errorlessness only brings to the forefront the perplexing features of the Bible that no one can completely explain” (Pinnock, SP, 59).

9) “All this means is that inerrancy is relative to the intention of the text. If it could be shown that the chronicler inflates some of the numbers he uses for his didactic purpose, he would be completely within his rights and not at variance with inerrancy” (Pinnock, SP, 78).

10) “We will not have to panic when we meet some intractable difficulty. The Bible will seem reliable enough in terms of its soteric [saving] purpose…” (Pinnock, SP, 104-105).

11) “Inerrancy as Warfield understood it was a good deal more precise than the sort of reliability the Bible proposes. The Bible’s emphasis tends to be upon the saving truth of its message and its supreme profitability in the life of faith and discipleship” (Pinnock, SP, 75).

12) “The wisest course to take would be to get on with defining inerrancy in relation to the purpose of the Bible and the phenomena it displays. When we do that, we will be surprised how open and permissive a term it is” (Pinnock, SP, 225).

13) “Paul J. Achtemeier has called attention to the inadequacy of the prophetic model for representing the biblical category of inspiration in its fullness–The Inspiration of Scripture: Problems and Proposals” (Pinnock, SP, 232, n. 8).

14) “I recognize that the Bible does not make a technical inerrancy claim or go into the kind of detail associated with the term in the contemporary discussion…. Inerrancy is a metaphor for the determination to trust God’s Word completely” (Pinnock, SP, 224-225).

15) “In the narrative of the fall of Adam, there are numerous symbolic features (God molding man from dirt, the talking snake, God molding woman from Adam’s rib, symbolic trees, four major rivers from one garden, etc.), so that it is natural to ask whether this is not a meaningful narration that does not stick only to factual matters” (Pinnock, SP, 119).

16) “On the one hand, we cannot rule legend out a priori. It is, after all, a perfectly valid literary form, and we have to admit that it turns up in the Bible in at least some form. We referred already to Job’s reference to Leviathan and can mention also Jotham’s fable” (Pinnock, SP, 121-122).

17) “The influence of myth is there in the Old Testament. The stories of creation and fall, of flood and the tower of Babel, are there in pagan texts and are worked over in Genesis from the angle of Israel’s knowledge of God, but the framework is no longer mythical” (Pinnock, SP, 123).

18) “We read of a coin turning up in a fish’s mouth and of the origin of the different languages of humankind. We hear about the magnificent exploits of Sampson and Elisha. We even see evidence of the duplication of miracle stories in the gospels. All of them are things that if we read them in some other book we would surely identify as legends” (Pinnock, SP, 123).

19) “At most, [in the NT] there are fragments and suggestions of myth: for example, the strange allusion to the bodies of the saints being raised on Good Friday (Matt. 27:52) and the sick being healed through contact with pieces of cloth that had touched Paul’s body (Acts 19:11-12)” (Pinnock, SP, 124).

20) “There are cases in which the possibility of legend seems quite real. I mentioned the incident of the coin in the fish’s mouth (Matt. 17:24-27)…. The event is recorded only by Matthew and has the feel of a legendary feature” (Pinnock, SP, 125). [Yet Gundry was asked to resign from ETS by 74 percent of the membership.]

21) “God is free in the manner of fulfilling prophecy and is not bound to a script, even his own” (Pinnock, MMM, 51).

In short, the ETS framers would not affirm any of these and Pinnock has not denied any of them. If he really wants to clear the record, then all he has to do is deny all 21 of these in clear and unequivocal terms. If he does not, then his unrecanted written views are contrary to what the ETS statement really means since the framers would not agree with any of them. And it is an evangelical tragedy of great magnitude that the Executive Committee of ETS and a majority of its members have retained Pinnock in what has now become the formerly Evangelical Theological Society.


 

All italic emphasis in original, bold emphasis this author’s.

SP–Clark Pinnock, The Scripture Principle (San Francisco, Harper & Rowe: 1984).

MMM–Clark Pinnock, The Most Moved Mover (Grand Rapids, Baker: 2001).

 

Were the Gospel Writers Reporting or Creating the Words of Christ?

Were the Gospel Writers Reporting or Creating the Words of Christ?

Photo Model or Portrait Model

               

By Norman L. Geisler

 

Imagery can be helpful or dangerous.  Until relatively recent times most New Testament scholars believed the Gospel writers were giving something like snap shot images of the words and deeds of Christ.  However, contemporary literary criticism rejects the “Photo” model and has replaced it with a “Portrait” model.  This, they think, fits better with data and the creativity of the Gospel writers who, they believe, were not strictly reporting but were interpreting, even creating, the words and deeds of Christ.

 

The Difficulties of the Photo Model

Several lines of evidence have been used to support this change of images from the snap shot to the portrait image.  Together, they are used to reject the strict reporting model for a more flexible model which they believe fits the biblical evidence better.

First, there is the obvious fact that the various Gospels do not present the same material (words and deeds) about Christ.  There are many significant differences.  With the exception of some main events like the death and resurrection narratives, there are few events mentioned in all four Gospels and many events are recorded only in one Gospel.

Second, there are known conflicts between the different Gospel presentations.  Jesus’ cleansing of the temple is presented at different times in his ministry, one early (Jn. 2:13-17) and one late (Mt. 21:12-13).  The order of the three temptations of Christ are different between Matthew 4 and Luke 4.  How Judas died is presented as by hanging in Matthew 27:5, but by falling and bursting open in Acts 1:18.  The number of angels at the tomb is one in Matthew (27:5) but two in John (20:12).  Different words come from the thieves on the cross, one railing at him (Mt. 27:44) and the other defending him (Lk. 24:4-42).

Third, the actual quotations of Jesus on the same occasion are often listed differently in different Gospels.  This includes important events like the inscription on the Cross which is reported four different ways in the four Gospels.  Also, the confession of Peter which is stated three different ways.  So, it is argued that if the Gospel writers were giving us photographs of the events, then these would all be the same, but they are not.

Some words appear to be added to Jesus’ sayings.  For example, John uses “verily, verily” (e.g., 1:51; 3:3, 5, 11 [KJV] or “truly, truly” [ESV] or many sayings of Jesus which are not found in the first three Gospels.  Since it is widely believed that John wrote last, it is argued that Jesus never used this phrase (or these sayings) but that John put it into Jesus’ mouth.

The Dangers of the Portrait Model

            Problems like these have led many scholars to think that the Gospel writers were painting a portrait, rather than giving snaps shots.  However, when the “portrait” model is examined closely, it has some serious difficulties of its own.

First, the portrait image does not account well for the many parts of the Gospel that are virtually identical.  This is true, not only of the order and nature of many events, but also of the actual words that Jesus and others used.  Many scholars point to the similarities of the first three Gospels (called Synoptic Gospels).  For example of the 1068 verses in Matthew about 500 overlap with Mark’s 661 verses.  Of Luke’s 1149 verses about 320 overlap with Mark.  In fact, there are only 50-55 verses unique to Mark (W.G. Scroggie, A Guide to the Gospels, 86).  Why would different portraits have so many overlaps that are the same?

Second, the Gospel writers were careful to distinguish their own words from the words of Jesus.  This is what makes it relatively easy to produce a red letter edition of the Gospels (with Jesus’ words in red).  The distinction is clear enough that almost all red-letter editions of the Gospels are the same with only minor exceptions.

Third, the portrait image leaves room for contradictions in the Gospel (which many NT scholars believe) since different portraits done by different persons do not always complement each other in every detail.  But if the Gospels are the divinely inspired Word of God, then how can they have contradictions and errors in them?  God cannot err (Heb. 6:18), and if the Gospels are the Word of God, then they cannot err either. So, the portrait model is in conflict with the inerrancy of Scripture.

Fourth, the portrait image lends to the view that the Gospel writers were not really reporting but rather were creating Jesus’ words and deeds.  But if this is so, then how can we know what Jesus really said and did?

  Ipsissima Verba (Same Words) vs. Ipsissima Vox (Same Meaning)?

If the Gospels are neither snap shots nor portraits, then what are they?  And how accurately do they portray the real Jesus and his actual words and deeds?  Before we attempt to answer this specifically, we need to speak to the matter of the Gospel’s reliability.  Several lines of evidence lead us to believe that the Gospels are historically reliable:

(1) We have some early records by eye-witnesses of the events.  John and Peter were eyewitnesses of events in Jesus’ life.  John said: “The man who saw it [the crucifixion] has given testimony, and his testimony is true” (Jn. 19:35). “This is the disciple who testifies to these things and who wrote them down. We know that his testimony is true” (Jn. 21:24).  “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched—this we proclaim concerning the Word of life” (1John 1:1). This is about as clear an eye-witness testimony as one can give.

Peter reported: “We did not follow cleverly invented stories [myths] when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16). “We did not follow cleverly invented stories [myths] when we told you about the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty” (2 Peter 1:16).  “To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s suffering and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed” (1 Peter 5:1). Peter and John said, “God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact” (Acts 2:32).Peter and John replied…. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). “We are witnesses of everything he did in the country of the Jews and Jerusalem.  They killed him by hanging him on a tree, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen” (Acts 10:39-40).

Paul, an apostle and eye witness of the resurrection of Christ (1 Cor. 9:1; 15:8) wrote many New Testament books, including four that even most Bible critics accept as authentic (1and 2 Corinthians, Romans, and Galatians).  He declared:  For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.  Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me” (1 Cor. 15:3-8).  Even critical scholars believe this was written by A.D. 55-57 when almost all the apostles and chief eyewitness were still alive who could verify the main events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  Given this fact, this text is a powerful testimony to the fact that Paul was reporting, not creating, the events of which he spoke.

(2) Further, there were multiple eye-witnesses for many of the events, including the most crucial ones like the death and resurrection of Christ.  Indeed, there are 27 New Testament books which have traditionally been ascribed to nine different authors (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James, Jude, and the writer of Hebrews (though some believe Paul wrote it). Jesus’ death, for example, is listed in every Gospel (Mt. 27; Mk. 15; Luke 23; John 19) and in most of the NT books, as is his resurrection (e.g., Mt. 28; Mk. 16; Lk. 24; John 20-21; 1 Cor. 15).  But having two or more reliable witnesses of the same discourse or event is accepted in court as sufficient evidence to convict the accused of the crime.  Indeed, the Law of Moses records that at the mouth of two or three witnesses one can be sentenced to death (Deut. 17:6).

(3) We have other NT books that were written by contemporaries of the eyewitnesses.  Luke wrote: “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught” (Lk. 1:1-4). Clearly Luke claimed to be reporting actual history.  

The writer of Hebrews said, “How shall we escape if we neglect such a great salvation? It was declared at first by the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard [him],  while God also bore witness by signs and wonders and various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will” (Heb. 2:3-4 cf.  13:23, emphasis added).

(4) Numerous persons mentioned in the New Testament are known to have lived during that time period.  Luke provided historical crosshairs for a first-century eye-witness setting when he wrote:   “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene—during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert” (Luke 3:1-2). It is noteworthy that: 1) An exact date is given–A. D. 29.  2)  All eight people are known from history.  3)  All were known to live at this exact time. 4) Clearly this is not a “once-upon-a-time” legend but real history based on contemporary eye-witness testimony.  All together there are some 30 persons mentioned in the NT that are known from extra-biblical sources to have lived at that time (see Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels).

(5) Many legal authorities have supported the credibility of the Gospel writers.  After applying the principles for testing the validity of a witness testimony to the New Testament, one of the greatest attorney’s in early America, Simon Greenleaf, Professor of Law at Harvard University, wrote:“The narratives of the evangelists are now submitted to the reader’s perusal and examination, upon the principles and by the rules already stated…. If they had thus testified on oath, in a court of justice, they would be entitled to credit; and whether their narratives, as we now have them, would be received as ancient documents, coming from the proper custody.  If so, then it is believed that every honest and impartial man will act consistently with that result, by receiving their testimony in all the extent of its import” (see Simon Greenleaf, The Testimony of the Evangelists, 53-54).

Many other attorneys have had similar experiences, including Thomas Sherlock, The Tryal of the Witnesses of the Resurrection; Frank Morrison,Who Moved the Stone? John Montgomery, Christianity and History; Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ; J.W. Wallace, Cold-Case Christianty.

(6) Early non-Christian writers have confirmed the historicity of many of the main events mentioned in the Gospels such as:  (1)  Jesus was from Nazareth;  (2)  He lived a virtuous life; (3)  He performed unusual feats;  (4)  He introduced new teaching contrary to Judaism;  (5)  He was crucified under Pontius Pilate;  (6)  His disciples believed He rose from the dead; (7)  His disciples denied polytheism; (8)  His disciples worshiped Him; (9)  His teachings and disciples spread rapidly; (10)  His followers believed they were immortal; (11)  His followers had contempt for death; (12)  His followers renounced material goods (see F.F. Bruce, Jesus and Christian Origins Outside the New Testament).

The following chart summarizes the non-Christian source and the events of Jesus’ life that were confirmed:

Non-Christian Sources within 150 Years of Jesus

 

 

 

 

Source

 

 

 

 

AD

Existed Virtuous Worship Disciples Teacher Crucified Empty Tomb Disciples’

Belief in Resurrection

Spread Persecution
Tacitus 115 X X X X X X
Suetonius 117-138 X X X X X X
Josephus 90-95 X X X X X X X X X
Thallus 52 X X*
Pliny 112 X X X X X* X X
Trajan 112? X* X X X X
Hadrian 117-138 X* X X X
Talmud 70-200 X X X
Toledoth Jesu 5thCentury X X
Lucian 2ndCentury X X X X X X
Mara Bar-Scrapion 1st – 3rdCenturies X X X X X X*
Phlegon 80? X X X X

* implied

 

7)  Roman historians, who are experts in first century events, have confirmed the reliability of the Gospels.  Noted Roman historian, A. N. Sherwin-White, wrote: “So it is astonishing that while Greco-Roman historians have been growing confidence, the twentieth-century study of the gospel narratives, starting from no less promising material, have taken so gloomy a turn in the development of form-criticism…that the historical Christ is unknowable and the history of his mission cannot be written. This seems very curious.”  He calls the mythological view “unbelievable” (A. N. Sherwin-White, Roman Society and Roman Law in the NT, 187, 189).

Another first century scholar, Colin Hemer, demonstrated the accuracy of Luke on nearly 100 details of history and geography in his book, Acts in the Setting of Hellenic History (1990).  These included (1) Minute geographical details known to the readers; (2) Specialized details known only to special groups; (3) Specifics of not widely known routes, places, and officials; (4)  Correlation of dates in Acts with general history; ( 5) Details appropriate to that period but not others; (6)  Events which reflects a sense of “immediacy”; (7) Idioms and culture that bespeak of a first-hand awareness; (8) Verification of numerous details of times, people, and  events of that period best known by contemporaries.  This same author (Luke), known for his historical accuracy, also wrote the Gospel of Luke (cf. Luke 1:1 and Acts 1:1).

(8) Archaeology has supported many New Testament events (see Joe Holden,The  Popular Handbook of Archaeology and the Bible, 2013).  Noted biblical archaeologist, Nelson Glueck wrote: “As a matter of fact, however, it may be stated categorically that no archaeological discovery has ever controverted a biblical reference.  Scores of archaeological findings have been made which confirm in clear outline or exact detail historical statements in the Bible” (Nelson Glueck, Rivers in the Desert, 31). Some of the NT places or events confirmed by archaeology include: (1) Bethlehem, the birthplace of Jesus; (2) A coin of Caesar Augustus, during whose reign Jesus was born; (3) Tomb of King Herod who attempted to kill baby Jesus; (4) Pool of Siloam where Jesus performed a miracle; (5) Foundation wall of outer court of the temple where Jesus taught; (6) A bone of a crucifixion victim (with a nail in it) who died like Jesus did; (7) Inscription of Pontius Pilate who condemned Jesus to death; (8) Ossuary of Caiaphas the high priest who tried Jesus; (9) Ossuary box of  “James, son of Joseph, brother of Jesus”;[1] (10) Arch of Titus who destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70 showing the Jewish minora being carried away.

Reviewing the archaeological evidence for the Bible, even a secular magazine wrote:  “In extraordinary ways, modern archaeology has affirmed the historical core of the Old and New Testaments—corroborating key portions of the stories of Israel’s patriarchs, the Exodus, the Davidic monarchy, and the life and times of Jesus” (Jeffery Sheler “Is the Bible True,” US News & World Report, October 25, 1999, p. 52).

The Accuracy of the Gospel Records

Now some of these testimonies speak only to the credibility of the overall history of the main events in the New Testament (namely, points 5-9 above).  However, some of them speak directly to the accuracy of the words of Jesus (namely, points 1-4).  But even here the question remains as to whether we have the exact words of Jesus?  Before we can answer this specifically, we must remember that Jesus probably spoke Aramaic (cf. Mt. 27:46 cf. Mk. 7:34) and the New Testament was penned in Greek.  So, at best we have only a translation of most of the words of Jesus.  So, the question boils down to this: Do we have a good translation of the words of Jesus in the Gospels?   

Many Reasons the Records are Accurate.—Admittedly, while we do not in most cases have the exact words of Jesus (ipsissima verba), there is good reason to believe that we do have the true meaning of them (ipsissima vox) for several reasons: 1) the NT documents were based on eye-witness accounts by persons who knew both Aramaic and Greek  so they would know if they were translated correctly; 2) we have multiple accounts of many of the same discourses to cross-check their accuracy; 3) Luke claims to be giving an accurate account of the events (Lk. 1:1-4), and his account in Acts has been confirmed to be accurate in multiple details (see Colin Hemer, ibid.); 4) Many of the accounts were written within the memories of the eyewitnesses (c. A.D. 55-70); 5) Some of the New Testament writers were trained in keeping records (Matthew was a tax collector; Luke was a physician; Paul was highly educated);  6) Many in the non-literary New Testament culture had well developed memories (see Richard Bauckham,Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, chaps. 11-13);  7) Jesus’ words and deeds were impact events that would have been etched on the memories of those who heard him. 8) Jesus promised he would guide the memories of his disciples in recalling what he said to them: “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:26).  This cumulative evidence strongly supports the conclusion that the New Testament provides an accurate report of what Jesus actually said and did.

What About Different Words for the Same Events?–  As for cases where the Gospel records the same event in slightly different words, the differences are accounted for by (a) selection of material, (b) partial reports, (c) abbreviations, (d) paraphrase, or (e) collation in the text.  But in no case are there demonstrated distortions present. A few examples will illustrate the points.  For instance, the words on the Cross are reported four different ways, but merged together they give a harmonious message:

Matthew-   THIS IS JESUS                           THE KING OF THE JEWS.

Mark –                                                            THE KING OF THE JEWS.

Luke –          THIS IS                                       THE KING OF THE JEWS.

John –                      JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.

[Together]  THIS IS JESUS OF NAZARETH THE KING OF THE JEWS.

 

Another example of differences is Peter’s confession which is given in three different sets of words:

Mt. 16:16:  “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God.”

Mark 8:29:  “You are the Christ.”

Luke 9:20:   “[You are] the Christ of God

Here Matthew gives the whole statement and Mark and Luke only the main part of it. But there is no distortion of the message, each one presented the part that he wanted to emphasize.

What About Phrases and Sayings Found only in John. As noted above, John uses phrases like “verily, verily” [or “truly, truly”] that are not found in the other three Gospels. But this posed no real problem since: 1) there are no parallels in the other Gospels; 2) Jesus used the term “verily” in other Gospels (e.g., Mt.5:18, 26; 6:2, 5, 16). 3) He may have used the doubling effect on these other occasions for emphasis; 4) when there is a direct parallel between what Jesus said in John and in another Gospels the words of Jesus are identical.  For example, Jesus said, “Take up your bed and walk” in Mark 2:11 and John 5:8).  He said, “It is I.  Do not be afraid” in both Mark 6:50 and Jn. 6:20).  And in both Luke and John Jesus said to the disciples, “Peace be with you” (Lk. 24:36 cf. Jn. 20:19).  5) Final, if phases and saying must e rejected because they do not appear in two or more Gospels, then whole stories must be rejected because they are mentioned only in one Gospel (e.g., Turning water to wine—Jn. 2; Nicodemus—Jn. 3; the Samaritan woman—Jn. 4; the raising of Lazarus—Jn. 11; Zacchaeus—Lk. 19; the visit of the Wise men—Mt. 2; the resurrection of the saints–Mt. 27, and many others.

So What is It: Photos or Portraits?

Strictly speaking it is neither one since neither photos nor portraits since the New Testament is a written record and not a visual one.  However, granted the differences in these two types of representations, the Gospel record is more like a series of snap shots than it is like different portraits.   However, on occasion the snap shots are at different angles with different lighting or through different lenses.

(1) For example, an eye witness of Jesus’ tomb standing at one place may have seen only one angel (Mt. 24:5), namely, the one angel who was at the head of corpse, but another eyewitness standing farther into the tomb was able to see both of them (Jn. 20:12). To be sure, the snap shots are from different angles and reveal different perspectives, but they are still accurate pictures of what Jesus actually said and did and what the witnesses saw.  They are not interpretive creations of different writers (artists) who are creating the “Christ” they want the audience to see.  Rather, by selective photographs at different angles, each Gospel writer reported (not created) the real Christ in a manner that emphasizes a different aspect of his multi-faceted mission.

In the case of Judas, the snap shots were at different times.  The first snap shot was when he hanged himself (Mt. 27:5), and the second snap shot was later after his body had fallen from the place of hanging to the rocky ground and burst open (Acts 1:18).

The different words came from the thieves on the cross at different times. At first both thieves were railing at Christ (Mt. 27:44).  However, later on, after seeing how Jesus forgave those who were crucifying him (“Father forgive them…,”—Lk. 23:34), one thieves repented and defended Christ (Lk. 23:40-42).  His request to be remembered when Jesus came into Jesus’ kingdom was granted to him that very day (Lk. 23:43).

(2) Sometimes a different lens is used.  For example, from a Jewish time perspective (lens), Jesus was crucified on the “third hour” (Mark 15:25) which was 9 a.m. Roman time.  But John mentions that Jesus was still before Pilate at the “sixth hour” (Jn. 19:14) which twelve noon Jewish time but was 6 a.m. Roman time (see A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the NT: The Fourth Gospel, vol. 5, p. 299) before the crucifixion started.  A conflict occurs only when one is looking through the wrong time-lens.  In reality there is no conflict.

(3) In Matthew 9:18 Jairus told Jesus that “My daughter has just died.” But in Mark and Luke Jairus told Jesus she was only “at the point of death” (Mk 5:23) but not yet dead.  Luke said she was only “dying” but not yet dead (Lk. 8:42). Then, “while he [Jairus] was still speaking, someone from the ruler’s house came and said, ‘Your daughter is dead’” (Lk. 8:49). The fact is that they were all right but were speaking about different times.  Matthew just combines the snap shots given by Mark and Luke in one frame, but what he said was literally true.

(4) Sometimes there is a topical rearrangement of the snapshots in order to fit the theme of the Gospel writer.  For example, Luke gives a different order of the temptation events than is found in Matthew. Matthew lists them as the temptation (1) to turn stones into bread, (2) to jump from the pinnacle of the temple, and (3) to worship Satan.  But Luke reverses the last two.  This fits both the grammar of the text and the purpose of Luke.  Matthew uses the words “then” and “again” (4:5, 8) which indicate a chronological order, while Luke uses only “and” (Lk. 4:5, 9) to connect the events.  So, Matthew lists them chronologically but Luke puts them climactically or topically, possibly to end on the high note of Jesus’ victory over Satan.

(5) Sometimes there are repeated events like the cleansing of the temple.  One occurred at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry (Jn. 2), and the other happened nearer to the end of his ministry (Mt. 21) several years later.  The fact that different reasons are given for Jesus’ action may indicate that they are two different events.  In John (2:16) it is because they made his Father’s house “a house of trade.”  But in Matthew (21:13) it was because they made it “a den of robbers.”  And in each case a different verse is quoted.  Matthew speaks of it being “a house of prayer” (21:13), but John cites the verse, “The zeal for your House will consume me” (2:17).  As one commentator pointed out, it is not unlikely that a similar condition and response of the Lord of the temple should have occurred again several years later (See Elliott’s Commentary on the Bible, vol. 6, p. 129).  Other noted commentators have lent support to this view of two cleansings of the temple (see Henderickson, Morris, and D. A. Carson).  So, there is no reason to believe that John created a second cleansing, as opposed to reported it.

 

  A Fatal Flaw—Genre Criticism

It is common today, even among many evangelical scholars, to accept that the Gospels were written in a Greco-Roman literary genre.  One such scholar argues that “the Gospels belong to the genre of Greco-Roman biography (bios)” and that “Bioi offered the ancient biographer great flexibility for rearranging material and inventing speeches…, and they often include legend.”  But, he adds “because bios was a flexible genre, it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins” (M. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus, 34, emphasis added). This led him to deny the historicity of the story of the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27:51-53 (ibid.,527-528; 548; 552-553), and to doubt the authenticity of other events (ibid., 185-186, 306).

Later, in a debate with Bart Ehrman (at Southern Evangelical Seminary in the Spring 2009), Licona claimed there was a contradiction in the Gospels as to the day of Jesus’ crucifixion.  He said, “I think that John probably altered the day [of Jesus’ crucifixion] in order for a theological—to make a theological point here.”   Then in a professional transcription of a YouTube video on November 23, 2012 (see http://youtu.be/TJ8rZukh_Bc), Mike Licona affirmed the following:  “So um this didn’t really bother me in terms of if there were contradictions in the Gospels.  I mean I believe in biblical inerrancy but I also realized that biblical inerrancy is not one [of the] fundamental doctrines of Christianity. The resurrection is.  So if Jesus rose from the dead, Christianity is still true even if it turned out that some things in the Bible weren’t. So um it didn’t really bother me a whole lot even if some contradictions existed” (emphasis added).  More recently in a paper at The Evangelical Theological Society (November, 2013) Licona claimed that“intentionally altering an account” is not an error but is allowed by the Greco-Roman genre into which he categorizes the Gospels, insisting that the CSBI view cannot account for all the data (MP3 recording of his ETS lecture 2013, emphasis added).

This popular Greco-Roman genre theory adopted by Licona and others is directly contrary to the standard view on inerrancy as clearly stated by The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (CSBI) and signed by nearly 300 scholars (in 1978).  Also, it was later adopted by the CSBI statement by the Evangelical Theological Society, the largest group of evangelical scholars in the world (with over 3000 members).  It reads (in Article 18): “We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying behind it that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claim to authorship” (Art. 18, emphasis added).  But this is exactly what many non-inerrantists, do with some Gospel events.  The official ICBI commentary on this Article adds, “It is never legitimate, however, to run counter to express biblical affirmations” (Article 18, emphasis added).   It adds,“We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture” (emphasis added).  But many NT scholars rejects the strict “grammatico-historical exegesis” where “Scripture is to interpret Scripture” for an extra-biblical system where Greco-Roman genre is used to interpret Scripture (seeExplaining Biblical Inerrancy, www.BastionBooks.com).

Of course, “Taking account” of different genres within Scripture, like poetry, history, parables, and even allegory (Gal. 4:24), is legitimate, but this is not what the use of extra-biblical Greco-Roman genre claims to do.  Rather, it uses extra-biblical stories to determine what the Bible means, even when using this extra-biblical literature means denying the historicity of the biblical text.  Indeed, the CSBI commentary on its1982 Hermeneutics Statement (Article 13) on inerrancy adds, “We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual. Some, for instance, take Adam to be a myth, whereas in Scripture he is presented as a real person.  Others take Jonah to be an allegory when he is presented as a historical person and [is] so referred to by Christ” (emphasis added).  Its adds in the next article (Article 14), “We deny that any event, discourse or saying reported in Scripture was invented by the biblical writers or by the traditions they incorporated” (emphasis added).  Clearly, the CSBI standard view on inerrancy reject the Portrait view that the Gospel writers were creating, rather than reporting the words of Jesus.

 

Conclusion

Admittedly, it is not easy to explain all the biblical phenomena on the snap shot analogy, but two things should be kept in mind. First, it is only an analogy, and no analogy is perfect.   Second, it is closer to the truth than the portrait analogy.  Third, the most important thing to keep in mind is that, while we do not always have the exact words of Jesus, nonetheless, the evidences shows that we have an accurate representation of them.  For this there is strong and multiple evidence.

Many of the differences in the Gospels flow from the author’s selection of material to fit his theme.  Following the traditional understanding, Matthew presents Christ as King to the Jews; Mark as servant to the Romans; Luke as man to the Greeks, and John as the Son of God to the whole world.  But when their different thematic emphases are covering the same event, it does so in a compatible way with the other Gospels.  And when the same discourse is given in different Gospels, the words are often the same.  The bottom line is that the Gospels are a reliable, non-contradictory presentation of the words and deeds of Jesus.  This has been the standard view down through the centuries of the Christian Church, and there is no good reason to give it up now.

[1]   According to the Biblical Archeological Review, the inscription on the James Ossuary has been shown to be authentic. Some had challenged that the words “brother of Jesus” were not in the original inscription, but Yuval Goren, former chairman of Tel Aviv University’s institute of archaeology, was forced to admit on cross-examination that the phrase was in the original inscription on the Ossuary (Oct 2008).  Professor Camil Fuchs of Tel Aviv University determined that there we not even two chances (actually 1.7) that these three names would be mentioned together. Further, of thousands of ossuaries examined he knew of only one that had the name of a brother on it.  This indicates that such a reference must have been of a very important person.

Do We Have the Exact Words of Jesus in the Gospels?

Do We Have the Exact Words

of Jesus in the Gospels?

Norman L. Geisler

2013

 

 

The question is sometimes raised as to whether the Gospel have the words Jesus said. Liberal critics deny this, assigning large portions of Jesus words to the Gospel writers but denying Jesus actually said them.  So, the writers are not reporting but are creating the words of Jesus.  However, evangelical scholars reject this and affirm that the NT is accurately reporting, not distorting, Jesus’ teaching.  So, when the NT says Jesus said it, then Jesus actually said it. 

 

However, as we noted elsewhere, “Of course, this does not always mean we have the exact words Jesus spoke (ipsissima verba), but we do have an accurate reproduction of their meaning (ipsissima vox).  After all, Jesus probably spoke in Aramaic and the New Testament is written in Greek.  So, even in the original, the New Testament authors were translating what Jesus said.  Also, a comparison of parallel passages in the Gospels reveals that the words Jesus spoke on the same occasion are not always exactly the same. Sometimes one Gospel gives only part of what he said, and other times the wording is different, thought the meaning is the same” (N. L. Geisler,  A Popular Survey of the New Testament , Baker, 2007, p. 345).

 

Another question is the role of the Holy Spirit.  When Jesus promised he would bring to the minds of the apostles whatever he had taught them (Jn. 14:26:16:13), does this mean that it was a word-for-word dictation of what Jesus said?  Not necessarily, although the Holy Spirit is capable of doing this, but this is not at all necessary to the doctrine of inspiration and inerrancy of Scripture.  What was guaranteed by this Spirit-guided process was that they would remember all that Jesus taught them (Jn. 14:26) and that the Holy Spirit would “guide them into all truth” (Jn. 16:13).  That is, they would not forget any truth Jesus taught them, and they would not commit any error on the matter.  Giving the exact words is not necessary to accurately conveying what Jesus taught.  There are many ways to convey the same meaning without using the exact same words, and the Holy Spirit is capable of both.

From God to Us: How we got our Bible (2012)

FromGodToUs-R2

 

The original edition of From God to Us was published in 1974 and has since sold over 78,000 copies.  It was an abridgement to the Geisler and Nix classic A General Introduction to the Bible(which weighs in at over 700 pages).   This 2012 revision of From God to Us brings it up to date and expands it from 255 pages to 412 pages.  This major revision is expected to take the place of A General Introduction to the Bible.  From God to Us is the only book of its kind in print, covering the inspiration, canonization, transmission, and translations of the Bible.

The 2012 edition is available as a paperback and an eBook at:
ChristianBook and Amazon and Moody Publishers.

The 2013 edition (very slight revision of the 2012 edition with a few minor corrections) is also available as PDF format e-book atBastion Books.
The Bible was written in multiple languages by dozens of authors whose lives spanned a period of more than fifteen hundred years. How did it all come together? Best-selling authors Norman Geisler and William Nix thoroughly answer this question and many more in this revised and expanded edition of a classic which has sold more than 78,000 copies. Helpful charts, photos, and indices have been added, rendering this book ideally suited for Bible students, pastors, and professors.

Major topics addressed include: theories of inspiration, the process of canonization, major manuscripts and recent discoveries, textual criticism, Greek and Latin translations, and modern English translations. The entire field of general biblical introduction is covered.

Where did the Bible come from? How do we know the right books are in the Bible? Does the Bible contain errors? What are the oldest copies we have of the Bible? How do we know that the Bible hasn’t been changed over the years? Why are there so many translations of the Bible, and which one should I use? These are just some of the important questions about the Bible that are discussed in this book. Understanding basic facts about the origin of the Bible is essential for every Christian, but it can also be confusing and difficult. Here, two well-known scholars, authors of a more technical book, A General Introduction to the Bible, explain simply and clearly these basic facts. Inspiration, the biblical canon, major manuscripts, textual criticism, early translations, and modern versions are some of the major topics discussed. Careful explanations of important points are given throughout, as the entire field of biblical introduction is covered. Completely updated and revised edition of the 1974 work (more than 78,000 copies sold). Helpful charts have been added, along with an index of subjects, persons, and Scripture. This book is ideally suited for Bible students, pastors, and professors. While writing for readers without previous training, the authors do not gloss over difficult and complex issues when they arise. The nature of inspiration, the extent of the canon, and the usefulness of modern versions are all clearly discussed. The authors write: “The chain of communication from God to us is strong. It has several solid links: inspiration, collection, transmission, and translations. The strength of these links provide the contemporary Christian with the moral certitude that the Spirit-inspired original text of Scripture has been providentially preserved by God so that for all practical purposes the Bible in our hands is the infallible and inerrant word of God.”

The older version of From God to Us is available in paperback and Kindle edition here.

From God to Us is also available as a DVD lecture set (12 DVDs with Powerpoint presentations) at http://NGIM.org.

You can still order a hardback copy of General Introduction to the Bible from here:http://www.amazon.com/General-Introduction-Bible-Norman-Geisler/dp/0802429165/ref=sr_1_21?ie=UTF8&qid=1331407599&sr=8-21

Also note that we may eventually sell both the original version of General Introduction to the Bible and the revised 2012 version of From God to Us in ebook formats at http://bastionbooks.com.   We *might* possibly even eventually release an updated version of General Introduction to the Bible at bastion books.