A Response to Craig Blomberg’s “Can We Still Believe in the Bible?”

A Response to Craig Blomberg’s Can We Still Believe in the Bible?


by Norman L. Geisler



            The real answer to the question posed by Craig Blomberg’s book title is: Yes, we can believe in the general reliability of the Bible, but No we do not believe in its inerrancy, at least not in the sense meant by the framers of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI).  Blomberg mistakenly attributes his own version of inerrancy to the ICBI.

In general there are many helpful things said by Blomberg in the first three chapters in defense of the reliability, canonicity, and transmission of the Bible.  Indeed, we have often positively cited his book on The Historical Reliability of the Gospel.  However, our focus here is on Blomberg’s strong attack on inerrancy as we presented it in our recent book, Defending Inerrancy: Affirming the Accuracy of Scripture for a New Generation (Baker Books, 2011) and in particular his personal attack on the authors of the book and some other supporters of ICBI inerrancy.

However, our response here is not with persons but with principles.  So, our critique is not against any person but only the ideas expressed.  Our evaluation is focused on what they teach, not on their character or motives.  We respect the individuals as scholars who disagree with inerrancy and love them as brothers in Christ.  Our concern is with one thing and one thing only: Is their teaching in accord with the doctrine of inerrancy as defined by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI)?  So, when we use of the word “inerrancy” in this article we mean the ICBI view of inerrancy as expressed in the following documents.


The ICBI Documents on Inerrancy

            There were four official documents produced by ICBI related to defining inerrancy as follows:


1) The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (1978)–CSBI

2)  The official ICBI Commentary on the Chicago Statement –CSBI Commentary

3)  The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics (1982)– CSBH

4)  The official ICBI commentary titled Explaining Hermeneutics: A Commentary on the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics—CSBH Commentary


These four documents are collected together in Explaining Biblical Inerrancy (Bastion Books: 2013).   Together they express the official ICBI view on the meaning of inerrancy.  Other related books were also published under the ICBI label such as, Inerrancy (Geisler, ed.), Hermeneutics, Inerrancy and the Bible (Earl Radmacher and Robert Preus, eds.), Inerrancy and the Church(John Hannah, ed.), and Biblical Errancy: Its Philosophical Roots (Geisler, ed.).


Blomberg’s View on the ICBI Statements

            Blomberg is aware of all these ICBI statements on inerrancy and even cites some of them (Blomberg, Can We Still Believe the Bible? [hereafter B], 136, 149, 170, 178, 222, 262).  He even goes so far as to claim agreement with everything in the “Chicago Statement’ (CSBI) on inerrancy except one implied word (B, 273), the word always in the last line.  He believes that ICBI is claiming that a denial of inerrancy always has grave consequences.  Otherwise, Blomberg even calls the “Chicago Statement” on Biblical inerrancy (CSBI) “a carefully crafted document” (B, 149).  Further, he praises Article 18 of CSBI, saying, “this affirmation reinforces everything we have been discussing” (B, 170).  In addition, he commends the “reasonably well highlighted” statement on genre criticism in CSBI (B, 178).  Strangely, Blomberg even commends one Chicago statement more than the other, declaring: “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics CSBH) has not had nearly the lasting effect that the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy did, which is a shame, because in many ways it is the superior of the two documents” (B, 261, n. 98).

Blomberg’s Views on Inerrancy Contradict ICBI

A Statement of His View

Although Blomberg claims he does not personally hold many of the views which he describes below (see B, 177), nonetheless, he believes that none of them is inconsistent with belief in inerrancy.  In other words, according to Blomberg, one can hold any of the following views without denying the inerrancy of Holy Scripture:

  1. He denied the historicity of Jesus’ command about getting the coin from the mouth of the fish (in Matthew 17:27), saying, “Yet even the most superficial application of form criticism reveals that this is not a miracle story, because it is not even a story” (“NT Miracles and Higher Criticism” in JETS 27/4 [December 1984] 433).  But this is a futile attempt to defend his disbelief by diverting attention from his denial of the historicity of this text on the grounds that it was not a story but a command (B, 263, n 113).  By focusing on these factors, attention is deflected from a crucial point, namely, that Blomberg does not believe this event ever happened, as the Bible says it did.  Blomberg added, “Further problems increase the likelihood of Jesus’ command being metaphorical” (B, “NT Miracles,” 433).
  2. According to Blomberg, “The author’s intention [in Genesis] is almost entirely to narrate the “who” rather than the “how” of creation” (B, 151).  So, almost nothing informs us about how origins occurred, whether by creation or by evolution.
  3. Blomberg claims that “Some [inerrantists] opt for forms of theistic evolution in which God creates the universe with all the mechanisms built in to give rise…to each new development in the creative ‘week’” (B, 151).  This too is deemed compatible with inerrancy according to Blomberg.
  4. He adds, “Must there have been a historical Adam and Eve? . . . Many scholars, including a few evangelicals, think not” (B, 152).  Blomberg adds, “Nothing in principle should prevent the persons who uphold inerrancy from adopting a view that sees adam (“man” or Adam) and hawwa (“life or Eve) as symbols for every man and woman…” (B, 152).
  5.  Further, Blomberg believes that “None of this theology [about Job’s view on suffering] requires Job to have ever existed any more than the teaching of the parable of the Good Samaritan requires the Samaritan to have been a real person” (B, 156).  He added, “Almost nothing is at stake if Job never existed, whereas everything is at stake if Jesus never lived” (B, 223).
  6. Likewise, he asserts that “Surely, however, someone might argue, Jonah must be completely historical, because Jesus himself likens his death and resurrection to Jonah’s experience with the great fish (Matt. 12:40; Luke 11:30).  Actually, this does not follow at all” (B, 157).
  7. Further, “Ultimately, what one decides about its [the Book of Isaiah’s] composition or formation need not have anything to do with biblical inerrancy at all” (B, 162, 163), even though he admits Jesus mentioned “the prophet Isaiah” as being author of texts in both sections of Isaiah (B, 161).
  8. Isaiah may not have predicted “Cyrus” by name 150 years in advance (in Isaiah 45:1) of his reign because “Cyrus could in fact be a dynasty name (like “Pharaoh” in Egypt) rather than a personal name (B, 162).  This too is deemed compatible with inerrancy.
  9. According to Blomberg, the prophet Daniel may not have predicted all the things his book indicates because “Perhaps two works associated with the prophet Daniel and is successor, written at two different times, were combined” (B, 164).
  10. Blomberg, argues that treating sections of “Matthew as Midrash” and not as history would have been taken by his audience “who would have understood exactly what he was doing, not imagining his embellishment to be making the same kinds of truth claims as his core material from Mark and Q” (B, 166).
  11. Likewise, Blomberg believes that the story of “Lazarus” (in Luke 16) is a “parabolic fiction” (B, 150).
  12. Although Blomberg attempts to downplay it (B, 272), he has shown an openness to aberrant views in his book co-authored with a Mormon titled How Wide the Divide in that they agree on 12 affirmations, the first of which is: “1. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one eternal God.”  But anyone who has studied Mormonism knows that Mormons do not believe in the Trinity but in the heresy of Tritheism.  Further, they believe in Polytheism of which the prophet Joseph Smith said: “God himself was once as we are now, and is an exalted man for I am going to tell you how God came to be. We have imagined and supposed that God was God from all eternity… I will refute that idea, and take away the veil, so that you may see” (April 6, 1844). Since Mormons have not repudiated the prophetic office of Smith or any of the official Mormon’s many denials of essential Christian doctrines, cozying up to Mormon is not the most doctrinally discerning thing one can do (see Ron Rhodes, Reasoning from the Scriptures with Mormons).

In short, according to Blomberg, it is consistent with inerrancy to deny the historicity of Adam, Eve, Job, and Jonah, as well as the historicity of early Genesis and the doctrine of creation.  Likewise, he holds that an inerrantist need not believe that there was only one Isaiah or that he and Daniel made the supernatural predictions traditionally attributed to them.  He claims that even the Mormon cult has significant commonalities with evangelical Christianity so that the divide is not so wide as evangelicals have traditionally thought, even though Mormons deny the deity of Christ, the Trinity, and Salvation (to the highest heaven) by grace alone through faith in Christ alone, and many other evangelical beliefs (See Geisler and Rhodes,Conviction without Compromise, Harvest House, 2008).


Blomberg’s Views Contradict the ICBI View on Inerrancy

Blomberg’s claims to the contrary, one thing is certain: his viewsare contrary to the clear statements of the ICBI.  Consider the following ICBI declarations against Blomberg’s view on some of these very issues:

  1. Genesis 1-11 is Historical. CSBH, Article 22 “affirms that Genesis 1-11 is factual, as is the rest of the book.”  CSBI Article XIII reads: “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.”
  2. Historicity of the Flood.  CSBH: Article XIX affirms “…the factual nature of the account of the creation of the universe, all living things, the special creation of man, the Fall, and the Flood. These accounts are all factual, that is, they are about space-time events which actually happened as reported in the book of Genesis (see Article XIV).”
  3. Theistic Evolution and Genesis. CSBH: Article XIX: “WE DENY that Scripture should be required to fit alien preunderstandings, inconsistent with itself, such as naturalism, evolutionism, scientism, secular humanism, and relativism.”  Further, “… it is important to apply the “literal” hermeneutic espoused (Article XV) to this question. The result was a recognition of the factual nature of the account of the creation of the universe, all living things, the special creation of man, the Fall, and the Flood. These accounts are all factual, that is, they are about space-time events which actually happened as re-ported in the book of Genesis (see Article XIV).” Further, “There was…complete agreement on denying that Genesis is mythological or unhistorical. Likewise, the use of the term ‘creation’ was meant to exclude the belief in macro-evolution, whether of the atheistic or theistic varieties” (ibid., emphasis added).
  4. Historicity of Jonah.  CSBI Article XIII reads: “We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual….  Others take Jonah to be an allegory when he is presented as a historical person and [is] so referred to by Christ.”
  5. Historicity of the Gospels.  CSBI Article XVIII “We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by the grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and Scripture is to interpret Scripture.  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.”  CSBH Article XIV says: “We affirm that the biblical record of events, discourses and sayings, though presented in a variety of appropriate literary forms, corresponds to historical fact.  We deny that any event, discourse of saying reported in Scripture was invented by the biblical writers or by the traditions they incorporated.”  Further, CSBH Article XIII asserts that “We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual.”  Blomberg tries in vain to avoid the impact of this statement by presupposing that the Gospel narratives do not all “present” themselves as historical.  However, this is clearly contrary to (1) what the Gospel of Luke claims (Lk. 1:1-4); (2) the literal historical-grammatical method ICBI adopts; (3) the correspondence view of truth employed by ICBI which presumes narratives are literal unless shown to be otherwise.   
  6. The Use of Extra-Biblical Genre

            Traditionally, many have considered the Gospels to be a genre of their own (sui generis) because of their unique nature as a revelation of God.  However, Blomberg buys into the currently popular notion that the Gospels should be interpreted by extra-biblical genreHe wrote:  “Once we determine, as best we can, what a passage affirms, according to the conventions of its style, and genre, a commitment to inerrancy implies acceptance of the truth of those affirmations.  But a commitment to inerrancy does not exclude a priori any given literary style, form, or genre that is not inherently deceptive” (B, 164).  In short, we must determine first what a passage means according to its genre.  We cannot know in advance that it is going to be historical just because it is a narrative or is in a historical book.  Further, the genre can be an extra-biblical like the Greco-Roman genre.  Hence, an extra-biblical genre can determine the meaning of a biblical text.  This is, of course, contrary to the ICBI statements on genre for several reasons.

First, ICBI Article XIII forbids the use of extra-biblical genre to determine the meaning of a biblical text.  It reads “We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual” (emphasis added).  Further, CSBH Article XIV says: “We affirm that the biblical record of events, discourses and sayings, though presented in a variety of appropriate literary forms, corresponds to historical facts” (emphasis added). 

            Second, ICBI demands interpreting “Scripture by Scripture” (CSBI Article 18), not the Bible by extra-biblical genre.  That is, nothing external to the New Testament text should be hermeneutically determinative of the meaning in the text.  In some cases, one can derive the meaning (use) of a term from contemporary use of the word. But the meaning of a text is discovered from studying the text in its grammatical and historical setting, as compared to related Scripture on that text.

Third, the alleged “purpose of the author” of which Blomberg speaks is not the determinative factor in understanding a text.  For there is no way to know what the author had in his mind behind the text except by what he affirmed in the text.  Hence, the appeal to the linguistic philosophy of John Austin to determine the illocutionary (purpose) act or the perlocutionarly act (results) is futile.  Usually, all we have in Scripture is the locutionary act (What is affirmed).  So, the locus of meaning has to be in what is affirmed, not why it is affirmed because often we are just guessing about that.  Thus, the genre critic Blomberg is using extra-biblical ideas to determine the meaning of the biblical text.


Blomberg’s Attack on Defenders of the ICBI Statements

            Not only do the ICBI statements repeatedly contradict Blomberg’s view on inerrancy, but he repeatedly distorts the ICBI statements and demeans the character of those who defend the inerrancy of Scripture.  We note first of all his unscholarly and unprofessional characterizations of those who defend the historical biblical view of inerrancy as represented in the ICBI statements.

             His Excessively Negative language about the Defenders of Inerrancy

            Blomberg often employs condemnation and exaggeration instead of refutation related to inerrantists claims.  He labels inerrantists, for example, as “very conservative” (B, 7), “overly conservative” (B, 217), “ultra conservative” (B, 11, 214), “hyperconservative” (B, 13), “extremely conservative” (B, 7).  Of course, this tends to make his views look more moderate by comparison, when, as we shall see, they are in direct opposition to those the mainstream evangelical view as reflected in the ICBI statements.  He even likens ICBI defenders of inerrancy to Nazis and Communist (B, 8)!  He quotes with approval the statement, “the far left and the far right—avoid them both, like the plague” (B, 8). At one point he stops just short of questioning the Christianity of ICBI supporters (B, 254).  What is more, he sometimes makes it very clear about whom he is speaking by name (Robert Thomas, David Farnell, William Roach, and myself)–all Ph.D. in biblical related studies who have written critical reviews of Blomberg’s positions. He also addresses Dr. Al Mohler and Master’s Seminary in negative terms.

Such exaggerated language is not only unprofessional and unscholarly, it borders on being morally libelous, as the following statements reveal.  Strangely and inconsistently, Blomberg responds strongly when other scholars use a negative term about his views (B, 254).

His Unjustified Condemnation of Alleged Motives and Character of Inerrancy Defenders

Blomberg goes further than extremist labeling of inerrancy defenders. He claims that we “simplistically” distorted the evidence in order to oust Robert Gundry from the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) over his midrash denial of the historicity of certain sections of Matthew (B, 167).  He charges that we engaged in a “political campaign” against Gundry (B, 167).  Elsewhere, he alleges that we have utilized a “standard ploy throughout his [my] career” when “trying to get someone removed from an organization” (B, 262 n. 111).  He adds the allegation that inerrancy is used as “a blunt tool to hammer into submission people whose interpretation of passages differs from ours…” (B, 125).  These charges of an alleged sinister and continuous career of unjustified activity on my part are both untrue, unjustified, and unethical. Indeed, they are serious moral judgments of motives for which Blomberg should apologize.  Someone has rightly asked why it is that those who defend inerrancy are attacked and those who attack inerrancy are defended.

Without attributing motives, one thing seems clear: “Blomberg is dead-set on broadening the acceptable borders of orthodoxy on inerrancy, the result of which would be a more inclusive statement that would embrace scholars (like Blomberg himself) who have moved well beyond inerrancy as traditionally understood and as expressed by the ICBI.  This may explain the use of such passionate and uncalled for language in describing those who wish to retain a more traditional stand on inerrancy.  Perhaps a lot of their passion and zeal arises from the fact that those who hold a more liberal view on inerrancy may fear their view may be deemed unorthodox too.


His Many Errors and Mischaracterizations of the Defenders of Inerrancy


Ironically, Blomberg’s attack on those who defend an inerrant Bible is filled with errant statements. Here is a list of some that come to mind.  Contrary to Blomberg’s charge, it is not true that:


  1. No one offered an “intelligent response” to Gundry (B, 167).  Even Blomgberg acknowledged that D. A. Carson wrote a critique of it, as did Doug Moo.  Not to mention the scholarly response given at ETS and articles published in the Journal of The Evangelical Theological Society (JETS, 2003).


  1. A majority of speakers at ETS were in favor of retainng Gundry in its membership (B, 166).  This is a misleading statement since, when given a chance to vote almost three-quarters of the membership voted to ask Gundry to resign.


  1. The proceeding of the ETS which resulted in Gundry’s removal from membership was not fair or representative (B, 166-167). On the contrary, it was the result of a long (two year) process, during which papers and articles were presented pro and con.  The meeting at which the vote took place was deliberate and orderly and the vote was taken properly.  Even Gundry accepted its conclusion.


  1. The vote for Gundry’s removal was not a bare minimum “just over” what was necessary (167).  The vote was 116 in favor of his removal and 41 opposed (as reported by Christianity Today 2/3/1984) which is almost 74% in favor of his removal.  This is nearly three-quarters of the membership present and well over the two-thirds (67%) necessary.


  1. ETS did not “expel” Gundry from membership (B, 167).  The vote was to ask Gundry to resign, not to expel him.  If he had refused to resign, then there could have been another vote to expel which was unnecessary because Gundry voluntarily resigned.


  1. The process of Gundry’s removal was a “political campaign” in which “circulating advertisements” occurred (B, 167).  This too is false.  No “campaign” was held and no “advertisements” were circulated.  Each ETS member was given a paper with quotations from Gundry’s book so that they could make an intelligent decision on how to vote.


  1. “Gundry’s views were simplistically presented…” at the ETS meeting (B, 167). This too is false.  Exact and complete quotations were given of Gundry’s views to each member.  There was nothing simplistic about it.


  1. Geisler utilized a “standard ploy throughout his career…when he is trying to get someone removed from an organization,” namely, getting all the living framers to agree with him in order to oust a member (262 n. 111). I never did and such thing.  In the Pinnock issue, Roger Nicole contacted all the founders of ETS, but I was not a founder of ETS and was not part of any such effort.  I have argued Licona’s views are contrary to the ICBI framers, but I was never part of a “ploy” or effort to get him ousted from the ETS organization, nor any other group.  Neither, have I done it “throughout my career” (which is now almost 60 years long because there was never another occasion in all those years where a group of framers were involved in getting someone removed from an organization in which I participated.  These are serious, sinister, and slanderous charges that impugns the character of another brother in Christ and call for an apology from the one who made them.


  1. Geisler resigned from ETS because they exonerated Clark Pinnock of the charges against him.  This is partly true.  After all, Pinnock claimed to believe in inerrancy, yet he has said in print that there were false predictions in the Bible (see Pinnock, The Most Moved Mover, 50), and he denied the Bible is the written Word of God (Scripture Principle, 128).  I was also disappointed with the process by which Pinnock was retained because it was not completely fair and open.  However, the main and underlying reason I left ETS was because I believed it has lost its integrity by allowing a scholars to join who did not have to believe the doctrinal statement on inerrancy as the founders meant it (see my article, “Why I resigned from the Evangelical Theological Socity,” at http://normangeisler.net/articles/Bible/Inspiration-Inerrancy/ETS/2003-WhyIResignedFromTheETS.htm.)


  1. Geisler has become increasingly more conservative over the years as indicted by the successive schools at which he has taught (B, 143-14).  This is false.  In each case my move to an established school was because I was offered what appeared to be a better opportunity for service.  In the case of the two Seminaries I helped start, they were after I retired and was asked by others to help them start two seminaries (where I still teach) which stress apologetics which has been a passion of mine from the beginning.  It had nothing to do with the degree of conservativeness of the Seminaries.  They all have sound doctrinal statements.  None of them was significantly more conservative than the others.


  1. Only a “tiny minority” throughout history held that inerrancy is the only legitimate form of Christianity (B, 221).  This is a purely “Straw Man” argument since almost no one holds this view.  ICBI, the view we are representing, states clearly that “We deny that such a confession is necessary for salvation” (CSBI Article 19).  It adds, “We affirm that the doctrine of inerrancy has been integral to the Church’s faith throughout its history” (CSBI, Article 16).  ICBI also held that there are “grave consequence” (CBSI Article 19) for denying inerrancy.  But it never affirmed that is the only legitimate form of Christianity.  So, this criticism is an empty charge, applying to almost no one.


Blomberg’s Misinterpretation of the ICBI Statements


Not only did Blomberg attack those who defend ICBI inerrancy but he distorts the meaning of the ICBI statements.  As noted earlier, Blomberg affirms the ICBI statements and even acknowledges the official commentaries.  Nonetheless, he often distorts the meaning of these statements to support his own unorthodox views which are, in fact, contrary to the ICBI statements.  Consider the following examples.


ICBI View of Truth as Correspondence


 One of the reason Blomberg can claim he agrees with the ICBI statements (and yet hold views opposed to them) is that he misinterprets the ICBI statements. CSBI Article 13 affirms: “We deny that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose.”  But after acknowledging this, Blomberg proceeded to read his own purpose into certain texts of Scripture so as to doubt or deny their historicity (see midrash discussion below).  This he does in direct contradiction to the ICBI official commentary (that he acknowledges) which declares a correspondence view of truth, as opposed to an intentionalist view which stressed (like Blomberg) the alleged purpose of the author, not the propositional affirmation of the author in the text.  This is directly contrary to the CSBI commentary which declares: “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.  This part of the article is directed toward those who would redefine truth to relate to merely redemptive intent, the purely personal, or the life, rather than to mean that which corresponds with reality” (emphasis added).  When truth is defined as correspondence with the fact, one cannot easily escape the fact that that the sections of the Gospels doubted or denied by Blomberg, Robert Gundry, or by Mike Licona are a denial of inerrancy (see next).

ICBI View of Genre

It is difficult to understand how Blomberg can praise the ICBI statements as a whole and yet hold a genre view which is directly contrary to the ICBI view.  A hint as to how he does this is when he praises one half of an ICBI statement on genre (which he takes out of context) and questions the other half which speaks directly against his view.  For example, he agrees with CSBI Article 18 when it affirms that “Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture,” especially to the part we highlighted.  However, he is not sure how this is consistent with the very next line which asserts: “We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text of quest for sources behind it that leads to relativizing, dehisorticizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claim to authorship” (emphasis added). And well he should disagree with this part because it is precisely what he approves of in the cases of Gundry, Licona, and himself.  He approves of relativizing, deshistoricisning, and rejecting the claim to authorship as consistent with inerrancy.

Relativizing.  Once the correspondence view of truth is not fully accepted, then truth becomes relativized because there is not objective reality to which it must correspond. Blomberg asserts, “What it means to say he Bible is wholly true varies widely from one genre to the next…” (B, 131).  So, the “truth” is relative to the genre, and the genre choices are not absolute by any stretch of the imagination.

Dehistoricizing.  For example, the choice of a midrash genre (Gundry) or a Greco-Roman genre (Licona) will determine whether or not the narrative is historically true or is just a legendary embellishment (see below).  So, for New Testament critics truth is relative to genre which in turn is relative to the interpreter.

Pseudonymity. Blomberg even allows for the use of an author’s name to be used when in part or in whole he did not write the biblical book with his name on it.  He himself believed that Part of 2 Peter was not written by the apostle Peter, and he allows (as consistent with inerrancy) for whole books to be such (B, 171).

Blomberg’s Defense of Robert Gundry

According to Robert Gundry, whose view is defended by Blomberg as consistent with orthodoxy, whole sections of Matthew (like the Visit of the Magi—Matthew 2) are not historical because the author’s purpose was not to affirm what corresponded with reality (as in a correspondence view of truth), but to use a midrashic embellishment understood as such by his Jewish audience (B, 164f).  So viewing “Matthew as Midrash” and not historical “would have understood exactly what he was doing, not imagining his embellishment to be making the same kinds of truth claims as his core material from Mark and Q” (B, 166).

Of course, Blomberg laments that an overwhelming majority (nearly 74%) of the ETS voted to ask Gundry to resign from ETS because of his denial of the historicity of certain passages in Matthew.  Blomberg remains proud that his is one of the small minority who voted to retain Gundry in ETS. Indeed, as even Blomberg admits (B, 168), the framers of the statement (of which I was one) “had Gundry in mind” when the CSBH statements were made which we certainly did. We wrote: “WE deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual” (CSBH Commentary on Article 13).   No amount of re-interpretation can override the clarity of this statement or the testimony of living framers as to its meaning.  And when the framers die, the written words of the framers (as here) will remain to vouch for the meaning of their words.

Blomberg’s Defense of Murray Harris

            There seems to be a camaraderie among many biblical scholars that blinds them to some serious errors and prompts them to put fraternity over orthodoxy. Professor Murray Harris had claimed the resurrection body was “essential immaterial” (Raised Immortal, 53-54), even though the Bible (Lk. 24:39; Acts 2:31) and the Early Creeds affirmed the resurrection in the “flesh.”  Further, Harris affirmed the ascension of Christ was a “parable” (RI, 92).  Further, he held that believers receive a spiritual resurrection body at death (RI, 44, 100) while their physical bodies remain rotting in the grave.  In spite of all this, Blomberg, in an act that seeming puts fraternity above orthodoxy, defends his fellow New Testament scholar’s view as orthodox.

Further, Blomberg was unaware of what the real issues were (see our Battle for the Resurrection, Thomas Nelson: 1989. Or see the third edition Bastion Books: 2014), namely, that we had written a whole book (titled, In Defense of the Resurrection, Witness Inc, 1993, chap. 5) responding to Harris’s objection.  Neither did Blomberg show awareness of the fact that some 90 counter-cult group pronounced Harris’s views “false doctrine,” “unorthodox,” or even “cultic” (ibid., 189).  Nor was Blomberg cognizant of the fact that Harris had been warned by Trinity that he would lose his position, if he did not change his view on the resurrection of believers.  Harris did change his view over the weekend when the Trinity appointed (not ETS related) a committee of three scholars to met with him.  One would have expected that a scholar of Blomberg’s reputation would have looked into this issue more carefully before pontificating on it.

Blomberg’s Defense of Mike Licona

It is incredible that anyone, let alone a biblical scholar, would defend the orthodoxy (i.e., compatibility with inerrancy) of Mike Licona’s Greco-Roman genre views.  Licona has yet to retract his view that the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27 is a legendary, poetic embellishment (see TheResurrection of Jesus, 552, 553, 548), even though he is now not as sure of it as he once was. Further, Licona embraces the Greco-Roman Bios which admits that it is “a flexible genre [wherein] it is often difficult to determine when history ends and legend begins” (Licona, ibid., 34).  This is ironic in view of Blomberg and Licona’s criticism that the defenders of inerrancy are imposing their modern view of what an error is on the Bible when in fact it is they who are imposing their modern view of genre criticism on the Bible.

More importantly, Licona believes there is a contradiction in the Gospels about the day on which Jesus was crucified, yet he insists this is consistent with a belief in inerrancy!  In a debate with Bart Ehrman (Spring, 2009), Licona said, “I think that John probably altered the day [on which Jesus was crucified] in order for a theological—to make a thelogical point there.  But that does not mean that Jesus wasn’t crucified” (emphasis added).

The ICBI framers condemned Licona’s kind of view in clear and unequivocal language when they spoke against “dehistoricizing” the Gospels (CSBI, Article 18).  Likewise, they affirmed: “WE deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual” (CSBH Commentary on Article 13).   Licona’s view  is so far from measuring up to ICBI standard for orthodoxy that R.C. Sproul wrote: “As the former and only President of ICBI during its tenure and as the original framer of the Affirmations and Denials of the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy, I can say categorically that Mr. Michael Licona’s views are not even remotely compatible with the unified Statement of ICBI”(Letter, May 22, 2012, emphasis added).




            One fact emerges from Blomberg’s recent book, namely, whatever merits it has, the view which he defends is contrary to the ICBI view of inerrancy.  And since the ETS has accepted the ICBI definition of inerrancy (in 2003), it is also contrary the statement of largest group of inerrantist scholars in the world!  So much for Blomberg’s charge that the defenders of the ICBI statements on inerrancy, including living framers like J. I. Packer, R. C. Sproul, and myself, are a tiny extremist minority.  And to debunk the living framers, as Blomberg did (B, 262, n 111), because they will someday be dead, misses the point, namely, they are the best testimony to the meaning of their own words while they are alive.  And their written words will still live on even after they die.

Finally, we do agree with Blomberg’s words when he wrote: we should embrace a “full-fledged inerrantist Christianity so long as we ensure that we employ all parts of a detailed exposition of inerrancy, such as that found in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy…, and not just those sections that are most amenable to our personal philosophies or theologies.  This also means that we interpret the Chicago Statement, like the Bible, in terms of what is actually written, and not merely what one of its authors might have wanted to write or might have wanted it to mean” (B, 222). Unfortunately, however, as has been shown above, such a view is not the view that Blomberg promotes, but it is the view he attacks.



About the Author

Dr. Geisler is a graduate of Wheaton College (B.A., M.A.), William Tyndale College (Th.B.), and Loyola University (Ph.D.).  He has taught at the College or graduate level for over 50 years.  He is the author or co-author of more than 100 books, including Inerrancy, General Introduction to the Bible, The Big Book of Bible Difficulties, and Defending Inerrancy.  He is a former president of The Evangelical Theological Society and co-founder and first president ofThe Evangelical Philosophical Society.  He was co-founder of theInternational Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI) and was a co-drafter of the famous ICBI “Chicago Statement” on inerrancy and editor of the ICBI books.  He has taught at some of the top evangelical seminaries in America, including Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and Dallas Theological Seminary.  He also co-founded two seminaries, Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, NC and Veritas Evangelical Seminary in Los Angeles–schools where he still teaches.


On Licona Muddying the Waters (2014)

On Licona Muddying the Waters

Norman Geisler

June 5, 2014


Cool, Clear Waters

Before Mike Licona wrote his recent article (June 2, 2014) “On Chicago’s Muddy Waters,” the waters were clear.  That is, the “Chicago Statement” on biblical inerrancy was clear on the meaning of inerrancy.  It affirmed that “dehistoricizing” sections of the Gospels, such as Licona has done, was contrary to inerrancy.  It declared that:

“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” (Articles XVIII, emphasis added in all these quotes).


Article XIII declares emphatically: “We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narrativeswhich present themselves as factual.”


ICBI Hermeneutics Article XIV adds, “We deny that any event, discourse or saying reported in Scripture was invented by the biblical writers or by the traditions they incorporated.


Further, “We deny that extrabiblical views ever disprove the teaching of Scripture or hold priority over it” (Hemeneutics Statement, Article XX).

The official ICBI commentary adds, “Though the Bible is indeed redemptivehistory, it is also redemptive history, and this means that the acts of salvation wrought by God actually occurred in the space-time world” (Commentary on Article XII).



Cool, Clear Framers Agree

All living framers (R.C. Sproul, J.I. Packer, and N.L. Geisler) agree that ICBI excludes a view like Licona embraced in his book (The Resurrection of Jesus,185-187; 530, 548, 552,553).


R.C. Sproul declared clearly and emphatically: “As the former and only president of ICBI during its tenure and as the original framer of the Affirmations and Denials of the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy, I can say categorically that Mr. Michael Licona’s views are not even remotely compatible with the unified Statement of ICBI” (Letter, May 22, 2012).  He added, “You can use this comment by me however you wish” (emphasis added).


J.I. Packer added plainly: that “As a framer of the ICBI statement on biblical inerrancy who once studied Greco-Roman literature at advanced level, I judge Mike Licona’s view that, because the Gospels are semi-biographical, details of their narratives may be regarded as legendary and factually erroneous, to be both academically and theologically unsound”(Letter, May 8, 2014, emphasis added).


Norman L. Geisler: I have spoken repeatedly of the similarity of Licona’s views with those of Robert Gundry who was asked to resign (in 1983) from the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) by an overwhelming 74% vote.  No attempt to minimize this vote can negate its legitimacy, clarity, or finality, no matter how much some may wish to do so. What could be clearer than the ICBI statements on this matter and the clear and emphatic words of the only living framers of the ICBI statements?


Casting Mud at Defenders of the ICBI Statement


If any waters have been muddied, it is from the mud cast at the defenders of the Chicago Statement on inerrancy.  They call the ICBI defenders “New Fundamentalist” eight times in Licona’s short article. They insist we are “rigid” and engage in “ferocious fratricide.”  They are designated inerrancy “police” or “police officers” who have a “most wanted” list.  They consider an inerrancy defender a “tar baby.”  They “politicize” this issue.  He even goes so far as to question our “motives,” rather than be content with evaluating our statements.


Licona and his supporters believe we engaged in a personal “crusade” against Licona.  In what seemed like a kind of doctrinal paranoia, Licona falsely claims Geisler is “criticizing me” or a “crusade against me” (twice, emphasis mine). He said, “I’ve been in the crosshairs of Norman Geisler,” as though he was a special target I wanted to kill.  The truth is we have never attacked him as a person, but only his views. I have said many times that I like Mike as a person and love him as a brother in Christ. However, we try never to put fraternity over orthodoxy or cloud our love for God’s truth by how nice a guy is or how good a friend the person is.  This cannot be said of Licona or his friends for their writings are toxic with personal attacks. One can look to Craig Blomberg’s recent book to illustrate the point.


Craig Blomberg, engaged without substantiation in a tirade in print against defenders of ICBI inerrancy (see his Can We Still Believe the Bible?)  He insists that we are “very conservative” (B, 7), “overly conservative” (B, 217), “ultra conservative” (B, 11, 214), “hyperconservative” (B, 13), “extremely conservative” (B, 7).  Of course, this tends to make his views look more moderate by comparison, when, as we shall see, they are in direct opposition to the mainstream evangelical view as reflected in the ICBI statements.  Blomberg even likens ICBI defenders of inerrancy to the extreme views Nazism and Communism (B, 8)!  He quotes with approval the statement, “the far left and the far right—avoid them both, like the plague” (B, 8). He claims that we “simplistically” distorted the evidence in order to oust Robert Gundry from the Evangelical Theological Society (B, 167).  He charges that we engaged in a “political campaign” against Gundry (B, 167).  Elsewhere, he alleges that we have utilized a “standard ploy throughout his [Geisler’s] career” when “trying to get someone removed from an organization” (B, 262 n. 111).  He adds the allegation that inerrancy is used as “a blunt tool to hammer into submission people whose interpretation of passages differs from ours…” (B, 125).  These charges of an alleged sinister and continuous career of unjustified activity on my part are both untrue, unjustified, and unethical.  Someone has rightly asked why it is that those who defend inerrancy are attacked and those who attack inerrancy are defended.


When mud-slinging occurs one can be reasonably sure that the attackers have run out of reasons and evidence to use in a rational argument and, thus, have resorted to attacking the person instead of the argument.


Muddying the Chicago Waters


Licona and his colleagues have insisted on muddying the Chicago ICBI waters by claiming the ICBI position is not clear.  They have charged that:

There are other interpretations of the ICBI Statements on Inerrancy.


Of course there are, no one disputes this.  However, that is not the question.  The question is: Are there better ones?  Do they correspond with the meaning expressed by the Framers of the ICBI statements?  The answer is an emphatic “No.” the Framers have spoken in commentaries and letters (see above).


Further, the “other” interpretations are not supported by the historical evidence (see Mark Hannah, The Church and Inerrancy).  Church history is virtually unanimous on the orthodox view of inerrancy.  It is unlimited inerrancy as expressed by the ICBI statements (see John Woodbridge, A Critique of The Roger/McKim Proposal).


What is more, I know of no other inerrancy statement ever made that was the work of some 300 interdenominational and international scholars that is more extensive and more complete and has been more widely accepted as that of the ICBI. Even the membership of the largest body of evangelical scholars who believe in inerrancy, the Evangelical theological Society (ETS), consisting of over 3000 members, adopted the ICBI statement as the definition of their brief inerrancy statement by an overwhelming 80% vote (in 2006).  If Mr. Licona and his New Testament critical friends think they can improve upon it, let them try.


The Chicago Statement is not a Creed.  Of course it isn’t, and it does not claim to be. That does not keep it from being a very good statement, or even the best one produced by a broad group of scholars to date. Nor does it hinder it from being right when it condemns “dehistoricizing” the Gospels as many critical scholars are doing today (see citations above).


The Chicago Statement is too “Conservative.”  It all depends where one is standing.  This is a relative term.  If one is already standing left of Scripture, then no doubt ICBI will seem too conservative.  However, when judged by the views of the Fathers of the Church from the earliest times down to and through the reformation to modern times (see John Hannah,Inerrancy and the Church, Moody, 1984),   the Chicago Statement is on target.  In fact, it is the Licona Neoevanglical view of Scripture that is too “Liberal.”

The Lausanne Covenant Statement on Inerrancy is more widely Accepted.  There is no comparison between Lausanne and Chicago statements on inerrancy.  Lausanne has only a brief statement on inerrancy as follows: “We affirm the divine inspiration, truthfulness and authority of both Old and New Testament Scriptures in their entirety as the only written word of God, without error in all that it affirms, and the only infallible rule of faith and practice” (1974). The Chicago statement is a more comprehensive statement containing numerous Affirmations and Denials. Indeed, there are two major statements with accompanying commentaries. The ICBI conference, unlike Lausanne, focused only on inerrancy and consisted of scholars trained on the topic.  So, for a detailed statement on inerrancy, the ICBI statement has been the most widely disseminated, embracing the 3000 members of the ETS and influencing numerous denominations, including the largest Protestant denomination in the world—the Southern Baptist Convention.


It is noteworthy that Billy Graham signed the Lausanne statement on inerrancy.  However, he also gave money to help start the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy which produced the Chicago Statements on inerrancy. And more recently, both Billy and his son Franklin Graham made statements in support of inerrancy on the www.DefendingInerrancy.com web site.  In fact, the world-wide circulation of Billy Graham’s magazine Decision(May, 2014) on “the dangers of compromise” featured an article defending ICBI inerrancy by the former president of the Evangelical Theological Society.


Many Books Defending ICBI Inerrancy were not published by Standard Publishers.

This is an irrelevant and misleading charge for several reasons.  First, numerous books defending ICBI inerrancy have been published through standard publishers.  To name only a few: The Erosion of Inerrancy in Evangelicalism by B. K. Beale; Defending Inerrancy by myself and William Roach; A Critique of  The Roger/McKim Proposal by John Woodbridge;  Indeed, the ICBI itself produced many volumes defending inerrancy all of which were published by standard publishers (like Zondervan, Baker, and Moody).  These include: Inerrancy, Biblical Errancy: Its Philosophical Roots; The Church and Inerrancy; Hermeneutics, Inerrancy, and the Bible.

Second, this charge is amazing since Licona was able to divine the reason for ICBI inerrantists using a non-standard publisher (like Xulon) was that we “could not find an interested publisher.”  As most writers know, there are other reason for using non-standard publishers as well, including time, money, control of the content, and owning the rights.  And there are also reasons to reject some “standard” publishers who would have published it.

Second, this objection assumes that truth is conveyed best, if not exclusively, by what they view as “standard” publishers. This supports a kind of professional elitism and academic snobbery. Truth is what corresponds to reality no matter who publishes it.

Third, this charge is amusing and ironic since the recent book attacking ICBI inerrancy which was blessed by Licona and many of his New Testament critic friends was self published by Licona’s son-in-law and his friend!


Many Muddy Statements by Licona


Licona and friends have made many statements that are clearly not traditional orthodox views on Scripture.  They include the following:

(1) Licona charges that we believe the Gospels speak with “legal precision” or “photographcic accuracy.”  The Chicago Statement spoke directly to this point, saying, “We further deny that inerrancy is negated by biblical phenomena such as lack of modern technical precision…and round numbers, the topical arrangement of material…or the use of free citations” (Article XIII).

(2) He believes there are or may be errors in the Gospels, for example: (a) on the report about when Jarius daughter died; (2) on whether the centurion made his request in person to Jesus; (c) whether the woman anointed Jesus two days before the Passover.

(3) Licona even goes so far as to affirm there is an error in the Gospels regarding on which day Jesus was crucified. He said “Jesus may have changed the day and time of Jesus’ crucifixion in order to make a theological point.”  Earlier in a debate with Bart Ehrman at Southern Evangelical Seminary (Spring, 2009) he said, “I think that John probably altered the day [of Jesus’ crucifixion] in order for a theological—to make a theological point there.”

But this is clearly contrary to the ICBI view of inerrancy which demands “the unity and internal consistency of Scripture” (Article XIV).  Also, “We deny that later revelations…ever contradict it” (Article 5).  We affirm the unity, harmony, and consistency of Scripture…. We deny that Scripture may be interpreted in such a way as to suggest that one passage corrects or militates against another” (Hermeneutics Article XVII).  WE affirm that since God is the author of all truth, all truths, biblical and extrabiblical, are consistent and cohere…” (Hermeneutics Article XX).

(4)  Licona affirmed that Joseph Holden, president of Veritas Evangelical Seminary dismissed Gary Habermas and Paul Copan as Adjunct faculty members because “they denied the inerrancy of the Bible on account of their failure to condemn the interpretation of Matthew’s raised saints” (Note 6).  President Holden affirmed in a letter (June 2, 2014) that this is false.  Holden wrote, “In the footnotes, it says I dismissed Habermas and Copan for their support of Licona and failure to condemn his interpretation of Matthew’s raised saints. When in fact, they were dismissed because of their own expressed view of inerrancy that became apparent in their defense of Licona.”

(5) Licona also wrongly affirmed that I was the founder of Veritas Evangelical Seminary.  I was not.  It was Joe Holden’s idea and he asked me to join with him and be a co-founder of the Seminary.

(6)  Licona affirmed that I refused to attend a particular panel discussion.  In any event, one cannot help but be impressed with the quasi-omniscient powers of critics who can read another’s mind.  This leads to arrogant charges like the following: Licona asserted that “In Geisler’s mind, there is no need for discussion in an academic forum because he apparently thinks he already knows the correct answers; all of them.”  I have participated in untold academic discussions and debates over the last fifty years, so I have learned to pick carefully the ones in which I participate.


(7) He alleged that we never offered a solution to the alleged contradictions he raised in the Gospels.  This too is false.  I have presented it many times in official presentations on alleged contradictions in the Bible.  Further, it is in one of the “20 articles” Licona said I wrote on the issue, titled “Mike Licona Admits Contradiction in the Gospels” (January 2013) which he apparently did not read.


(8) He claims that “Many of the original signers [of the ICBI Statement on Inerrancy] do not agree with how Geisler and others interpret it.”  In response, two brief comments are in order.  First, even according to Licona, the true meaning of a text is in the “intention” of the framers, not the signers.  Second, all living framers (see above) agree on its meaning, especially as it applies to Licona’s view.  So, it is not just my view on the matter.


(9) ICBI view of Inerrancy actually undermines Inerrancy.  By a strange twist of logic Licona argues that the ICBI view of inerrancy actually undermines the authority of the Bible because showing one error overthrows the Faith.


First, by this same logic people should not believe Christ rose from the dead since a sophisticated naturalist might convince them that miracles are not credible. Or, people should not believe God exists since a sharp atheism might convince them that He does not exist.

Further, this objection confuses reliability and inerrancy.   If a critic could prove (and none have) one real error in the Bible it would overthrow the ICBIview of inerrancy, but it would not overthrow the Faith.


Inerrancy is to be distinguished from the reliability of the Bible.  My CPA is a very accurate book keeper.  But if he made one mistake in math that would not overthrow his reliability. On the other hand, if he claimed divine authority and inerrancy, then one error would overthrow his claim to divine authoritybecause God cannot make even one mistake (Heb. 6:18; Titus 1:2; John 17:17).


This is what B.B.Warfied meant, and Licona misunderstands.  For Warfield too believed that the Bible was divinely authoritative and inerrant and, as such, one error would destroy that divine authority/inerrancy. However, it would not overthrow the Faith since the Faith could be true apart from inerrancy.  Inerrancy is not a test of evangelical authenticity but of evangelical consistency.  Licona confuses Warfield’s apologetics and his theology.  Warfield used apologetics (based on the evidence to show thereliability of the Bible). But once he knew from good reason that the Bible was more than reliable; it was the inerrant Word of God, then Warfield believed that only an inspired and inerrant Word of God is an adequate basis for our belief in the divine authority of the doctrines of the Bible.


So, likewise, Licona misinterprets our statement about inerrancy being a “fundamental” of the Faith.  We said clearly that it is not a doctrinal or theological fundamental; it was an epistemological fundamental. For without an inerrant Bible we have no divinely authoritative basis for our Faith.


(10)  Licona also makes other statements that are seriously mistakes.  One is that (a) “the doctrines of the divine inspiration and inerrancy of the Gospels are faith doctrines that cannot be proven.” (b) Another is that a historian should be “making no theological assumptions pertaining to whether they [the Gospels] are divinely inspired or inerrant.”  These are both based on Licona’s admission that he (c) “unashamedly confess[es] the historical critical method.”  Given that Licona sees Genre criticism as part of this endeavor, no wonder he can believe in contradictions in the Gospels (see above) and say “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” (The Resurrection of Jesus, 34, emphasis added).


(11)  Licona contends that “biblical inerrancy is a secondary or tertiary doctrine.” Statements like this show a serious lack of understanding and appreciation for the doctrine of divine inspiration which entails inerrancy as a necessary concomitant.  For a divinely inspired error is nonsense. If the Bible is the Word of God, and that is what divine inspiration means, then it is inerrant.  For God cannot error. So, to attribute error to God’s Word is to attribute error to God Himself.  As John Calvin affirmed, “our faith in doctrine is not established until we have a perfect conviction that God is its author.  Hence, the highest proof of Scripture is uniformly taken from the character of him whose word it is” (Institutes 1.7.4).


(12) Licona criticized me for twisting the arms of other seminary presidents. This reckless charge misrepresents the facts. At the same time, he has attempted unsuccessfully to convince some of the orthodoxy of his view.  He even made a yet unadmitted trip of some distance to try to convince one influential Christian leader of the orthodoxy of his unorthodox view—only to be unsuccessful. Another one even set up a forum for him to express his view, after which the Seminary president said he would not hire him on his faculty.  Liconna tried to convince a third seminary to accept his view, after which they dropped him from their Adjunct Faculty. One faculty member who attended the meeting said, “It was worse than I thought.” Yet I did not contact a single seminary and ask them to reject Licona from their faculty. Nor did I “turn” to seminary presidents “to come out publicly” against him when I could no longer get enough high-caliber scholars to speak against his view.


Furthermore, this accusation is an insult to the integrity and autonomy of these different seminary leaders.  As for asking others to support the inerrancy cause, of course we do, as do those who oppose it.  In fact, we have a web site dedicated to it defending inerrancy (www.defendingInerrancy.com). Licona’s son-in-law has a web site dedicated to attacking me regularly by name and even making an insulting video for YouTube with Licona’s blessing. Anyone who examines the two approaches can see the difference.


(13) He rejected (without giving any evidence) the strong case we made for all the main orthodox Fathers of the Church between the apostles and the Reformers of holding that the story of the resurrected saints in Matthew 27:51-53 as being history not poetry or legend (see “The Early Fathers and the Resurrection of the Saints in Matthew 27” athttp://normangeisler.net/articles/Bible/Inspiration-Inerrancy/Licona/Early%20Fathers%20on%20Matthew%2027.pdf).  Just to cite a couple examples:


Irenaeus (AD 120-200), who knew Polycarp, a disciple of the apostle John,



…He [Christ] suffered who can lead those souls aloft that followed His ascension.  This event was also an indication of the fact that when the holy hour of Christ descended [to Hades], many souls ascended and were seen in their bodies (Fragments from the Lost Writings of Irenaeus XXVIII, Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. I, Alexander Roberts, ibid., 572-573).


Even Origen (AD 185-254), who had the Neoplatonic tendency to spiritualize literal events, believed Matthew 27 was literal history, declaring:

“But,” continues Celsus, “what great deeds did Jesus perform as being a God?…Now to this question, although we are able to show the striking and miraculous character of the events which befell Him, yet from what other source can we furnish an answer than the Gospel narratives, which state that ‘there was an earth quake, and that the rock were split asunder, and the tombs were opened, and the veil of the temple was rent in twain from top to bottom, an the darkness prevailed in the day-time, the sun failing to give light” (Against Celsus, Book II, XXXIII. Alexander Roberts, ed. Ante-Nicene Fathers, vol. 4, 444-445).


St. Augustine (A. D. 3546-430), the greatest biblical theologian of his time, wrote:


“As if Moses’ body could not have been hid somewhere…and be raised up therefrom by divine power at the time when Elias and he were seen with Christ: Just as at the time of Christ’s passion many bodies of the saints arose, and after his resurrection appeared, according to the Scriptures, to many in the holy city” (Augustine, On the Gospel of St. John, Tractate cxxiv, 3, Philip Schaff, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, vol. VII, 448).


John Calvin (1509-1564) added,


“Yet we may doubt whether this opening of the tombs happened before the resurrection, for the resurrection of the saints which is shortly after added followed in my opinion the resurrection of Christ.  It is absurd for some interpreters to image that they spent three days alive and breathing, hidden in tombs.”  For “It seems likely to me that at Christ’s death the tombs at once opened; at His resurrection some of the godly men received breath and came out and were seen in the city.  Christ is called the Firstborn from the dead (1 Cor. 15:20; Col. 1:18” (Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries, vol. 3, pp. 211-212).


These kinds of statements are found to and through the Reformation to modern times.  So, those who deny the historicity of this Matthew 27 passage on the saint’s resurrection have virtually the whole of the history of the Christian Church against them.




Mike Licona wrote his recent article (June 2, 2014) on “Chicago’s Muddy Waters.”  But it was not the Chicago Statement or the interpretation of it by the living Framers that muddied the waters.  This represents the crystal clear evangelical view down through the centuries of full inerrancy and complete historicity of the Bible.  To be sure, the waters have been muddied, but they were muddied by New Evangelical scholars like Licona who have adopted the New Historical Critical method and have become New Evangelicals or Neoevangelical on their view of Scripture, creating a New “battle for the Bible.”


This leaves us with the conclusion that the ICBI statement represents the biblical view of inerrancy which we call the evangelical view.  Hence, since Licona and his supporters, whom he lists as  Darrel Bock, Dan Wallace, Craig Blomberg, Michael Bird, William Lane Craig, Jeremy Evans, Craig Keener, Lee McDonald, Kevin Vanhoozer, Robert Yarborough, and Gary Habermas) embrace a new kind of evangelicalism–a Neoevangelicalism–with regard to Scripture, which has been its label now for a generation.  It is definitely not the biblical or traditional view, hence, its view of Scripture has no rights to the use the unqualified term “Evangelical.”  It is more properly described as Neoevangelical.  While Licona and Bird would have us believe that they are fighting the barbarians at the gates of the city, in actuality they are escorting the Trojan horse of the barbarians through the gates and deep into the city.

Defending Inerrancy: Affirming the Accuracy of Scripture for a New Generation (Baker Books, 2011)



Defending Inerrancy:
Affirming the Accuracy of Scripture
for a New Generation
Baker Books, 2011
     book | ebook

“Defending Inerrancy is a much-needed work and one that will start an important and timely conversation. This is a book that cannot, must not, and will not be ignored.”–Al Mohler Jr., president , The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.     “In the following pages Norman Geisler, who contributed as much as anyone to International Council on Biblical Inerrancy’s [ICBI] original legacy, and William Roach interact with evangelical hypotheses that have the effect of confusing that legacy. They are masterly gatekeepers, and I count it an honor to commend this work to the Christian world.”–J. I. Packer from the Foreward     “In this superb volume, Geisler and Roach have demonstrated once again that the attack [on the Bible], though and old one, must and can be answered. Anyone engaging the culture needs to read this book.”–Paige Patterson, president, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

The Jesus Quest: The Danger From Within

ISBN = 9781628394658


This work examines the historical and philosophical strengths and/or weaknesses of current evangelical approaches espousing some forms of post-modernistic historiography and its resultant search for the “historical Jesus.” It demonstrates the marked undermining impact these efforts have had on the biblical text, especially the Gospels, as well as inerrancy issues. It compares the Jesus Seminar’s approach with current evangelical practices of searching in terms of their evidential apologetic impact on the trustworthiness of the Gospels. A number of well-known, contemporary evangelical scholars are involved in the so-called “Third Quest” for the historical Jesus. This book raises serious questions about such an endeavor.


Dr. Joseph M. Holden, President, Veritas Evangelical Seminary
Dr. Richard Land, President, Southern Evangelical Seminary
Dr. John MacArthur, The Master’s Seminary
Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Dr. L. Paige Patterson, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
Table of Contents & Forewords by Seminary Presidents


Norman L. Geisler, Ph.D., Chancellor, Veritas Evangelical Seminary; Distinguished Professor of  Apologetics and Theology
F. David Farnell, Ph.D., Senior Professor of New Testament, The Master’s Seminary
Richard G. Howe, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy and Apologetics, Southern Evangelical Seminary
Thomas A. Howe, Ph.D., Professor of Bible and Biblical Languages, Southern Evangelical Seminary
William E. Nix, Ph.D., Professor of Historical and Theological Studies, Veritas Evangelical Seminary
William C. Roach, Ph.D. candidate, Co-Author of Defending Inerrancy (2013)
Dennis M. Swanson, D.Min., Vice President for Library and Educational Assessment


Video: http://youtu.be/aHPcLsyQkco