The Misuse of J. I. Packer to Defend Mike Licona’s Denial of Inerrancy

by Norman L. Geisler

Mike Licona believes there are errors in the Bible, including the day of Jesus’ crucifixion which allegedly is listed on two different days in the Gospels (cf. Jn. 19:14 and Mark 14:12).  Strangely, Mike Licona and those who support his view have  appealed to J. I. Packer to support their view, but Packer has strongly repudiated this view and condemns Licona’s position (see below).

However, recently Packer wrote a blurb commending Licona’s new book (Why Are There Differences in the Gospels?, Oxford, 2017) which defends, among other errors, there being contradictions in the Gospels. This has occasioned some Licona supporters to claim that Packer has changed his view on the topic. In it Packer wrote a commendation of the book, declaring,

“Professor Licona’s new book is a monograph exploring some compositional techniques which the synoptic evangelists appear to have used. Clarificatory and thorough, it is an accomplished piece of work, which it is a pleasure to commend.”

However, this falls far short of an approval of Licona’s denial of inerrancy.  Indeed, it claims only that Licona’s book clearly and thoroughly (718 pages!) treats certain “compositional techniques” in the Gospels—and that it does.  However, it does not place approval on Licona’s denial of inerrancy. Further, Packer has written dozens of blurbs over the years—even for books containing views with which he disagrees.

It was my privilege to work closely with J. I. Packer, not just for a few hours, but for some ten years (1979-1989) in defining and defending the inerrancy of the Bible in the documents of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI). More recently, (Jan 2017), I updated my conversation with Packer on this topic, and he assured me he had not changed his views. “As for my specific question as to whether or not he still supported the ICBI statement on inerrancy, he said that rumors to the contrary were “categorically and absolutely false.”  He gave the same answer to my second question as to whether he had changed his view about Mike Licona’s view expressed in Packer’s letter (of  5/8/2014) which declared that Licona’s position was contrary to the  ICBI statement on inerrancy.  The statement reads:

As a framer of the ICBI statement on biblical inerrancy and 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, 5/8/14).

Packer insisted that he strongly stands by both his affirmation of the ICBI statements on inerrancy and that Licona’s views were categorically contrary to it.  He described Mike’s view as “muddled” and illogical, but wished to keep up the conversation with him open in hope that his view would change his position.

Upon careful examination, Packer’s more recent book “blurb” on Licona’s book says nothing to the contrary. It is, as stated, a commendation of the comprehensive and clear treat of “certain techniques used by Gospel authors,” not an approval of everything in the book.

Even so, it is well known by scholars that these blurbs, often say some positive things about a book without going into an extensive negative critique.  Dr. Al Mohler was more careful when he noted that Licona has admirably defended the resurrection of Christ but in a way that left the door open to skepticism. Thus, “Licona has handed the enemies of the resurrection of Jesus Christ a powerful weapon” by denying or undermining the historicity of sections of the Gospels. Indeed, Bart Erhman used this very opening to deny the resurrection of Christ.  He asked how someone could not deny the resurrection of Jesus by the same logic he rejected the resurrection of Jerusalem saints (Mat. 27:52-53) in the same passage (Ehrman-Licona Dialogue on the Historicity of the New Testament, Feb. 9-May 6, 2017)?

There are only three living framers of the ICBI (J. I. Packer,  R. C, Sproul, and myself), and there is unanimous agreement among us that Licona’s view is contrary to the ICBI stand on Inerrancy.  The original framer of the ICBI statements on inerrancy, 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 Dr. Michael Licona’s views are not even remotely compatible with the unified Statement of ICBI” (Letter, May 22, 2012, emphasis added).






Was Mark Confused or was it Mike Licona?

Was Mark Confused or was it Mike Licona?

by Norman L. Geisler


The Problem

In his YouTube presentation on this topic, Mike Licona declared that “probably Mark is confused” concerning the location of the Feeding of the 5,000. Later, in his internet article on the topic (8/23/2016) he wrote, “The difficulty appears after the feeding when in Mark 6:45 we read that Jesus told His disciple to cross over the lake to Bethsaida. This seems difficult to reconcile with Luke’s report that the feeding had occurred at or near Bethsaida.”


Proposed Solutions

After reviewing what Licona considers several admittedly “possible” solutions, he dismissed them for various reasons; they were “awkward,” did not solve the “tension,” “a stretch,” or “groundless.” He concludes, “while some are less ad hoc and more plausible than others, none of them enjoys anything close to a scholarly consensus….” He then resorts to his favorite solution—a hermeneutically definitive appeal to extra-biblical Greco-Roman genre and finds similar difficulties when Plutarch tells “the same stories differently.” Thus, Licona concludes that he also is willing here to accept the “confusion” of Mark, and “remain content to live with an unanswered question.”


A Brief Evaluation

First of all, there is no unresolvable problem for an inerrantist here, as even Licona admits there are “possible” solutions.

Second, he even acknowledges that some solutions are “more plausible” than others.

Third, Licona’s problem rests with his acceptance of  Greco-Roman genre which allows for even contradiction in the Gospel, as there are in Greco-Roman literature.

Fourth, he reflects his distaste for some attempts to use the time-honored method of “harmonizing” (which goes back as far as Tatian’s Diatessaron, c. 150-160 a.d.) to reconcile the tension or apparent contradiction. He calls it “hermeneutical gymnastics” and elsewhere refers to similar proceedings by the exaggerated term “hermeneutical waterboarding.”

Fifth, Licona’s confusion, not Mark’s, also stems from the hidden premise that if there is no “scholarly consenses” on a problem, then we must consider it unanswered, if not unanswerable. He seems unwilling to admit the venerable conclusion of St. Augustine who wrote, “If we are perplexed by any apparent contradiction in Scripture, it is not allowable to say, ‘The author of this book is mistaken; but either: [1] the manuscript is faulty, or [2] the translation is wrong, or [3] you have not understood’” (Augustine, Reply to Faustus 11.5). But to repeat, “it is not allowable to say, ‘The author of this book is mistaken’”—or confused. God is not confused, and He cannot err (Heb. 6:18), and the Gospel of Mark, along with the rest of Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16), is the Word of God. Therefore, it cannot be confused or err. If anyone was confused here, then mark it down, it was not Mark.


Copyright © 2016 Norman L. Geisler. All rights reserved.

Explaining Biblical Inerrancy

Vital Issues in the Inerrancy Debate

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


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. 


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


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


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


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


Gibt es irgendwelche Fehler in der Bibel?

Gibt es irgendwelche Fehler in der Bibel?

(German translation of: Are There Any Errors in the Bible?)

Dr. Norman L. Geisler


Die Bibel kann sich nicht irren, da sie das Wort Gottes ist, und Gott sich nicht irren kann. Dies bedeutet nicht, dass es keine Schwierigkeiten in der Bibel gibt. Aber die Schwierigkeiten gibt es nicht auf Grund der vollkommenen Offenbarung Gottes, sondern weil wir sie nur bruchstückhaft verstehen. Die Geschichte der Bibelkritik offenbart, dass die Bibel keine Fehler enthält, aber ihre Kritiker Die meisten Probleme fallen in eine der folgenden Kategorien.

Die Annahme, dass Unerklärliches unerklärlich ist.

Wenn ein Wissenschaftler etwas Unlogisches erkennt, gibt er nicht auf, bis er eine wissenschaftliche Erklärung gefunden hat. Vielmehr motiviert das Unerklärbare dazu, weitere Studien durchzuführen. Dabei konnten Wissenschaftler nicht einmal Meteore, Finsternisse, Tornados, Orkane und Erdbeben erklären. Bis vor kurzer Zeit wussten Wissenschaftler nicht, wie die Hummeln fliegen können. Alle diese Mysterien mussten ihre Geheimnisse der unermüdlichen Ausdauer nachgeben. Wissenschaftler wissen momentan nicht, wie Leben auf den Thermoöffnungen in den Tiefen des Meeres wachsen kann. Aber kein Wissenschaftler wirft das Handtuch und schreit: „Widerspruch!” Ebenfalls nähert sich der bibeltreue Wissenschaftler der Bibel mit derselben Annahme, dass es Antworten auf das Unerklärte gibt.

Kritiker schlugen einmal vor, dass Mose die ersten fünf Bücher der Bibel nicht geschrieben haben könnte, weil die Kultur von Mose ohne schriftliche Zeugnisse bestand. Jetzt wissen wir, dass das Schreiben bereits Tausende von Jahren vor Moses existierte. Außerdem glaubten Kritiker einmal, dass die biblischen Verweise auf die Hethiter völlig erfunden waren. Solche Leute mit so einem Namen hätte es nie gegeben. Nun wurde die nationale Bibliothek der Hethiter in der Türkei gefunden. So haben wir Grund zu der Annahme, dass andere unerklärte Phänomene in der Bibel später erklärt werden.

Die Annahme, dass die Bibel Fehler enthält, bis das Gegenteil bewiesen ist Viele Kritiker nehmen an, dass die Bibel Fehler enthält, bis irgendetwas sich als richtig erweist. Aber, wie ein amerikanischer Staatsbürger wegen eines Vergehens angeklagt wird, sollte die Bibel mit mindestens derselben Annahme der Genauigkeit gelesen werden, der andere Literatur gegeben ist, die behauptet, Sachliteratur zu sein. Dies ist die Art und Weise, wie wir uns aller menschlichen Kommunikationen nähern. Wenn wir dies nicht täten, wäre Leben nicht möglich. Wenn wir annehmen, dass Verkehrszeichen und Ampeln nicht die Wahrheit sagen würden, würden wir wahrscheinlich tot sein, bevor wir etwas anderes beweisen könnten. Wenn wir annehmen, dass ahrungsmittelpakete falsch beschriftet sind, würden wir alle Dosen und Pakete vor dem Kaufen öffnen müssen. Ebenfalls sollte Davon ausgegangen werden, dass uns die Bibel wie jedes andere Buch mitteilt, was die Autoren gesagt haben, erfahren haben und gehört haben. Aber negative Kritiker beginnen mit gerade der entgegengesetzten Annahme. Da wundert es nicht, dass sie schlussfolgern, dass die Bibel  voll von Fehlern ist.

Das Verwechseln unserer fehlbaren Auslegungen mit Gottes unfehlbarer Offenbarung

Jesus versicherte, dass die „Bibel nicht gebrochen werden kann“ (Joh 10,35). Als ein unfehlbares Buch ist die Bibel auch unabänderlich.

(Übersetzt von Matthias Ackermann)

Jesus hat gesagt: „Denn wahrlich, ich sage euch: Bis der Himmel und die Erde vergehen, soll auch nicht ein Jota oder ein Strichlein von dem Gesetz vergehen, bis alles geschehen ist“ (Mt. 5,18; Lk. 16,17 Elberfelder). Die Schriften haben auch die letzte Instanz,  das letzte Wort über alles, was es anspricht. Jesus verwendet die Bibel, um dem Versucher zu widerstehen (siehe Mt. 4,4+ 7+10), dogmatische Streitigkeiten beizulegen (siehe Mt. 21,42), und seine Autorität zu rechtfertigen (siehe Mk. 11,17).

Manchmal ruht biblische Lehre auf historischen Details (siehe Hebr. 7,4-10), einem Wort oder einen Satz (siehe Apg. 15,13-17), oder der Unterschied zwischen Singular und Plural (vgl. Gal. 3,16). Aber, während die Bibel unfehlbar ist, sind es menschliche Interpretationen eben nicht. Auch wenn das Wort Gottes perfekt ist (siehe Ps. 19,7), solange unvollkommene Menschen existieren, gibt es Fehlinterpretationen des Wortes Gottes und falsche Ansichten über seine Welt. In Anbetracht dessen, sollte man nicht so schnell annehmen, dass eine derzeit dominierende Annahme in der Wissenschaft das letzte Wort ist. Einige der gestrigen unwiderlegbaren Gesetze werden auf einmal zu  Fehlern durch die heutige Wissenschaft. Also, sind Widersprüche zwischen populären Meinungen in Wissenschaft und weithin akzeptierten Interpretationen der Bibel zu erwarten. Aber vorher sollte man beweisen ob ein wirklicher Widerspruch vorliegt.

Versagen, den Kontextzu verstehen

Der häufigste Fehler von allen Bibelauslegern , darunter auch einige kritische Wissenschaftler, ist ein Text so zu lesen, der außerhalb seines eigentlichen Kontextes steht. Wie das Sprichwort sagt: “Ein Text aus dem Zusammenhang gerissen ist ein Vorwand.” Man kann alles mit der Bibel durch diese falsche Vorgehensweise  beweisen . Die Bibel sagt: “Es gibt keine Gott”(Psalm 14,1 Elberfelder). Natürlich sollte man den Kontext lesen: „Die Toren sprechen in ihrem Herzen: Es gibt keinen Gott“. Weiter kann man auch behaupten, dass Jesus uns ermahnt, nicht dem Bösen zu widerstehen (siehe Mt. 5,39), aber der  Kontext, in dem er diese Aussage traf, darf nicht ignoriert werden. Viele Jesu Anweisung wie z.B.: “wer euch bittet, dem gebt” können so falsch ausgelegt werden, dass man sich verpflichtet fühlen könnte, einem kleinen Kind eine Waffe zu geben. Dadurch dass die Bedeutung ohne den Zusammenhang genommen wird, verfälscht es die Schrift und wird zu einer Hauptsünde.

Das Schwierige mit dem Klaren übersetzen

Einige Passagen sind schwer zu verstehen, weil einige Teile der Heiligen Schrift sich scheinbar widersprechen. Jakobus scheint sagen zu wollen, dass das Heil durch Werke erreichbar ist (siehe Jak. 2,14-26), während Paulus lehrt, dass es nur durch Gnade erlangt wird. Paulus sagt Christen ” Denn durch die Gnade seid ihr errettet, mittelst des Glaubens; und das nicht aus euch, Gottes Gabe ist es; nicht aus Werken, auf dass niemand sich rühme” (Eph. 2,8-9; Röm. 4,5, Elberfelder). Doch die Zusammenhänge offenbaren, dass Paulus von der Rechtfertigung vor Gott spricht (allein durch den Glauben), während Jakobus Bezug auf die Rechtfertigung vor anderen Menschen nimmt (die nur sehen, was wir tun).

(Übersetzt von Leo Echner)

Und Johannes und Paulus sprechen von der Fruchtbarkeit, die immer im Leben derer kommt, die Gott lieben.

Das Vergessen der Eigenschaften von den Menschen der Bibel

Mit Ausnahme von kleinen Abschnitten, wie die Zehn Gebote,  (Ex 31:18, Elberfelder) wurden “durch den Finger Gottes” geschrieben, war die Bibel nicht wörtlich diktiert. Die Schriftsteller waren nicht Sekretäre des Heiligen Geistes. Es waren menschliche Komponisten, die ihre eigene literarische Stile und Eigenheiten verwendet. Diese menschlichen Autoren verwendeten manchmal menschliche Quellen für ihr Material (vgl. Jos 10:13;. Apg 17,28; 1 Kor 15.33;. Titus 1:12). In der Tat ist jedes Buch der Bibel das Werk  eines menschlichen Schriftstellers- alles in allen gibt es etwa 40 von ihnen. Die Bibel offenbart auch verschiedene menschliche literarische Stile. Autoren sprechen von einem Standpunkt des Beobachters, wenn sie von dem Auf-oder Untergang der Sonne (vgl. Jos. 1:15) schreiben. Sie enthüllen auch menschliche Denkmuster, ein-schließlich Gedächtnislücken (vgl. 1 Kor. 1:14-16), als auch menschliche Emotionen (vgl. Gal. 4:14). Die Bibel offenbart spezielle menschliche Interessen. Hosea hat ein ländliches Interesse, Lukas ein medizinisches Anliegen, und Johannes die Liebe zur Natur. Wie Christus, ist die Bibel vollkommen menschlich, aber ohne Fehler. Das Vergessen von der Menschlichkeit der Schrift kann zu falschen Streitbarkeiten führen, welche die Integrität durch ein erhöhtes Wort, höher als das, was üblich ist, für ein menschliches Dokument. Dies wird noch deutlicher, wenn wir die nächsten Fehler der Kritiker diskutieren.

Die Annahme, ein partieller Bericht ist eine Falschmeldung

Kritiker kommen oft zu dem Schluss, dass ein partieller Bericht falsch ist. Dies ist jedoch nicht so. Wenn es so wäre, wäre das meiste von dem, was gesagt worden ist als falsch zu zählen, da nur selten die Zeit und der Raum es zulässt, einen absolut vollständigen Bericht abzugeben. Zum Beispiel das berühmte Bekenntnis von Petrus in den Evangelien:

Matthäus: “Du bist der Christus, der Sohn des lebendigen Gottes” (16:16, Elberfelder).

Mk: “Du bist der Christus” (8:29, Elberfelder).

Lk: “Der Christus Gottes” (9:20, Elberfelder).

Auch die Zehn Gebote, die durch den “durch den Finger Gottes” geschrieben wurden (Deut. 9:10), werden zum zweiten Mal mit Variationen aufgezeichnet (siehe Ex. 20:8-11 mit Deut angegeben. 5,12-15). Es gibt viele Unterschiede zwischen den Bücher der Könige und Chronik in ihrer Beschreibung der gleichen Ereignisse, aber sie hegen keinen Widerspruch in den Ereignissen, die sie erzählen.

Die Annahme, die neutestamentlichen Zitate des Alten Testaments müssen wortwörtlich verstanden werden

Kritiker weisen oft auf Variationen hin, die im Neuen Testament sind, wenn alttestamentliche Schriften verwendet werden und sehen es als Beweis für Fehler. Sie vergessen, dass jedes Zitat nicht ein genaues Zitieren sein muss. Manchmal verwenden wir indirekt und manchmal direkte Zitate. Es war damals (und heute) durchaus akzeptabel als literarischer Stil, die Essenz einer Aussage wiederzugeben ohne den Einsatz der genauen und gleichen Worte. Die gleiche Bedeutung kann gefördert werden ohne die gleichen sprachlichen Äußerungen zu verwenden.

(Übersetzung Dimitri Isaak)

Variationen in neutestamentlichen Zitaten des Alten Testaments fallen in verschiedene Kategorien. Manchmal gibt es sie aufgrund eines Sprecherwechsels. Beispielsweise schreibt Sacharja den Ausspruch Gottes folgendermaßen auf: „Sie werden auf mich sehen, den sie durchstochen haben“ (12,10). Als dieser Text im Neuen Testament zitiert wird, spricht Johannes, nicht Gott. Deshalb ist das Zitat verändert in: „Sie sollen auf ihn sehen, den sie durchstochen haben“ (Joh 19,37).

An anderen Stellen, zitieren die Autoren nur einen Teil des alttestamentlichen Textes. Jesus tat das in seiner Heimatsynagoge in Nazareth (vgl. Lk 4,18-19 und Jes 61,1-2). Tatsächlich stoppt er mitten im Satz. Wenn er etwas weiter gegangen wäre, hätte er nicht seinen zentralen Aspekt in dem Text betonen können, „Heute ist die Schrift vor euren Ohren in Erfüllung gegangen“ (V. 21). Der unmittelbar folgende Satz, „Und der Tag der Rache unseres Gottes“ (vgl. Jes 61,1-2), bezieht sich auf sein zweites Kommen.

Manchmal umschreibt oder fasst das Neue Testament den alttestamentlichen Text zusammen (vgl. Mt 2,6). Andere Texte verschmelzen zwei Texte zu einem (vgl. Mt 27,9-10). Gelegentlich wird eine allgemeine Wahrheit erwähnt, ohne einen bestimmten Text zu zitieren. Beispielsweise sagt Matthäus, dass Jesus nach Nazareth zog, „damit erfüllt wird, was bei den Propheten gesagt worden ist: ‚Er soll ein Nazarener genannt werden‘“ (Mt 2,23). Beachte, Matthäus zitiert keinen konkreten Propheten, sondern vielmehr „Prophet“ im Allgemeinen. Einige Texte sprechen von der Niedrigkeit des Messias. Aus Nazareth zu stammen, also ein Nazarener zu sein, war Schimpfwort für Niedrigen Status in Israel zur Zeit Jesu.

Es ist falsch abweichende Berichte anzunehmen, nur weil sich zwei oder auch mehr Berichte desselben Ereignisses unterscheiden, heißt das nicht, dass sie sich gegenseitig ausschließen. Matthäus 28,5 sagt, dass nach der Auferstehung ein Engel am Grab war, während Johannes uns informiert, dass dort zwei waren (vgl. 20,12). Das sind aber keine widersprüchlichen Berichte. Eine unfehlbare mathematische Regel kann dieses Problem leicht klären: Wenn es zwei gibt, gibt es immer auch einen. Matthäus sagte nicht, dass es nur einen einzigen Engel dort gab. Außerdem hätte es an dem Grab an diesem verworrenen Morgen zu einem Zeitpunkt einen Engel am Grab geben können und zu einem anderen Zeitpunkt zwei.

Man muss das Wort „einziger“ zu Matthäus‘ Bericht hinzufügen, um ihn widersprüchlich zu dem des Johannes zu machen. Aber wenn der Kritiker an den Text herantritt, um zu zeigen, dass er irrt, liegt der Irrtum nicht bei der Bibel, sondern beim Kritiker.

Ebenso informiert uns Matthäus (vgl. 27,5), dass Judas sich selbst erhängt. Aber Lukas sagt: „er ist vornüber gestürzt und mitten entzwei geborsten, sodass alle seine Eingeweide hervorquollen“ (Apg 1,18; LUT 84). Nochmal, diese Berichte schließen sich nicht gegenseitig aus. Wenn Judas sich selbst auf einem Baum erhängte, der am Rand einer Klippe oder Schlucht in dieser felsigen Gegend stand, und sein Körper auf einen scharfen Felsen unter ihm fiel, dann würden seine Eingeweide hervorquellen, wie Lukas es anschaulich beschreibt.

(Übersetzung Robert Koop)

Angenommen, die Bibel stellt sich in allem, was sie beschreibt, als wahr heraus

Es ist falsch anzunehmen, dass alles, was die Bibel enthält, auch von der Bibel für richtig gehalten wird. Die ganze Bibel ist wahr (vgl. Joh 17,17), aber sie hält auch einige Lügen fest, z.B. Satans (vgl. 1Mose 3,4; Joh 8,44) und Rahabs Lüge (Jos 2,4). Die Bibel ist umfassend inspiriert in dem Sinne, dass sie korrekt und wahrheitsgemäß sogar Lügen und Irrtümer sündiger Wesen beschreibt. Die Wahrheit der Schrift findet sich in dem, was die Bibel offenbart, nicht in allem, was sie beschreibt. Wenn man diese Unterscheidung nicht macht, könnte fälschlicherweise geschlossen werden, dass die Bibel Unmoral lehre, weil sie von Davids Sünde erzählt (2 Sam 11,4), dass sie Polygamie unterstütze, weil sie von Salomos Polygamie berichtet (1 Kön 11,3), oder dass sie Atheismus gut heiße, weil sie den Tor zitiert, der sagt: „Es gibt keinen Gott.“ (Ps 14,1).

Wenn man vergisst, dass die Bibel kein technisches Buch ist

Um ehrlich zu sein muss nicht alles in gelehrter, technischer oder sogenannter „wissenschaftlicher“ Sprache formuliert werden. Die Bibel wurde für den normalen Menschen aller Generationen geschrieben, und deshalb benutzt sie auch eine allgemeine Alltagssprache. Der Gebrauch einer beobachtenden, nicht-wissenschaftlichen Sprache ist nicht unwissenschaftlich, allenfalls vorwissenschaftlich. Die Schriften wurden in der Antike nach antiken Standards geschrieben, und deshalb wäre es anachronistisch, ihnen moderne, wissenschaftliche Standards überzustülpen. Deshalb ist es auch nicht unwissenschaftlicher, davon zu sprechen, dass die Sonne stillsteht (Jos 10,12), als sich auf das „Aufgehen“ der Sonne zu beziehen (Jos 1,16). Meteorologen sprechen immer noch vom „Sonnenaufgang“ und „Sonnenuntergang“.

Angenommen, runde Zahlen stimmen nicht

Wie die normale Sprache benutzt auch die Bibel gerundete Zahlen (Jos 3,4; 4,13). Sie beschreibt den Durchmesser als ca. ein Drittel des Umfangs von Etwas (1 Chr 19,18; 21,5). Während dies technisch gesehen nur eine Annäherung ist (vgl. Lindsell, 165-66), mag es vom Standpunkt einer technologischen Gesellschaft aus ungenau sein, von 3,14159265 als von „3“ zu sprechen, aber es ist nicht falsch. Für ein „gegossenes Meer“ (2 Chr 4,2) in einem antiken hebräischen Tempel reicht es aus, auch wenn es für einen Computer in einer modernen Rakete nicht genau genug ist. Man sollte weder von Schauspielern in einem Shakespeare-Stück erwarten, dass sie auf eine Armbanduhr schauen, noch von Menschen eines vorwissenschaftlichen Zeitalters, dass sie präzise Zahlenangaben machen.

Ablehnung literarischer Stilmittel

Menschliche Sprache beschränkt sich nicht auf eine Art des Ausdrucks. Deshalb gibt es auch keinen Grund anzunehmen, dass in einem göttlich inspirierten Buch nur ein literarisches Genre benutzt wurde. Die Bibel zeigt eine ganze Reihe von literarischen Stilmitteln. Ganze Bücher sind poetisch geschrieben (z.B. Hiob, Psalmen, Sprüche). Die synoptischen Evangelien weisen Parabeln auf. In Galater 4 benutzt Paulus eine Allegorie.

(Übersetzung Ute Cron-Boengeler)

Das Neue Testament ist voll von Metaphern (siehe 2. Kor. 3,2-3; Jak. 3,6), Gleichnissen (siehe Mt. 20,1; Jak. 1,6), Übertreibungen (siehe Joh. 21,25; 2. Kor. 3,2; Kol. 1,23) und sogar poetischer Figuren (siehe Hiob 41,1). Jesus verwendet Satire (siehe Mt. 19,24; 23,24). Sprachfiguren treten in der ganzen Bibel häufig auf.

Es ist kein Fehler für einen biblischen Schreiber eine Sprachfigur zu verwenden, aber es ist ein Fehler für den Leser die Figur wörtlich zu nehmen. Es ist offensichtlich, dass die Bibel, wenn sie von dem Ruhen des Gläubigen unter dem Schatten der „Flügeln“ Gottes spricht (siehe Ps. 36,7), damit nicht meint, dass Gott ein gefiederter Vogel ist. Wenn die Bibel sagt, dass Gott „erwacht“ (siehe Ps. 44,23), so als ob er schlafen würde, meint sie damit, dass Gott zum Handeln geweckt wird.

Vergessen, dass nur der Originaltext irrtumslos ist

Es wurden echte Fehler in den Kopien von Bibeltexten gefunden, die hunderte von Jahren nach den Autographen gemacht wurden. Gott sprach nur den Originaltext der Schrift und nicht die Kopien. Daher ist nur der ursprüngliche Text ohne Fehler. Inspiration garantiert nicht, dass jede Kopie ohne Irrtum ist; vor allem die Kopien, die von Kopien von Kopien von Kopien gemacht wurden. Zum Beispiel gibt die King James Version (KJV) von 2. Könige 8,26 das Alter von König Ahasja als 22 an, während 2. Chronik 22,2 von 42 [Jahren] spricht. Die letztere Nummer kann natürlich nicht richtig sein, sonst wäre er älter als sein Vater. Das ist natürlich ein Fehler des Abschreibers, aber es ändert nichts an der Unfehlbarkeit des Originals.

Erstens befinden sich diese Fehler in den Kopien, nicht den Originalen. Zweitens sind es unbedeutende Fehler (meistens in Namen und Nummern), ohne Einfluss auf die Lehre. Drittens sind diese Fehler relativ wenig in ihrer Anzahl. Viertens wissen wir in der Regel aufgrund des Kontextes oder einer anderen Schrift, was der Fehler ist. Zum Beispiel muss Ahasja 22 Jahre alt sein. Und schließlich dringt, auch wenn ein Abschreibfehler vorhanden ist, die gesamte Botschaft dennoch durch. Wenn du zum Beispiel ein Brief mit der folgenden Aussage bekommst, würdest du annehmen, dass du etwas Geld bekommen könntest?


Auch wenn hier ein Fehler im ersten Wort ist, kommt die eigentliche Botschaft an – du bist 10 Millionen Euro reicher! Und wenn du am nächsten Tag einen weiteren Brief erhalten würdest, was wie folgt zu lesen wäre, dann wärst du dir umso sicherer:


Je mehr Fehler dieser Art vorhanden sind (jeweils an einem anderen Platz), desto sicherer bist du über die eigentliche Botschaft. Dies ist der Grund warum schriftliche Fehler in den biblischen Manuskripten keinen Einfluss auf die eigentliche Botschaft der Bibel haben.

Verwechslung zwischen allgemeinen und universalen Aussagen

Wie auch andere Literatur, verwendet die Bibel oft Verallgemeinerungen.

(Übersetzung Jakob Grundmann)

Das Buch der Sprüche enthält viele davon. Sprichwörtliche Aussagen bieten von ihrer Beschaffenheit generelle Leitung, nicht allgemein gültige Sicherheiten. Sie sind Regeln für das Leben, jedoch Regeln, die auch Ausnahmen einräumen. Sprüche 16,6: „Wenn der HERR an den Wegen eines Mannes Wohlgefallen hat, lässt er selbst seine Feinde mit ihm Frieden machen.“ (Pro 16:7 ELB). Offensichtlich war es nicht die Absicht dieser Aussage, eine immer zutreffende Wahrheit zu zeigen. Paulus war für Gott ein Wohlgefallen und seine Feinde steinigten ihn (Apg.14, 19). Jesus gefiel dem HERRN und seine Feinde kreuzigten ihn. Nichtsdestotrotz ist es eine generelle Wahrheit, dass jemand, der in seinem Handeln Gott gefällt, die Feindseligkeit seiner Feinde auf ein Minimum reduzieren kann.

Sprüche sind Weisheit (allgemeine Führer), nicht Gesetz (universell bindende Imperative). Wenn die Bibel verkündigt: „Ihr sollte heilig sein, denn ich bin heilig“ (Lev.11, 45), dann gibt es hier keine Ausnahmen. Heiligkeit, Güte, Liebe, Wahrheit und Gerechtigkeit sind verwurzelt im Wesen eines unveränderlichen Gottes. Die Weisheitsliteratur jedoch wendet Gottes allgemein gültige Wahrheiten auf wechselnde Lebensumstände an. Die Ergebnisse werden nicht immer dieselben sein. Dennoch sind sie hilfreiche Leiter.


Vergessen, dass spätere Offenbarung die jüngere ablöst.

Manchmal erkennen Kritiker die fortschreitende Offenbarung nicht. Gott offenbart nicht alles auf einmal, auch stellt er nicht immer dieselben Bedingungen für jeden Zeitabschnitt der Geschichte. Einige seiner späteren Offenbarungen werden frühere seiner Offenbarungen ablösen. Bibelkritiker verwechseln manchmal eine Veränderung in Offenbarung mit einem Fehler. Es ist kein Widerspruch, dass Eltern einem sehr kleinen Kind erlauben mit Fingern zu essen, aber von einem älteren Kind erwarten, dass es mit Gabel und Löffel isst. Das ist fortschreitende Offenbarung, in der jede Anordnung den Umständen angepasst ist.

Es gab eine Zeit wo Gott das menschliche Geschlecht auf eine Probe stellte, indem er ihnen verbot von einem bestimmten Baum im Garten Eden zu essen (siehe Gen. 2,16-17). Dieses Verbot ist nicht mehr wirksam, aber die spätere Offenbarung widerspricht der früheren nicht. Zudem gab es eine Zeit (unter dem mosaischen Gesetz) in der Gott anordnete, dass Tiere geopfert werden sollten für die Sünde der Menschen. Jedoch, seitdem Christus das perfekte Opfer für Sünde gebracht hat (siehe Hebräer 10, 11-14), ist dieses alttestamentliche Gebot nicht mehr wirksam. Es gibt keinen Widerspruch zwischen den späteren und früheren Anordnungen.

Natürlich kann Gott nicht Gebote ändern, die mit seinem unveränderlichen Wesen zusammenhängen (siehe Mal.3, 6; Heb.6, 18). Zum Beispiel: Da Gott Liebe ist (siehe 1.Joh.4, 16), kann er nicht befehlen, dass wir ihn hassen. Auch kann er nicht anordnen, was logisch unmöglich ist. Zum Beispiel beides, gleichzeitig opfern und nicht opfern für Sünde  und im gleichen Sinne. Aber ungeachtet dieser moralischen und logischen Grenzen, kann und hat Gott unwidersprüchliche, fortschreitende Offenbarungen gegeben, die, wenn sie aus ihrem eigentlichen Kontext genommen und nebeneinandergestellt werden, widersprüchlich aussehen können.


Interview with Dr. Geisler regarding Thomas Aquinas

Thomas Aquinas: Christian History Interview – He’s Our Man
Evangelicals can embrace a rich inheritance from Aquinas.
by Norman L. Geisler
In a 1974 Christianity Today article marking the 700th anniversary of Aquinas’s death, author Ronald Nash said some nice things about the deceased but ultimately judged his system of thought “unsuitable for a biblically centered Christian philosophy” and “beyond any hope of salvage.” Norman Geisler disagreed with that assessment then, and he disagrees with it now. We asked Dr. Geisler, president of Southern Evangelical Seminary and author of Thomas Aquinas: An Evangelical Appraisal (Baker, 1991), for his evaluation of the Angelic Doctor. . .
For additional resources by Dr. Geisler on Roman Catholicism, please visit

Are There Any Errors in the Bible?

Are There Any Errors in the Bible?

By Norman L. Geisler

The Bible cannot err, since it is God’s Word, and God cannot err. This does not mean there are no difficulties in the Bible. But the difficulties are not due to God’s perfect revelation, but to our imperfect understanding of it. The history of Bible criticism reveals that the Bible has no errors, but the critics do. Most problems fall into one of the following categories.

Assuming the Unexplained Is Unexplainable

When a scientist comes upon an anomaly in nature, he does not give up further scientific exploration. Rather, the unexplained motivates further study. Scientists once could not explain meteors, eclipses, tornadoes, hurricanes, and earthquakes. Until recently, scientists did not know how the bumblebee could fly. All of these mysteries have yielded their secrets to relentless patience. Scientists do not now know how life can grow on thermo-vents in the depths of the sea. But no scientist throws in the towel and cries “contradiction!” Likewise, the true biblical scholar approaches the Bible with the same presumption that there are answers to the unexplained. Critics once proposed that Moses could not have written the first five books of the Bible because Moses’ culture was preliterate. Now we know that writing had existed thousands of years before Moses. Also, critics once believed that Bible references to the Hittite people were totally fictional. Such a people by that name had never existed. Now the Hittites’ national library has been found in Turkey. Thus, we have reason to believe that other unexplained phenomena in Scripture will be explained later.

Assuming the Bible is Guilty of Error Unless Proven Innocent

Many critics assume the Bible is wrong until something proves it right. However, like an American citizen charged with an offense, the Bible should be read with at least the same presumption of accuracy given to other literature that claims to be nonfiction. This is the way we approach all human communications. If we did not, life would not be possible. If we assumed that road signs and traffic signals were not telling the truth, we would probably be dead before we could prove otherwise. If we assumed food packages are mislabeled, we would have to open up all cans and packages before buying. Likewise, the Bible, like any other book, should be presumed to be telling us what the authors said, experienced, and heard. But, negative critics begin with just the opposite presumption. Little wonder they conclude the Bible is riddled with error.

Confusing our Fallible Interpretations with God’s Infallible Revelation

Jesus affirmed that the “Scripture cannot be broken” (John 10:35, NASB). As an infallible book, the Bible is also irrevocable. Jesus declared, “Truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass away from the Law, until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:18; Luke 16:17, NASB). The Scriptures also have final authority, being the last word on all it discusses. Jesus employed the Bible to resist the tempter (see Matt. 4:4, 7, 10), to settle doctrinal disputes (see Matt. 21:42), and to vindicate his authority (see Mark 11:17). Sometimes a biblical teaching rests on a small historical detail (see Heb. 7:4-10), a word or phrase (see Acts 15:13-17), or the difference between the singular and the plural (see Gal. 3:16). But, while the Bible is infallible, human interpretations are not. Even though God’s Word is perfect (see Ps. 19:7), as long as imperfect human beings exist, there will be misinterpretations of God’s Word and false views about his world. In view of this, one should not be hasty in assuming that a currently dominant assumption in science is the final word. Some of yesterday’s irrefutable laws are considered errors by today’s scientists. So, contradictions between popular opinions in science and widely accepted interpretations of the Bible can be expected. But this falls short of proving there is a real contradiction.

Failure to Understand the Context

The most common mistake of all Bible interpreters, including some critical scholars, is to read a text outside its proper context. As the adage goes, “A text out of context is a pretext.” One can prove anything from the Bible by this mistaken procedure. The Bible says, “There is no God” (Ps. 14:1, NASB). Of course, the context is: “The fool has said in his heart ‘There is no God.’ ” One may claim that Jesus admonished us not to resist evil (see Matt. 5:39), but the antiretaliatory context in which he cast this statement must not be ignored. Many read Jesus’ statement to “Give to him who asks you,” as though one had an obligation to give a gun to a small child. Failure to note that meaning is determined by context is a chief sin of those who find fault with the Bible.

Interpreting the Difficult by the Clear

Some passages are hard to understand or appear to contradict some other part of Scripture. James appears to be saying that salvation is by works (see James 2:14-26), whereas Paul teaches that it is by grace. Paul says Christians are “saved through faith; and that not of yourselves. It is a gift of God: Not of works, lest anyone should boast” (Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 4:5, KJV). But the contexts reveal that Paul is speaking about justification before God (by faith alone), whereas James is referring to justification before others (who only see what we do). And James and Paul both speak of the fruitfulness that always comes in the life of one who loves God.

Forgetting the Bible’s Human Characteristics

With the exception of small sections such as the Ten Commandments, which were “written by the finger of God” (Ex. 31:18, NASB), the Bible was not verbally dictated. The writers were not secretaries of the Holy Spirit. They were human composers employing their own literary styles and idiosyncrasies. These human authors sometimes used human sources for their material (see Josh. 10:13; Acts 17:28; 1 Cor. 15:33; Titus 1:12). In fact, every book of the Bible is the composition of a human writer-about forty of them in all. The Bible also manifests different human literary styles. Writers speak from an observer’s standpoint when they write of the sun rising or setting (see Josh. 1:15). They also reveal human thought patterns, including memory lapses (see 1 Cor. 1:14-16), as well as human emotions (see Gal. 4:14). The Bible discloses specific human interests. Hosea has a rural interest, Luke a medical concern, and James a love of nature. Like Christ, the Bible is completely human, yet without error. Forgetting the humanity of Scripture can lead to falsely impugning its integrity by expecting a level of expression higher than that which is customary to a human document. This will become more obvious as we discuss the next mistakes of the critics.

Assuming a Partial Report Is a False Report

Critics often jump to the conclusion that a partial report is false. However, this is not so. If it were, most of what has ever been said would be false, since seldom does time or space permit an absolutely complete report.  For example, Peter’s famous confession in the Gospels:

Matthew: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (16:16, NASB).
Mark: “You are the Christ” (8:29, NASB).
Luke: “The Christ of God” (9:20, NASB).

Even the Ten Commandments, which were “written by the finger of God” (Deut. 9:10), are stated with variations the second time they are recorded (see Ex. 20:8-11 with Deut. 5:12-15). There are many differences between the books of Kings and Chronicles in their description of identical events, yet they harbor no contradiction in the events they narrate.

Assuming New Testament Citations of the Old Testaments must be Verbatim

Critics often point to variations in the New Testament use of Old Testament Scriptures as a proof of error. They forget that every citation need not be an exact quotation. Sometimes we use indirect and sometimes direct quotations. It was then (and is today) perfectly acceptable literary style to give the essence of a statement without using precisely the same words. The same meaning can be conveyed without using the same verbal expressions.

Variations in the New Testament citations of the Old Testament fall into different categories. Sometimes they are because there is a change of speaker. For example, Zechariah records the Lord as saying, “they will look on me whom they have pierced” (12:10, NASB). When this is cited in the New Testament, John, not God, is speaking. So it is changed to “They shall look on him whom they pierced” (John 19:37, NASB).

At other times, writers cite only part of the Old Testament text. Jesus did this at His home synagogue in Nazareth (see Luke 4:18-19 citing Isa. 61:1-2). In fact, He stopped in the middle of a sentence. Had He gone any farther, He could not have made His central point from the text, “Today this Scripture is fulfilled in your hearing” (vs. 21). The very next phrase, “And the day of vengeance of our God,” (see Isa. 61:1-2) refers to His second coming.

Sometimes the New Testament paraphrases or summarizes the Old Testament text (see Matt. 2:6). Others blend two texts into one (see Matt. 27:9-10). Occasionally a general truth is mentioned, without citing a specific text. For example, Matthew said Jesus moved to Nazareth “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene” (Matt. 2:23, KJV). Notice, Matthew quotes no given prophet, but rather “prophet” in general. Several texts speak of the Messiah’s lowliness. To be from Nazareth, a Nazarene, was a byword for low status in the Israel of Jesus’ day.

Assuming Divergent Accounts Are False

Because two or more accounts of the same event differ, does not mean they are mutually exclusive. Matthew 28:5 says there was one angel at the tomb after the resurrection; whereas John informs us there were two (see 20:12). But these are not contradictory reports. An infallible mathematical rule easily explains this problem: Where there are two, there is always one. Matthew did not say there was only one angel. There may also have been one angel at the tomb at one point on this confusing morning and two at another. One has to add the word “only” to Matthew’s account to make it contradict John’s. But if the critic comes to the texts to show they err, then the error is not in the Bible, but in the critic.

Likewise, Matthew (see 27:5) informs us that Judas hanged himself. But Luke says that “he burst open in the middle and all his intestines gushed out” (Acts 1:18, NASB). Once more, these accounts are not mutually exclusive. If Judas hanged himself from a tree over the edge of a cliff or gully in this rocky area, and his body fell on sharp rocks below, then his entrails would gush out just as Luke vividly describes.

Presuming That the Bible Approves of All It Records

It is a mistake to assume that everything contained in the Bible is commended by the Bible. The whole Bible is true (see John 17:17), but it records some lies, for example, Satan’s (see Gen. 3:4; John 8:44) and Rahab’s (see Josh. 2:4). Inspiration encompasses the Bible fully in the sense that it records accurately and truthfully even the lies and errors of sinful beings. The truth of Scripture is found in what the Bible reveals, not in everything it records. Unless this distinction is held, it may be incorrectly concluded that the Bible teaches immorality because it narrates David’s sin (see 2 Sam. 11:4), that it promotes polygamy because it records Solomon’s (see 1 Kings 11:3), or that it affirms atheism because it quotes the fool as saying “there is no God” (Ps. 14:1, NASB).

Forgetting That the Bible is Nontechnical

To be true, something does not have to use scholarly, technical, or so-called “scientific” language. The Bible is written for the common person of every generation, and it therefore uses common, everyday language. The use of observational, nonscientific language is not unscientific, it is merely prescientific. The Scriptures were written in ancient times by ancient standards, and it would be anachronistic to superimpose modern scientific standards upon them. However, it is no more unscientific to speak of the sun standing still (see Josh. 10:12) than to refer to the sun “rising” (see Josh. 1:16). Meteorologists still refer to the times of “sunrise” and “sunset.”

Assuming Round Numbers Are False

Like ordinary speech, the Bible uses round numbers (see Josh. 3:4; 4:13). It refers to the diameter as being about one-third of the circumference of something (see 1 Chron. 19:18; 21:5). While this technically is only an approximation (see Lindsell, 165-66); it may be imprecise from the standpoint of a technological society to speak of 3.14159265 as “3,” but it is not incorrect. It is sufficient for a “cast metal sea” (see 2 Chron. 4:2) in an ancient Hebrew temple, even though it would not suffice for a computer in a modern rocket. One should not expect to see actors referring to a wristwatch in a Shakespearean play, nor people in a prescientific age to use precise numbers.

Neglecting to Note Literary Devices

Human language is not limited to one mode of expression. So, there is no reason to suppose that only one literary genre was used in a divinely inspired Book. The Bible reveals a number of literary devices. Whole books are written as poetry (e.g., Job, Psalms, Proverbs). The Synoptic Gospels feature parables. In Galatians 4, Paul utilizes an allegory. The New Testament abounds with metaphors (see 2 Cor. 3:2-3; James 3:6), similes (see Matt. 20:1; James 1:6), hyperbole (see John 21:25; 2 Cor. 3:2; Col. 1:23), and even poetic figures (see Job 41:1). Jesus employed satire (see Matt. 19:24; 23:24). Figures of speech are common throughout the Bible.

It is not a mistake for a biblical writer to use a figure of speech, but it is a mistake for a reader to take a figure of speech literally. Obviously when the Bible speaks of the believer resting under the shadow of God’s “wings” (see Ps. 36:7) it does not mean that God is a feathered bird. When the Bible says God “awakes” (see Ps. 44:23), as though he were sleeping, it means God is roused to action.

Forgetting That Only the Original Text Is Inerrant

Genuine mistakes have been found-in copies of Bible text made hundreds of years after the autographs. God only uttered the original text of Scripture, not the copies. Therefore, only the original text is without error. Inspiration does not guarantee that every copy is without error, especially in copies made from copies made from copies made from copies. For example, the King James Version (KJV) of 2 Kings 8:26 gives the age of King Ahaziah as 22, whereas 2 Chronicles 22:2 says 42. The later number cannot be correct, or he would have been older than his father. This is obviously a copyist error, but it does not alter the inerrancy of the original.

First, these are errors in the copies, not the originals. Second, they are minor errors (often in names or numbers) which do not affect any teaching. Third, these copyist errors are relatively few in number. Fourth, usually by the context, or by another Scripture, we know which is in error. For example, Ahaziah must have been 22. Finally, though there is a copyist error, the entire message comes through. For example, if you received a letter with the following statement, would you assume you could collect some money?


Even though there is a mistake in the first word, the entire message comes through-you are 20 million dollars richer! And if you received another letter the next day that read like this, you would be even more sure:


The more mistakes of this kind there are (each in a different place), the more sure you are of the original message. This is why scribal mistakes in the biblical manuscripts do not affect the basic message of the Bible.

Confusing General with Universal Statements

Like other literature, the Bible often uses generalizations. The book of Proverbs has many of these. Proverbial sayings, by their very nature, offer general guidance, not universal assurance. They are rules for life, but rules that admit of exceptions. Proverbs 16:7, HCSB affirms that “when a man’s ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to be at peace with him.” This obviously was not intended to be a universal truth. Paul was pleasing to the Lord and his enemies stoned him (Acts 14:19). Jesus was pleasing the Lord, and his enemies crucified him. Nonetheless, it is a general truth that one who acts in a way pleasing to God can minimize his enemies’ antagonism.

Proverbs are wisdom (general guides), not law (universally binding imperatives). When the Bible declares “You shall be holy, for I am holy” (Lev. 11:45, NASB), then there are no exceptions. Holiness, goodness, love, truth, and justice are rooted in the very nature of an unchanging God. But wisdom literature applies God’s universal truths to life’s changing circumstances. The results will not always be the same. Nonetheless, they are helpful guides.

Forgetting That Later Revelation Supersedes Earlier Ones

Sometimes critics do not recognize progressive revelation. God does not reveal everything at once, nor does he lay down the same conditions for every period of history. Some of his later revelations will supersede his earlier statements. Bible critics sometimes confuse a change in revelation with a mistake. That a parent allows a very small child to eat with his fingers but demands that an older child use a fork and spoon, is not a contradiction. This is progressive revelation, with each command suited to the circumstance.

There was a time when God tested the human race by forbidding them to eat of a specific tree in the Garden of Eden (see Gen. 2:16-17). This command is no longer in effect, but the later revelation does not contradict this former revelation. Also, there was a period (under the Mosaic law) when God commanded that animals be sacrificed for people’s sin. However, since Christ offered the perfect sacrifice for sin (see Heb. 10:11-14), this Old Testament command is no longer in effect. There is no contradiction between the later and the former commands.

Of course, God cannot change commands that have to do with his unchangeable nature (see Mal. 3:6; Heb. 6:18). For example, since God is love (see 1 John 4:16), he cannot command that we hate him. Nor can he command what is logically impossible, for example, to both offer and not offer a sacrifice for sin at the same time and in the same sense. But these moral and logical limits notwithstanding, God can and has given noncontradictory, progressive revelations which, if taken out of its proper context and juxtaposed, can look contradictory. This is as much a mistake as to assume a parent is self-contradictory for allowing a 16-year-old to stay up later at night than a 6-year-old.

In summation, the Bible cannot err, but critics can and have. There is no error in God’s revelation, but there are errors in our understanding of it. Hence, when approaching Bible difficulties, the wisdom of St. Augustine is best: “If we are perplexed by any apparent contradiction in Scripture, it is not allowable to say, The author of this book is mistaken; but either [1] the manuscript is faulty, or [2] the translation is wrong, or [3] you have not understood.” (Augustine, City of God 11.5)


G. L. Archer, Jr., An Encyclopedia of Biblical Difficulties
W. Arndt, Bible Difficulties
—, Does the Bible Contradict Itself?
Augustine, City of God.
Augustine, Reply to Faustus the Manichaean, in P. Schaff, ed., A Select Library of the Nicene and Ante-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church
N. L. Geisler, “The Concept of Truth in the Inerrancy Debate,” ., October-December 1980
—and T. Howe, When Critics Ask
—and W. E. Nix, General Introduction to the Bible
J. W. Haley, Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible
H. Lindsell, The Battle for the Bible
J. Orr, The Problems of the Old Testament Considered with Reference to Recent Criticism
J. R. Rice, Our God-Breathed Book-The Bible
E. Thiele, The Mysterious Numbers of the Kings of Israel
R. Tuck, ed., A Handbook of Biblical Difficulties
R. D. Wilson, A Scientific Investigation of the Old Testament




Book Review: Vital Issues in the Inerrancy Debate (2016)

Book Review of Vital Issues in the Inerrancy Debate

Christopher T. Haun[1]

[Click here >> Book Review – Vital Issues in the Inerrancy Debate to open this review as a PDF file.]


Vital Issues in the Inerrancy Debate
Publisher: Wipf & Stock
Date: 2016
General Editor: F. David Farnell
Contributors: F. David Farnell, Norman L. Geisler, Joseph P. Holden, William C. Roach, Phil Fernandes, Robert Wilkin, Paige Patterson, Shawn Nelson, Christopher T. Haun
PAGES: 563


$85.00 (Hardcover), $64.00 (Paperback)[2]

Kindle: $15.00 at


In Kurosawa’s classic film The Seven Samurai, desperate farmers convince veteran warriors to help defend their village and harvest from raiding bandits. Six ronin and one apprentice accept the challenge. After fortifying the village and giving the farmers a crash course in asymmetric warfare, the seven samurai lead the defense when the marauders return. Some of this story line and imagery came to mind as I read Vital Issues in the Inerrancy Debate (VIID) because first and foremost it is a defense.

Twenty-eight of its thirty-two chapters are written by six veteran scholars (holding PhDs in various fields). Four of its chapters are written by two MDiv candidates. In every chapter the authors are, as the preface says, “earnestly contending for the faith delivered once and for all to God’s people.” Every one of its meaty pages defends the traditional, conservative evangelical views of inspiration, inerrancy, and hermeneutics from the destructive use of biblical criticism. By extension they are defending all the propositions in and doctrines derived from the Bible.

VIID is an anthology of some of the best and most recent articles on topics of inerrancy, hermeneutic, and the quest for the historical Jesus. While it does weave in some of the history of the main clashes in the battle for the Bible in the twentieth century—such as the fundamentalist-modernist controversy, Barth and Neo-Orthodoxy, Fuller, Ladd, Rogers, McKim, the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI), ETS and Robert Gundry—it doesn’t linger on them. Mainly it offers fresh and intelligent responses to the newest wave of challenges to the Bible offered by evangelicals in books like The Resurrection of Jesus (IVP, 2010), The Lost World of Scripture (IVP, 2013), Ten Guidelines for Evangelical Scholarship (Baker, 2013), Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy (Zondervan, 2013), Can We Still Believe the Bible? (Brazos, 2014), Lost World of Adam and Eve (IVP, 2015), Peter: False Disciple and Apostate According to Saint Matthew (Eerdmans, 2015), and I (Still) Believe (Zondervan, 2015).

Here is a sampling of the many thought-provoking questions which are discussed: How much emphasis should genre be given when doing interpretation? What is the nature of historical narratives? How do hermeneutics and inerrancy interrelate? Are the ideas of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy still important and relevant? What do the three living framers of the Chicago statements (Sproul, Packer, and Geisler) say about the new hermeneutic and the redefinitions of inerrancy? How do we deal with difficult passages in the Bible? What did the framers of the ICBI statements really mean? Where should one turn to get clarification about the Chicago Statements? Are the academic institutions of the evangelical world failing to learn the lessons of the past? Was the Apostle Matthew an Apostate? Which view has continuity with the early church fathers, Augustine, Aquinas, the Reformers, the writers of the 12-volume The Fundamentals, and the old Princetonians? Is inerrancy just for Calvinists? How early were the gospels really written? Is inerrancy just a peripheral doctrine? Is inerrancy derived from inductive and/or deductive logic? Was Matthew really the only one to mention the raising of the saints in Matthew 27? What do the Church fathers say about Matthew 27? Did any ancient Romans detect the influence of Roman historiography in Matthew 27? Should inerrancy be used as a litmus test of orthodoxy? Are the tools of biblical criticism really neutral? Does purpose or intention determine meaning? What does “truth” really mean? Is an intentionalist view of truth an alternative to the correspondence view of truth? Why did Bart Ehrman drift from fundamentalism to liberalism? What was the conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention? Is there a resurgence of neo-evangelicalism? How does postmodernism fit into all this? Should the story of Adam and Eve be taken literally? Should organizations enforce their doctrinal statements amongst their own members? Does every scholarly evangelical organization lose its grip on inerrancy by the third generation? Should apologists defend both the Faith and the Bible? Should evangelicals send their budding scholars to earn PhDs at schools that specialize in biblical criticism?

VIID is provocative. The most controversial thing about the book is probably its willingness to name the names of many influential men. I’m not just talking about the old rascals like Bacon, Barth, Bart D. Ehrman, Bultmann, Darwin, Descartes, Hobbes, Hume, Kant, Lessing, Perrin, Reimarus, Schweitzer, Spinoza, Strauss, Tillich, Troeltsch, and von Harnack. VIID does mention them. But if focuses more on the also names the names of present and recent scholars, publishers, and bloggers: Ben Meyer, Birger Gerhadsson, Bruce Waltke, Carlos Bovell, Charles Talbert, Christopher Ansberry, Christopher Hays, Christian Smith, Clark Pinnock, Craig Blomberg, Craig Evans, Craig Keener, D. Brent Sandy, Daniel P. Fuller, Daniel Harlow, Daniel Wallace, Darrell Bock, David Capes, David E. Garland, Donald Hagner, Donald K. McKim, Douglas Moo, Edwin Yamauchi, E. P. Sanders, Ernst Wendland, Gary R. Habermas, George Eldon Ladd, Gerd Theissen, Grant R. Osborne, Gregory A. Boyd, H. C. Kee, Heath Thomas, I. Howard Marshall, J. Merrick, J. P. Holding, Jack B. Rogers, James Barr, James Bruckner, James Charlesworth, James Crossley, James D. G. Dunn, Jeremy Evans, James Hamilton, Joel N. Lohr, Joel Watts, John Byron, John R. Franke, John Schneider, John H. Walton, Justin Taylor, Ken Schenck, Kenton Sparks, Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Lee McDonald, Leith Anderson, Leon Morris, Martin Soskice, Matthew Montonini, Michael F. Bird, Michael Green, Michael R. Licona, Moises Silva, Murray Harris, N.T. Wright, Nick Peters, Nijya Gupta, Paul Copan, Paul Jewett, Peter E. Enns, Paul Ricouer, Peter H. Davids, Phillip Long, Richard Burridge, Richard Horsley, Robert H. Gundry, Robert W. Yarborough, Robert Webb, Scot McKnight, Stephen M. Garrett, Thomas Schreiner, Tremper Longman III, W. David Beck, Walter Liefield, William Lane Craig, William Warren, and William Webb. (I probably missed a few!) Many of these men are held in high esteem in by many evangelicals. And yet VIID says that each of these men have in some way and to some degree challenged the parameters delineated by the ICBI in The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (CSBI, 1978) and The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics (CSBH, 1983).

Standing in the watchman tradition of books like The Battle for the Bible (Lindsell, 1976), The Bible in the Balance (Lindsell, 1979), The Jesus Crisis (Thomas and Farnell, 1998), The Jesus Quest (Geisler and Farnell, 2014), and Defending Inerrancy (Geisler and Roach, 2011), an exposé of this scope runs the risk of being accused of fratricide, libel, divisiveness, disunity, faction creating, quarrelsomeness, malice, and nastiness. But really all of its authors do a remarkable job of contending without being contentious. None of the pages were stuck together with drops of venom. With a passionate concern they succeeded in “not be[ing] quarrelsome but . . . correcting his opponents with gentleness” (2 Ti. 2:4) and in “not regard[ing] him as an enemy but warn[ing] him as a brother” (2 Th. 3:15).

There is merit in the maxim “attack the idea, not the man who holds it.” Perhaps the Apostle Paul anticipated this question when he wrote, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Co. 10:5). Ultimately the good fight of faith is not against people but against opinions and thoughts. But then must the defense always preclude the naming of names? As much as we might all prefer to avoid pointing fingers, it seems unavoidable at times. When specific professors are saying specific things to specific audiences, the defense cannot be sufficiently meaningful (certainly not in any actionable sense) unless specific names are named and their actual words are exposed and evaluated.

Also, in the act of naming names of men spreading ideas they deem corrosive to the orthodox faith, these watchmen are following apostolic precedents. The Apostle John named Cain as the old rascal who should not be imitated (1 Jn. 3:2) and named Diotrephes as the noteworthy contemporary antagonist inside the network of first-century churches. He described Diotrephes as one who does not properly recognize apostolic authority, who spoke “wicked nonsense” against them, and who should not be followed (3 Jn. 9-12). Similarly the Apostle Paul named Jannes and Jambres as the old rascals who will serve as patterns for many in these last days (2 Ti. 3:1-9). He also generalized that “all who are in Asia have turned away from me” and singled out Phygelus and Hermogenes as noteworthy examples (2 Ti. 1:15). Similarly he warned about Demas—a man who had been one of Paul’s coworkers and companions—because he preferred the world (2 Ti. 4:10). Paul also wanted church leaders to be wary of “Alexander the coppersmith” who “did me great harm” and “strongly opposed our message” (2 Ti. 4:14-15). He urged Timothy to “charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths . . . which promote speculations rather than . . . a good conscience and a sincere faith.” These “certain persons” had “wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers. . . without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions” (1 Ti. 13-7). He named three of them by name (“among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander” and “among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus”). These were men who also were operating inside the first-century network of apostolic churches. They were insiders who had “made shipwreck of their faith” and “swerved from the truth.” They were “upsetting the faith of some” with “irreverent babble” that will “lead people into more and more ungodliness” and “spread like gangrene” (1 Ti. 1:19-20; 2 Ti. 2:16-18). Similarly the authors of VIID are attempting to warn the Bible-believing world that many of the professors at evangelical schools (who generally earned their PhDs from prestigious post-protestant, anti-evangelical schools) are leading evangelicals away from evangelical orthodoxy through the use of unorthodox methodology.

VIID also runs the risk of being accused of trying to stymie the progress of biblical scholarship, of trying to keep us stuck in the past, of interfering with the grand quest to “follow the truth wherever it leads,” and of thus being overall anti-intellectual and anti-scholarly. But VIID is an intellectual and scholarly attempt to discourage the use of corrosive literary criticism while encouraging healthy biblical scholarship. The authors urge considering of lessons of the past which show how the higher critical path leads not to pinnacles of illumination, enlightenment, and progress but to precipices of doubt. The application of feminist criticism, form criticism, genre criticism, historical criticism, Marxist criticism, midrash criticism, mythological criticism, New Criticism, new historical criticism, post-colonial criticism, post-structuralist criticism, psychoanalytic criticism, redaction criticism, rhetorical criticism, sociological criticism, source criticism, and whatever the next flavor of literary criticism that becomes vogue among secular scholars in the next decade all have one thing in common: They are critical and revolutionary by nature. Progress is made by challenging traditions and creating new knowledge with new wisdom. VIID insists that when evangelical scholars use secular literary criticism in their biblical criticism, it will ultimately lead to the same doctrinal graveyard that the neo-orthodox and liberal/modernist scholars filled in former decades with their use of higher criticism. The speculations produced during the exercise of critical methodologies is invariably given precedence over the plain meanings in the text of the Bible, once again the word of God is nullified for the sake of human traditions.

The neo-evangelical revolution is also changing the field of historical-evidential Christian apologetics. More than once VIID touches upon the rising tendency among evangelical biblical scholars to meet the historical critics on their own turf. They often create scholarly defenses for the big things—such as the general historical reliability of the gospels and the historical likelihood of the resurrection of Jesus—while being overly willing to amputate some of the seemingly less defensible and more dispensable propositions in the Bible. This innovative (non-classical) approach seems to be creating a division between those satisfied with defending a historical, creedal, and “mere” Christianity and those who would also defend the Bible in whole and part.

Some of VIID’s chapters are derived from articles originally posted at, a website that has had more than 200,000 visits, 55,000 Facebook likes, and 48,000 signatures on its petition in support of The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy. These statistics suggest that the latest battle for the Bible has not been lost yet. In The Magnificent Seven, a western adaptation of The Seven Samurai, the plot is further complicated by the ongoing question of whether the villagers will allow the bandits to continue to fleece them or whether they will really rise up and join the veterans in the fight. What will the villagers in the evangelical village do about neo-evangelical and neo-orthodox scholarship that is robbing them of their doctrinal heritage? To borrow a phrase from the oaths sworn by those seeking either citizenship or high office in the United States, will we defend our constitution “against all enemies, foreign and domestic?” Will we fight the good fight of faith not just against the siegeworks erected outside the city walls but also against those that have been smuggled inside the walls? Or will we watch the undermined walls collapse mysteriously around us and wonder how our harvest was plundered again? For those fighting the good fight of faith, Vital Issues in the Inerrancy Debate deserves consideration.


Chapter by Chapter

The book begins with a one-page tribute to Dr. Norman Geisler by the other contributors for his decades of defending and commending the faith. Indeed he is “worthy of a double honor” (1 Tim. 5:17). The two-page foreword by Dr. Paige Patterson sets the tone well with a call to continued vigilance. Patterson also provides excellent insights into the history of the inerrancy debate. He was part of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI) and remembers it well. The two-page preface acknowledges the debt to the ICBI and adds another dimension to the history of the debate. The first 115 pages are devoted to defining inerrancy. The remaining pages are devoted to defending it.

The first chapter is titled “The Historic Documents of the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy.” It is 17 pages long and is largely a condensed adaptation of the book Explaining Biblical Inerrancy (Bastion Books, 2012). Geisler begins by pointing out that he is currently one of the last three living framers of the three statements produced by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy. He writes to “dispel some contemporary misinterpretations of what the ICBI framers meant by inerrancy” and to set the record straight. He enumerates the four fundamental documents of the ICBI (all four of which are collected in Explaining Biblical Inerrancy) and the other important books produced by the ICBI. He explains why the ICBI view of inerrancy is important. He explains the four main areas where scholars on the more liberal end of the evangelical spectrum (and usually holding membership in the Evangelical Theological Society and signing agreement with CSBI) have ignored, misunderstood, or otherwise challenged the CSBI: (1) the meaning of “truth,” (2) the function of genre, (3) the nature of historical narratives, (4) the relationship between hermeneutics and inerrancy. He very ably bolsters these four areas. He also gives a subtle challenge to the Evangelical Theological Society to enforce their doctrinal statement among its members. This chapter also includes all the articles of affirmation and denial from the CSBI and CSBH. This may then be the first time these two statements have ever been put together in their entirely and placed into a printed book. This was an unbeatable choice for a first chapter. This is something everyone in the ETS and EPS should come to grips with. Those who appreciate this chapter will enjoy its expansion in Explaining Biblical Inerrancy.

Chapter two is titled “What Is Inerrancy and Why Should We Care?” It is only four pages long and is written by Geisler and Shawn Nelson. It begins with a brief explanation of the three “in’s”: Inspiration, Infallibility, and Inerrancy. It gives four reasons why inerrancy is important and ultimately an essential—not peripheral—doctrine. Pointing to CSBI as the standard for describing what inerrancy is and is not, it proceeds to explain that the historical view of inerrancy is under attack right now. It gives a focus on the new wave of challenges to CSBI that arguably began in 2010 with various published and spoken statements by apologist Michael Licona.

Chapter three is also by Nelson and is titled “A Voice from a New Generation: What’s at Stake?” Nelson makes it clear the attack upon inerrancy by Michael Licona in 2010 exposed a much bigger problem. Several highly esteemed scholars from the ETS (Craig Blomberg, William Lane Craig, Gary Habermas, Daniel Wallace, J.P. Moreland, W. David Beck, Jeremy Evans, Craig Keener, Douglas Moo, Heath Thomas, William Warren, and Edwin Yamauchi) publically voiced their support for Licona’s right to trump both CSBI and CSBH with form criticism and historical criticism. And this despite very clear statements in both ICBI statements on inerrancy (CSBI and CSBH) that guard against the exact type of maneuver Licona was using. Nelson gives a helpful tour of the historical views of biblical inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy. He cites Clement of Rome, Polycarp, Pseudo-Barnabas, Papias, Ignatius of Antioch, the Shepherd of Hermas, the Didache, and the Epistle to Diognetus, Justin Martyr, Tatian, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Origen, Cyprian, Eusebius, Athanasius, Cyril, Jerome, and Augustine. He also gives a helpful and concise tour of how the thought of Bacon, Hobbes, Spinoza, Hume, Kant, and Darwin led to a growing popularity of biblical errancy. He distinguishes between Evangelical, Liberal, and Neo-Evangelical views. He projects that the erosion of inerrancy will lead to further doubt and uses the regress of Bart Erhman as an example we should learn from. He makes additional arguments for the importance of an uncompromising view of inerrancy and ends with recommendations for staunching the decay.

Chapter four is written by F. David Farnell and titled, “Evangelical Mentoring: The Danger from Within.” With a shepherd’s heart and a scholar’s eye, Farnell starts by contrasting faithful mentoring with radical mentoring. A considerable amount of Jesus’ earthly ministry was in opposition with those who had interpretations of the Bible that made null the Word of God null. These men were disciples in a tradition and they were making disciples in that tradition. Jesus chose disciples like Peter and Paul to carry on his traditions and make disciples. Paul was a mentor to reliable men like Timothy and Titus. These men were to be mentors to other faithful men who could teach others. Farnell reminds us that some traditions attempt to stay faithful to the apostolic tradition and to the scriptures while other traditions do not represent them faithfully. In a way, it all comes down to mentoring. Against this backdrop he explains his concerns over some of the eighteen professors showcased in the 2015 book titled I Still Believe. He focuses upon the testimonies of Donald Hagner, Bruce Waltke, James Dunn, and Scot McKnight. He’s left questioning whether many of the professors—the teachers of the future teachers—in many evangelical institutions are passing on doubts rather than faith to the students who have been entrusted to them.

Chapter five is a review by Geisler of the 2013 book Five Views on Biblical Inerrancy (FVBI). He begins by pointing out three serious problems with the approach of this book. Having five views in dialogue for inerrancy suggests that inerrancy is “up for grabs” when it really is not. There are not five views. There are ultimately two views. Either the Bible contains errors and contradictions or it does not. Also, of the five authors, only one is an actual inerrantist; the other four are varying degrees of errantists. The deck seems stacked. And since the book was to discuss the CSBI, why were none of the three living framers of the CSBI (Sproul, Packer, or Geisler) asked to participate in a dialogue? His review is 39 meaty pages in length. It’s daunting to try to summarize it. He points out that the Evangelical Theological Society officially adopted the CSBI as its definition of inerrancy. He provides five reasons for the importance and fundamental position of inerrancy. He notes that some of the authors of FVBI misunderstand “truth” and some of them wrongly assume purpose determines meaning. Propositional revelation, accommodation, lack of precision, the role of extra-biblica data, the role of hermeneutics, and the role of extra-biblical genre, pluralism, conventionalism, and foundationalism are all discussed. Geisler nails the coffin lid shut on the question of whether Licona’s views can be harmonized with CSBI and CSBH by pointing out that all three of the remaining framers of the Chicago statements (Sproul, Packer, and Geisler) have confirmed that they cannot. The story of ETS and Robert Gundry is retold. Examples of dealing with bible difficulties (what some of the authors of FBVI would call contradictions) in the OT and NT are given. Geisler also answers the errantists charges against inerrantists of being unbiblical, unhistorical, using the slippery slope argument, being parochial, unethical, divisive, and unloving. Reading this chapter reminded me that Geisler deserves the tribute that the book begins with.

Chapter six is by Dr. William Roach and is titled “The 2015 Shepherds’ Conference on Inerrancy.” John MacArthur and The Master’s Seminary hosted a conference on inerrancy in March 2015. They reaffirmed the importance of holding to total inerrancy and to defining it as the CSBI did. This seven page article reports positively on that conference.

Chapter seven is a fascinating interview William Roach conducted with Paige Patterson. They discuss the conservative resurgence in the Southern Baptist Convention and how their seminaries were rescued from errantism. It discusses what interplay there was between it and the ICBI.

In chapter eight Geisler answers the question of whether one has to be a Calvinist to believe in inerrancy. Many of the leaders of the later ICBI inerrancy movement were

strong Calvinists but most of the signers of the ICBI statements on inerrancy identified as moderate Calvinists, Cal-minians, Arminians, Wesleyans, “or some other label.” Geisler establishes continuity with Augustine, Aquinas, Luther, Calvin, Warfield, Hodge, Wesley, and other Wesleyans. He shows how they upheld inerrancy. He concludes, “Inerrancy is neither a late nor a denominational doctrine. It is not provincial but universal. It is the foundation for every group that names the name of Christ. . .”

Chapter nine is where Geisler reexamines the relationship between inerrancy and hermeneutics. He is tackling the claim that is made by those who defend the attacks against CSBI and CSBH by saying, “Leave him alone. It’s just a matter of interpretation, not of inerrancy.” This could be the most important chapter of the book as it tackles what may be the thing that evangelicals have had the hardest time understanding. Today many evangelicals can try to claim to be inerrantists and to agree with CSBI while promoting hermeneutical gymnastics to trump inerrancy. Yet it was clear to the wise leaders of the ICBI that after producing the CSBI still had to proceed to create the CSBH. What good is it to reinforce the front door while leaving the backdoor unlocked? Geisler discusses how this played out with the controversies surrounding Jack Rodgers, Robert Gundry, Paul Jewett, and Michael Licona. He challenges various assumptions: inspiration and interpretation are separate matters, allegorical interpretation, truth is not correspondence to facts, biblical narratives are not necessarily historical, hermeneutic is neutral, and more.

In chapter ten Geisler responds to William Lane Craig’s advocacy of limited inerrancy based on inductive logic and his argument against unlimited inerrancy as based on deductive logic. Naturally Geisler begins with the question of whether inerrancy has an inductive or deductive basis. Explaining the “false disjunction,” the chapter quickly becomes a delight for those of us who appreciate logic. He then proceeds to tackle Craig’s claims that only the author’s intentions (and not all affirmations) are inerrant, that only essential matters are inerrant but not peripheral matters, and that extra-biblical genre determines the meaning of biblical texts. He discusses the question of genre and explains how inerrancy is an essential doctrine. He discusses Licona’s errors. He contrasts the evangelical and neo-evangelical views of inerrancy and reminds that the ETS adopted CSBI in 2006 as its definition of inerrancy. Geisler also makes the important correction that Kenneth Kantzer, the professor Craig claims to have learned the doctrine of inerrancy from, was actually a committed follower of the Warfield-Hodge view of total inerrancy. Kantzer would have been “clearly opposed to the Craig-Licona view of limited inerrancy.” He also reminds Craig that Packer, Sproul, and Geisler have all confirmed that Licona’s view of Mt 27 (which Craig also essentially holds) is not compatible at all with CSBI or CSBH. He concludes saying, “Thus evangelicalism is the rightful owner of unlimited inerrancy, and those professed evangelicals who modify it or limit it to redemptive matters are, at best, the rightful owners of the term Neo-Evangelical.”

Chapter eleven is by Farnell and is titled “Early Twentieth Century Challenges to Inerrancy.” Encouraging us to learn from history in order to not repeat its mistakes, Farnell compares what was happening in the early twentieth century (with the fundamentalist-modernist controversy) and what is happening here in the early twenty-first century (with the evangelical-neoevangelical controversy). The parallels seem uncanny. He explains how and why the The Fundamentals was produced and “left as a testimony by the faithful to the early twentieth-century church’s experience of the attack on orthodox Protestant beliefs, conducted aggressively by higher criticism, liberal theology, Catholicism. . . , socialism, Modernism, atheism, Christian Science, Mormonism, Millennial Dawn, Spiritualism, and evolutionism that had infiltrated its ranks and subsequently caused great damage within the church with regard to its vitality and theology. Above all, they left it as a warning to future generations in hopes of preventing a similar occurrence among God’s people in the future.” Farnell points out that after the divinity schools fell to modernism new schools like Westminster Theological Seminary, Dallas Theological Seminary, and Fuller Seminary were planted to serve as bastions of conservative, biblical doctrine, inerrancy, and the fundamentals of the faith.

In chapter twelve, Farnell picks up where he left off in chapter 11. He discusses the challenges (or crisis) in the twenty-first century caused largely by fundamentalist or evangelical scholars seeking the respect of mainline academia. Many of the young scholars were sent to Ivy League, British, or Continental European schools to earn their PhDs. Many schools began to hire professors who were from these schools that were dominated by theological liberalism. With them came the neo-orthodoxy of Karl Barth. He explains how Fuller Seminary drifted away from evangelical views about the Bible and became rather neo-evangelical. He discusses Ladd, Lindsell, Rogers, McKim, Woodbridge, Gundry, Barr, ICBI, ETS, Blomberg, Silva, Geisler, The Jesus Crisis, Bock, Webb, Osborne, The Jesus Quest, the third quest for the historical Jesus, Perrin, Ladd, Roach, Defending Inerrancy, Sparks, McCall, Thompson, Yarbrough, Linnemann, Gundry, more Blomberg, Dan Wallace, Bill Craig, Hagner, Ehrman, and more. This provides an excellent history which filled in many gaps for me. It shows that critical scholarship is still going today where it went in the past.

Chapter thirteen is titled “The Resurgence of Neo-Evangelicalism: Craig Blomberg’s Latest Book and the Future of Evangelical Theology.” Here William Roach provides a concise but helpful historical backdrop of the controversies over inerrancy. He is primarily critiquing Craig Blomberg’s book Can We Still Believe the Bible? But he also weaves in some other recent works by neo-evangelicals who advocate errantism. He corrects some inaccuracies and confirms that Blomberg is yet another scholar who is “now willing to move beyond the vision and legacy of classic evangelicalism and the ICBI.” In his critique of Blomberg’s ideas he also weaves in many other related bits with mastery of the subject matter.

In chapter fourteen Phil Fernandez describes how the battle for the Bible has begun again. He begins by saying, “This chapter is not meant to divide brothers in Christ. Rather, it is a call to honesty. Those who call themselves evangelicals must truly be evangelicals. . . . If we sign a doctrinal statement, we must actually believe what we affirmed in that statement. We should not have the liberty to redefine the doctrines addressed in that statement. . . . this chapter should not be understood as an attack on Christian brothers. Rather, it is an indictment on the present state of evangelical scholarship itself.” He explains how the battle for the Bible raged in the 1970s and how it led to the ICBI. He discusses the reason for Robert Gundry being asked to leave the ETS and how the ETS did not vote Clark Pinnock out. He also sees a revival of the battle for the Bible starting with Mike Licona in 2010. He discusses the problems of genre and historiography in a way that harmonizes well with the other chapters but which also remains distinct. One thing that stood out to me was the way Phil tied in the minimal facts case for the resurrection. He says, it “is a great way to defend the resurrection. But, we must never allow the minimal facts case to evolve into a minimal facts evangelicalism or a minimal facts New Testament scholarship.” He challenges the ETS to enforce and even enlarge their doctrinal statement.

Chapter fifteen considers the question of whether or not biblical inerrancy as a “litmus test” of evangelical orthodoxy. This was written by Christopher Haun in response to a blog post written by Daniel Wallace. Wallace had pointed out that Carl F. H. Henry remained averse to setting biblical inerrancy as the litmus test of orthodoxy. Haun attempts to show how Wallace is partially right and partially wrong. He clarifies Henry’s position using several quotes by Henry himself and some by Ronald Nash.

Farnell is asking “Can We Still Believe Critical Evangelical Scholars?” in chapter sixteen. He reminds us of how vibrant Christianity had been in the 18th and 19th centuries and then asks how so many churches and cathedrals are boarded up now. How did British and Scottish universities become spiritually dead? And why do American evangelicals still go there to get their PhDs?  He explains that the change was internal. He explains a few forces of change and talks about why things were different in the United States. One of the differences is that two wealthy laymen paid for a project that would produce the twelve volume set of The Fundamentals between 1910 and 1917. Three million of those volumes were distributed. As schools like Princeton succumbed to the forces of apostasy, schools like Westminster Theological Seminary, Dallas Theological Seminary, and Fuller Theological Seminary were started. He compares the similarities between the 20th and 21st century scenes and encourages us to learn the lessons of the past. He discusses some of the harmful ideas of Ladd, Blomberg, Hagner, and more.

In chapter seventeen Farnell discusses “The ‘Magic’ of Historical Criticism.” This is a 59 page essay.

In chapters 18 and 19, Farnell gives a “Critical Evaluation of Robert H. Gundry’s Westmont College Lecture, ‘Peter: False Disciple and Apostate according to Saint Matthew’”

In chapter 20 Geisler and Farnell provide “A Critical Review of Donald Hagner’s ‘Ten Guidelines for Evangelical Scholarship’”

Chapter 21. Geisler sets the record straight on “On Licona Muddying the Waters of the Chicago Statements of Biblical Inerrancy and Hermeneutics.”


Chapter 22. Geisler sets the record straight on “The Early Church Fathers and the Resurrection of the Saints in Matthew 27:51–54.”

Chapter 23. Geisler reviews Craig Blomberg’s book Can We Still Believe in the Bible? He shows how Blomberg’s views contradict, misunderstand, and attack the ICBI view on inerrancy. He responds to Blomberg’s Defense of Robert Gundry, Murray Harris, Mike Licona

Chapter 24 | ICBI Inerrancy Is Not for the Birds | Joseph Holden responds to the “current trend among evangelical New Testament scholars to utilize or approve of genre criticism (e.g., Craig Blomberg, Michael Licona, Darrell Bock, Michael Bird, Carlos Bovell, Kevin Vanhoozer, et al.) to dehistoricize the biblical text appears to stem from an aversion to the correspondence view of truth.”

Chapter 25. Contemporary Evangelical NT Genre Criticism Opening Pandora’s Box? Joseph M. Holden

Chapter 26 | Book Review: Craig Blomberg’s Can We Still Believe the Bible? |Joseph M. Holden

Chapter 27 | Book Review: The Lost World of Adam and Eve | Norman L. Geisler

Chapter 28 | An Exposition and Refutation of the Key Presuppositions of Contemporary Jesus Research | Phil Fernandes

Chapter 29 | Redating the Gospels | Phil Fernandes

Chapter 30 | Misinterpreting J. I. Packer on Inerrancy and Hermeneutics | William C. Roach and Norman L. Geisler

Chapter 31 | Can We Still Trust New Testament Professors? | Bob Wilkin

Chapter 32 | Christopher T. Haun explores the question of whether ancient Romans detected the influence of Roman historiography in Matthew 27:45–54 or not. He puts the theory that Roman historians influenced Matthew’s way of reporting history to the test by examining thirty case studies where ancient Romans referred to one or more of the events in Matthew 27:45–54. Did any of the ancients interpret these events less than literally? He also revisits the three case studies that Licona cited in The Resurrection of Jesus.

Epilogue | Historical Criticism vs. Grammatico-Historical: Quo Vadis Evangelicals? | F. David Farnell

Appendix: Statements on the Importance of Inerrancy from Prominent Christian Leaders

[1] Christopher T. Haun is a Master’s Degree candidate at Veritas Evangelical Seminary and an editorial associate at Bastion Books. This book review was written for the April 2016 issue of the Journal of the International Society of Christian Apologetics.

[2] To purchase at a 40% discount, use “inerrant” as a coupon code upon checkout at Also available at

Why I do not Support Ratio Christi as an Organization

Why I do not Support Ratio Christi (RC) as an Organization


Why can’t I support RC as an organization?  It is not because there are not many good and godly people involved in the RC ministry.  There are.

It is not because RC does not have a generally acceptable doctrinal statement. It does.

It is not because RC does not claim to believe in the full inerrancy of the Bible as stated by the International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI).  It does.

Rather, it is because the leadership of the RC organization is not operating in accordance with its own doctrinal statement on the inerrancy of the Bible and on the doctrine of creation—

  • By allowing, and even sometimes featuring, speakers who deny the full ICBI view of the inerrancy   of the Bible (e.g., by claiming there is a contradiction in the Bible);
  • By failing to judge openly and clearly the views that deny the full (ICBI) view on inerrancy;
  • By allowing speakers at RC functions who hold to theistic evolution;
  • By failing to judge openly and clearly the views that embrace theistic evolution;

I have discussed these matters over the past couple years with the RC leadership (past and present) and I have not received a clear and unequivocal commitment by RC on these issues.  By RC leadership’s own statements, these are “important” doctrines, and history demonstrates that compromise on them will work to undermine the vitality and longevity of RC as an organization.

It is because of these failures and with deep regret that I cannot support RC as an organization.

Norman L. Geisler

Nov 17, 2015


Considering Michael Licona’s Historiographical Approach

Considering Michael Licona’s Historiographical Approach

by Christopher Cone, Th.D, Ph.D
April 2012

[This article is reproduced and abridged here with permission.   Click here to read the full article on Dr. Cone’s blog and leave comments.]

In arguing for the historicity of the resurrection, Michael Licona attempts to compare five naturalistic theories of the resurrection (offering non-supernatural explanations for what happened to Jesus) with the theory that the resurrection was in fact historic.… However, I would argue that in his work there is a significant methodological flaw that undermines his case…. Licona does some excellent work here, and I hope his efforts serve as a springboard for other Biblical scholars to fill in the gaps left by his work. As an overall project – as a scholarly and objective presentation of the arguments for and against the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection, this work is worthy. Nonetheless, the methodological flaw is perhaps fatal to his case, and at least undermines the authority of his primary sources (the canonical Gospels). Further, it is worth noting that this methodological device assumed and employed by Licona is gaining in popularity and influence….

It is evident at this point that there will be some friction between Licona’s historiography and the idea of inerrancy. Whereas Licona’s historical method demands only a provisional understanding of truth, it would seem his Biblical theology would demand a very different approach. Where these two concepts collide, there is a decision to be made as to what interpretation of the data is to be preferred. This subtle tension has not –so- subtle results as Licona explains his interpretation of the Gospel data, and as he underscores his rationalistic preference for historiography over theology….

I don’t mention these passages to suggest doubt on his part; rather I think they are important as they betray a preference for historiography over and against the Biblical data as inspired. In other words, if I understand Licona’s case correctly, it seems he values first determining historicity, and then appreciating its doctrinal value. This order of priority has significant hermeneutic consequences, as we will see. The question arises: What if historicity cannot be determined beyond the immediate claims of a particular text? How this question is answered in Licona’s work underscores what I believe is the fundamental flaw in the method employed.

One such passage, described as “a strange little text,” for which there is no external historical verification is Matthew 27:52-53. This passage describes the bodily resurrection and post-resurrection ministries of saints in Jerusalem at the time of Christ’s death. Licona explains (away) this passage as follows: “Given the presence of phenomenological language used in a symbolic manner in both Jewish and Roman literature related to a major event such as the death of an emperor or the end of a reigning king or even a kingdom, the presence of ambiguity in the relevant text of Ignatius, and that so very little can be known about Thallus’s comment on the darkness…it seems to me that an understanding of the language of Matthew 27:52-53 as “special effects” with eschatological Jewish texts and thought in mind is most plausible.

Special effects. Since the events in these verses are historically unverifiable, their literal interpretation (as historical fact) is implausible, and consequently redefined as special effects. How does Licona arrive at this conclusion? … Very early on, he inserts a very pivotal statement: “There is somewhat of a consensus among contemporary scholars that the Gospels belong to the genre of Greco-Roman biography (bios).  Bioi offered the ancient biographer great flexibility for rearranging material and inventing speeches in order to communicate the teachings, philosophy, and political beliefs of the subject, and they often included legend. Because bios was a flexible genre, it is often difficult to determining where history ends and legend begins. And there it is.Bios is flexible. Some of it can be historical, other aspects can be mere special effects…..

To his credit Licona anticipates the question this begs. He notes, “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 offers two brief arguments against that conclusion (no indication of early poetic interpretations, and no known early opponents of Christianity critiqued on the basis of misunderstanding poetry as history). Despite these two points, I believe the damage has been done. Burridge uses the Bios classification in the same way Philo utilized allegorical interpretation – to redeem the Scriptures from rationalistic critiques. By adopting the Bios theory, Licona is participating in genre override, which allows for explaining away difficult passages, via a menu approach to historicity in the Gospel events.

Admittedly, for a historian who adopts Licona’s historiographical presuppositions, Matthew 27:52-5 is problematic because (1) it sounds implausible, and (2) there is no external historical verification. To resolve the difficulty by changing a genre classification creates a far greater problem, precisely due to the hermeneutic implications Burridge identified. Such a hermeneutic move is useful for resolving isolated difficulties, but it is also useful for undermining the authority of the entire text. If it is implausible that people could be resurrected at the death of Christ, then it would seem equally implausible that Jesus should be the Son of God – even God Himself – and should be raised from the dead. As Licona admits, if any of the text is legend, it becomes difficult to know where the legend ends and the history begins. What he may view as history, I may view as legend, and he has made the case for my understanding-as-legend to be legitimate. And if the Gospel writers had the flexibility of inventing speeches, how can I have any certainty about what Jesus said? Sometimes “useful” can be the enemy of truth (e.g., Gen 3:6).
Why not view the Gospels not as Bios, which is so nebulous as to defy definition and certainty, and instead view them simply as historical narrative – which even Burridge admits is possible (at least if only by implication). After all, should Matthew be viewed as a totally different genre than Luke, who described his work as “the exact truth?” (asphaleia –certainty, Lk 1:4)? Why not take the writers at face value? Granted if we do so, we are stuck with these pesky resurrection narratives that we can’t historically verify – and which still look foolish to skeptics no matter our historiographical method.

At the time this article was written, Dr. Cone was serving as the President of Tyndale Theological Seminary & Biblical Institute and as pastor of Tyndale Bible Church.  His areas of focus are Bible exegesis and exposition, systematic theology, hermeneutics and theological method, epistemology, philosophy, apologetics and worldview, environmental ethics, conference speaking and classroom pedagogy, pastoral leadership, and executive leadership. For more on Dr. Cone click here. Cone-Pics1_021