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

Dr. Mark M. Hanna Stands with Dr. Geisler Against Theological Erosion and Hermeneutical Aberrations


Dr. Mark M. Hanna Stands with Dr. Geisler Against Theological Erosion and Hermeneutical Aberrations

February 27th, 2012

Dear Norm,

I just read your excellent letters and articles pertaining to the issues raised by Licona’s views.  I want you to know that I stand with you completely.  You have stated your case with absolutely compelling arguments.  It is not a minor matter as some contend, for it carries far-reaching implications that should not be passed over as unimportant.

I think that defenses by some individuals of Licona’s views on the matter and their criticisms of you show that they do not understand why this is not a trivial issue.  You have done the cause of Christ a great service by clarifying what is involved and by presenting an airtight refutation of his dehistoricizing of Scripture.

I know of no one who is doing more to combat theological erosion and hermeneutical aberrations than you.  I am sure that God is keeping you with us to fulfill a much needed defense of the truth of the Bible.  As you rightly say, if the foundations are undermined, we have nothing left.

With great appreciation for the person you are and the work you do,

Mark


Mark M. Hanna is a full time writer and was for many years the Professor Emeritus of Philosophy and World Religions at Talbot School of Theology and California State University.  He also taught at the University of Southern California, where he earned M.A. degrees in philosophy and world religions and a Ph.D. in philosophy. He lived in the Middle East for four years, earning his B.A. at the American University in Beirut. He has lectured in numerous universities and theological schools around the world. He is the author of Biblical Christianity: Truth or Delusion? (link), Crucial Questions in Apologetics (link), and The True Path: Seven Muslims Make Their Greatest Discovery (link).  Dr. Geisler described Dr. Hanna’s Biblical Christianity as “masterly and brilliant!”

 

 

biblicalchristianitybook

 

Copyright © 2012 NormanGeisler.net – All rights reserved

To see all posts tagged “Licona” click here.

Former President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary on the Licona Issue


Kaiser

 

 

Former President of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

on the Licona Issue

More About Dr. Kaiser here

and here

 

Dr. Walter Kaiser, Jr. is one of the foremost evangelical biblical scholars of our times.  He has written numerous books on this and related topics.  In our opinion, his view has the utmost authority on this topic.  –N. L. Geisler
A survey was distributed to a few defenders of biblical inerrancy to see who might agree that various statements in Dr. Mike Licona’s book The Resurrection of Jesus  are inconsistent with the doctrine of inerrancy as expressed by the ICBI.   The survey and Dr. Kaiser’s response may be viewed below.

 

 

 

 

A Petition on Mike Licona’s View


Mike Licona’s Statements (in The Resurrection of Jesus):             

 

“There is somewhat of a consensus among contemporary scholars that the Gospels belong to the genre of Greco-Roman biography (bios).  Bioioffered the ancient biographer great flexibility for rearranging material andinventing speeches…and they often included legend. Because bios was a flexible genre, it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins” (34, emphasis added in this and following citations).

“For this reason, we get a sense that the canonical Gospels are reading authentic reports of Jesus’ arrest and death…even if some embellishments are present” (306).

“A possible candidate for embellishment is Jn 18:4-6” (306, n. 114).

“It can forthrightly be admitted that the data surrounding what happened to Jesus is fragmentary and could possibly be mixed with legend, as Wedderburn notes.  We may also be reading poetic language of legend at certain points, such as Matthew’s report of the raising of some dead saints at Jesus’ death (Mt 27:51-54) and the angels at the tomb (Mk 16:5-7; Mt 28:2-7; Lk 24:4-7; Jn 20:11-13) (185-186).

There is “…‘a weird residual fragment’ in Matthew (Mt. 27:52-53).  If taken literally, there would have been many, perhaps hundreds of empty tombs around Jerusalem on that first Easter” (527-528).

“This strange report in Matthew 27:52-53 attempts to retain the corporate harrowing of hell and the individual preascension appearances.  However, ‘the magnificent harrowing of hell is already lost in that fragment’s present redaction’” (530).

“This brings us to that strange little text in Matthew 27:52-53, where upon Jesus’ death the dead saints are raised and walk in the city of Jerusalem…. Raymond E. Brown notes that similar phenomena were reported at the death of Romulus and Julius Caesar…. In a clearly poetic account, Virgil reports that the following sixteen phenomena occurred after Caesar’s death:..” (548).

“…it seems to me that an understanding of the language in Matthew 27:52-53 as ‘special effects’ with eschatological Jewish texts and thought in mind is most plausible…. Matthew may simply be emphasizing that the great king has died.  If he had one or more of the Jewish texts in mind, he may be proclaiming the day of the Lord has come” (552).

It seems best to regard this difficult text in Matthew as a poetic deviceadded to communicate that the Son of God had died and that impending judgment awaited Israel” (553).  (Emphasis added in all these quotations.)

 

Select Inerrancy Statements by ICBI in its “Chicago Statement” (1978)

Article XIII : We affirm the propriety of using inerrancy as a theological term with reference to the complete truthfulness of Scripture.  We deny that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose.

Article IX: We affirm that inspiration, though not conferring omniscience,guaranteed true and trustworthy utterance on all matters of which the Biblical authors were moved to speak and write. We deny that the finitude or fallenness of these writers, by necessity or otherwise, introduced distortion or falsehood into God’s Word.

Article XII: We affirm that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit.  We deny that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science.

Article XIII:  We affirm the propriety of using inerrancy as a theological term with reference to the complete truthfulness of Scripture.  We deny that it is proper to evaluate Scripture according to standards of truth and error that are alien to its usage or purpose.

Article XVIII: We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture.

We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying behind it that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claims to authorship.

 

Selections from the Official ICBI Commentary titled Explaining Inerrancy

Article XII Selections:  Though the Bible is indeed redemptive history, it is also redemptive history, and this means that the acts of salvation wrought by God actually occurred in the space-time world.

 

When we say that the truthfulness of Scripture ought to be evaluated according to its own standards that means that … all the claims of the Bible must correspond with reality, whether that reality is historical, factual or spiritual.

By biblical standards truth and error is meant the view used both in the Bible and in everyday life, viz., a correspondence view of truth.  This part of the article is directed toward who would redefine truth to relate merely to redemptive intent, the purely personal, or the like, rather than tomean that which corresponds with reality.

 

Article XVIII Selection: When the quest for sources produces adehistoricizing of the Bible, a rejection of its teaching or a rejection of the Bible’s own claims of authorship [then] it has trespassed beyond its proper limits.

By biblical standards of truth and error is meant the view used both in the Bible and in everyday life, viz., a correspondence view of truth.  This part of the article is directed toward those who would redefine truth to relate merely to redemptive intent, the purely personal, or the like, rather than to mean that which corresponds with reality.

 

Select Official ICBI statements from Hermeneutics Statement Explaining Hermeneutics (hereafter, EH).

 

EH Article VI: We further affirm that a statement is true if it represents matters as they actually are, but is an error if it misrepresents the facts. 

The commentary  adds, “The denial makes it evident that views which redefine error to mean what ‘misleads,’ rather than what is a mistake, must be rejected.”

 

EH Article XIII: We deny that generic categories [categories of genre]which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual.

Some, for instance, take Adam to be a myth, whereas in Scripture he is presented as a real person.  Others take Jonah to be an allegory when he is presented as a historical person and [is] so referred to by Christ.

 

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

 

EH Article  XXII: It  “affirms that Genesis 1-11 is factual, as is the rest of the book.”

 

The denial makes is evident that views which redefine error to mean what‘misleads,’ rather than what is a mistake, must be rejected.

 

 

 

 

An Expression of Opinion on Mike Licona’s view on Inerrancy

 

“We affirm that the view expressed in the above citations from The Resurrection of Jesus:

(1) casts doubt on the historicity of parts of the Gospel record (Yes or No); Yes
(2) is inconsistent with the doctrine of inerrancy as expressed by the framers of the ICBI (International Council on Biblical Inerrancy) in their above statements on inerrancy (Yes or No).” Yes
Walter C. Kaiser, Jr.

 

 

 

If you would like to sign this petition, please begin by opening the document

by clicking the icon below.

 


(Click here to open this article in rich text format)

 

In the document, please read tge document, scroll down to the last page (page 5),

highlight YES or NO to the two questions,

type your name in red on the signature line, save the document, and email it to:

 

 

Copyright © 2012 NormanGeisler.net – All rights reserved

To see an index of other articles on the “Licona Controvery” please clickhere.

Dr. Moody, Dr. Caner, and All of Arlington Baptist College Take Their Stand Alongside Dr. Geisler for the Full Historicity of the Gospels


Dr. Moody, Dr. Caner, and All of Arlington Baptist College Take Their Stand Alongside Dr. Geisler for the Full Historicity of the Gospels

1 February 2012

Dear Dr Geisler:

Since our founding in 1939 by Dr. J. Frank Norris, the Arlington Baptist College
has openly and firmly stood on the core fundamentals of our faith. One of the
most essential doctrines of Scripture is now sadly under question. The historical
and literal resurrection of the saints in the Gospels and the absolute sufficiency of
Scripture in the narrative are now both being diluted and denied.

We just wanted to drop you a note and say that we stand with you in this issue,
completely and without hesitation. You have rightly said that this is a bigger issue
than just historicity–it goes to the very core of our faith. Your leadership is once
again so sorely needed, and you have stood like Athanasius.

Be encouraged that we all see through the childish attacks you have faced. In
our culture, personal attacks are often offered when the opposition cannot
answer the clarity of your position. Sadly it is apparent that sometimes Christians
do this as well. You do not stand alone. We have been there, and we stand
alongside of you in the truth! The Administration, Faculty, Staff and students of
the Arlington Baptist College pray for you and stand with you in this battle.

Until the Trumpet:
Dr. DL Moody, President
Dr. Ergun Caner, Provost and VP of Academic Affairs
Arlington Baptist College
Arlington, Texas

A Critique of the Genre Interpretation of Matthew 27:51-53 in Dr. Michael Licona’s work, The Resurrection of Jesus


A Critique of the Genre Interpretation of Matthew 27:51-53 in Dr. Michael Licona’s work,
The Resurrection of Jesus

 

by Dr. F. David Farnell, Ph.D.
January 31, 2012

 

After examining the primary sources regarding the controversy, two essential factors may be noted:

First, Licona’s work exhibits many commendable items.  For instance, it presents a strong stance on the historical basis for Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead.  One can be encouraged that in light of historical criticism’s attack on the miraculous since Spinoza and the Enlightenment, Licona has maintained the historical, orthodox position of the church.

Second, unfortunately, while Licona’s work defends Jesus’ bodily resurrection ably, the assumption of genre hermeneutic known as apocalyptic or eschatological Jewish texts whereby Licona dismisses the historicity of Matthew 27:51-53 (and its recording of the resurrection of saints) results effectively in the complete evisceration and total negation of His strong defense of Jesus’ resurrection.

Licona labels it a “strange little text” (Resurrection, 548) and terms it “special effects” that have no historical basis (Resurrection, 552). His apparent concern also rests with only Matthew as mentioning the event.  He concludes that “Jewish eschatological texts and thought in mind” as “most plausible” in explaining it (Resurrection, 552).  He concludes that “It seems best to regard this difficult text in Matthew a poetic device added to communicate that the Son of God had died and that impending judgment awaited Israel” (p. 553).

This conclusion is subjective, arbitrary, hermeneutically quite unnecessary.  Nothing demands such a conclusion in the context or supports such a conclusion.

If the events in Matthew 27:51-53 are held that way, nothing—absolutely nothing— stops critics from applying a similar kind of logic to Jesus’ resurrection.  Licona’s logic here is self-defeating and undermines his entire work on defending the resurrection.

Several arguments prevail against Licona.  Many have already been mentioned.  So I will add only a few.

First, Licona appears to take other events in immediate context both BEFORE AND AFTER this passage as historical (Jesus crying out, veil of temple split, earthquake, the centurion crying out).  Merely because he finds these events “strange” is rather subjective.  His idea of “What were they [the resurrected saints] doing between Friday afternoon and early Sunday morning?” shows that an acute subjectivity reigns in Licona’s hermeneutical scheme.

Second, no literary signals exist to the readers that Matthew has switched from historical narration of the events surrounding the crucifixion.  The passage flows both before and after as a telling of the events with no abrupt disjuncture.  How would Matthew’s readers have recognized that the events, before and after, were historical in time-space but not the immediate passage?

How would Matthew’s readers have been able to distinguish the genre change from historical narrative to what Licona term’s “symbolic” based in eschatological Jewish texts.

 It is highly dubious that Matthew 27:51-53 or Revelation should be associated with Jewish Apocalyptic literature.  While Revelation may share some highly superficial characterstics, such as symbolism, it DOES NOT share the dualism, pessimism, determinism, pseudonymity or rewritten history transformed into prophecy that characterized such Jewish literature (see Leon Morris, Apocalyptic, 1972).

Licona’s decision for such a genre linkage has no substantial reason.  It is arbitrary.

Finally, since as Licona argues most of our historical knowledge is fragmentary, should not the passage be given the benefit as history.  NOTHING in the CONTEXT precludes its history and NOTHING in the context negates its history, except a subjective bias that the story is “strange.”  This is an existentialist interpretation of what something means “to me” (i.e. Licona).

I would lovingly ask Mike Licona to reconsider his position.  All of us have had times when we have reconsidered positions and changed as we grow in the faith and wisdom as Christians and in the love of the Lord Jesus.

Sincerely,

F. David Farnell, Ph.D.

Professor of New Testament

The Master’s Seminary

imgProf

More about Dr. Farnell here.

 

To see an index of other articles on the “Licona Controvery” please click here.

Copyright © 2012 NormanGeisler.net – All rights reserved

 

Dr. Paige Patterson Speaks out


Dr. Paige Patterson Speaks out  

More about Dr. Patterson

“Let’s be clear. A story, an affirmation, is either true or false, but not both true and false in the same way at the same time. That is a long accepted law of logic, and no amount of fudging can make it change. While I have no reason to question the sincerity of the author and while only God can judge his heart, Southern Baptists paid far too great a price to insist on the truthfulness of God’s Word to now be lured by a fresh emergence of the priesthood of the philosopher, especially when a philosopher raises a question about the truthfulness of Scripture.”

— Dr. Paige Patterson, President or Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
(1/9/2012)

Thank God for the courage, conviction, and character of the man of God to whom the SBC owes the most for its orthodoxy on inerrancy—Dr. Paige Patterson. I Hope there is a place reserved in Nashville for a bronze statue of him. It is time for other SBC leaders to close ranks on the Licona issue. – Dr. Norman Geisler 

To see all posts tagged “Licona” click here.

Evangelicals and Redaction Criticism: Dancing on the Edge


Evangelicals and Redaction Criticism:

Dancing on the Edge

 

 

Dr. Geisler first delivered these notes to the faculty of Trinity Evangeicaly Divinity School in the late 1970s when faculty member Grant Osborne began to adopt a form of redaction criticism.  This was also delivered by Dr. Geisler in a course on Bibliology at Dallas Theological Seminary in 1987.

 

  1. Things Surely to be Believed by Evangelicals
A.  The Gospel writers (except possibly Luke) were eyewitnesses of the events.

 

B.  The Gospels were written during the lifetime of these witnesses by the disciples’ names they bear.

 

C.  Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would supernaturally activate the apostle’s memories on all that He taught (John 14:26; 16:13).

 

D.  The NT documents should be considered authentic until proven otherwise (just as one is presumed innocent until proven guilty)

 

E.  What the Gospels say that Jesus said (and did), He actually said (and did).

 

F.  It is the written gospels (not their alleged sources) that are inspired (2 Tim. 3:16).  So truth is in the text, not behind it.

 

G.  Conclusions:

 

1.  The Gospel records are authentic, biographical, and historical.

 

2.  The records present accurately what Jesus really said and did.

 

3.  In view of IA, IB and IC, the Gospel writers were not dependent on other sources for their teachings.

 

 

  1. Things Surely not to be Believed by Evangelicals
A.  That the Gospels were written by persons who were not contemporaries of Christ.

 

B.  That Redaction Criticism  is necessary to discover what Jesus taught.

 

C.  That without the aid of Redaction we cannot understand the message of the Gospels.

 

D.  That the Gospels create, rather than report, what Jesus said and did.

 

E.  Conclusions:

 

1.  Accepting criticism of this kind [or, these kinds] is incompatible with evangelical Christianity.

 

2.  No evangelical institution should keep teachers who teach what is incompatible with evangelical Christianity.

 

 

III.  Things Apparently Believed by Some Evangelicals

A.  The Gospels are a reinterpretation of the life of Christ to fit the needs of the readers of a later generation.

 

B.  Gospel writers redacted earlier sources to construct their Gospels.

 

C.  By getting behind the Gospel record, redaction criticism is helpful (essential?) in interpreting the text.

 

D.  Redaction criticism should be used to establish the authenticity of the sayings and events recorded in the Gospels.

 

E.  Gospel writers sometimes placed what Jesus said (or did) on one occasion into another occasion where He did not actually say (or do) it.

 

 

  1. Things Safely to be Believed by Evangelicals
A.  All Redaction Criticism is UNNECESSARY in view of I above.

 

B.  Most of Redaction Criticism is INCOMPATIBLE with evangelical Christianity (namely II above).

 

C.  Even “modified” Redaction Criticism is dangerous (namely IIII above) because:

 

1.  This special use of the term is easily misunderstood (since its original and       common meaning is anti-evangelical).

 

2.  It is difficult to divorce totally redaction and other ideologies from their original non-evangelical presuppositions (There is a high fatality rate among those who try—Gundry, Guelich, et. al.).

 

3. To refer to a Gospels as a “reinterpretation” is at best ambiguous.  This may imply misrepresentation or error.

 

4.  The attempt to get behind the text, rather than to stay in it, is hermeneutically misdirected.

 

5.  The role of the Gospel writers as eyewitnesses whose memories were supernaturally guided by the Holy Spirit is neglected.

 

6.  It undermines confidence in the authenticity and authority of the text by treating it as a literary creation rather than a historical report (Luke 1:1-4).

 

 

CONCLUSION:  Since I is necessary to evangelical belief, II is incompatible with it, and III is dangerous to it, the practice of redaction is UNNECESSARY, UNWISE, and UNHEALTHY for evangelicals to adopt such unorthodox ideologies.

 

A CHART ON GOSPEL WRITERS’

 USE OF JESUS’ WORDS & DEEDS

EVANGELICAL VIEW NON-EVANGELICAL VIEW
REPORTING THEM CREATING THEM
SELECTING THEM CONSTRUCTING THEM
ARRANGING THEM MISARRANGING THEM
PARAPHRASING THEM EXPANDING THEM
CHANGE THEIR FORM (Grammatical Change) CHANGE THEIR CONTENT (Theological Change)
CHANGE THEIR WORDING CHANGE THEIR MEANING
TRANSLATE THEM MISTRANSLATE THEM
INTERPRET THEM MISINTERPRET THEM
EDITING REDACTING

 

Copyright © 2012 NormanGeisler.net – All rights reserved

 

 

To see all posts tagged “Licona” click here.

 

BEWARE OF PHILOSOPHY: A WARNING TO BIBLICAL SCHOLARS


BEWARE OF PHILOSOPHY:

A WARNING TO BIBLICAL SCHOLARS

Presidential Address to The Evangelical Theological Society November 19, 1998

 

by Norman L. Geisler, Ph.D.

Moved!

This article has been updated (in 2012), converted to an eBook, and moved to here:

http://bastionbooks.com/shop/beware-of-philosophy-a-warning-to-biblical-scholars/

Please check it out!

Copyright © 1998 by Norman L. Geisler – All Rights Reserved

“See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy

and empty deceit, according to human tradition,

according to the elemental spirits of the world,

and not according to Christ.”

Col 2:8 ESV

 

Houston Baptist University Defends Licona’s Denial of Inerrancy By Norman L. Geisler, Ph.D. February 2013 (updated March 2013)


 Houston Baptist University Defends Licona’s Denial of Inerrancy

 By Norman L. Geisler, Ph.D.

 February 2013

 

Despite the fact that Mike Licona lost his positions at the Southern Baptist Home Mission Board, at Southern Evangelical Seminary, and at Liberty University subsequent to the public criticism of his views on inerrancy by Southern Baptist leaders like Al Mohler and Page Patterson and others, Houston Baptist hired Licona and placed its blessing on his views.  President Robert Sloan, Jr. said:

Dr. Michael Licona is a very fine Christian. We trust completely his commitment to Scripture. There are those who disagree with his comments on what is a very difficult passage (Matthew 27:45-53, especially verses 52-53), but Mike Licona’s devotion to the Lord Jesus, his magisterial defense of the resurrection, his publicly and solemnly declared affirmation of the complete trustworthiness of Scripture and his worldwide efforts to win others to Christ give us full confidence in his work as a teacher, colleague and faculty member of Houston Baptist University (reported in the Baptist Press [BP] 2/6/2013).”

Besides the fact that Sloan notably makes no claim that Licona believes in inerrancy, there are several serious problems with this approval of Licona’s aberrant views on Scripture:

First, Licona has not repudiated his claim that there is a contradiction in the Gospels about which day Jesus was crucified on.  In a debate with Bart Ehrman at Southern Evangelical Seminary (Spring, 2009) Licona declared, “I think that John probably altered the day [of Jesus’ crucifixion] in order for a theological—to make a theological point there.  But that does not mean that Jesus wasn’t crucified” (emphasis added).  In short, John contradicts the other Gospels on which day Jesus was crucified.  This is a flat denial of inerrancy for at least one of them has to be an error.  But if the Bible is the inerrant Word of God, then how can it err on this matter?

Second, believing there are contradictions in the Bible is emphatically rejected by the Statements of International Council on Biblical Inerrancy (ICBI).  Licona has claimed to agree with the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) which accepted  the ICBI statements as a guide to understanding its view on inerrancy (in 2003).  But the ICBI Statements contradict his claim, saying: “We affirm the unity and internal consistency of scripture” (Article XIV).  And “We deny that later revelations…ever correct or contradict” other revelations (Article V).  As for the alleged compatibility of Licona’s view with the ICBI statements, the co-founder of ICBI and the original framer of its inerrancy Statements,  R. C. Sproul said flatly, “As the former and only president of ICBI during its tenure and as the original framer of the Affirmations and Denials of the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy, I can say categorically that Mr. Michael Licona’s views are not even remotely compatible with the united Statements of ICBI” (Letter May 22, 2012, emphasis added).

President Al Mohler of Southern Seminary adds correctly, “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy clearly and rightly affirms ‘the unity and internal consistency of Scripture’ and denies that any argument for contradictions within the Bible is compatible with inerrancy.  An actual contradiction is an error” (BP article 2/6/2013, emphasis added).

Third, Licona still embraces the view that it is compatible with inerrancy to accept the Greco-Roman view that there are legends in the Gospels.  Licona claims this Greco-Roman view is a “flexible genre,” and “it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins” (TheResurrection of Jesus, 34).  Indeed, he adds, “Bios offered the ancient biographer great flexibility for rearranging material and inventing speeches…and they often included legends” (ibid., emphasis added).

In a YouTube video (11/23/2012) taken at the 2012 Evangelical Theological Society meeting (http://youtu.be/TJ8rZukh_Bc), Licona affirmed the following:  “So um this didn’t really bother me in terms of if there were contradictions in the Gospels…. So um it didn’t really bother me a whole lot even if some contradictions existed.  But it did bother a lot of Christians.”  However, Licona consoles himself, saying, “I mean there are only maybe a handful of things between Gospels that are potential contradictions and only one or two that I found that are really stubborn for me at this point and they are all in the peripherals again.”   However, this is no consolation for an inerrantist since even one error in the Bible would mean it is not the Word of God because God cannot error in even one thing that He affirms.  After all, how many mistakes can an omniscient Being make?  Zip , zero, zilch!  None!

Fourth, Licona believes the Greco-Roman Genre used by the Gospels allows for errors.  He claims this is a “flexible genre,” and “it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins” (TheResurrection of Jesus [RJ], 34).  So, “as I started to note some of these liberties that he took I immediately started to recognize that these are the same liberties that I noticed the Evangelists did, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John” (ibid., emphasis added).  So, “these most commonly cited differences in the Gospels that skeptics like Ehrman like to refer to as contractions aren’t contradictions after all.  They are just the standard biographical liberties that ancient biographers of that day took.”

However, the ICBI statements clearly reject this conclusion, insisting that: “WE DENY that extrabiblical views ever disprove the teaching of Scripture or hold priority over it” (ICBI Hermeneutics Article XX). The Bible does use different genres of literature (history, poetry, parable, etc.).  But these are  known from inside the Bible by use of the traditional “grammatico-historical exegesis” which the ICBI framers embraced (Inerrancy Article XVIII).  Indeed, the framers said emphatically, “WE DENY that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual.  WE AFFIRM that the biblical record of events, discourses and sayings, though presented in a variety of appropriate literary forms, corresponds to historical fact.  WE DENY that any such event, discourse or saying reported in Scripture was invented by the biblical writers or by the traditions they incorporated” (Hermeneutics Article XIII).

Unlike Licona, the genre categories into which the Bible is said to fit are not determined by data outside the Bible.  The Gospels, for example, may be their own unique genre, as many biblical scholars believe. As the ICBI statement puts it, “Scripture is to interpret Scripture” (Chicago Statement, Article XVIII). Indeed, the ICBI Commentary on Hermeneutics Article XVIII declares: The second principle of the affirmation is that we are to take account of the literary forms and devices that are found within the Scriptures themselves” (emphasis added).  The Bible is the best interpreter of the Bible, not Greek legends.

Fifth, in direct contradiction to the ICBI statements on inerrancy, Licona dehistoricizes part of the Gospels. Licona and even some reviewers tend to focus on only one issue in Licona’s writings, namely, the non-historical status of the resurrected saints in Matthew 27.  But the ICBI statements on inerrancy condemn “dihistoricizing” the Gospel record.  Article XVIII of the Chicago Statement on inerrancy reads: “We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources behind it that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claims to authorship” (emphasis added).  The ICBI commentary on this reads: “To turn narrative history into poetry, or poetry into narrative history would be to violate the intended meaning of the text” (Commentary on Inerrancy Article XVIII). Again, “WE AFFIRM that the biblical record of events, discourses and sayings, though presented in a variety of appropriate literary forms, corresponds to historical fact.  WE DENY that any such event, discourse or saying reported in Scripture was invented by the biblical writers or by the traditions they incorporated” (Hermeneutics Article XIV).   The official commentary adds, “While acknowledging the legitimacy of literary forms, this article insists that any record of events presented in Scripture must correspond to historical fact. That is, no reported event, discourse, or saying should be considered imaginary.”

Licona’s claim that he is not “dehistoricizing” is bogus since it is based on the false assumption that the Gospels are not making a claim to be historical (cf. Lk. 1:1-4).  But the ICBI fathers clearly reject this, insisting that: “WE DENY that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual” (Hermeneutics Article VIII).

This is particularly true of the Matthew 27 text about the resurrection of the saints which presents itself as historical in many ways, including the following: (1) It occurs in a book that present itself as historical (cf. Mt. 1:1,18); (2) Numerous events in this book have been confirmed as historical (e.g., the birth, life, deeds, teachings, death, and resurrection of Christ); (3) It is presented in the immediate context of other historical events, namely, the death and resurrection of Christ; (4) The resurrection of these saints is also presented as an event occurring as a result of the literal death and resurrection of Christ (cf. Mt. 27:52-53); (5) Its lineage with the preceding historical events is indicated by a series of conjunctions (and…and…and, etc.); (6) It is introduced by the attention getting “Behold” (v. 51) which focuses on its reality;[1] (7) It has all the same essential earmarks of the literal resurrection of Christ, including: (a) empty tombs, (b) dead bodies coming to life, and (c) these resurrected bodies appearing to many witnesses; (8) It lacks any literary embellishment common to myths,  being a short, simple, and straightforward account;  (9)  It contains elements that are confirmed as historical by other Gospels, such as (a) the veil of the temple being split (Mk. 15:38; Lk. 23:45), and (b) the reaction of the Centurion (Mk. 15:39; Lk. 23:47).  If these events are historical, then there is no reason to reject the other events, such as, the earthquake and the resurrection of the saints.

Licona’s Deviation from Orthodox Involves Many Passages

Further, Both Licona and even some reviewers make the mistake of assuming that Matthew 27 is the only problem that Licona has on the inerrancy issue. In fact, there are numerous places where Licona deviates from the traditional ICBI view on inerrancy which even ETS adopted as a guide for understanding inerrancy.  Consider the following:

(1)  Licona denied the historicity of the resurrected saints in Matthew 27. He wrote in his book on The Resurrection of Jesus (RJ) that the resurrection of the saints narrative was “a weird residual fragment” (RJ, 527) and a“strange report” (RJ, 530, 548, 556, emphasis added in these citations).[2] He called it “poetical,” a “legend,” an “embellishment,” and literary“special effects” (see RJ, 306, 548, 552, 553, emphasis added in all these citations).  He adds, “It can forthrightly be admitted that the data surrounding what happened to Jesus is fragmentary and could possibly bemixed with legend, as Wedderburn notes (see RJ, 185-186, emphasis added in all these citations). While Licona later moderated his certainty of this denial, he never retracted it, nor has he retracted his belief that it is compatible with inerrancy, even the ICBI view, to hold that this section is a legend.

(2)  Licona also affirmed that one of the Gospels claims that Jesus was crucified on the wrong day.  This he said in a debate with Bart Ehrman at Southern Evangelical Seminary, Spring, 2009 (which is cited above).  This is a serious breach of inerrancy.

(3, 4, 5, 6) Licona also casts doubt on the existence of the angels at the tomb after the resurrection in all four Gospels). He declared: “We may also be reading poetic language of legend at certain points, such as …the angels at the tomb (Mk 16:5-7; Mt 28:2-7; Lk 24:4-7; Jn 20:11-13)” (RJ, 185-186).

      (7) He also suggested that the mob falling backward at Jesus claim in John 18:4-6 may not be historical but could be a legendary embellishment.  He called it: “A possible candidate for embellishment is Jn 18:4-6” (RJ, 306, n. 114).

(8)  Licona affirms that the Gospels sometimes embellished Jesus’ words.  He wrote, “For this reason, we get a sense that the canonical Gospels are reading authentic reports of Jesus’ arrest and death…even ifsome embellishments are present” (RJ, 306). This is contrary to Luke 1:1-4 which affirms that the Gospels are based on the accounts of “eyewitness.”

 

 

(9, 10, 11, 12, etc.)  Licona also admits that there are an unnumbered “handful” of possible errors in the Gospels.  He wrote: “I mean there are only maybe a handful of things between Gospels that are potential contradictions and only one or two that I found that are really stubborn for me at this point and they are all in the peripherals again.”  However, he takes comfort that they are all in “peripheral” areas.  But here again, how many errors can an omniscient Mind make in so-called peripheral areas?  None!  Further, some of the errors are not so “peripheral,” such as the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27 after Jesus’ resurrection. After all, their resurrection was seen as a result of Jesus resurrection and was even taken to be a proof of it by the context and by many early Fathers of the Church (see “The Early Fathers and the Resurrection of the Saints in Matthew 27,” http://tinyurl.com/bdu23gg), including an apostolic Father (Ignatius) who was a contemporary of the apostle John and Irenaeus who knew Polycarp, a disciple of the apostle John.

 

Conclusion

Even Licona admits that “… You may lose some form of biblical inerrancy if there are contradictions in the Gospels, but you still have the truth of Christianity that Jesus rose from the dead, and I think that’s the most important point we can make” (BP, Feb 6, 2013, emphasis added).   Indeed, one would lose some form of inerrancy, if Licona is right—the form that has been held by Christians down though the centuries (see John Hannah,Inerrancy and the Church, 1984) including Southern Baptist (see Russ Bush and Tom Nettles, Baptist and the Bible, 1980), was confessed by the framers of the ETS, and was codified by the ICBI framers.  In view of this, it is incredible to hear Licona say, as he did (BP Feb. 5, 2012), that “he has not claimed there are contradictions in the Gospels.”  He clearly did say there was a contradiction in the Gospels in his debate with Bart Ehrman at Southern Evangelical Seminary (cited above).  He also admitted in his YouTube interview (cited above) there were or could be contradictions in the Bible.  In fact, if words still have meaning, one wonders what form of inerrancy can there be that admits the Bible is errant?  As President Al Mohler said, “It would be nonsense to affirm real contradictions in the Bible and then to affirm inerrancy” (BP 2/6/2013).

Licona’s good friend Gary Habermas of Liberty University offers a lame excuse for his former pupil’s aberrant views when he claimed that people should remember that Licona’s approach is an apologetic strategy.  “Thus, it is not a prescription for how a given text should be approached in the original languages and translated, or how a systematic theology is developed….  So it should never be concluded that the use of such methods in an apologetic context indicate a lack of trust in Scripture as a whole, or, say, the Gospels in particular” (cited in BP 2/13/2013).  If this is taken to mean that Licona does not agree with his own words in his own book (RJ) and lectures when he denies the inerrancy of the Gospels, then it is ludicrous.  For, as any reasonably intelligent reader can tell, Licona is making and defending the statements of his book as his own and not simply as an “apologetic strategy.”  Nowhere in the 718 pages of his book (RJ) does he claim that it is merely an “apologetic strategy.”  The only apologetic strategy is the one employed by Habermas to defend his wayward student.

Licona told the Baptist Press, “I suppose that if one were to claim that it’s unorthodox to read the Gospels and attempt to understand them according to the genre in which they were written rather than impose Dr. Geisler’s modern idea of precision upon them, then I’m guilty as charged” (emphasis added).  However, this begs the whole question for it assumes, contrary to fact, that they are written in a Greco-Roman genre which Licona claims is a “flexible genre,” and “it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins.  He added, “Bios offered the ancient biographer great flexibility for rearranging material andinventing speeches…and they often included legends” (RJ, 34, emphasis added).  The truth of the matter is that ICBI framers are not imposing a “modern idea” of precision on the Bible, certainly not in claiming Gospel record of the resurrection of the saints is historical.  This is purely a “straw man” fallacy.  The ICBI frames clearly said, “We further deny that inerrancy is negated by Biblical phenomena such as lack of modern technical precision, … the use of hyperbole and round numbers” (Article XII, emphasis added). What is more, it is not inerrantists but Licona who is imposing a foreign, extra-biblical Greco-Roman genre on the Bible which leads to “dehistoricizing” the Scripture and undermining the doctrine of inerrancy.

Furthermore, it is not a question of “precision” that inerrantists insist upon when they disallow Licona’s allegations of contradictions in the Bible.  As Dr. Paige Patterson, President of Southwest Baptist theological Seminary, aptly put it: “Let’s be clear. A story, an affirmation, is either true or false, but not both true and false in the same way at the same time. That is a long accepted law of logic, and no amount of fudging can make it change. While I have no reason to question the sincerity of the author and while only God can judge his heart, Southern Baptists paid far too great a price to insist on the truthfulness of God’s Word to now be lured by a fresh emergence of the priesthood of the philosopher, especially when a philosopher raises a question about the truthfulness of Scripture” (1/9/2012).

 

                             

 

 

[1] Carl Henry noted that “Calling attention to the new and unexpected, the introductory Greekide—See! Behold!—stands out of sentence construction to rivet attention upon God’s awesome intervention” (Henry, God Revelation and Authority.Texas: Word Books, 1976) 2:17-18.

[2] Licona has subsequent questions about the certitude of his view on Matthew 27 but has not retracted the view nor his view that such a position is compatible with inerrancy.

 

 

Correction: Point 9 of this article was corrected in March 2013 after being informed (indirectly) that Licona believes Matthew wrote the Gospel by his name.  Hopefully, Licona will now address the main point and explain how his belief that a contradiction in the Gospels about the day on which Jesus was crucified is consistent with the doctrine of inerrancy he confesses to believe.  Inerrancy means the Bible is without error in everything it affirms, and a contradiction means that at least one of the things affirmed was in error.  An inspired error is an oxymoron.  Further, appealing, as Licona does, to pagan writers who believed such errors were acceptable in their writings does not exonerate biblical authors, who uttered only truth in Scripture, from a violation of the Law of Non-contradiction.   —-Norm Geisler

 

 

Setting the Record Straight on the Best Schools Interview with Dr. Michael Licona


Setting the Record Straight on the Best Schools Interview with Dr. Michael Licona

By Norman L. Geisler

Recently Mike Licona recorded an interview for theBestSchools.org(5/2/2012). There are many things in this interview which have serious implications for the ongoing inerrancy debate among evangelicals to which we have spoke more fully in our recent book, Defending Inerrancy (Baker, 2012; link). Being familiar with the circumstances and issues involved here, I feel obligated to comment on this interview.  The issue is simply too important to neglect.

  1. Among other passages (listed below in # 4), in his book on The Resurrection of Jesus [hereafter RJ], Licona denied the historicity of the raising of the saints in Matthew 27:51-53. Even after subsequently rethinking the matter, he still retains serious doubts about it. This is important for inerrantists since, as we shall see, to deny the historicity of this text is to deny its inerrancy (see # 3 below).

Contrary to Licona, there are many lines of evidence for the historicity of this text. Considered cumulatively, they place it beyond reasonable doubt that this passage is historical and not legendary, as Licona affirmed.  Here is a brief summary of the arguments for the historicity of this text:

(1) This passage is part of a historical record—the Gospel of Matthew.  Hence, as such, it too should be taken historically;

(2) Both the larger setting (the Gospel of Matthew) and the specific context (the crucifixion and resurrection narrative) demand the presumption of historicity for this narrative, unless there is strong evidence to the contrary in the text, its context, or in other Scripture—which there is not;

(3) This story manifests no literary signs of being poetic, apocalyptic, or legendary, such as those found in parables, poems, or other symbolic presentations;

(4) It has no indication of being a legendary embellishment, but it is a short, simple, straight-forward account in the exact style one expects in a brief historical narrative;

(5) The resurrection of these saints is presented as the result of the physical historical resurrection of Christ.  Contrary to Licona’s view, the passage states that these saints were resurrected only “after” Jesus was resurrected and as a result of it (Matt 27:53) since Jesus is the “firstfruits” of the dead (1Cor 15:20).  The tomb was initially opened as a result of the earthquake at the time of the crucifixion, but the saints were not raised until after Jesus’ resurrection (Mt. 27:53).  It makes no sense to claim that a legend emerged as the immediate result of Jesus’ physical resurrection;

(6) The record has the same pattern as the historical records of Jesus’ physical and historical resurrection: (a) there were dead bodies; (b) they were buried in a tomb; (c) they were raised to life again; (d) they came out of the tomb and left it empty; (e) they appeared to many witnesses;

(7) This text is connected to the preceding historical events surrounding the death of Christ by a repeated series of “and…and…and” etc;

(8) The preceding events are literal events, one of which is confirmed in two other Gospels, namely,  the temple veil being torn in two (Mt. 27:51 cf. Mk. 15:38; Lk.23:45).  (90)  As will be shown in the next point, from the earliest times—even during apostolic times—this text was taken literally and historically by the great Fathers of the Christian Church.

  1. 2. Strangely, Licona claims that “Matthew’s story of some saints raised at Jesus’ death has left people scratching their heads, from the early Church through modern scholarship.”  However, this is totally misleading since one is hard pressed to find any orthodox scholar in early or later pre-modern church history who denied the historicity of this passage.  Indeed, from the earliest times it was considered historical. Ignatius of Antioch from the first century (c. A. D. 35-107), a contemporary of the apostle John, referred to the resurrection of these saints as a historical event (Epistles to the Trallians, chap. 8 cf. Epistle to the Magnesians, chap. 9).  Irenaeus (2nd) who knew Polycarp, a disciple of the apostle John (Fragment 28) and even Origenin the third century (Against Celsus, Book II, chap 33), who had a strong propensity to allegorize, considered Matthew 27 to be a literal raising of these saints from the graves. St. Jerome (4th cent.), and Thomas Aquinas(13th cent.) also held to its historicity (see Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea [Commentary According to St. Matthew], vol. 1, 963-964).  So did the reformer John Calvin (see John Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries, vol. 3, 211-212), and many others.  So, there is a virtual unbroken line from apostolic times through the early and medieval fathers to modern times for the historicity of the Matthew 27:51-52 resurrection of the saints.  So, the relatively few and late contemporary scholars who deny the historicity of this text must buck the full weight of the great Fathers of the Christian Church on this issue.
  1. Licona claims that his view is consistent with inerrancy—even with the ICBI (International Council on Biblical Inerrancy) view of inerrancy.However, this is clearly not the case for inerrancy involves the historicity of the Gospel narrative.  Consider the following ICBI citations:  Article 12:We affirm that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit. We deny that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science.” Article 9:We affirm that inspiration… guaranteed true and trustworthy utterance on all matters of which the Biblical authors were moved to speak and write.  Article 18:We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices [like figures of speech], and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture. We deny the legitimacy of any treatment of the text or quest for sources lying behind it that leads to relativizing, dehistoricizing, or discounting its teaching, or rejecting its claims to authorship.”  In addition, selections from the official ICBI commentary titled Explaining Inerrancyconfirm it. Article 12: “Though the Bible is indeed redemptive history, it is also redemptive history, and this means that the acts of salvation wrought by God actually occurred in the space-time world.… All the claims of the Bible must correspond with reality, whether that reality is historical, factual or spiritual. By biblical standards truth and error is meant the view used both in the Bible and in everyday life, viz., a correspondence view of truth.” Article 18:When the quest for sources produces adehistoricizing of the Bible…it has trespassed beyond its proper limits. Another official ICBI commentary on Explaining Hermeneutics declares (in EH Article 13): “We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual.  Some, for instance, take Adam to be a myth, whereas in Scripture he is presented as a real person.  Others take Jonah to be an allegory when he is presented as a historical person and [is] so referred to by Christ.”  This makes it unmistakably clear that myths, legends, and embellishments, such as Licona allows in the Gospels, are not part of  the ICBI view of an inerrant (wholly truthful) book such as the Bible.
  1. Also, Licona does not challenge the interviewer who said, “Norman Geisler accused you of denying biblical inerrancy for your interpretation of a few verses in Matthew 27. As a result, you resigned your appointment with the North American Mission Board and left Southern Evangelical Seminary.”  First of all, if the Bible errs on even one verse, it is a denial of inerrancy.  For if it is the inerrant Word of God, then it cannot err even once—for God cannot err (Titus 1:2; Heb. 6:18; Jn. 17:17).  Furthermore, it was not just a few verses in Matthew but Licona’s denying the historicity of many places in the Gospels that warrants the charge of denying the ICBI view on inerrancy.  Consider the following denials or doubts about the historicity of events in the Gospels stated by Licona: (1) A denial of the physical resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27:51-54 (RJ, 548-553); (2) Doubting the historicity of the mob falling backward at Jesus’ claim “I am he” in John 18:4-6 (RJ, 306, note 114); (3) A denial of the historicity of the angels at the tomb recorded in all four Gospels (Mt. 28:2-7; Mk. 16:5-7; Lk. 24:4-7; Jn. 20:11-14) (RJ, 185-186); (4) The claim that the Gospel genre is Greco-Roman biography which he says is a “flexible genre” in which “it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins” (RJ, 34);

(5) In a debate with Bart Erhman at Southern Evangelical Seminary in the Spring of 2009 that Licona asserted concerning the day Jesus was crucified that: “I think that John probably altered the day in order for a theological—to make a theological point there.  But that does not mean that Jesus wasn’t crucified.”  However, it does mean that Licona believes that text is in error! This is a flat denial of the inerrancy of Scripture!

Further, it is misleading to leave the interviewer’s statement stand uncorrected that Licona simply “left Southern Evangelical Seminary.” The truth of the matter is that after the faculty examined his views personally, they voted to no longer have him listed as a faculty member and to dissolve his position.  Thereupon, Licona picture and position were removed from the SES faculty on their web site. After they examined Licona, one faculty member who questioned him declared, “His view is worse than I thought.”

  1. Licona also casts doubt on the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27 by asking: “Why is Matthew the only one to report it?” But we may ask in response: How many times does something have to be mentioned in a historical Gospel record for it to be historically true?  And since Licona claims to believe in the divine inspiration of Scripture, then we may ask how many times does God have to say it for it to be true? Many events are mentioned only once in the Gospels, such as Jesus’ sermon to Nicodemus (Jn. 3); His encounter with the woman at the well (Jn. 4); the story of Zacchaeus (Lk. 19), the visit of the wise men (Mt. 2), the healing of the invalid (Jn. 5), the raising of Lazarus from the dead (Jn. 11), the coin in the mouth of the fish (Mt. 17:27), and may other events. Shall we reject all of these too?
  1. Licona claims that “If these saints [of Mt. 27] were raised with resurrection bodies, then Matthew contradicts Paul who wrote that Jesus was the first to have been raised with a resurrection body (1 Cor. 15:20).” However, this is a misinterpretation of Matthew 27 which says that the saints were not resurrected until after Jesus was. The doors of these tombs were “opened” when Jesus died (Mt. 27:52), but the bodies only came “out of the tombs after his [Jesus’] resurrection” (Mt. 27:53, emphasis added).  See the excellent article on this point by John Wenham titled “When Were the Saints Raised” (JTS 32 (1981: 150-152).  Furthermore, even if these saints were raised prior to Jesus’ resurrection it is still a historical event since Jesus raised Lazarus before His resurrection (Jn. 11).  In this case these saints would have received their same mortal bodies as Lazarus did and, hence, would not have been part of “the firstfruits” of the resurrection in an immortal resurrection body (1 Cor. 15:20) but would have eventually died again.
  1. Lacking biblical (see #1) and historic Christian support (see # 2) for denying the historicity of the account in Matthew 27 of the resurrection of the saints, Licona identifies his source as a noted contemporary New Testament scholar, Richard Burridge. From him he acquired the belief that the Gospels are a Greco-Roman genre which allows legends in the text [RJ, 34, 202-203]. This influence in manifested in the denial or doubting of the historicity of many Gospel events (see # 3).  Licona wrote, “As I had been reading through the Greco-Roman and Jewish literature of the period, I found numerous examples of similar reports of phenomena that were connected to historical events having a huge amount of significance. In one case, Virgil lists 16 phenomena related to the death of Julius Caesar in what is certainly a poetic genre.” But since when do extra-biblical legendary accounts become hermeneutically definitive in determining the historicity of a Gospel narrative?

The ICBI framers (with which Licona claims to agree) spoke to this very point in Explaining Hermeneutics, declaring (in EH Article 13): “We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual.” And Article 18:We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture.”  Nowhere is it stated that part of the historical-grammatical method of interpreting the Bible is that extra-scriptural texts are to be used to interpret scripture.  So, again, Licona’s view is contrary to the ICBI understanding of inerrancy.  As a matter of fact, as a framer of these statements I can assure the readers that one person we had in mind was Robert Gundry who, like Licona, had denied the historicity of sections of Matthew by appeal to extra-biblical stories to do so.

  1. Licona claims, “I immersed myself in literature written by philosophers of history and professional historians on the nature of historical knowledge…” and admits being “obsessed with my [his] research.” Yet he does not seem to be aware of the degree to which he was poisoned by his baptism into Greco-Roman literature which penetrated his mind by unbiblical presuppositions which are manifest in the skeptical conclusions he came to about many Gospel events (see # 4). He claims, “I subjected a variety of hypotheses to strictly controlled historical method in a more comprehensive manner than has been previously offered.” However, he does not seem to realize that this “new historiographical approach” (as he calls it in the subtitle of his book onThe Resurrection of Jesus) actually undermines evangelical beliefs about the complete historicity of the Gospels.
  1. Licona also mentions the strong influence Gary Habermas was on him and that they became close friends. Indeed, he refers here and elsewhere to the advice given to him by a close friend not to engage in dialog with me on this matter.  However, Habermas’s view on inerrancy   straddles both sides of the fence.  It is for this that he was let go from the Faculty of Veritas Evangelical Seminary, namely, “It was “…because of your own view of inerrancy that was contrary to the Veritas Seminary doctrinal statement on inerrancy. That is, your view accepts: the belief that inerrancy is consistent with the view that rejects Gospel narratives as completely historical (angels at the tomb, falling down of those seizing Jesus, and resurrection of saints)….” (VES Letter from the president, 11/21/11).

On the one hand, Habermas does not agree with Licona’s view that the Matthew 27 raising of the saints is unhistorical. On the other hand, Habermas defends Licona’s view as orthodox.  Habermas wrote, “In my opinion, Mike Licona doesn’t at all deny inerrancy by his interpretation of Matthew 27:52-53,” saying, “Evangelicals regularly allow for all sorts of similar moves where particular texts are taken other than literally, whether it is the old earth/young earth discussions of the word ‘day’ in Genesis 1, …angels on Jesus’ Olivet Discourse, or [whether] the signs in the sun, moon and so on were fulfilled literally on Pentecost.”  In response, it should be pointed out that first of all that no evangelical, using the historical-grammatical hermeneutic denies the historicity of Genesis, however long he considers the “days” of Genesis chapter one to be.  Second, both old-earth inerrantists, as well as young-earthers, affirm the historicity of Genesis. Third, no orthodox theologians, let alone an inerrantist, that Habermas claims to be, denies there will be a literal second coming of Christ.  So, at best Habermas’s comments turn out to be irrelevant to the issue of the historicity of the Matthew 27 text and, at worst, a diversion of the issue.  Fourth, Habermas informed me that he voted to exclude Gundry from ETS (1983) for holding a similar view that dehistoricized parts of the Gospel record. Assuming he voted in good conscience, shouldn’t he feel the same way about his friend, Mike Licona’s view?  Or is he is allowing fraternity to trump orthodoxy?

  1. Licona refers to leaving a position he loved with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) at their North American Mission Board (NAMB). But he fails to mention that before he resigned he flew across the country and tried to convince a key SBC leader that his views were orthodox. After failing to convince him by arguments similar to those given by Habermas (in #9 above), he knew that his days were numbered in the SBC and resigned. As one SBC leader told me, “this is the very thing we fought against in the Southern Baptist convention, and so many suffered so greatly in the process.”  Thus, he hoped that Licona would “no longer continue to bring that kind of trouble into Southern Baptist life.” (Letter of August, 2011).
  2. Licona insists that dehistoricizing a Gospel narrative is not really different from using figures of speech. He wrote, “It’s much like we might say that the events of [September] 9-11 were ‘earth shaking’ or that ‘it rained cats and dogs.’” However, this is a false analogy.  For figures of speech can be, and often are, used of literal events.  The Bible speaks of putting “chains” on Satan to bind him (Rev. 20), but this should not be used to deny the real literal existence of Satan.  It also speaks of God having arms and even eyes (Heb. 4:13), but yet He is pure Spirit (Jn. 4:24).  Yet behind these figures of speech there is a literal reality.
  1. Licona unfairly stereotypes those who oppose his denial of the historicity of certain Gospel events. He caricaturizes them as “ultraconservatives who have what I regard as an overly wooden view of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy accused me of dehistoricizing the biblical text because I didn’t believe it because of its supernatural nature.”  But this is clearly not the case. If it were, then virtually all the great orthodox commentators in the history of the Christian Church up to and through the Reformation were “ultraconservatives” with an “overly wooden view of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy” have been guilty! (see John Hannah, Inerrancy and the Church). Further, the nearly 300 contemporary ICBI scholars would also guilty of the same.  It does not seem to occur to Licona that perhaps it is the few contemporary scholars (in comparison to the whole history of Christianity) that follow Greco-Roman legends who are wrong.
  1. Licona relies on a misuse of the hermeneutical principle of looking for the “intention” of the author to determine the true meaning of a text. He affirmed, “The matter for me was whether Matthew had intended for his readers to think that some saints had actually been raised” (emphasis added).  This ambiguous term “intention” can mean unexpressed intention orexpressed intention.  But there is no way to determine the New Testament author’s unexpressed intention.  And his expressed intention in the text of Matthew 27 clearly indicates that Matthew intended it to be taken literally and historically for many reasons (given in #1).   In short, the meaning of a text is discovered by examining the text in its context.  But both the immediate and more remote contexts indicated this text should be taken literally (see #1 above).  For it is written in the same historical fashion as Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.  One thing is certain: the intention of a biblical author is not found in Greco-Roman authors, but in the Bible itself. The Bible is still the best interpreter of the Bible.
  1. Licona uses a false analogy to justify his position, claiming that “Many early Christian males castrated themselves after misinterpreting Jesus’ teaching about some making themselves eunuchs for the sake of God’s kingdom (Matthew 19:12).” First of all, the issue at hand is whether the passage in Matthew 27 is historical, not whether it has figures of speech in another passage should be taken literally. Second, the context in Matthew 19 and the rest of Scripture would indicate that Jesus was using a figure of speech when he spoke of making oneself a “eunuch” for the kingdom.  The immediate context is about whether or not someone should marry (Mt. 19:10), not whether they should mutilate their bodies so that they could not marry. Further, the rest of Scripture indicates that we should not mutilate our bodies which embody the image of God (Gen. 1:27; Jas. 3:9), but should respect and care for them (Eph. 5:29).
  1. Licona passes over one of the most crucial objections to his view with only brief comments, namely, the objection that “one might attempt—as many already have—to make the same move with Jesus’ resurrection.” But the brief treatment in his book does not exonerate his view from the charge.For if the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27 which was a result of Jesus resurrection is taken as legendary, then does this not undermine confidence that Jesus’ resurrection is historical. As noted Southern Baptist scholar Dr. Al Mohler put it on his web site: “Licona has handed the enemies of the resurrection of Jesus Christ a powerful weapon — the concession that some of the material reported by Matthew in the very chapter in which he reports the resurrection of Christ simply did not happen and should be understood as merely ‘poetic device’ and ‘special effects’… (emphasis added).”
  1. Licona engages in a case of special pleading when he claims that “Most of the highly respected evangelical scholars sided with me in the controversy.” First of all, opponents of his view could easily say the same thing. It all depends on who is choosing the test group and on what grounds. Second, a survey of thousands of Christian leaders and laypersons which I took shows that some 76 percent did not agree with Licona’s view. Further many scholars who disagree with Licona are presented on my web site (http://normangeisler.net/). Third, Licona himself acknowledged that even of those who believed his view was not unorthodox, nevertheless, “Many did not agree with the interpretation of Matthew’s raised saints I proposed.”  Fourth, as shown above, denying the historicity of this text is contrary to the vast majority of the great teachers of the Christian church up to modern times (see #2 above).
  1. Licona boasts of his successful debates with many noted unbelieversusing his “new historiographical approach.”  Yet I was told by some persons friendly to Licona view who were present at the Bart Ehrman debate that they believed that Licona had lost the debate. After the event, one father told me that he was informed by his son who heard the debate that he did not want to go to church any more!  Indeed, as we have seen, Licona’s views actually opens the doors to skepticism about the Gospel records by claiming the Gospels are Greco-Roman genre which he affirms is a “flexible genre” in which “it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins” (RJ, 34).
  1. Licona downplays the Southern Baptist reaction to his deviant view, saying, “I remain persona non grata with some SBC entities and that’s unfortunate…. I’ve never regarded Southern Baptists as the only true evangelical Christians.” However, the truth of the matter is that both inside and outside the SBC there are hundreds, even thousands, who believe Licona’s view is contrary to the ICBI understanding of inerrancy which was also adopted by the ETS (the largest group of scholars in the world confessing inerrancy). The truth is that the leaders of most SBC seminaries do not believe his view on this matter is orthodox.  Many, like Paige Patterson and Al Moher have spoken out against it in print.  Another SBC president wrote me, saying, he would never hire Licona.  Still another SBC president agreed with the International Society of Christian Apologetics (seewww.ISCA–Apologetics.org) that his view was not consistent with the ICBI view on inerrancy.  The board of the largest SBC linked School, Liberty University, decided not to give Licona a faculty position, even though some long-time Licona friends on staff were pushing for it.  The faculty of a non-SBC school, Southern Evangelical Seminary, voted to exclude Licona from their staff, and his picture and position were dropped from their catalog.  The list goes on.
  1. Strangely, Licona complained about critics of his view: “I’ve been very disappointed to see the ungodly behavior of a few of my detractors. The theological bullying, the termination and internal intimidation put on a few professors in SBC…all this revealed the underbelly of fundamentalism.” The truth is that name-calling, such as this, has no place in a scholarly dialog. All of those I know (many of whom are identified above) who disagree with Licona’s view are sincere, dedicated scholars who desire to preserve the orthodoxy of the Christian church against deviant view such as Licona’s. Calling their defense of the Faith an act of “bullying” diminishes their critic, not them.  Indeed, calling ones opponent a “tar baby” (which Licona does) and labeling their actions as “ungodly behavior” is a classic example of how not to defend one’s view against its critics.  What is more, while Licona condemned the use of the internet to present scholarly critiques of his view as a “circus,” he refused to condemn an offensive YouTube cartoon produced by his son-in-law and a friend who falsely caricatured a scholarly critique of his view.  The video wrongly claims that we said Licona had “sinned.”  No such statement was ever made.  Further, producing cartoon caricatures portraying a critic of his view as a “Scrooge” may reflect creativity, but it is no substitute for orthodoxy.  Even Southern Evangelical Seminary, where Licona was once a faculty member before his dismissal, condemned this approach in a letter from “the office of the president,” saying, “We believe this video was totally unnecessary and is in extremely poor taste” (12/9/2011).  One influential alumnus wrote the school, saying, “It was immature, inappropriate and distasteful” and recommended that “whoever made this video needs to pull it down and apologize for doing it” (12/21/2011). The former president of the SES student body declared: “I’ll be honest that video was outright slander and worthy of punishment. I was quite angry after watching it” (Letter 12/17/2011).  Further, when asked to apologize for claiming on the internet that this kind of slam was appropriate, Licona refused to do so.
  1. One is shocked to hear Licona claim that the inerrancy of Scripture debate here described is only “splitting hairs” and is not really an “essential” doctrine. He wrote, “So, I also didn’t want to spend my time splitting hairs over an interpretation that, in my opinion, doesn’t have any bearing on the essentials.  He wrote, “I do not regard the doctrine of biblical inerrancy to be foundational to the Christian faith”! (emphasis added).  If he means by this that a person could be saved without believing in inerrancy, then there is no problem.  There are saved people who do not believe in inerrancy. However, without an inerrant Bible we would have no divinely authoritative basis for our salvation.  The doctrine of inerrancy (the total truthfulness of the Bible) is foundational to every other doctrine of the Christian Faith. For every other foundational doctrine (like the deity of Christ, His death and resurrection) are based on the Scriptures. And if the Bible is not divinely authoritative (and thereby, inerrant), then we would have no divinely authoritative basis for believing any other fundamental doctrine of Scripture based on it. In this sense, the inerrancy of Scripture is the fundamental of the fundamentals.  And if the fundamental of the fundamental is not fundamental, then what is fundamental?  The answer is fundamentally nothing.  Of course, Jesus’ death and resurrection could be true without there being an inerrant Bible.  However, with the Bible we don’t have a divinely authoritative basis for believing that these other doctrines are true. So, contrary to Licona’s claim, the doctrine of biblical inerrancy is epistemologically foundational to the Christian Faith (see Geisler and Rhodes,Conviction without Compromise, chap. 16).
  1. Licona demeans most SBC inerrantists as “an ultraconservative wing that would like to pull the denomination back into fundamentalism where people are told, we know the answers. ‘Don’t question me. Just get back in line and follow me. I’m protecting the Church’.” However, I don’t think that’s where the majority of SBC church members or even SBC professors are.” Besides being false about both the number and nature of Southern Baptists, this is a demeaning way to characterize those who are sincerely and earnestly trying to preserve the orthodoxy and vitality of one of the largest Protestant denominations in the world! As a non SBC scholar, I have the greatest respect for the Sothern Baptist leaders who championed the inerrancy cause. It was historic.  It reversed the course of history on a major doctrinal declension. They all deserve bronze plaques in Nashville and some (like Paige Patterson) deserve a statue.  Ironically, some of the names whom Licona drops as SBC leaders whom he respects actually disagree with his view on inerrancy and one of them told me in a letter that he would never hire Licona at his school.
  2. Speaking of “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy [which] defines it most exhaustively,” Licona claims, “But even those who helped compose it aren’t in complete agreement about its meaning. I continue to be a biblical inerrantist and subscribe to both the Lausanne Covenant and the Chicago Statement.” However, this claim by Licona is flatly false. There are only three living framers of the ICBI statements (J. I. Packer, R.C. Sproul, and myself), and we all agree that Licona’s views are not compatible with the ICBI statements (see # 3).  What Licona does to the ICBI statements is typical of what many of his peers do with the New Testament, namely, they read their meaning into it (eisegesis) rather than reading the framer’s view out of it (exegesis).  Indeed, Licona is so bold as to affirm that those of us who are living ICBI framers do not properly understand the statements we framed!  No wonder they misinterpret the New Testament. If Washington, Madison, and Jefferson were here today, by this same logic they would no doubt say to them that they did not properly understand The Declaration of Independence!
  1. Licona also misunderstands and mischaracterizes the historical-grammatical interpretation of the Bible as the belief that “everything in the Bible should be interpreted literally. For example, I don’t think that Jesus’ teaching on lust meant that guys should actually gouge out their eyes if they struggle with it (Matthew 5:28-29).” However, no sophisticated proponent of the historical-grammatical interpretation of the Bible (which ICBI affirms) denies there are symbols and figures of speech in the Bible, and gouging out one’s eyes is certainly one. The ICBI statement affirms clearly that “Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices” (Article XVIII cf. Article XIII). But even symbols and figures of speech have literal referents, as indicated above (in #12).But allowing for figures of speech within a text (like “asleep” for dead in Matthew 27) does not mean it was not referring to a literal dead body that was subsequently literally raised from the dead as a result of Jesus’ literal death and resurrection.
  2. Licona still refuses to retract his aberrant view on the Matthew 27 saints and other passages (see #4). He said, “The controversy forced me to dig deeper and I have since modified my position to one of uncertainty pertaining to how Matthew intended the saints raised at Jesus’ death to be interpreted.” However, there are several problems with this response.  First, it falls short of a retraction.  Second, Licona has not rejected the theological method (the use of Greco-Roman biography which allows for legends in the NT text) which led him to his unorthodox conclusion on Matthew 27.  Finally, this was only one of many texts which Licona’s method led him to doubt the historicity of many Gospel events (see # 4).  He has not retracted his views on any of these issues to date.
  1. Licona contends that his view is just a matter of interpretation, not a matter of inerrancy. Thus, he believes that one can hold different interpretations of this Matthew 27 text (and others) without denying its inerrancy.  However, this is a false disjunction of interpretation from inerrancy for several reasons.

First, there is only a formal distinction between interpretation and inerrancy, not a total disjunction.  Otherwise, biblical inerrancy is an empty vacuous claim that the whole Bible is truth without making a claim that anything in it is actually true.

Second, Licona’s bifurcation of interpretation and inerrancy would mean that even a totally allegorical method which spiritualizes away every literal truth of the Bible (including the death and resurrection of Christ) could be held without denying inerrancy. This means that if Mary Baker Eddy or her Christian Science followers claimed to hold the complete inerrancy of whatever the Bible teaches and yet, as they do, deny the literal truth of the death and resurrection of Christ, the existence of matter, evil, and hell, nevertheless, they could not be thereby be rightly charged with denying the inerrancy of the Bible!

Third, such a disjunction of interpretation from inerrancy as Licona makes is contrary to the nature of truth itself. For truth is what corresponds to reality. ICBI clearly defines truth as “what corresponds to reality,” affirming that “all the claims of the Bible must correspond with reality, whether that reality is historical, factual or spiritual” (R. C. Sproul, Explaining Inerrancy, 41).  But, if Licona’s claim is valid, then there is no reality to which the claim that “the Bible is completely true” actually corresponds.

Fourth, even granting the obvious claim that the Bible must be interpreted in order to understand its meaning, this does not imply, as Licona claims, that hermeneutical methods are inerrancy-neutral. For there are hermeneutical presuppositions that are contrary to an evangelical view of inerrancy.  For example, a total allegorical method like that of Christian Science is not compatible with an evangelical view of what is meant when one claims the Bible is completely true.  This is why the famous ICBI “Chicago Statement” on biblical inerrancy includes Article XVIII says “We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatical-historical exegesis….”  In short, any method of interpreting Scripture that does not use the literal, historical-grammatical method is inconsistent with inerrancy.  This means that any other method, like an allegorical method, is incompatible with an evangelical view of inerrancy.

Fifth, the historical-grammatical method does not approach the Bible with a historically neutral stance.  After all, it is not called the “literal” method for nothing.  It assumes there is a sensus literalis (literal sense) to Scripture.   In short, it assumes that a text should be taken literally unless there are good grounds in the text and/or in the context to take it otherwise.  As a matter of fact, we cannot even know a non-literal (e.g., allegorical or poetic) sense unless we know what is literally true.  So, when Jesus said, “I am the vine” this should not be taken literally because we know what a literal vine is, and we know that Jesus is not one.

Sixth, the ICBI inerrancy statement against “dehistoricizing” a biblical narrative presupposes its historicity. Contrary to Licona, biblical inerrantists do not approach a biblical narrative with a history-neutral presupposition (Article XVIII).  Indeed, neither do common persons reading road signs or newspapers approach them in a literal-free manner.  We approach almost everything in life with the presumption that it is literally true, unless there is good reason in the text or context to do otherwise.

Seventh, what is more, Licona’s “new” approach rejects another venerable hermeneutical principle expressed by ICBI when it insists that “Scripture is to interpret Scripture” (Article XVIII, emphasis added).  For Licona insists that extra-biblical data (e.g., Greco-Roman legends) can be used to interpret Scripture.  He wrote, “There is somewhat of a consensus among contemporary scholars that the Gospels belong to the genre of Greco-Roman biography” which, he adds, “often included legend” that is a “flexible genre” in which “it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins” (Licona, RJ, 34).  But the Greco-Roman use of legend mixed with history is not a suitable model for interpreting a biblical narrative.

One ICBI framer summarized the issue well: “Inspiration without inerrancy is an empty term. Inerrancy without inspiration is unthinkable. The two are inseparably related. They may be distinguished but not separated. So it is with hermeneutics. We can easily distinguish between the inspiration and interpretation of the Bible, but we cannot separate them. Anyone can confess a high view of the nature of Scripture but the ultimate test of one’s view of Scripture is found in his method of interpreting it. A person’s hermeneutic reveals his view of Scripture more clearly than does an exposition of his view” (R. C. Sproul, “Biblical Interpretation and The Analogy of Faith” in Inerrancy and Common Sense, ed. by Roger R. Nicole, 134, emphasis added).  Indeed, ICBI insisted that the historical-grammatical method of interpreting Scripture was part of its understanding of biblical inerrancy.

Some Important Concluding Comments

First, inerrancy remains a watershed issue among evangelicals.  It is foundational to all that we believe.  A Bible with an error in it of any kind cannot be a divinely authoritative book.  Hence, undermining the inerrancy of the Bible by allowing for legends in the Gospels (as Licona does) is a serious doctrinal deviation.

Second, the ICBI statement on inerrancy is still the most significant one in the last century for many reasons: (1)  It was produced by the largest number of scholars cutting across national and denominational lines; (2) It has been accepted by the largest group of evangelical scholars, the Evangelical Theological Society (ETS) as a guide in interpreting the meaning of inerrancy; (3) The ETS society, by an overwhelming vote of 70%, asked Robert Gundry to resign because he had (like Licona) rejected the historicity of parts of the Gospel record.

Third, as shown above, Licona’s views are contrary to those of the ICBI.  This means that they stand contrary to those adopted by the largest group of evangelical scholars in the world. Further, to approve of Licona’s denial of sections of the Gospel record would in effect reverse the Gundry decision and open the flood gates of evangelicals to more liberal New Testament scholars who do not really believe in unlimited inerrancy in the tradition of the great early fathers and teachers of the Christian church, B.  B. Warfield, the framers of the ETS, and the framers of ICBI, and of the Southern Baptist resurgence, all of which in turn stand in continuity with the orthodox view of Scripture down through the centuries.  In effect, approving of Licona’s deviant views on Scripture would reverse the course of evangelical history down through the centuries.  This we cannot allow.  Here we must stand.  We can do no other.

 

The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy:http://library.dts.edu/Pages/TL/Special/ICBI_1.pdf

The Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics:http://library.dts.edu/Pages/TL/Special/ICBI_2.pdf

For an official ICBI commentary by Dr. R. C. Sproul on CSBI and a commentary by Dr. N. L. Geisler on CSBH, see Explaining Biblical Inerrancy at http://bastionbooks.com.