Guest / Limited Access /
Interpretation Sparks a Grave Theology Debate
Image: Courtesy of Baptist Press

A fiery debate has erupted over a leading Southern Baptist apologist's questioning of Matthew 27. The question: whether Matthew's reference to many saints rising from their graves after Jesus' resurrection might not be literal history.

The theological war of words, spurred by high-profile open letters and retorts on the Internet, has raised questions about the meaning of biblical inerrancy. It has also led to the departure of Michael Licona as apologetics coordinator for the North American Mission Board (NAMB).

At issue is a passage of Licona's 700-page The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, published in 2010 by InterVarsity Press.

"Based on my reading of the Greco-Roman, Jewish, and biblical literature, I proposed that the raised saints are best interpreted as Matthew's use of an apocalyptic symbol communicating that the Son of God had just died," said Licona, former research professor of New Testament at Southern Evangelical Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina. Licona voluntarily resigned from the seminary on October 4 after the print version of this article went to press.

In a series of open letters posted online, Norman Geisler, distinguished professor of apologetics at Veritas Evangelical Seminary in Murrieta, California, objected to Licona's characterizing the passage as a "strange little text." Geisler accused Licona of denying the full inerrancy of Scripture. He also called for Licona to recant his interpretation, labeling it "unorthodox, non-evangelical, and a dangerous precedent for the rest of evangelicalism."

In a 2,800-word blog post, Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky, ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
RecommendedWhat You Probably Don’t Know about ‘The Least of These’
What You Probably Don’t Know about ‘The Least of These’
A more biblically accurate understanding of Jesus' words in Matthew 25.
TrendingHow 1,000 Women Who Aborted Feel About the Local Church
How 1,000 Women Who Aborted Feel About the Local Church
Survey: Two in three evangelicals were attending monthly or more at the time of their first abortion.
Editor's PickGood Behavior Matters After All
Good Behavior Matters After All
How I discovered God's plan to reach a lost and sinful world.
Christianity Today
Interpretation Sparks a Grave Theology Debate
hide thisNovember November

In the Magazine

November 2011

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.