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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.

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Displaying 1–74 of 74 comments

rickd

November 14, 2011  11:35am

Of course, you have the resurrection of the widow's son by Elisha, the resurrection of the dead man in the grave when Elisha's bones touched him, the resurrection of Lazurus, the Resurrection of the widow of Nain's son. Jesus instruction to the 12 disciples to heal the sick and raise the dead, Jesus' resurrection, the resurrection of the saints in Jerusalem when Jesus was raised, The resurrection of Tabitha and Eutychus in Acts, plus all the current documented accounts around the world today. So, obviously John was talking about an unprecedented general resurrection of of that part of the human race that were Christians, at least a billion saints all at once. A unique event by magnitude only equaled by a following resurrection of all human beings, at least 7 or 8 billion. It was the 1st and second resurrection of this kind. By the way, this also puts the resurrection of the saints in Matthew in context as miraculous but certainly not unprecedented.

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Vic

November 14, 2011  1:17am

If the resurrection of the saints occurred as stated in Mat 27 then the resurrection mentioned in Rev 20:5 "But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection" could not be labelled THE FIRST RESURRECTION, it would have been the SECOND, so take your pick - which one is correct and which one is false?

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rickd

November 12, 2011  1:00pm

Max, the problem I have is the very first assumption, that the Gospel of Matthew is simply a greco-roman style biography. You state that the “Bioi offered the ancient biographers great flexibility for rearranging material and inventing speeches… and they often included legend. Because bios was a flexible genre, it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins.” Of course, if you believe the Gospel of Matthew, or the entire Biblical record is full of legend, historical fiction, exagerration and myth, then it would be reasonable and even laudable to develop a methodology to separate fact from fiction. Then I would agree with most of the points of your critique. Go Max! However, these are not mere academic conflicts or disputes over hermeneutics and it is the supporters of Licona who are decrying the “vitriol” and the “witch hunts”. You have a low view of scripture and I and many others here simply do not agree with you.

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Philip Wilson

November 12, 2011  12:01am

As an Australian observer of the North American Evangelical scene (for over 40 years) I have often been saddened to read of the unnecessary conflicts that occur in the academic world. It saddens me to read that scholars whose wrirtigns have both aided me in my teaching and in my personal journey are treating an issue that is one of interpreataion as one of evangelical orthodoxy. I teach 14 to 18 year old students that we should be very careful not make one isolated interpretation of a text a test of a person's orthodoxy. Mostly this is in the context of questions relating to Genesis. While I do not agree with Michael Licona's interpretation, I do not consider that this alone should justify a charge of evangelical heresy. This is not the first time charges such as this have been directed at individuals. It is not the first time someone has been forced to resign. Unfortunately I do not expect it to be the last, unless there is a cultural change in the North American Seminary world.

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rickd

November 11, 2011  8:26pm

Sue, no one is making Licona swear to an interpretation of scripture. If that was what this was about it would not be news. As I said, many very different interpretations coexist in the evangelical church. Dispensationalist, charismatic, pre-millennial, a-millennial, arminian, calvinist. Often these positions all exist in the same pews as they do at our church. However, we all agree that the Bible is trustworthy, historical, non-mythological and vital to faith. The miracles are what they claim to be, the stories are not inventions by over-eager disciples. Those churches that believe the Bible is merely inspired, as Ghandi’s writings might be, or that the scriptures are riddled with myth, legend, inaccuracies and invention have a difficult time with evangelism. Licona had problems with the reliability of many scriptural passages, not just this one. That is why the faculty of his seminary voted him out.

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Dubber

November 11, 2011  8:08pm

If it is the word of God, Does it need defending? I say, NO. Don't we have other things to do other than fight over scripture. Where is peace and love?

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Sue

November 11, 2011  7:45pm

Rickd, what came first, church or New Testament? The Reformation dogma pulling the church back to the scriptures was necessary, but just the kind of vitriolic debate this article is about demonstrates we've been pulled too far. Those who make others swear allegiance to an interpretation do violence to the work of the living Spirit among us. The scriptures are the fruit of the Spirit active in the church. Inspired? Yes. Dictated? No.

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rickd

November 11, 2011  6:56pm

As I say, the dispensationalist Conservative Baptist church and the Foursquare church down the street of our town evangelize and minister together. Luis Palau, a non-charismatic, is beloved and speaks frequently at our charismatic church. Some pastors in our church of 5000 are young earth, some are old earth as I am. Pre-millennialists and a-millennialists, pre-trib and post-trib (often in the same pews), we all work together. However, we are all united in believing the Bible to be reliable, historical and non-mythological. We don’t find ourself evangelizing very often with churches that have a low view of the Bible because they also often don’t see the point of evangelism, believing the Bible unreliable and feeling that all sincere religions lead to salvation. I suppose that If I have to choose between church tradition and the clear command of the Bible, I will follow Martin Luther’s lead.

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Richard J. Mohr

November 11, 2011  6:29pm

There are inconsistencies in so many arguments about Scripture. I started my studies at Fuller when that seminary was being maligned for apparently throwing the Bible out the window. Ever since the early days, everyone has used Scripture to justify their interpretations. A megachurch minister had a series of sermons called, "What's Wrong with the Charismatic Movement." Meanwhile, charismatics were convinced that they were right. Both used the Bible. We Eastern Orthodox Christians use the term Holy Tradition in a way that you don't. We regard the Bible as reliable and have room for opinion but not opinion that contradicts what the Church has taught. You know that the Canon was not settled for a long, long time and that Paul made reference to what was passed on, whether orally or in writing. This is how it was back then - no email, no fax, no printing press. It was the leaders of the Early Church that decided what was in the Canon, not Luther, Calvin, and the others.

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rickd

November 11, 2011  6:05pm

Richard, the charismatic and the dispensationalist both believe in the reliability of the Bible. The young earth and the old earth proponents both believe in the reliability of the scriptures. Evangelicals of all these stripes fellowship together, pray together and evangelize together in our city. We may disagree about interpretation, but we place high value on the reliability of the scripture. However, churches and theologians who doubt the veracity of the Bible, question its historicity, discredit the miracles and believe that it contain fables are destructive to the faith and will not find much cooperation with other evangelicals. What point are you making when you assert that the church existed before the New Testament. That our faith or fellowship should not rest on the New Testament? That “Holy Tradition” is superior to Biblical doctrine?

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R. Walter Hoeppner

November 11, 2011  5:39pm

The Bible is not hard to understand. Believe it to your salvation or doubt it to your doom. It is quite clear to me whose voice it is that questions, "Yea, hath God said..." followed by, "Yea, God hath not said," then quotes a verse. This is not academic research, but rather a part of the falling away that precedes the return of the Lord.

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Richard J. Mohr

November 11, 2011  5:33pm

A comment of mine that followed rickd's has disappeared, so I'll try again. First, the Church existed for years before any of the New Testament was written. I know that many Protestants prefer not to study the practices (such as the Eucharist) of the Early Church but to ignore the role of Holy Tradition in the life of the Church is a mistake. Of course, if one does ignore Holy Tradition, then one is free to create his own - true? This seems to be the case as there are so many out there. As for the reliability issue - how many of you believe in a young Earth based on Genesis? If not, why not? If you believe that the Last Supper was a Passover meal, how do you reconcile that with John's account of when Jesus was crucified? And as far as unity is concerned, are any of you willing to end your identification with dispensationalism, the charismatic movement, and all the other distinctive parts of the Protestant world for the sake of unity? You don't really want to, do you?

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rickd

November 10, 2011  10:29pm

If we don’t have a Bible we can trust then all this breast beating about Christian unity is wasted. There is no church if there is no Bible. Norm Geisler identifies a pattern of skeptical hermeneutics, not just one example. (1) Licona denied the historicity of the resurrection of the saints in Matt 27 (2) He doubts the historicity of the story of the “angels” at the tomb, an event recorded in all 4 Gospels; (3) He doubts the historicity the mob falling backward when Jesus claimed “I am He” (4) He undermines the general reliability of the historicity of the Gospels by claiming that “there is somewhat of a consensus among contemporary scholars that the Gospels belong to the genre of Greco-Roman biography.” Then he goes on to say that “Bioi offered the ancient biographers great flexibility for rearranging material and inventing speeches,…and they often included legend. Because bios was a flexible genre, it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins.”

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Stephen Wheeley

November 10, 2011  9:26pm

As long as the some of the Church keeps turning against its own members over minor details like this, which have nothing to do with our ability to preach the Gospel and make disciples, then the advancement of the Kingdom is hindered and more souls are lost to the grip of real sin. Do humility and grace still exist in the hearts of these "theologians" who seem more concerned with defending "their" view of doctrine than with obeying the Great Commission ? They seem to forget that what they consider to be of earth shaking importance will never be read or heard of by 99.9% of the Church or perhaps more importantly, by those who don't know anything about Christ.

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Peter

November 10, 2011  6:23pm

I just read Geisler's lengthy response. The best I can tell is that he is stuck in a hermeneutial circle. What he appears to be saying of Licona is that he, Licona, doesn't believe the things we believe (or in the way we believe them), therefore he is wrong. All the while he elevates various modernist statements on inerrancy to be in someway beyond dispute. To be sure, none of this has anything to do with living a faithful and godly life. He appears to be straining at gnats of his own making while gulping down camels. (I think it's also worth mentioning that in good part the modern ideas of inerrancy and infallibility were created to fill a vacuum left by the Reformers' rejection of authority. Once authority was rejected, everyone and anyone could say anything about Scripture (as is prevalent in the modern evangelical community), and therefore these two categories came into being to try to stop the bleeding, as it were.)

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Max Andrews

November 10, 2011  1:58pm

I wanted to share my public support and endorsement of Mike.

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rickd

November 10, 2011  12:05pm

I am shocked by Christianity Today's turn towards theological liberalism. I used to view it as the bedrock of mainstream evangelical scholarship. Why would I say that? Read Norman Geisler's response. http://www.normangeisler.net/public_html/responsetoCTLicona.html

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N Geisler

November 10, 2011  10:55am

The question is broader than “whether Matthew's reference to many saints rising from their graves after Jesus' resurrection might not be literal history,” as CT claims. As we showed in our web site article (www.normangeisler.net) titled “Mike Licona on Inerrancy: It’s Worse than We Originally Thought,” Licona’s unorthodox theological method led him to several unorthodox conclusions: http://www.normangeisler.net/public_html/responsetoCTLicona.html

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Steve Johnson

November 10, 2011  8:22am

It seems that Dr. Licona's main problem is being a Southern Baptist. Worse than Roman Catholics, questioning established SBC orthodoxy is not tolerated.

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Galileo Unchained

November 10, 2011  1:27am

This action taints all Christian scholars. When their hands are tied because of a faith statement, how objective can we outsiders see them? When they can't follow the facts where they lead for fear of losing their jobs, their publications all become suspect. The zombie apocalypse is indeed pretty far fetched. I've written about these problems in an article titled "Contradictions in the resurrection account".

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Jim Moore

November 09, 2011  10:36pm

This kind of incident should not be surprising. The outing and "disciplining" of "heretics" is fundamental (no pun intended) to evangelicalism in all its forms. In every one of the several evangelical communities to which I have belonged there were tensions between people to the "left" and "right" on a particular issue, and almost always the people on the "right" suspected the "leftists" of heresy. Sometimes the suspicions ran the other way as well. People lost offices, jobs, friends and reputations over these issues. I'll bet Licona would as surely join with other evangelicals inclined to be more relaxed about the historical intentions of a few particular Gospel passages in consigning someone more "liberal" to the same fate if he could. It is purely a matter of degree. This is one of the theological taxes you pay for being an orthodox Christian.

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Truth Seeker

November 09, 2011  9:21am

Jesus had just risen from the dead, and Matthew knew Jesus' resurrection was a fact. Referring to the saints that rose, Matthew 27:53 says ". . . came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many." First, these saints "went". They physically moved. Second, they "appeared unto many". People saw these saints in physical form. They recognized them as saints that had died and been buried. Concrete or symbolism? It seems pretty clear to me.

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A Christian Academic

November 09, 2011  8:32am

Kudos to CT for bringing this to the community's attention. It is heartbreaking that such things happen in Christ's Church. Though I don't have the privilege of knowing Paul Copan or working in a seminary, as an evangelical academic I wish I could post this with my name attached, but I fear that it could hurt my employment prospects. I would urge those who rush to judgment of Licona to take the time to read his work. There is a whole world of orthodox hermenutics that is neither Bultmannian liberalism or Molher's easily shocked literalism. CT's editorial board should protest on behalf of Licona.

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archae ologist

November 09, 2011  3:45am

It is not about 'interpretation' but following the Holy Spirit to the truth.

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Basil

November 08, 2011  10:21pm

Why too much fuss here? One must not base a theology on one passage of scripture. (Or interpretation of it in most cases. ) Why don't we find any reference to this event in Mark or Luke? Or Paul?

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glenn wood

November 08, 2011  6:42pm

How slowly christianity creeps toward logical, sceptical thinking. It will take decades more but eventually it will happen: logic will replace faith.

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rickd

November 08, 2011  6:24pm

Yes Rory. I am guilty of applying the term "miracle" to Jesus' miracles. They are not metaphors or stories. I'm glad you are open to them being fictional. Your quote; "I think he would object to, among other things, your applying the category "miracle" both to this event and to Jesus' miracles, which assumes that Matthew - the narrator, the one telling the story - intends both this episode and Jesus' miracles to communicate the same thing (maybe "a substantiation of the reality of the supernatural" or something)." Good tap dancing though.

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Rory Tyer

November 08, 2011  4:37pm

@rickd - I think it is a misrepresentation to claim that "the only reason Licona would question this verse is because of the scale of the miracle." I think he would object to, among other things, your applying the category "miracle" both to this event and to Jesus' miracles, which assumes that Matthew - the narrator, the one telling the story - intends both this episode and Jesus' miracles to communicate the same thing (maybe "a substantiation of the reality of the supernatural" or something). But this is begging the question; part of Licona's point is that as he investigated Matthew he became open to the idea that from a literary / theological point of view Matthew may be intending here to communicate something other than the ancient equivalent of a news headline. You assume Licona's issue is with the Bible's recording of 'supernatural' events, but that is untrue; it is a literary and hermeneutical question. He believes Jesus was raised. Clearly he accepts the miraculous.

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rickd

November 08, 2011  3:00pm

So Robert, if I said that I think Lazrus did not really raise from the dead, it is only metaphorical, would you say “Rick is not questioning the Bible, just an interpretation of a verse”. The only reason Licona would question this verse is because of the scale of the miracle. But that could be said of any of Jesus’ miracles. Did Lazrus wander around for 20 more years before he died? I don’t know. How about the widow’s resurrected son at Nain? When do we decide a miracle is too big to happen? Turning one fish lunch into 5000? The Red sea parting? Matthew says many saints were resurrected at Jesus raising. He goes on to say they left their burial tombs. He establishes further credibility by saying there were witnesses, they were seen going into the city, and they appeared to many people. Why would some evangelicals be upset? Because Licona gets to dcecide if miracles happen or not. A non-miraculous Jesus is not the Messiah. I am sad and shocked that so many on this site defend Licona.

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Robert Vroom

November 08, 2011  2:01pm

This issue is disgusting to me. Licona is not questioning the Bible, just an interpretation of a verse. His work in the field of apologetics is fantastic, and he does not deserve this criticism. I wish I could remember where I read this, but one blogger said that he could see Screwtape putting this into a letter... "Get their greatest minds fighting one another over trivialities, and they will have no time to focus on what we are doing." I have a huge amount of respect for Geisler, and am sorry that he has instigated an action that is so disruptive to the cause of Christ.

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Jon

November 08, 2011  1:48pm

Just makes me sad. We Christians doing what we do best - eat our own while the world stays lost and dismayed.

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Steve W.

November 08, 2011  12:23pm

The question here is not whether Licona is denying the reality of miracles in scripture. Rather he is trying to accurately interpret a very interesting passage of scripture in light of what the author intended. If the writer of Matthew did intend that particular passage to be read as apocalyptic prose we would be wrong to read it as historical narrative and vice versa. I don't agree with Licona's argument in this particular case, but to use this example to label him a heretic or a "liberal" or other pejorative term is grossly unfair, especially in light of the fact that the rest of his book is dedicated to defending the resurrection of Jesus! As soon as we start labeling certain questions or lines of inquiry as off limits regarding scripture, we resort to a type of intellectual totalitarianism that is neither worthy of Christ nor of the faith he has passed down to us.

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Rev. Mary Raine

November 08, 2011  12:02pm

I can't say it better than Daniel Wallace: "If we view our own interpretation to be just as inerrant as the Scriptures," he said, "this could ironically elevate tradition and erode biblical authority."

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abey

November 08, 2011  10:38am

Christ is of old, identified in the O.T. as the Rock which followed Israel in the wilderness. It was this Christ which became born on Earth as Jesus , who was crucified, died & resurrected. The O.T. saints, the prophets etc are said to have been asleep & had to be in that state till Christ Himself came, died & was risen, as the bible says for those In Christ are risen with Him. Another good example is Stephen, while being stoned to death saw Jesus with the Father as a witness to the words of Jesus & Prophesy. Since he saw Christ , he died In Christ. This is expected of us, we have to die In Christ, for such there is no Judgment. Them who are risen In Christ from the foundations, are the first fruits of Man following Jesus, The Elect of GOD & as revelations say, the seed of the woman who keep the commandments of GOD & have the testimony of Jesus Christ, who love not their lives to the end, & are being sealed to the last one before the Tribulations.

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chaliapin

November 08, 2011  9:17am

Once again we set ourselves up as knowing all about God, knowing everything He wants, and reducing Him to our own size, all because we do not have the humility to say that "we do not know." Every person's faith is just that:- that person's faith. To bind God to the "inerrancy" of Scripture as it has been defined by someone else is to make Him smaller, and ourselves that much greater. Personally I am happy to be a servant of God, and to spend my time trying to do what He wants. For all the rest, I trust that God has his own plan, and that His plan is for my good. After all, He has helped me to live 83 years, and to spend much of that time bearing witness to His greatness and His goodness. What He is to me is One so great that I cannot understand Him, nor do I need to! I trust in Him and the work that His Son completed, and not in the futile thoughts about Him that this material brain of mine comes up with.

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Fritz Siebuhr

November 08, 2011  8:26am

I suspect that we, the church, think of ourselves as being complete, lacking nothing, in our personal view of God’s word. The few exceptions are those tantalizing hidden mysteries so full of joy to investigate. Our cathedrals of words and worship are far from being exact and without presumptions but are filled with speculation covered by faith and well meaning intentions. Honest Biblical scholars quote other respected opinions and lay open the controversies for all to see. This is how the faith was founded. It was founded by strife and struggle to grapple with God and His plan for man and world. We start with that which is sure and without doubt God’s revelation and interpret it as best we can but not perfectly even erring from the beginning when we translate the ancient into the modern - even within the King James. [so much more should be said including our nature to protect God from Himself and our cherished beliefs and the like]

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Richard J. Mohr

November 08, 2011  8:15am

Can anyone provide a contemporary account of these saints leaving their graves? If so, that would certainly clear things up, wouldn't it? As far as inerrancy (such an ugly word - why doesn't spell check recognize it? ) is concerned - how many of you eat our Savior's flesh and drink his blood as Jesus said that we ought to do? Anyone? Raise your hands. If not, why not? I mean, if you don't do what he said, why do you argue about dead people rising from their graves?

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Paul

November 08, 2011  8:13am

I deeply appreciate the pun in this article's title.

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Texan in China

November 08, 2011  4:32am

Theology does matter, for what we believe ultimately shapes how we act. So, yes, I do think it's appropriate to criticize Licona for his interpretation of Matthew 27. Of course, this criticism must be done in a Christian, loving manner, but Christian love does not restrict us from criticizing those whose theology or interpretation is non-orthodox...if anything, Christian love should compel us to criticize those whose theology is unorthodox, for bad theology ultimately leads to all kinds of terrible consequences, both in this life and in eternity.

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Profe

November 08, 2011  4:31am

This is a prime example of the reason why I have abandoned the whole evangelical movement in utter disgust and have been received into holy Eastern Orthodoxy. There is no consensus of hermeneutic,there is no authority to stay this heresy and general demise. God has walked away from this mess. Where is the ancient rule of faith of holy tradition and patristic interpreation. The holy tradition of the five pillars of the the historic faith has been lost. May God help you all.

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Frank

November 08, 2011  1:01am

While I wish all issues were so easily black or white, my observation of these critics and their lack of Christian courtesy has made me more reticent to embrace either side. Why is it so important to them who is "right" when it tears at the fabric of those of us who are in the trenches trying to explain to a lost and dying world: God is Love.

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Richard Standley

November 07, 2011  11:34pm

Why is it that when a good Christian man puts something "out there" to test a theory, many other good Christians turn into attack dogs? Are our bastions of theological correctness so insecure they can't welcome constructive and loving debate without metaphorically burning someone at the stake? How many thoughtful people out there would like to enter into debate on issues of concern but find themselves hounded from their positions by some evangelical inquistition. I don't have to agree with Mr Licona, but as a Christian I shouldn't be so insecure that I can't reason through with him to find an edifying solution. The evangelical version of burning at the stake does not suggest a welcome to those seeking desperately to find a way to God through a loving, caring denomination. The Bible tells us to correct someone who errs with love, not retribution.

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John

November 07, 2011  8:05pm

If I were to deny the historicity of Lazarus' resurrection, would I still be considerd an inerrantist? Or one of the accounts where the one of the apostles raised a person from the dead, would I still be considered an inerrantist? My issue on this is that if someone interprets the resurrection accounts as metaphor and therefore denies the historicity of the gospel accounts, and claim that would not deny inerrancy, are in grave error. I think that view would be evidently a contradiction with the inerrancy position. Historically and exegetically, Geisler and Mohler are correct in saying that Licona has moved beyond the historic understanding of inerrancy. I guess it takes systematic theologians and philosophers to actually know the historic definition of a doctrine, and that NT scholars are just under read when it comes to such things.... Or, maybe NT scholars can study an issue outside of their doctoral field and come to a conclusion. Wait, that means Geisler and Mohler can too... Ooop!

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cmaglaughlin

November 07, 2011  7:06pm

I've always wondered about this verse. Did those resurrected saints have to die again, or were they lifted up to glory or sent back to their deep sleep graves? I've always questioned the rapture doctrine. Those left behind...If they refuse the mark of the beast, they supposedly get to heaven eventually, but at the expense of their chopped off heads! I thought there were NO second chances. Just sounds like evangelical purgatory to me. And what about the verse, "and many other things Jesus did, but if everything was told, the entire world would not be big enough to hold the books that should be written about them." And what about, "the Gospel was sent out to the entire world"? Oh, really? Seems there is a lot of room for interpretation, but NOT for dissing a fellow believer. "Straining at a nat and swallowing a camel."

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Larry Colins

November 07, 2011  6:38pm

I would like to ask the literalists, regarding the resurrections of "the saints" - "which saints? all of the saints? some saints? where there 'saints' before Jesus' resurrection and salvation came through Him?" Oh... "and how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?" This is theological gnat-straining. While the world goes to hell, Baptists fight once again over the scriptures, and again generate negative publicity over such flights. It saddens me that the tent has become so small...and is shrinking all the time. Pretty soon there will only be a few in the tent, but they will very absolutely PERFECT theology and biblical interpretation. Of course, by then, no one will care.

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Jeff Martin

November 07, 2011  6:37pm

"I know a good number of evangelical seminary professors who have privately expressed support for Mike Licona but cannot do so publicly for fear of punitive measures," said Paul Copan, an apologist and president of the Evangelical Philosophical Society." This is a really disappointing statement. Why are Godly people more fearful of their bosses than they are of truth? It is certainly not they they "cannot" but that they "will not"

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Jonathan

November 07, 2011  6:27pm

Greetings. Respectfully, with the content of the debate put to the side, the tone of the debate from Geisler and Albert M's side is at the very least unprofessional. The Geisler's letters at points have been belittling. If you see his comments about Hank H(the Bible answerman) on his website are very respectful compared to his criticism of Licona. Why not do the same. Second, the pastoral letters talk about how leaders in the Church should conduct themselves. With a careful read on what is the expectation of leaders in the Church in the pastoral epistles, one can see that after a careful read of Geisler's letters he has not met that expectation. Thirdly, Mohler's critique was better, but why use the title "the devil is in the details?" That language is misleading to what is actually going on. Cliche sayings maybe can be included in the body of the content being written after being backed up with evidence, but the title needs to be scholarly which this is not. Thank you.

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Rev. Austin Miles

November 07, 2011  5:36pm

It shouldn't all be such a mystery. A Saint is one who loves and follows Jesus. This in no way reflects Saints as recognized in the Catholic faith. Rev. Austin Miles

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Philip

November 07, 2011  5:33pm

"In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity." Nice summary of Romans 14. Shame that such distinguished fellow brothers in Christ seem to forget themselves.

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CMH

November 07, 2011  5:28pm

It's a sad day when Christians are not allowed to have differing opinions on matters that are not a test of faith. Mohler is quoted in the above article as saying, "Licona's book is virtually unprecedented in terms of evangelical scholarship" and that it is "nothing less than a masterful defense of the historicity of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead". For Southern Baptist institutions to then rescind invitations for Licona to speak, for his employer to accept his resignation and for Mohler to then focus on one passage out the book as he did is a complete embarrassment and a miscarriage of justice. Apparently, some in leadership positions do not want true biblical scholarship, open debate and legitimate seeking for the truth. That will drive thoughtful Christians out of evangelicalism and will discourage non-believers from investigating the truth claims of the faith.

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Mark

November 07, 2011  5:00pm

Whether you agree with Licona's interpretation or not, there are many passages in the Bible that were never intended to be read literally. This isn't some clandestine plan cooked up by liberals to discredit the Bible, it's a standard rule of good hermeneutics. John 10 tells us that Jesus is the "door," but it would be silly to require anyone to believe that the second Person of the Trinity has hinges in order to be considered an inerrantist! The issue with Matt 27 is not as easily discerned, but this is still an issue of hermeneutics, NOT inerrancy. Licona affirms innerancy but because he has proposed a different interpretation of this passage (one he is not married to), one of the church's most valuable assets is being demonized in a juvenile display of bad scholarship and bullying. Call it a bad interpretation, but it is a total sham to give Licona the scarlet letter in the name of inerrancy. He deserves better than this and all the mudslinging is unbecoming of his most vocal critics

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Ellen

November 07, 2011  4:57pm

This is the problem with religious scholars. They apparently do not have faith that believes the saints rose from their graves.....the same faith that believes Jesus rose from His grave and walked around and appeared to eyewitnesses who wrote about the event.

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David

November 07, 2011  4:48pm

After re-reading the article, I realize there is something I missed commenting on. What does inerrancy have to do with it. I do not believe in inerrancy as some of those in the schools hold the doctrine, but I do believe the account in Matthew 27. I accept that as literal, the same as I accept the birth narrative as literal, and the statement that God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. Hebrews says by faith we understand that the world was created by the Word of God. Likewise, by faith we believe that the saints came out of the graves as stated in Matt. 27.

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Peter

November 07, 2011  4:31pm

And, yes, in my previous comment I should have written "neither . . . nor." How non infallible (Or should I say fallible? Ah, interpretation!) of me.

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David

November 07, 2011  4:29pm

I have to admit, it is a troubling passage that is hard to explain. For example, what happened to the Saints who rose from the grave. Did they go back to the grave to await the final resurrection, or were they taken to heaven? The answer to these, like questions other passages of the Bible may generate, may never be known until we get to heaven, and then they may never be asked. Who, among those who will be there, will care? I have not read Licona's book or all the correspondence on the subject, but I think all of it stems from the lack of a multitude of commentators and theologians to understand the magnitude of what took place spiritually and cosmically at the resurrection of Christ.

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rick

November 07, 2011  4:28pm

Maybe an obvious question, but why would Licona even choose to question Matthew 27 or offer a symbolic interpretation? Does this just seem too hard to swallow? How many people did Jesus raise from the Dead while He was in the flesh? Are each of those suspect as well? Are there other miracles that we can assign symbolic interpretations to if they stretch our faith? Matthew not only says they were raised from the dead, he describes them as "coming out of their tombs". There is a physical reality they are dealing with here. Not only that, Matthew wants to add credibility to his account by saying "they appeared to many people". Why is this different from Jesus raising from the dead and appearing to many people? Licona does not have a theological problem or a hermeneutical problem, he is having a crisis of faith.

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Peter

November 07, 2011  4:26pm

A good example of the letter kills, but the Spirit gives/brings life. Geisler & Co., by clinging to the inerrancy of Scripture, appear to dispense with the capacity to take it seriously. (By the way, have others noted here that "inerrancy" is flagged by spell-check here?) Neither inerrancy or infallibility do too much in the way of heavy lifting, and contribute little to love of God and love of neighbor; they are but shibboleths, the theological (maybe) equivalents of political litmus tests.

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Wes Terry

November 07, 2011  4:11pm

I've followed the controversy and seen how Mike justifies that his interpretation is still in keeping with inerrancy. You might disagree and that is fine. But, at least show why your disagreement holds from the Chicago statement itself. The charges thrown by Geisler are more from his interpretation of the Chicago statement than the text itself. It may have been views such as Licona's that Geisler had in mind when he was framing the document. But the statement itself seems to be nuanced enough that an interpretation of Matthew 27 such as Mike's can stand. Perhaps they left it strategically vague in certain spots so that this kind of controversy did not get so much air time? What's the difference between this hermenutic and evangelicals who hold to an Old Earth view of Genesis?

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Doug

November 07, 2011  3:44pm

A well-respected theologian offers a different interpretaion of a text? Don't discuss it or even disagree with it as an incorrect interpretation. No, that would only encourage others to deviate from the "settled interpretation" of the self-appointed Baptist Magisterium. No, the best way to handle this problem is to say the man is questioning biblical inerrancy. Might as well have called him a heretic - oh, wait, that's what they pretty much did.

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pete Benson, editor UNITYINCHRIST.COM

November 07, 2011  3:33pm

When the Bible says a miracle happened, liberal Christians want to deny it happened. Matthew's words in Matthew 27 have been translated into plain English, we're called "believers." It's liberal "Christians" that want to deny the Word of God, plain and simple.

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gary bebop

November 07, 2011  3:13pm

It seems very cachet these days to question the "strange little texts" of the Bible. But the Bible persists in punctuating its story with these odd but powerful little texts. They need to be allowed to speak, and maybe we need to shut up and listen more carefully.

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rick

November 07, 2011  3:03pm

Did the miracles in the Bible actually occur or are they myths and helpful stories which are metaphorically true but have no real place in history? As long as we subscribe to the teachings, the spirit, the ethics of Jesus, that’s the main thing? Paul describes those who “have a form of godliness but deny the power”, saying, “Have nothing to do with such people.” The spirit of antichrist does not deny the humanity of Jesus and his ethical teaching ministry. The anti-christ denies the anointing, the Christos, His divine nature and miraculous acts.

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Jon

November 07, 2011  2:53pm

He defends the resurrection of Jesus and is booted out of a ministry because of a word not even found in the Bible......inerrancy? Sound the Pharisees and the Sadducees who crucified Jesus are stringing up another reader of Scripture who challenges tradition. Why is a matter of interpretation an issue if the interpreter accepts Scripture's value? It sounds like there is a 'secret' code of what one can discuss and what one can not discuss....yet another reason for the failure of the literal inerrancy doctrine. Why not speak of Scripture as Scripture does (inspired of God to lead everyone to Christ)? Instead of making a battle out of every single text of the Bible? Another reason I am glad I am not a fundamentalist/dispensationalist/inerrantist......a crazy Wesleyan who believes the Scripture to be God's gift of love to lead us to the Son who loves us....even the guy who wrote this book.....which I will now have to buy and read because it is a controversy.....

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Jane Hinrichs

November 07, 2011  2:17pm

Herbert is funny! But what he says shows unfortunately how many of us Believers respond when something we've believed for a long time is challenged. Why can't we disagree but still accept each other and each other's faith? There are some things that are necessary to believe. Without them we take the power away from the Gospel: Confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart and you will be saved; Jesus died on the cross and rose again; and Jesus was born of a Virgin. We need to keep the main thing the main thing.

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Daniel L. Rial

November 07, 2011  2:12pm

I think it is amusing that the "defenders" of full biblical inerrancy (Geisler, and others mentioned) implicitly believe that somehow God is going to be unable to fulfill His own desired will if this doctrine is challanged. It is actually arrogant to believe that anything one might say about the Holy Scriptures will cause the Kingdom of God to stand or fall, or be impeded in any way. The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy itself is so full of obfuscating qualifiers about what is acceptable as error, etc., as to make its own statement about inerrancy fairly implausible. Everything God wants Holy Scripture to say, it says, and none of our puny doctrines to butress Scripture's authority will ever change that fact. So, perhaps, Mr. Geisler (and other stone throwers) you should seek Mr. Licona's forgiveness before you stand condemned by the very biblical record you seek to defend.

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carter

November 07, 2011  2:10pm

Nice pun there about "grave" debate. As to literalism: it is a scary thing. Consider Nicodemus asking if he was to re-enter his mother's womb; the woman at the well asking Jesus for this water; the disciples thinking Jesus was getting on them for not bringing bread when he told them to be wary of the yeast of the Pharisees.

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Howard Pepper

November 07, 2011  1:32pm

As Tim Simpson has said well, there seems to be a pattern of these kinds of public disputes among sincere Christians. Part of the problem is surely over personal failures to follow procedures that are both biblical and common sense in engaging an opponent (I won't even say "enemy" or "someone who has wronged you"). But another part of the problem is that even the apologetic or theological heavyweights seem to sense the fragility of misleading, unhelpful positions like "inerrancy" or an overly literal interpretation of Scripture. In the case of the Gospels, particularly, along with most of the Bible, few conservative scholars or leaders seem to be asking vitally central questions like "What kind of literary genre is this (book, etc.)?" What agenda and purpose is it seeking to advance and from what context and perspective, etc.?" The entire account around the crucifixion and resurrection in Matthew is clearly quite fantastical and not easy to square with the other gospels, e.g.

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rick

November 07, 2011  1:26pm

Yeah, I agree with Licona. Even though it says the dead arose, I don’t believe it literally happened. Dead people don’t come back to life, as any doctor will tell you, it doesn’t make sense. But it was true for them in their time and culture, in a mythic sense. It is immaterial that some of these accounts are actually myths, it is the moral being taught through the fictional story that is significant. The accounts of Jesus healing the blind and the lame are mostly metaphorical as well. But what does it matter? Isn’t the most important miracle the healing of spiritual blindness? Or isn’t being born again, spiritual resurrection, the most important miracle? Why must we be unloving towards our brothers and fight over these minor points like inerrancy or literal interpretation?

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Christine Thomas

November 07, 2011  12:49pm

these guys are just silly...and they are supposed to be our spiritual leaders? Uninviting someone you have questions for/disagreements with only produces insulated, irrelevant results.

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lance clay

November 07, 2011  12:40pm

So, preaching salvation and loving one another takes backseats to inerrancy when there it threatens what we hide behind

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Tim Simpson

November 07, 2011  12:30pm

Why isn't it possible for christians in prominent positions to sit down and talk about their differences rather that publicly criticise using modern media apparemtly before doing this. Is there anyone else who is growing tired of of the way social media is being used to write of other christians? We have had several examples of this over the past year, surley te Bible is clear in that we should approach the individual personally and, if this is impossible, at lest by email or phone converstion with the one concerned.

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PR

November 07, 2011  10:48am

A few things strike me about this controversy. 1) How can you call something true scholarship, including apologetics, where the outcome is pre-ordained? What's the point, except to validate people's already existing prejudices, opinions and interpretations? 2) How can real scholarship exist in a climate of fear, intimidation and reprisal? "If you don't write what we like and expect, we'll make your life hard, call you names, deprive you of your livelihood." This is what fundamentalists have done for decades -- ruthlessly purging those they consider doctrinally impure. Why is the faith of fundamentalists made of such brittle stuff? 3) In re-reading Matt. 27, another thing stood out. Both crucified thieves mocked Jesus. In Luke 23, only one mocks Jesus. The other one commends Jesus and is promised paradise. Which is it?

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P.

November 07, 2011  10:42am

Well, the Bible is inerrant, but people's interpretation can be full of error. Sometimes, a literal reading can be erroneous. As for this issue of the dead rising, I don't have a clue.

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Adam Shields

November 07, 2011  10:41am

Clearly Wallace has it right. Whether you agree with an interpretation of a passage or not does not really matter toward how you view the whole of scripture.

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