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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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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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