This article originally ran in the February 3, 1984, issue of Christianity Today
‘As one of the five founders of the Evangelical Theological Society, with a heavy heart I officially request that Dr. Robert Gundry submit his resignation, unless he retracts his position on the historical trustworthiness of Matthew's Gospel."
Thus Roger Nicole, professor of theology at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, brought to a decisive climax a controversy that has been brewing for several years in the 35-year-old society of evangelical scholars.
Standing at a microphone in the packed dining room on the ninth floor of the Spurgeon Harris Building on the campus of the Criswell Center for Biblical Studies in Dallas, Nicole was asking for the resignation of the bald, bespectacled, erudite professor of New Testament and Greek at Santa Barbara's Westmont College.
Robert Gundry is the author of Matthew: A Commentary on His Literary and Theological Art (Eerdmans,1982), a mammoth 652-page study of the first Gospel that has stirred the opposition of conservatives everywhere because of the enthusiastic use it makes of the scholarly technique in biblical studies known as "redaction criticism." This discipline presupposes that the four Evangelists, especially Matthew and Luke, have adapted the deeds and words of Jesus to fit the life and experiences of their readers. For example, redaction critics would argue that Matthew adapted his prose to the rocky topography of Palestine and quoted Jesus as saying the wise man "built his house upon the rock" (Matt. 7:24). Luke, writing perhaps for readers in Greece, with its thick soil, felt it necessary to have Jesus specify that the man "dug deep, and laid ...1