Mohler Says Licona Undermines Inerrancy in New Book

Albert Mohler has a critical review of Michael Licona’s book The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach. While Mohler praises Licona’s masterful defense of the historicity of the resurrection, Mohler takes him to task over his interpretation of Matthew 27:51-54. Mohler argues that Licona’s approach undermines the inerrancy of scripture. Mohler concludes:

Michael Licona is a gifted and courageous defender of the Christian faith, and a careful apologist of Christian truth. Our shared hope must be that he will offer a full correction on this crucial question of the Bible’s full truthfulness and trustworthiness. I will be praying for him with the full knowledge that I have been one who has been gifted and assisted by needed correction. Leaving his argument where it now stands will not only diminish the influence of Michael Licona — it will present those who affirm the inerrancy of the Bible with yet another test of resolve.

Read the rest here.

56 Responses to Mohler Says Licona Undermines Inerrancy in New Book

  1. Scott September 14, 2011 at 8:09 am #

    So it’s not enough for Licona to defend the resurrection, he has too be Mohler’s type of Christian as well?

    • Jason September 14, 2011 at 10:09 am #

      Scott,

      The two are not related. If one is right on a great deal of things, but is wrong in such a way that those things are undermined (as this matter does), then of what value are those things affirmed?

      Nobody is talking about a “type of Christian”, you’re introducing personal attacks where there are none, that makes you the propagator of personal attacks. Deal with the ideas at hand. If you have a problem with Mohler’s challenges, address them.

      • Scott September 14, 2011 at 11:31 am #

        How in the world is that a personal attack? I think you’re way off base here.

        You can “deny” inerrancy and still cling to the deity, crucifixion, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. And, to the extent that you believe in his sacrifice as the means of salvation, then I’m not concerned with inerrancy as a litmus test of orthodoxy. Any doctrinal hierarchy at places inerrancy above Christology is entirely insufficient.

        • Jason September 14, 2011 at 11:03 pm #

          Your own post says that Mohler is saying that Licona is not “his type of Christian.” You cannot explain where this comes from. Mohler is dealing with the arguments, but you are caricaturing his remarks to be saying something not at all about the arguments, but instead something about Licona’s character or personality or something – one more time – not at all about the arguments. You are wrong. That is not what is being said by Mohler. Your saying that Mohler is addressing something apart from the ideas in the book is not true, that is, what you are saying is dishonest. But this is not the whole problem. You are also saying that Mohler is making some sort of esoteric, baseless judgment about Licona’s person. This is also dishonest on your part, inferring that Mohler is making a personal attack. By making the baseless accusation that Mohler is making a baseless personal attack – which he is not – you are engaging in a personal attack. This is not hard.

          Follow your own point, that is, your non-point about what Mohler did not say.

          You can say that you’re not a real person, too. Does that make it so?

        • Jason September 14, 2011 at 11:28 pm #

          Scott,

          “Any doctrinal hierarchy at places inerrancy above Christology is entirely insufficient.”

          Insufficient for what? What is the epistemological basis of your Christology?

        • Rob September 16, 2011 at 7:45 pm #

          Scot you are correct. A doctrinal hierarchy that places inerency as a fundamental over christology is doomed from the start.

          • Jason September 16, 2011 at 9:44 pm #

            One more time for the photographers:

            What is the epistemological basis of your Christology, Rob?

  2. yankeegospelgirl September 14, 2011 at 9:14 am #

    I like Licona, he’s a friend and a great guy, but… eh, gotta go with Mohler on this. He’s just pushing the envelope too much here. But God bless his work.

  3. Don Johnson September 14, 2011 at 10:34 am #

    Mohler writes “to affirm anything short of inerrancy is to allow that the Bible does contain falsehoods or mistakes.”

    This is simply not true, even thought he thinks it is clear. He presents a false dichotomy, either the Bible has “falsehoods or mistakes” or the Bible is inerrant, for example, as defined in the CSBI. An example of a third way is that each book of the Bible was written to an original target audience and that God accomodated to the target audience’s worldview. This does not make God a liar, it means God used words, terms and phrases that the original audience would understand from inside that audience’s worldview.

    In the present example, Mohler wants to act as the “inerrancy police”. Licona has a premise that the section of Matthew is not straight historical narrative, but is rather of a different genre. Why cannot Licona’s question even be asked?

    Note that I am not even claiming that Licona is correct, but he should at least be allowed to present his evidence for his premise.

    • Jason September 14, 2011 at 11:26 pm #

      Don wrote,

      “An example of a third way is that each book of the Bible was written to an original target audience and that God accommodated to the target audience’s worldview.”

      This is not a third way. This is not a “way” at all, because it utterly prevents you from saying anything certain about the text apart from the context by which you bind the meaning. You have to say something about what the meaning is for us, and have a reason to do so, otherwise you just have another ANE document with no point for us. If you want to assert that, great, but should those who believe in Jesus Christ be forced to accept your faithless conclusions?

      Doubtless, the authors had a context and syntax and colloquialisms (have you ever tried to translate Micah? ouch, very difficult with so many sayings the literal translation of which are very difficult to understand) but your way prevents them from having any certain meaning in any other context.

      Instead of crabbing about the imaginary inerancy police, perhaps try to defend Licona’s point. Your “I’m not sayin, I’m just sayin” caveat tacked on to the end unsatisfactory because it allows you to complain pointlessly about “inerrancy police” without addressing either Mohler’s point or Licona’s point. Is Mohler saying that the question cannot be asked? No. So do not dishonestly speak as if he is. He is saying that the conclusion is unsatisfactory based on the evidence Licona provides, and he explains why. Is Mohler saying that he cannot present evidence about the matter. Not at all. So what are you talking about?

      At least part of Mohler’s point is that there is no reason that we should we have any reason to suspect that metaphorical or apocalyptic imagery is present in the Gospels in the way in which Licona is exegeting. Do you have a reason to suppose we should?

      Deal with it from the point at which Mohler makes his counter argument, and not from a make-believe point which is more advantageous to the axe you have to grind.

      • Don Johnson September 15, 2011 at 10:17 am #

        Mohler brings up a ETS membership threat and you do not see that he is playing an “inerrancy police” card?

        The question Licona raised is how to read this section of Matthew, what genre is it? Mohler assumes it is straight historical narrative and he might be right, at least that seems to be ONE way to read it. But Licona is asking if there is another way, a better way to read it. A scholar needs the freedom to be able to ask these questions without being charged as being an outsider.

        In other words, just because it is POSSIBLE to read some text as historical narrative, does this mean it is REQUIRED to read the text as historical narrative if there are indications that it might be able to be read in a different (better?) way?

        My take is that such discussions MUST be allowed to happen, without the inerrancy police making threats.

        • Jason September 15, 2011 at 9:47 pm #

          There is a REASON that Mohler brings up the matter of Gundry and you are not addressing those reasons AT ALL. Again, crabbing about the “inerrancy police” is a personal attack and a distraction from the REASONS. To repeat: address the REASONS.

          And, NO, he is not ASKING, you still do not get it or have not read it. Licona is ASSERTING. Pay attention to what has been said, it makes it easier to address it.

  4. RD September 14, 2011 at 6:27 pm #

    This issue of innerancy is, I’m afraid, going to eventually undermine the greater evangelical message. Dr. Mohler’s (and others) insistance that the bible must be read as absolutely literal, being without error or disagreement, is becoming a real problem. A perfect example: the whole issue surrounding the ongoing discussions of whether or not Adam was a historical man and whether the entire human race originated with he and Eve. As continued study of the human genome and DNA mapping take place, it is being proven that all of humanity couldn’t have originated with one original couple. By continuing to insist that Christians must accept the Genesis account as literal, Dr. Mohler is forcing evangelicals into a corner where they have to make a choice between the Bible and real scientific truth.

    I don’t know Dr. Mohler at all, but I respect him very much. He is a brilliant man. I suspect that he likely believes that the Bible isn’t inerrant but, because of his position within evangelicalism and as leader of SBTS, he feels he must hold to a certain stance that is expected of him. I also feel certain he would deny this were he asked if it were true.

    The Bible has discrepancies. There is no doubt about that. It is not inerrant. When, for example, did the disciples receive the holy spirit? The Bible isn’t at all consistent on this very important event.

    • Nate September 15, 2011 at 10:59 am #

      RD,

      Laying aside the discussion surrounding Matthew, your insinuations that Adam’s historicity can be cast aside by Christians is lamentable. What you are saying then is that every instance where the Gospel writers and Paul referred to Adam is parabolic, symbolic or poetic. This is a very dangerous position because of the Scripture that is involved with your assertion. Luke’s genealogy (Luke 3:38), Paul’s instructions regarding sin and salvation (Rom 5:14, 1 Cor 15:22, 1 Cor 15:45), Paul’s letter to Timothy (1 Tim 2:13,14), and the Lord’s brother Jude (Jude 1:14). Also Jesus’ instructions regarding marriage in Matt 19:3-9 imply the validity of Genesis.

      While I am not arguing for a young earth (although I am a young earth advocate), I find it impossible to allow for a non-historical Adam at a simple reading of the Scripture. To do so undermines the truthfulness and reliability of the word of God. Most of the passages I referred to cannot be passed off as non-narrative genres.

      • Rob September 15, 2011 at 11:08 am #

        Please do not allow this conversation to turn into a discussion on creation. However, your understanding of the “Truthfulness and reliability of scripture” is not the standard for the truthfulness of Adam’s historicity. “He” was either historical or not. I may refer to Atticus Finch and speak of him as a prime example for any number of character traits, but that does not mean that I assume To Kill a Mocking Bird is a historically literal text intended to be taken that way. In much the same way, Paul, Luke and others may refer to Adam as a prime example even as an example contrasted to Christ, without insisting on his historical nature.

        Nevertheless, this is not the topic of this blog, and I would prefer to not go down a rabbit trail.

        • Nate September 15, 2011 at 11:34 am #

          Then you should have replied to RD when he connected the two. Seriously! The bible refers to Adam in its genealogy in Luke in the same way Harper Lee used Finch in his fictional novel, set in a historical setting? Please! So a genealogy is now fiction, that is what you just said, right? Luke’s genealogy contains no real people. That would include Jesus, his father Joseph, David, Boaz, Isaac, and Abraham then Rob! Or do you want to argue that Luke’s geneaology is accurate except for Adam? If so, then what about Seth, Noah, etc.?

          • Rob September 15, 2011 at 12:12 pm #

            Pss. Yes Luke’s gospel does include real people. And I would say that Luke’s gospel is certainly accurate, including Adam. However, again Adam may be representative of initial humanity and not a naked dude.

          • Nate September 15, 2011 at 1:02 pm #

            Pss. Rob, if he is not a “naked dude” as you say, then the genealogy is illegitimate. By the way, this is exactly what Mohler is arguing when he quotes Licona saying that if Matt 27’s saints didn’t come out of the grave, then how can he argue that Christ did.

          • Rob September 15, 2011 at 1:14 pm #

            Psss Nate, it is only illegitimate, if you are unwilling to grant that an ancient author might use various techniques within a given list.

            I think we need to be open to the reality of the text. First and formost, you need to deal with Genesis not Paul, and however that prior interpretation plays out, will determine what you have to do with later comments on Genesis by Paul. Dealing with Genesis alone, you are hard pressed to demonstrate a historical person in a mythological text. Nevertheless, Mohler misses the point and unfortunately focuses on dehistoricizing rather than genre. This is an issue of genre. For a similar understanding, and maybe more clarity on this issue, see Mike Bird’s comments on Mohler and Licona http://www.patheos.com/community/euangelion/2011/09/14/michael-licona-on-the-resurrection-of-jesus/

          • Jason September 15, 2011 at 11:14 pm #

            “Genre” – the word that seems to dispel clear thinking. Other than the parallel concepts of resurrection and open tombs in relevant literature, is there even one reason to think that this is not historical?

            And, since you’re ducking the issue, if you are going to accept such a shift, why not do so for Lazurus and Christ himself? There is no reason to say that these things should be historical if you are going to assert that the passage in question is apocalyptic imagery, seemingly metaphorical for nothing at all but hope for some thing that will never come.

            This is abiblical reasoning.

          • Jason September 15, 2011 at 11:45 pm #

            Is the Bird article really supposed to clarify? He seems to have even fewer reasons than Licona. For instance:

            “Many strange phenomena like earthquakes and cosmic portents were said to accompany the death of great leaders in ancient sources.”

            Who cares? Again, something similar can be said about Christ’s resurrection with that logic. Should we say it about that, as well? If not, WHY not? How do you make the distinction? Once one crosses that bridge, there doesn’t seem to me to be any reason to say that anyone should turn back.

            Or this:

            “There is further support for this interpretation. If the tombs were opened and the saints being raised upon Jesus’ death was not strange enough, Matthew adds that they did not come out of their tombs until after Jesus’ resurrection.”

            How is that supportive of anything? If Christ is the first born among many brethren, why should we expect them to come out first? And as for Josephus not reporting on this, the same unbelieving point is made about Christ himself. Should we accept this logic, as well? Do you recognize just how severely you amputate yourself and your own witness in making such arguments? Do you care?

            And the Luke 16 comparison seems poor, as well. The story could be either parable or an actual situation as the context has Christ teaching on the pitfalls of riches. THIS is the sort of marker one would need to be looking for to demonstrate a shift of sorts.

            But this is the worst:

            “But is it hermeneutically responsible to rule certain literary genres out of bounds based on theological prolegomena (this is not the argument, Bird is being dishonest), rather than discern them based on the phenomenon of the text and its relationship to extant biblical and non-biblical literature?”

            Again, this cuts both ways. The phenomenon of the text and it’s “perceived” relationships are the very same reasons used by those who think that the Bible is comprehensively untrue, only a plagarized, patchworked legendization of a religiously and politically useful figure, Jesus. The exact same reasoning can be used in reverse to say that the text is anything but “infallible, inspired, and authoritative.”

            And then he pulls the “you dummies just don’t understand” card at the end. Now if THAT doesn’t convince those on the fence, nothing will.

          • Rob September 16, 2011 at 7:52 pm #

            Jason, I am not sure I can help you any further on this issue. It seems that we are approaching the text from qualitatively different vantage points, and therefore I don’t think it is advantageous to continue this possibly never-ending discussion. However, I must say, Mike Bird is not being dishonest, and your ad hominen arguments have no place within scholarship. Please keep your arguments clean. Finally, just because Crosson, Borg or others have said something in the past does not mean they are entirely wrong on everything. They have much to offer evangelical scholarship who often approaches the text with a me and my bible mentality…

          • Jason September 16, 2011 at 9:43 pm #

            I’ve been wondering if you know what “a priori” means, as you have been using it in situations in which the reasoning is given and not assumed. Now you use “ad hominem” incorrectly, as well, as my arguments attack his arguments, not Mr. Bird. Perhaps consider discontinuing your use of foreign language phrases vis-a-vis rhetoric and logic.

            And I cannot see that you have discussed or offered anything. Every single time you have addressed the issue, you have left out the details of both sides of the argument. I cannot see that you are coming at this from any angle in particular, apart from caricatures of variations of persons who assert inerrancy, poor logic in utilizing the concept of inerrancy, and assumptions about the bible that leave you with nothing to believe at all.

            But you did offer one more whiz-banger:

            “Finally, just because Crosson, Borg or others have said something in the past does not mean they are entirely wrong on everything.”

            Am I talking about their entire body of work? Am I claiming to know all that they have done, OR am I addressing what they have to say on matters such as these.

            This would be a non-sequitur. Just for your future misuse.

          • Rob September 18, 2011 at 1:33 pm #

            Jason, again personal attacks! Nice, you have become good at them! For you reference an ad hominem attack is one that attacks an individuals motives or character (look it up). To say that Mike Bird is being dishonest, which you did (look it up), is to lower yourself to an ad hominem argument.

            – I doubt you know Mike’s intentions.
            – Even if you don’t know his intentions, to claim that you, in fact, do know the truth and Mike is lying is a bold statement regarding your own infallible understanding of this text. I doubt even you would go that far, but I could be wrong.

            Therefore, a claim of dishonesty must only result from a question of his character. Therefore you are using an ad hominem arguement. It is uncharitable, and has no room within scholarly discourse. Please stop.

            However, this too may fall on deaf ears and be a waste of my time.

          • Jason September 21, 2011 at 11:24 pm #

            If pointing out that you are consistently misusing, and thereby do not understand the concepts you are using is a personal attack, sure, I guess. Am I wrong? And your summary of it indicates that you still are not getting it.

            For instance: One is not attacking another’s character if, as with Bird, another is misrepresenting an argument in the process of arguing against it. You may not get it, but there is a notable temporal difference between saying that one is being dishonest and one actually is dishonest. If I was to say that you ARE dishonest, then I would be attacking your character. If I was to say that you are BEING dishonest, in the course of addressing a specific matter, then I am only addressing that matter, not the overall character of the person. Again, are we dealing with a purely temporal matter, or atemporal? It is indisputable, Bird is presenting a gross caricature of the opposing argument in this setting. I suppose I could have said that he was either being dishonest or lazy, either of which may have been true in this matter, but even if I said that, I would be addressing Bird’s

            actual
            behavior

            in a particular matter, neither his motives (which I don’t know) nor his character (which I cannot assess with just one icky matter).

            Though you may have looked it up, it hasn’t helped you. Think through the words of the definition, and check to make sure that they actually apply or not.

            onward

            “to claim that you, in fact, do know the truth and Mike is lying is a bold statement regarding your own infallible understanding of this text. I doubt even you would go that far, but I could be wrong.”

            “the truth”?

            ?

            Let’s review. I am addressing the substance of the arguments. You and Bird failed to do this, as I pointed out, and as you still are not addressing. Focus on what has been written, and try not to drift into what seems to be the doctrinal bees in your bonnet. He is being grossly simplistic vis-a-vis the opposing arguments, so either he hasn’t read the opposing arguments and is addressing them anyway, or he has read the arguments and is just not including information.

            Would either of these be an example of good or bad scholarly discourse?

            “Therefore, a claim of dishonesty must only result from a question of his character. Therefore you are using an ad hominem arguement[sic].”

            This is appalling logic. To review: a claim of this sort in a matter in which simplistic caricature is substituted for an honest review of the opposing arguments is entirely reasonable. If this is Mr. Bird’s SOP, then, sure, it is a claim on his character

            but
            that
            is
            not
            what
            I
            wrote.

            read it again.

    • Jason September 16, 2011 at 7:36 pm #

      “As continued study of the human genome and DNA mapping take place, it is being proven that all of humanity couldn’t have originated with one original couple.”

      You’re asserting settled science about a matter that cannot be tested, observed, or repeated. Are you SURE you want to assert that science has spoken and will never change?

      “The Bible has discrepancies. There is no doubt about that. It is not inerrant. When, for example, did the disciples receive the holy spirit? The Bible isn’t at all consistent on this very important event.”

      OK, I’ll bite. Where’s the discrepancy? Gotta demonstrate a contradiction in this one, RD.

    • DennyReader November 23, 2011 at 3:57 am #

      On the contrary, to continually place one’s faith in the atheist propaganda that science has disproved Christian beliefs is irrational.

      Three New Studies Support Biblical Account of Humanity’s Creation

  5. Rob September 14, 2011 at 11:40 pm #

    Mohler misses the point again:

    1. Mohler states in a discussion on Article XVIII (“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.”) of the CSBI that, “[In reference to Licona] Dehistoricizing this text is calamitous and inconsistent with the affirmation of biblical inerrancy.”

    However, what he fails to observe is a further explanation on inerrency found later in the document. “However, in determining what the God-taught writer is asserting in each passage, we must pay the most careful attention to its claims and character as a human production. In inspiration, God utilized the culture and conventions of His penman’s milieu, a milieu that God controls in His sovereign providence; it is misinterpretation to imagine otherwise.
    So history must be treated as history, poetry as poetry, hyperbole and metaphor as hyperbole and metaphor, generalization and approximation as what they are, and so forth.”

    Thus, within the Chicago statement, there is room for genera distinctions. This point is keenly important for this debate and the issue at hand.

    2. Licona’s discussion is regarding genre first and formost. Sure, it has historical ramifications, but ultimately he is questioning the genre of Matt 27. Thus, in that sense, he is in line with the Chicago Statement, which has room, small though it may be, for genre distinctions.

    3. There seems to be an illegitimate focus by Mohler and Geisler on “dehistoricizing.” However, this begs the question, is what is under investigation historical to begin with? That is the very question at issue. If Licona is right, then he is not dehistoricizing anything, since it may not be history. The claim that he is dehistoricizing would then be illegitimate. Only with an a priori assumption regarding the historicity of the Saint’s resurrection account, can one claim that Licona is dehistoricizing it. Someone can’t dihistoricize something that is not history. Thus, the genre of the text is what is at issue. Is it a statement of history or not? Because of this, Molher’s a priori assumption of the text being historical illegitimately leads him to the conclusion that Licona is dehistoricizing. It is that prior assumption that ought to be at issue. Not if he is dehistoricizing or not.

    • Jason September 15, 2011 at 9:43 pm #

      I don’t see that you are getting the point that Al is.

      When you write, “Only with an a priori assumption regarding the historicity of the Saint’s resurrection account, can one claim that Licona is dehistoricizing it. Someone can’t dihistoricize something that is not history.”

      you miss that the reasoning behind Licona’s genre distinction is absent, that is, his reason for asserting it is a priori itself. There is no reason apart from the fact that he does not accept what it says historically (as he seems to with the rest of Matthew 27) and is puzzled as to what it is saying. There is no poetic device, correct? There is no marker of genre shift, right? Why say it? ONLY because he does not understand it and does not like what it says, no other reason.

      You have no reason to assume it is not history and thereby dehistoricize it.

      • Rob September 15, 2011 at 9:50 pm #

        Jason, you obviously have not read Licona’s arguments for why it is apocalyptic. He provides several reasons for the shift, and he is not alone in this position. You may disagree with him. I am not certain I even agree with him. However, I do not see this as dehistoricizing, whatsoever. The question is did Matthew intend to portray history? If he did not, and that is Licona’s whole point, then Licona is not dehistoricizing anything.

        • Jason September 15, 2011 at 11:08 pm #

          “If he did not, and that is Licona’s whole point, then Licona is not dehistoricizing anything.”

          This is not at all dissimilar to questions asked by Borg, Crossan, et. al., vis-a-vis nearly all of the gospels. Their reasoning and evidence is not at all dissimilar, that is, “[they are] not alone in this position”: ‘we see (very roughly) similar things elsewhere in the contemporary literature’ which is Licona’s argument greatly simplified (apart from apocalyptic and pseudepigraphal parallels). Is there anything other than purportedly parallel symbology in other documents that substantiate his reasoning? Since you are certain that I have not read the arguments, and it is always possible that I have missed something, would you be so helpful as to detail his reasoning apart from rough parallels in contemporary, apocalyptic literature? Certainly he is not alone in his position, but neither is Borg. Should we believe Borg, too, for similar reasons? If not, WHY not? And more importantly, since we see such imagery in the pertinent literature, and that imagery is present in Christ’s resurrection, what, if any reason could be presented for saying that Christ’s resurrection is just imagery, meant to encourage? If you came to this conclusion, you would “not [be] alone in this position.”

          So based on Licona’s reasoning, what reasons can you give to say that Jesus’ resurrection should not be taken in the same way that Licona is saying we should understand the narrative in question?

  6. Gabe September 15, 2011 at 8:33 am #

    This passage in Matthew is one of the very reasons why I began to doubt my faith while a student at SBTS. While I agree with Licona’s conclusion that these events did not happen, I agree with Mohler on his stance you cannot deny these events took place without compromising the authority of the bible. There is no break in the narrative to interpret one part as historical and the other part as legend/myth. It becomes a game of pick and choose once you begin going down that path.

    • Don Johnson September 15, 2011 at 11:30 am #

      Gabe,

      I am saddened that you think this way. Why not try a middle way that avoids what I think is a false dichotomy? Yes, you may have to give up some things that some people think and teach are mandatory to be a faithful believer, but there are others that do not think those things are mandatory yet still hold to the authority of Scripture.

    • Chris September 15, 2011 at 4:11 pm #

      Gabe you are right on track in your statements. I do hope your faith is stronger now,

    • Jason September 15, 2011 at 9:50 pm #

      Right on, Gabe, no REASONS. Licona’s non reason cannot be said to differ at all from anyone else’s reason to say that Christ was methphorically, and not actually raised, as an apocalyptic encouragement. All this genre discussion is a red herring, because there is no REASON to assert that a genre shift has occurred in the midst of historical narrative. To repeat: no REASON.

  7. Gabe September 15, 2011 at 1:05 pm #

    Thanks Don. This is just one issue that eventually led away from the faith. I understand your position, but to me these events either happened or they didn’t. I just don’t see any indication in the passage to conclude that it’s a metaphor or symbolic. To me personally, it would be intellectually dishonest to interpret the passage this way.

    • Don Johnson September 18, 2011 at 1:55 pm #

      It it true that sometimes being honest will lead one away from their current understanding of God. But if God really is the Truth, if you continue to be honest, it will lead back to him.

  8. Rob September 15, 2011 at 7:57 pm #

    Mike Licona has responded to Mohler, and responded he has done! Great job Mike!

    https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=160295627387705

    • Jason September 15, 2011 at 9:55 pm #

      And no good reasons, only assumptions about what he is reading based on nothing more than his own understanding of it and supposed ANE and pseudepigraphal parallels. Assuming it is not historical based in this, it would follow also that there is no literal or historical final resurrection because those things are present elsewhere, as well. Does this seem like a sound conclusion to anybody?

      There is plenty of that garbage in Noth, Gerstenberger, et. al. Licona’s assumptions are not new. This is all very surprising to me, considering Licona’s background. But there it is.

      • Rob September 15, 2011 at 10:02 pm #

        Jason, Licona doesn’t mention the ANE literature or the pseudepigrapha. Please read what he says carefully before commenting. No wonder you don’t see his reasons.

        • Jason September 15, 2011 at 11:17 pm #

          Don’t be absurd. Those things have the apocalyptic imagery in question.

          “virtually parallel to Licona’s argument from classical references and Jewish apocalyptic sources.”

          If this is not ANE and pseudepigrapha, I’m not sure what is.

  9. Justin F September 15, 2011 at 10:03 pm #

    And Jesus said unto them, “And whom do you say that I am?” His disciples replied, “You are the eschatalogical manifestation of the ground of our being, the ontological foundation of the context of our very selfhood revealed.” And Jesus replied, “What?”

    • Jason September 15, 2011 at 11:49 pm #

      lol

  10. RD September 16, 2011 at 8:18 am #

    The truth is, nobody knows for certain whether it was/is factual history. Dr. Mohler insists in his piece that we must take Matthew’s report as absolute history. How can we when Matthew’s report contains so many differences from the other apostle’s (John’s) report? Here are two men who were supposed to be a part of Jesus’ intimate inner-circle. They were with him throughout his ministry and saw first hand these events unfold, yet the two gospels could not be more different. Which gospel is historically factual? If we applied the same standards for judging historical accuracy to Matthew’s gospel, and the other three gospels, that we do to the Book of Mormon, say, we could not honestly say that the four are in factual historical agreement with each other.

    • Jason September 16, 2011 at 7:20 pm #

      I can’t make out a point, here.

      “nobody knows for certain whether it was/is factual history.”

      Tell me one situation in which this is the case.

      “Mohler insists in his piece that we must take Matthew’s report as absolute history.”

      He does so for reasons. You are not addressing them.

      “How can we when Matthew’s report contains so many differences from the other apostle’s (John’s) report?”

      This is extraordinarily poorly considered. Tell me one event witnessed by two people in which everything was parallel. Based on what notion of “history” do you assert this would be necessary?

      “two gospels could not be more different.”

      ?

      Go ahead and explain these differences and how that affects their historicity.

      “If we applied the same standards for judging historical accuracy to Matthew’s gospel, and the other three gospels, that we do to the Book of Mormon, say, we could not honestly say that the four are in factual historical agreement with each other.”

      I assert that you cannot explain, much less defend, this statement.

  11. Don Johnson September 16, 2011 at 8:56 am #

    The basic argument of Mohler is that since he (and some others) read some text in the Bible as straight history, therefore everybody else should also. Last I looked, Mohler has not claimed to be an infallible interpreter of the Bible, like the Pope claims at times. So Mohler’s argument is not much of an argument at all.

    Like it or not, there are SOME texts in Matthew that are apocalyptic, the question is whether this specific text is one of them. And this is perhaps yet another one of those texts that faithful believers can understand differently.

    • Jason September 16, 2011 at 6:33 pm #

      That’s not at all his argument, you’re still just making things up to make your argument easier on you.

      And what some other texts may or may not contain does not address the REASONS why this text may or may not be what Licona says it is. You’re still just avoiding Mohler’s point, Licona’s point, or your point, whatever it is.

    • Rob September 16, 2011 at 8:00 pm #

      Don, you are correct in what you have said. Yes, there is apocalyptic imagery in Matt. You have nailed Mohler’s argument and his a priori assumption of a historical interpretation. The issue arrises when his interpretation is questioned… when that happens the inerrency trump card comes out. However, this time it was an illegitimate play of the cards, and Mohler has been called out on it. This is not the first time for this, and I doubt it will be the last with Mohler.

      • Jason September 16, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

        “You have nailed Mohler’s argument and his a priori assumption of a historical interpretation.”

        Do you just not pay any attention to the opposing points? If there is no reason to assert that it is historical, and if the person asserts to be a Christian in any sense, then the assumption is not a priori. That is Mohler’s reasoning. The reasoning is poor to non-existent. Could one question the matter? In the guild, sure, that stuff happens all the time. But based on what does one assert it? Licona’s reasons are poor. That is the reason.

        Now, you and Don assert that since there may be apocalyptic imagery elsewhere in Matthew, this “nails” Mohler’s argument. This is incredibly poor reasoning. How does apocalyptic imagery elsewhere assure that this is also apocalyptic imagery? Of course, it doesn’t.

        It is not an illegitimate “play of the cards” if Licona’s arguments are chronically thin. And they are.

        • Rob September 16, 2011 at 10:43 pm #

          Jason, this has become an act in futility, and I refuse to continue this conversation. You have not only misunderstood Licona, mischaracterized his arguments, but you have misunderstood my own comments, which only prove to me that for some reason, there is either a large act of miscommunication from both me and Licona on this issue, or on your part. Either way, it is no longer fruitful.

          • Jason September 21, 2011 at 11:59 pm #

            Rob,

            It is a shame that you did not explain how I have misunderstood Licona, mischaracterized his arguments, or misunderstood your own comments. If there is a miscommunication that is clear to you, I would hope that you would detail the errors I have made. It is most unfortunate that you have chosen to not address these matters before your exit.

  12. RD September 18, 2011 at 4:33 pm #

    Jason,

    Dr. Mohler’s point (as I understand it) in his piece about Licona’s book is that if Licona raises the question of Matthew 27:51-54 possibly not being factual history, that we then cannot absolutely understand the resurrection as factual history. We must, therefore, take these verses to be a factual, historical account, and not apocalyptic metaphor.

    Historical fact is a tricky thing. It involves a number of aspects. There is the event itself (whether it actually happened or didn’t) and then there are the circumstances surrounding the event (did it happen in a specific order, at a specific time, etc). We can both be correct if we say that terrorists flew planes into the twin towers. This is factual history. If I say it happened on Sept 14, 2001 and that there was only one plane that was flown into the towers, then my historical recounting is not accurate. In fact, it is completely false. This is the type of thing that is taking place within the gospels.

    There are too many instances to site them all, but since you asked I’ll site a couple. Matthew recounts in Matthew 28:2-5 that Mary Magdalene and Mary found Jesus’ tomb empty. In fact, while they were there an angel came down and rolled away the stone from in front of the tomb, and this one angel told them not to be afraid but to go tell the disciples that Jesus was going back to Galilee (Matthew 28:7). As they leave, Jesus himself meets them and confirms what the angel had said (Matthew 28:10). When the disciples hear this, what do they do (according to Matthew)? The eleven go to Galilee (Matthew 28:16). This is Matthew’s historical rendering of the events following Jesus’ resurrection. Matthew was a member of the inner circle. He was there. He should know what happened, and he’s given us his account.

    John was also a member of the inner circle. He was with Jesus (and with Matthew) when the events of Jesus’ ministry took place. They shared the last supper together, went through the awful events of Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion together. And they both heard that he had risen from the grave. Unlike Matthew, John even went to the tomb to see for himself. However, just like Matthew John gave his account of what happened. John 20:11 tells us that only Mary Magdalene went to Jesus’ tomb (where was the other Mary?). There she spoke not with one angel, but with two angels (where was the other angel?). Later she encountered the risen Jesus, but instead of telling her to tell the disciples to go to Galilee where he’d meet them, he told her to tell them he was going to his father (John 20:17). Later that night – while the disciples were in Jerusalem, not in Galilee – Jesus appears to them (John 20:19). Now, if John and Matthew were both a part of the inner circle how could one recount that they first saw Jesus several days later after traveling over 90 miles back to Galilee, and one recount that he met with them in Jerusalem the very night they discovered that his tomb was empty? And why would one say that Jesus told them to go to Galilee and one never mention that fact?

    In fact, John’s account shares an amazing event that 99% of Christians never consider. According to John’s gospel, the disciples received the Holy Spirit that first night when Jesus appeared to them (not 50 days later during Pentecost, as Luke recounts in the Book of Acts). John 20:22-23 clearly states that Jesus breathed on the disciples and they received the Holy Spirit.

    We can look at the events that are given us in these scriptures and say that we believe them to be historical events. Jesus was crucified, he was buried and rose from the dead. Jesus appeared to his disciples after he had risen. The disciples received the Holy Spirit just as Jesus had promised they would. What we can’t say is that the accounts we are given are factually and historically accurate since they do not agree on the details of these events. Which member of Jesus’ inner circle is giving us the correct history surrounding these monumental events? Is it Matthew or is it John?

    Terrorists flew one plane or two planes into the towers? Mary saw one angel or two at the empty tomb? Terrorists flew planes into the towers on 9-11-01 or on 9-14-01? Jesus was crucified the day before the beginning of passover (John 18:28-29) or the first day of passover following the passover seder the evening before (Matthew 14:12)? In each of these, one account is factually and historically accurate. And one simply isn’t.

    • Jason September 21, 2011 at 11:55 pm #

      If there is one angel sitting there does that mean that there are not two angels sitting there? No.

      If Mary Magdalene went to the tomb, does that mean that another Mary did not go to the tomb, also?

      I don’t see any mention of the Sunday in Matthew, the same day, as listed in John. Could you detail the purported problem more clearly, for though John asserts that it was the same day, Matthew does not. What is the problem?

      The matter of the Spirit in John 20 and Acts 2 seems particularly simple. Does Christian doctrine not make a distinction between Spiritual indwelling of the Christian and of Spiritual empowerment in certain settings? Perhaps you’ve heard of the Great Awakening? Does not Paul tell us, who have the Holy Spirit in us, to be filled with the Spirit? Is there a problem in Paul, as well?

      Now, not all questions can be answered as easily as I have above, all I had to do for those was to crack a bible. Persons have posited much about the Passover matter, but since you have misread the above verses, seeing issues where there are none, is it not just as possible that there may be some bit of information, some colloquialisms or patterns of celebration about which we know very little vis-a-vis the matter at the time? Is asserting certainty about this matter wise considering the insubstantiality of the Sam-Harris-styled talking points above?

      This is even more clear in that, again, you misrepresent Licona’s point. He does not “question” it in the inoccuous manner that Don and you assert, he arrives at his own conclusion, and he does so for no clear reason within the text. The only reason is because parallel things happened in the contemporary literature. This is the only reason. Mohler finds this gravely insubstantial for the reasons he lists and I list (how is it marked as a vision, is there any textual reason to think that this is an apocalyptic interpolation, apart from the action in the passage, action which is asserted as certain to happen when Christ returns? No.), but additionally it inevitably cuts out the foundation of the resurrection itself. How does one draw a line between Christ’s death and resurrection and the passage in question. A reason cannot be found because the reason doesn’t exist. There is no reason to say that the one didn’t happen and the other did, as the text gives no indication that this was a vision or symbology. The notion is superimposed upon the text.

      You are, again, skipping over all of this. Can you include this in your next entry so I don’t have to keep typing the same thing over and over for you?

      If you only mention Mohammed Atta, when addressing 9/11, does the person to whom you are telling the story presume you have no idea what happened because you fail to mention the other 18 terrorists? If you say “terrorists flew a plane”, and two buildings were hit at two different times, do you suddenly become ahistorical? Should we think you to be speaking symbolically?

  13. RD September 18, 2011 at 4:38 pm #

    Sorry, Matthew 14:12 should be Matthew 26:17 above.

  14. RD September 23, 2011 at 9:49 am #

    Jason,

    I think we miss a valuable point in all of these discussions if we fail to realize that all of our understanding and personal belief about these issues is a matter of faith. We read the scriptures as individuals and we seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we approach the texts. I can’t presume to speak for Mr. Licona as to why he “declared” the Matthew 27 verses to be apocalyptic rather than historic, but I can certainly see where he might come to that conclusion. Matthew is the only gospel writer to recount this event. It has no historical corroboration from other eye-witnesses within scripture. However, Licona asserts that stories similar to this are found in other extra-biblical texts in which they are used to convey specific messages or reinforce specific ideas in an apocalyptic style. Thus, he finds more evidence to support an apocalyptic reading than he finds to support a literal, factually historical reading of these verses.

    My comments in my previous post went to the heart of historical corroboration. The only way we know that anything actually happened – and happened in a specific way – is from physical evidence and eye-witness testimony. If we have no other evidence but eye-witness testimony, and the eye-witnesses are not in agreement in their testimony, then we cannot assertain actual history as fact.

    In August 1941 Churchill and Roosevelt met off the coast of Newfoundland for the first time in their roles as prime minister and president. This is verified by eye-witness testimony. Churchill left the HMS Prince of Wales and boarded the USS Augusta to meet Roosevelt for the first time. If a writer wrote an account of their first meeting and said that Roosevelt boarded the HMS Prince of Wales to meet Churchill, this would be historically inaccurate. It would certainly be inaccurate if he said their first meeting had taken place in a pub in Hampstead. We know this because the majority of eye-witnesses bear witness that this is not how the events took place.

    However, if we had only four accounts of the events and no other means of knowing what took place, and two of the accounts said they met on the USS Augusta while the other two said they met in a pub in Hampstead, then we could not rely on any of the accounts to be historically accurate. We could agree that they met, but the circumstances surrounding the meeting would be murky at best. Did they meet for the first time on a ship or in a pub? Which account truly happened and which didn’t? Or did either account really reflect the actual historical event accurately?

    This is the kind of “history” we have in the gospel accounts. Each gives different details with regard to the events surrounding the resurrection. Did the eleven disciples leave Jerusalem and go back to Galilee where they first encountered Jesus? Or did the eleven stay in Jerusalem and encounter him there? Luke goes so far as to tell us in Acts 1:4-5 that Jesus specifically told the disciples not to leave Jerusalem. This statement, attributed directly to Jesus, is in direct opposition to Matthew’s account of Jesus’ instructions. Matthew’s gospel tells us Jesus specifically told Mary and Mary Magdalene to tell the disciples to go to Galilee where he would meet them (Matthew 28:10). So, which writer is giving us historical fact? We simply cannot know.

    Thus, when Dr. Mohler says in his article, “We must all hope that he [Licona] will ask himself that question again and answer in a way that affirms without reservation that all of Matthew’s report is historical.” (emphasis mine), he is asserting that it is absolutely possible – even absolutely neccessary – for believers to view Matthew ‘s entire gospel as historical fact. I simply assert that there is no way to accurately assess complete factual accuracy in the gospel accounts. We, as believers, approach them through faith. And if we can’t difinitively show them to be factually accurate, how can we say that Licona’s view is less accurate than Mohler’s?

  15. Jason September 23, 2011 at 6:40 pm #

    RD wrote,

    “I think we miss a valuable point in all of these discussions if we fail to realize that all of our understanding and personal belief about these issues is a matter of faith. We read the scriptures as individuals and we seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit as we approach the texts.”

    I don’t think you know what you are trying to say here. You go on to argue propositional details, but start the matter with this postmodern caveat, cautioning that “what seems true for you may not be true for me.” How, EXACTLY can anything be know about the text or anything else if your biblical epistemology is this uselessly open-ended?

    “Matthew is the only gospel writer to recount this event. It has no historical corroboration from other eye-witnesses within scripture.”

    The same thing can be said about literally hundreds of parts of the New Testament. You cannot seriously be expecting multiple eyewitness testimony to have the same details. That never, ever happens.

    So then this,

    “I can’t presume to speak for Mr. Licona as to why he “declared” the Matthew 27 verses to be apocalyptic rather than historic, but I can certainly see where he might come to that conclusion.”

    What else are we addressing apart from what he has said? And why the scare quotes? Did he or did he not come down on one side of the matter? Again, do you know what your point is in this paragraph?

    Then this

    “However, Licona asserts that stories similar to this are found in other extra-biblical texts in which they are used to convey specific messages or reinforce specific ideas in an apocalyptic style.”

    What messages? What ideas? Are they ideas and messages that are meant to convey something that has or will actually happen, as with, people being raised from the dead? And more central, a question you have not addressed, how, EXACTLY do you not assert the same thing about Christ’s resurrection? Again, you have amputated at least 2 legs of your theological stool, which doesn’t leave you with anything (but your “faith, in what, exactly is unclear, or, at least, you say it is”) to sit on.

    What are the REASONS that the apocalyptic style is presumed? ONLY that it is in contemporary literature? How many different things does that cover? Presumably you are willing to allow for a reading of Scripture in which the whole thing is metaphor with that sort of thinking.

    “My comments in my previous post went to the heart of historical corroboration.”

    No, they did not. They were surface readings of parallel matters with no consideration for details at all, looking at two different testimonies, and saying that they couldn’t be historical because they differed in details. This is not an issue of historical corroboration, this is skeptical pedantry, of the Sam Harris sort, seemingly not understanding that there is no problem in this passages, when one accounts for the fact that details are NEVER uniformly the same in eye witness testimony.

    For instance, your ongoing issue with going to Galilee or not going to Galilee completely misses that Jesus was raised for 40 days before being taken up (presumably, for you, this is apocalyptic symbology, standing for nothing in particular, as well). What could be accomplished in 40 days? Read the passages again, stop with the talking points. There is no problem. They could have gone to Galilee, come back, and been instructed to stay there until Pentecost. There is absolutely nothing hard about this, if you are looking at what was said and when.

    But more helpfully, your disbelief in the narrative is a clear illustration of what you think of Scripture and the God who breathed it out. This was much more my goal in this debate, I do not expect you to pay attention to these matters, this is for the benefit of others, seeing what your perspective begets.

    onward

    “If a writer wrote an account of their first meeting and said that Roosevelt boarded the HMS Prince of Wales to meet Churchill, this would be historically inaccurate. It would certainly be inaccurate if he said their first meeting had taken place in a pub in Hampstead. We know this because the majority of eye-witnesses bear witness that this is not how the events took place.”

    How do you know the eye-witness testimony is accurate? Perhaps he may have gotten on the ship to take a look at it, as an attendant circumstance in the meeting? The fact that this is not included makes it historically inaccurate? How would you know? How would that create a problem for the history of it?

    You see, again, eye witness testimony ALWAYS differs. Sometimes there are embellishments, but just as often two different people are remembering different details. This is not a problem, except for people who don’t understand that eye witness testimony always differs and, unless there is a clear contradiction, the details are presumed to be correct as long as the big picture matches up. You are imposing expectations on the matter that no historian would make, and, most unfortunately, you are doing so in defense of the ahistoricity of the bible.

    “This statement, attributed directly to Jesus, is in direct opposition to Matthew’s account of Jesus’ instructions.”

    Do you know what a contradiction is? If I gave you my email address today, but then tomorrow I changed it and gave you another one, and you remembered one, and I remembered another, is none of it to be believed? I’m sorry, you are just not thinking very clearly nor very deeply about this.

    So, in the following, you completely run over yourself

    “USS Augusta while the other two said they met in a pub in Hampstead, then we could not rely on any of the accounts to be historically accurate. We could agree that they met, but the circumstances surrounding the meeting would be murky at best. Did they meet for the first time on a ship or in a pub? Which account truly happened and which didn’t? Or did either account really reflect the actual historical event accurately?”

    “not historically accurate – murky” Which is it? Why would it be murky? Do you presume to have infallible knowledge of the matter? How is this not possible? How would you know? Why would you presume against it, if the major points all lined up?

    “Did they meet for the first time on a ship or in a pub?” I don’t know, what story are you making up now, and how EXACTLY does it parallel what seems to be your profuse issues with the bible and believing anything that it says? Be very specific, because, to this point, you have not been, as I demonstrated in the previous post.

    “So, which writer is giving us historical fact? We simply cannot know.”

    Just one more time. You have, literally, no textual or historical reason to think that both are historical fact. There is no reason to think that in the course of 40 days both could not have happened.

    At the last, you resort to dishonesty in acontextual quotations and even more dishonest assertions about your “quotes”.

    You write

    “Thus, when Dr. Mohler says in his article, “We must all hope that he [Licona] will ask himself that question again and answer in a way that affirms without reservation that all of Matthew’s report is historical.” (emphasis mine), he is asserting that it is absolutely possible – even absolutely neccessary – for believers to view Matthew ‘s entire gospel as historical fact.”

    Mohler’s ACTUAL quote:

    “We can only hope that Michael Licona will resolve this inconsistency by affirming without reservation the status as historical fact of all that Matthew reports in chapter 27 and all that the New Testament presents as historical narrative”

    There are CONSIDERABLE differences in the two. Mohler makes qualifications, asserting that for those matters that have no good reason to be taken as apocalyptic literature (visions, markers such as Spiritual intervention, lacking entirely in the passage in question) parabolic, et. al. have no reason to be taken as anything but history. You have asserted that Mohler made a uniform pronouncement about the matter that he did not make.

    Why the dishonesty in making your case? Or, in light of your decision to assert the differences between the gospel texts where there are none, perhaps you just didn’t notice what Mohler was actually saying, but, instead, were ascribing to him some symbology commensurate with what you THINK he’s trying to say, even though, he is not saying that at all?

    Above Rob had issue with my asserting dishonesty in Bird’s defense of himself.

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