When is an inerrancy debate not really about inerrancy?

Most of the time.

I hadn’t intended to write more about the Licona controversy and the inerrancy debate (here’s my first post), but I’ve gotten enough questions that I think I need to say a bit more. If you’d like to read more about the discussion, I’ve included some of the more important links at the bottom of this post.

The Basic Issues

  • Michael Licona understands the dead rising in Mt. 27:52-53 as a non-historical literary device rather than an actual historical event.
  • Many have argued that this is incompatible with inerrancy as defined by the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy (CSBI) because it’s an example of “dehistoricizing” (see Article XVIII).
  • Licona claims that he believes in inerrancy and that his position on Mt. 27 is not incompatible with inerrancy. (I do not know whether Licona affirms inerrancy as defined by CSBI. But, for the sake of this post, I’ll assume that he does.)
  • Somebody is wrong.

According to CSBI, to affirm that the Bible is “inerrant” means you affirm that because God only speaks truth, and because the Bible is fully and wholly inspired by this truth-speaking God, the Bible speaks with “infallible divine authority” and is “without error or fault in all its teaching.” And, this infallible inerrancy extends to everything that it touches on, including “the events of world history.” So, for example, if the Bible makes a historical claim like “David was the king of Israel,” then it either must be the case that David was in fact an actual and historical king of Israel or inerrancy is false.

And CSBI is very clear in rejecting any attempt to “dehistoricize” scripture by turning historical events into non-historical events. In other words, you don’t get to dodge the Virgin Birth by turning it into a mere symbol of Christ’s unique significance. If the Bible presents it as an historical event, then it was one. You can reject the CSBI definition of inerrancy, but you can’t slip around it quite that easily.

Seems pretty straightforward, doesn’t it?

Like most things, it’s a bit more complicated in practice.


The Real Crux of the Problem: Hermeneutics

All of this hinges on whether the Bible does in fact present some event as an actual historical event. Take, for instance, the six days of creation. Although many hold that Genesis 1 is historical and must be read that way, many other evangelicals disagree. Instead, they contend that Genesis 1 is doing something else (e.g. giving theological truths about the origin of the universe, offering a poetic account of creation, etc.). But, and this is key, when evangelicals read Genesis 1 in these ways, they are not rejecting inerrancy. They can still hold that Genesis 1 is infallible and inerrant in every way. They are simply arguing that the biblical authors never intended anyone to read Genesis 1 as describing literal, historical events. So, to read them that way is to misread the text.

In other words, it’s not that they think Genesis 1 tries to describe history and fails. They don’t think it is even trying to describe history, or it’s describing history with highly poetic language. It’s not wrong; it’s just doing something different. And, whatever it’s doing, it’s doing it inerrantly.

Now, is this an example of dehistoricizing a text? Are these people simply taking an obviously historical text and turning it into non-history so that they can avoid its clear implications? If so, then even though these people might still use the word “inerrancy,” it would not be the CSBI kind of inerrancy.

I don’t think so. I think we should reserve “dehistoricizing” for situations where a story that gives no indication of being anything other than historical is suddenly re-read as being non-historical. So, for example, to read the story of the Jerusalem council in Acts 15 and conclude that this never really happened, and that the story actually refers to the spiritual gathering of believers in heaven, that would be an example of dehistoricizing. (I don’t know anyone who actually does that with this story.) There’s nothing in the text to suggest that this is anything other than an historical account of a real event (though described, of course, from a particular perspective). But, regardless of how you read Genesis 1, I think we should all recognize that there are reasonable arguments for reading it as something other than six literal days of creation. You can disagree with those arguments, of course. That’s where the fun is. But, let’s at least acknowledge that these people can point to many elements in Genesis 1 as indicating that this text was never intended to be read as literal history. So, they’re not simply dehistoricizing; they’re trying to read the text the way the authors intended.

In other words, this isn’t a debate about inerrancy. It’s about hermeneutics. What is the proper way to understand Genesis 1, and are there indications in Genesis 1 that it is anything other than straightforward history? What is the genre of Genesis 1, and how did the original authors intend for it to be read? These are all hermeneutical issues. And, they’re all worth discussing. But, none of them necessarily undermines inerrancy.

Now, CSBI does deal with issues of hermeneutics, but not very thoroughly. All it says is that Scripture is “to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis.” And this doesn’t really solve our problem. As CSBI recognizes, grammatical-historical exegesis takes into account things like genre and literary devices. So, a grammatical-historical method could still read Genesis 1 as poetry (or whatever) if there are indications that this is how the text should be read.


Hermeneutics & the Licona Debate

What does any of this have to do with the Licona debate? Quite simply, this is not a debate about inerrancy either. Everyone involved in the discussion affirms inerrancy. And, I haven’t heard anyone say that they’re defining inerrancy in any way other than that affirmed by CSBI. So, let’s take them at their word and assume that they do in fact believe what they say they do.

As with Genesis 1, this is a debate about hermeneutics. Licona claims that Matthew intended for us to read 27:52-53 as an “apocalyptic” device that highlights the significance of Christ’s death and resurrection. According to him, this was a common literary device in Greco-Roman culture and that Matthew would have expected his readers to know this and read the text accordingly. In other words, he’s not saying that Matthew claimed that people rose from the dead and that Matthew was in fact wrong about this. He’s saying that Matthew never intended us to think that people actually rose from their graves.

So, the question is not whether Licona rejects inerrancy, but whether he is correct in his interpretation of Mt. 27:52-53. Does he in fact have good evidence for maintaining that this is how Matthew and his readers would have understood this text? In other words, can he demonstrate that “rising from the grave” was a literary device and would have been understood as such in Matthew’s day? That’s a hermeneutical question.

Now, I’ll have to be honest here, I’m not convinced by Licona’s argument. Mt. 27:52-53 sure looks and feels like a seamless part of the historical narrative in which it’s contained. So, I’m having a hard time seeing the basis for saying that these verses are a non-historical literary device, while the surrounding verses are historical. But, I haven’t studied the text myself. So, maybe there’s more to the argument than I recognize.

The point is, this is a debate about hermeneutics. It is not a debate about inerrancy. It could end up having implications for inerrancy if the hermeneutical issues are resolved and it’s concluded that this was not an accepted literary device in Matthew’s day. To continue reading the text as poetic then would be to dehistoricize the text and reject inerrancy. But, that is not where we are in the discussion at this point.

So, let me say it again. This is not a debate about inerrancy. At least, it shouldn’t be. And, escalating it into a debate about inerrancy at this juncture is neither wise nor helpful. It distracts from the real issues and prevents people from taking an honest look at what may be a legitimate interpretive possibility.


For More Information:

I’m sure there are many others, but this should be more than enough.



About Marc Cortez

Theology Prof and Dean at Western Seminary, husband, father, & blogger, who loves theology, church history, ministry, pop culture, books, and life in general.

Posted on September 15, 2011, in Bible & Revelation, Biblical Studies, New Testament and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 41 Comments.

  1. @Mark : I think you are correct on this one. What Geisler and Mohler have done is concluded that it is improbable that this passage is an apocalyptic poetic device and since they don’t affirm that interpretation (hermeneutics), and they see Licona does, they jump to the next conclusion, that to affirm this improbable interpretation is to be absurd enough to be denying inerrancy for all intents and purposes. I image this would be something more people would affirm if Licona denied the Virgin Birth. So I guess I can see where Geisler and Mohler are coming and going, though I disagree with their conclusions (although, like you, I find Licona’s interpretation improbable).

  2. I am not a scholar and dont fully understand all this, but I understand enough to see its all about interpretation of that passage and not inerrancy. I am surprised to read how much Dr. Geisler has made of this. And why has he taken this on himself to decide who should met this definition?

  3. Well said. This is a debate about hermeneutics and presuppositions as well (but given Geisler’s presuppositions about inerrancy it does turn into a debate about inerrancy as well since he can’t separate his interpretation from the true interpretation). Steve Hays’ posts on the matter have been pretty good and have raised issues about exegesis/hermeneutics. Here’s a pertinent point from one of his posts:

    vi) Geisler says:

    By this same kind of fallacious hermeneutic one can also conclude that other biblical stories, like the Virgin Birth and Resurrection of Christ, are just legends too, along with the creation record in Genesis 1-2.

    a) That’s certainly a valid concern. It’s also the case that “hermeneutics” can become a ruse for denying inerrancy without saying so.

    b) However, you can’t use a definition of inerrancy to rule out certain interpretations. You have to counter bad exegesis with better exegesis. There’s no shortcut for exegesis.

  4. Marc,

    I would agree with your conclusion. My early place and agreement with Geisler, was more of a confessional Evangelical position, at least in the hermeneutical and interpretive sense from the text of Matt. 27:52-53. But to just jump to the whole issue of inerrancy, at this point would be beyond the true sense and purpose, etc.

  5. Thanks, Marc — this brings a good deal of needed clarity to the discussion. It does seem as though Geisler and Mohler are skipping the hermeneutical steps and going right for the critical judgment. I imagine they would argue that they’ve done the hermeneutical work, or that this critique is already inherent in the public judgment. But clearly they need to show their work if the argument against Licona’s fidelity to inerrancy is going to get off the ground.

    Ultimately, since Licona is so insistent on his fidelity to inerrancy, I imagine that argument can’t be sustained. We ultimately have a difference of exegetical opinion. So the interesting question, to me, becomes: Is there room in Evangelicalism for such diversity?

    • “Is there room in Evangelicalism for such diversity?”

      There should be!

    • I’d have to agree with Nate. There must be room in evangelicalism for this kind of legitimate diversity. Granted, ongoing discussions will often produce the conclusion that some answer has been tried and failed. But, let’s not cut off the discusion!

  6. Possibly the most helpful comment I saw in Mohler’s post was in reference to the Gundry situation:

    Scholars including D. A. Carson and Darrell Bock argued, in response, that Matthew was not writing midrash and that his first readers would never have assumed him to have done so.

    That’s exactly the kind of exegetical engagement that seems to be missing in this case.

  7. Someone commented on Facebook that maybe Geisler et al think that the exegetical work has already been done (hence all the references to Gundry) and that’s why they feel free to skip that step here. If so, I’m not satisfied with that for two reasons. First, the Gundry case was very different. His argument from Midrash has nothing to do with Licona’s approach. And, they came to opposite conclusions on this passage. So, it’s hard to see how that could function as a valid exegetical argument here. Second, even if they were parallel, simply citing the earlier case doesn’t help much. At least explain how/why the earlier position was refuted exegetically.

  8. Seventh, this is not, as Licona asserts, merely a hermeneutical issue on which any one can take his own views. As was pointed out in our debate with Gundry (in The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society), one’s hermeneutics or methodology cannot be totally separated from his view on inerrancy. If it were, then people like Karl Barth could be said to be consistent with inerrancy, even if they believed the Bible was not without error in certain facts of history or science. Indeed, as Gundry was forced to admit, even Mary Baker Eddy could consistently sign an inerrancy statement (on Licona’s argument), while she was allegorizing away, not just the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27 but also allegorizing away all the stories in the Bible, including the resurrection of Christ!

    Indeed, contrary to Licona’s claim that this Matthew 27 issue “was outside the primary thesis of the book,” for the resurrection of these saints was directly connected to the resurrection of Christ and listed as a result of it (see Matthew 27:50-53). So, the two events are interwoven. Hence, to deny the literal historical nature of the saints who were resurrected as a result of Christ’s resurrection, is also to deny the literal historical nature of the cause of their resurrection, namely, Christ’s resurrection itself.

    Eighth, Licona reveals the basis of his own problem when he admits that his view on Matthew 27 “is based upon my [his] analysis of the genre of the text” and that this was based on a comparison with “similar phenomena in the Greco-Roman literature in general.” But this is clearly not the way to interpret a biblical text which should be understood by the “historical-grammatical” method (as ICBI held) of (a) looking at a text in its context and (b) by comparing other biblical texts, affirming that “Scripture is to interpret Scripture” (as ICBI mandated). The proper meaning is certainly not found by superimposing some external pagan idea on the text in order to determine what the text means. By this same kind of fallacious hermeneutic one can also conclude that other biblical stories, like the Virgin Birth and Resurrection of Christ, are just legends too, along with the creation record in Genesis 1-2.

    • These are interesting points, but they hardly resolve the issue. The 7th point merely restates what I’m arguing. No one is saying that you can do whatever you want with hermeneutics. So, if someone thinks Licona is doing something hermeneutically inappropriate, great, demonstrate that.

      And, the 8th point simply misunderstands (or misstates) how hermeneutics and culture relate. Literary devices (e.g. figures of speech, metaphors, symbols, etc.) are cultural artifacts. To understand how they function, you have to know how they were used in a particular cultural context. So, if I tell you that someone is “pulling my leg” or refer to the Jerusalem Council as the “Super Bowl” of the early church, you’re going to need to know something about my cultural context to understand what I’m doing with the language. Similarly, Licona is arguing that Matthew is using a literary device that was common to his culture and would have been understood as such by his readers. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I don’t think I’ve ever read a single commentary that tries to take the “Scripture is to interpret Scripture” as a principle that excludes all other sources of information.

  9. I’d just point out that Geisler did address Licona’s interpretation and offer an alternative interpretation with accompanying exegesis in his second letter (this is partly in response to Darren’s comment). Was his counter-exegesis comprehensive or rigorous? Hardly. But he didn’t act as if it has all been figured out already and then refrain from doing some interpretive spadework.

  10. Well, these are Geisler’s points.

    Furthermore, I think the major issue amongst evangelical hermeneutics scholars is the belief that genre determines meaning. This is epistemologically fallacious, and hermeneutically disastrous. This is for the simple fact that reasoning occurs from the parts to the whole. We obtain the genus (genre) of a text through the investigation of the particulars in reality. When this is done, it is an avenue by which genre does not determine meaning but helps to enhance meaning. See Aristotle’s Metaphysics and Aquinas’ Commentary.

    Second, it is methodologically inappropriate to claim that we can go to outside resources, determine the genre, and then impose those genre categories to determine the historicity of the text. The reason is because we must first use the historical-grammatical method to read both of the texts (the biblical and pagan), and from that declaration we discover the genre of the text and recognize their appropriate similarities. Hence, the method of genre criticism presupposes the HGM to make their case and denies it when they import it up the Biblical text.

    Third, similarity of genus does not entail similarity of origin. Just because two genres seem to have a similar formal expression, does not entail that they have a similar cause (either biologically or culturally). What is always important in any “formal” metaphysical notion is not always the similarities, but the essential differences. Namely, the difference of man and the difference it makes, is that when a person looks at the genus between animals and humanity; it is the special key of rationale in humanity which separates the two genus. And, it if or those reasons that we claim there is a similarity between the two, but an essential principle of metaphysical difference. The formal difference between two genus can be illustrated by the difference between a circle and a square. A difference of degree occurs by comparing a larger and smaller circle and a difference of kind occurs when you compare a circle and a square. No matter how many sides you add to a square, it may approach a circle but it never actually becomes one. And to override the genus of one because of similarity is to destroy the reality of the genus of the other. This is exactly what has gone on in the evolution debate for years, similarity of genus means similarity of origins; and the presuppositions of the similarity of origins entails the denying of a difference of kind.

    In a similar respect, when individuals in contemporary hermeneutics compare the two we first have to use the HGM method, and second we need to be keen to the essential differences, so as to not destroy the genus of the text (which even as you admit, is historical and to deny its historicity by genre criticism is to do just that). As Mohler right alludes, “when does history end and apocalyptic begin?” (Of which, Licona and others are claiming to be two different genres hence two different kinds, and there cannot be a true comparison and to make the official comparison is to entail a contradiction of being according to metaphysical first principles). This method was similar with midrash (which they posit as an external category to override the historicity of the biblical text) and with apocalytic literature in this sense (which is used to override the historicity of the text).

    In the end, it goes to show that many individual in biblical studies study hermeneutics, but they fail to study philosophy and especially philosophy of hermeneutics. Aristotle clearly demonstrated this method to be fallacious in his metaphysics, categories, prior and posterior analytics. And a late contemporary who argued in a similar fashion was Mortimer Adler in his book: The Difference of Man and the Difference it Makes.

    • Yes, I was aware that those were Geisler’s points, I just didn’t find them convincing.

      But, I’m very much in agreement with you here. I’m not at all suggesting that we simplistically go to external sources and then impose those categories on the biblical texts. I’m only arguing for the legitimacy of using those sources in the interpretive process. And, I’m sure that Geisler and others agree, though their statements in this particular discussion make it sound like they don’t think Licona should be using those sources at all. As you’ve pointed out, that’s not how this works.

      Now, whether Licona has used those sources properly in this particular instance is exactly the kind of hermeneutical discussion that I think that calls for. (And, it’s also one that I’m not qualified to address, since I haven’t dug into the exegetical particulars of this passage.) If he has borrowed parallel material without sufficient attention to the relevant differences (I don’t know enough even to comment on this), or if he has applied that material to the biblical passage without sufficient attention to the genre clues contained in the text (this is where I remain unconvinced), then his interpretation absolutely critiqued. By all means, let’s have a good exegetical discussion.

      But, although I’m not convinced, I don’t think we can or should reject out of hand the possibility that Matthew could embed a passage characterized by one genre inside of a broader passage characterized by another genre. Authors do that all the time when they use poetry inside a larger prose text. So, we can’t just assume that because the broader context of Mt. 27 is historical that everything inside of Mt. 27 is likewise historical. I do think it places a strong burden of proof on anyone wanting to demonstrate that any particular passage has a different genre, and that’s where the discussion comes in.

  11. Again, I agree Marc. If Matthew 27: 52-53 is a so-called figure of speech from another genre, that does not necessarily negate the spiritual nor historical reality of the literal resurrection. I would suggest that people see E.W. Bullinger’s book: Figures of Speech Used in the Bible. Though I cannot myself see how we can see another “genre” in the middle of this section, and these two verses, without perhaps applying the same thought to verses 51 and 54? Again, this is exegetical, but certainly hermeneutical!

  12. Norm Geisler does not think there is no validity in using those sources. That’s what is known as the “historical” part of the HGM method. It recognizes that words have grammatical meaning within a sentence, and that sentences are spoken within a historical setting. But, the issue of genre criticism, as expressed in its modern form, is an implicit denial of the historical grammatical method. There is a keen difference between being aware of the historical background and literary genre criticism. This was picked up in the work by your school’s provost Earl Radmacher, and there is a whole section dedicated to genre criticism in the ICBI work (to which Norm and others keep referring people, and those who keep playing the hermeneutics card keep failing to refer to). The method people are confusing Norm to be espousing is the theological-grammatical-method; which was taught by Sailheimer. This method is much closer to the HGM than the 2nd Temple method by Licona and others like Enns. This is precisely what Kaiser argues against in the Inerrancy book chapter titled: Legitimate Hermeneutics. So, to claim it is merely a hermeneutics issue, is to overlook all of the work the ICBI did on the relationship between hermeneutics and inerrancy. Furthermore, it is forgetting that in Fundamentalism and the Word of God, in a later section, JI Packer critiques this very method of genre criticism being used by “biblical theologians” to deny the historicity of the text. So, it’s not that this is a new debate amongst the ICBI and its view of inerrancy and hermeneutics. Instead, many of the main proponents have gone to be with the Lord, and the other living framers just haven’t spoken out against it [yet? or have they? is Geisler the only one saying this or is he the figure head? I don’t say that to be fallacious]. I’m not being fallacious like most internet bloggers, I’m just saying there is more politics behind this than people know!

    And I’m not so sure you grasped my full critique of the genre criticism and the HGM’s notion of propositional language. This has been the key debate for years. It was contended most in by Carl FH Henry who used to rightly speak out against this type of method, and his interactions with Kevin Vanhoozer. Vanhoozer critiques Henry for a dry-propositionalism, etc. But even Vanhoozer, in a JETS article recognizes that the contemporary literary-genre criticisms are to be considered as “post-conservative.” Henry wrote about this extensively in God, Revelation, and Authority. Furthermore, it is what has been known has the Warfield-Hodge-Henry hypothesis.

    The irony of all this is that the individuals involved are making it out like New Testament scholars (and OT included) that we are just now becoming aware of these sources and method. This method is nothing new and obviously we didn’t just stumble upon them in the last 30 years since the ICBI. The essential difference is that in the past 30 years individuals like Licona and many hermeneutics departments have been trained in a literary-grammatical-method which is an extension of the university thought of simple literary-genre criticism. The difference is that Evangelicalism is now experiencing the effects of 30 years of this new hermeneutic coming from guys like Thiesselton, Grant Osborne, Vanhoozer, etc. method which are finally resulting in the guys like Licona (who is the weakest expression of this new method. Weak not meaning uneducated, but less embracing). Remember everyone, Peter Enns was fired from Westminster over this very same thing! The only difference is that Licona does not have, which Mohler points out, is an entire commentary throughout larger books of the Bible demonstrating how many passages he believes to be non-historical due to 2nd Temple Genre criticism.

    • Good post William and information! This issue has been rolling for quite some time!

    • William, that’s a great comment. And, thanks for the reminder that these are discussions that have been underway for quite some time. I’m aware of the ICBI work on hermeneutics and have often argued that a deeper understanding of hermeneutics was the missing link in a lot of the conversations about inerrancy. So, thanks for pressing on us to reflect on that more deeply.

      And, thanks for drawing a distinction between historical-grammatical and theological-grammatical. That’s what I was getting at in my last comment when I said that I’m sure Geisler agrees on the importance of the historical. But, I still think it’s his own rhetoric in this discussion that has people thinking that he downplays the historical.

      And, I think we’re just going to be in disagreement, on whether literary-genre criticism is as necessarily flawed as you seem to think. I can definitely see how it can be abused and taken in some really unfortunate directions, but isn’t that true with any methodology? And, I’ve seen some real value in this approach in the works of the very scholars that you mention (Vanhoozer, Osborne, and Thiselton, among others). From your perspective that probably means that I’m just the product of being a part of the generation that has been shaped by this flawed methodology.

      • Indeed Marc,

        Thank God we really don’t and cannot really define all of these issues, for here God is simply and profoundly HIS own mystery! As conservative as I think I am, I am always trumped by God’s own essence & mystery.. and ontology! I heard Thomas Torrance lecture, and though I didn’t/don’t always agree with him, we must respect God’s own being, always a traditional Theism, but always too “transcendent” and “immanent”! And so we must too approach the written Word of God!

  13. Yes, you are right that methods can be flawed. We, just like our methods, can be flawed.

    Second, I’m not an all or nothing of genre criticism and neither was the ICBI. This is clearly the case in the ICBI and their respective commentaries. The issues are the philosophical underpinnings driving the declarations of a genre. Just like, because of its Latin derivative, the word Genus, the idea of a genre and how to classify a genre is a large matter of debate. As in the biological realm, it is all a matter of how do you define the genus of a species! Or in this case, how do we appropriately designate the genre of the text? Do we allow outside pagan literature to determine the genre of all texts we find from that era? Do we consider the possibility that the writers, while fully human and using human methods, under the superintendence of the Holy Spirit created a new genre that could be classified as “gospel literature”? It seems like we are again falling prey to the old accomodationist error.

    If we apply this to the person of Christ, we remember he did accommodate to humanity, but he did not accommodate to their errors. And in this respect, the Word of God written and the Word of God incarnate; were both very human and lived in their cultural mileu. But, we do not make a perfect parallel of the genus of Christ’s humanity by comparing him to those around him (remember their genus was sinful), for it is in the differences where it matters (namely, they were both of the genus of humanity; but one of them does not have a fallen nature). In a similar respect, the Word of God written, may have certain genre characteristics that are the same, but I don’t want to say that the entire genre of the literary piece, just because it exists in a certain cultural mileu; must bear all the marks of the genre of that cultural mileu.

    So, it’s not that genre criticism is completely garbage. It’s about using genre criticism, to override the historicity of a text. Again, remember, the argument about meaning in accordance with the ICBI is that texts don’t mean what “authors intend.” Instead, texts mean what they say (aka., their formal causality). The intentionalist theory of meaning is the second major problem here. What do you mean by intend: efficient intentionally, material intentionality, final intentionality or the other host of Aristotelian causes, etc….

    Honestly, what does it mean to say Matthew intended? Second, if we need another appeal to understand the meaning of Matthew’s gospel (aka., outside literature), then we have just moved the question back even further. For now we must ask, “what did XYZ” intend for their text to mean? Ad infinitium.

    This occurs when we say: Hi I’m going to run to John’s house. Sally responds: “what do you mean/intend by that?” You respond with another text: “It means I’m going to run (legs moving at a faster pace) to John’s house (the property that the designated man John owns).” But here is the issue, just like the first text, you have now given me a second text and I should follow up and ask: What do you mean/intend by that? And you respond by creating yet another material sign or its equivalent spoken sign, which in order to know the meaning of that text I must ask again ad infinitum “what do you mean/intend by that?”

    Here’s the point, authors mean in their text and texts mean what the grammar states. Yes there are cultural expressions, but those expressions are found in the text, and the understanding of them are enhanced by outside resources. Licona’s error is that he is simply misplaced the locus of meaning in the author, apart from the text, and he is going to fall prey to the old issue known as the “fallacy of the intentionalist theory of meaning.” How about we start located meaning in formal causality, instead of efficient or final causality.

    So, I’m not saying all of the people today are all participating in the flawed method. I’m just saying, and you being a dean will recognize this (not saying you are doing this or an advocate of this, but speaking in a broad description of a lot of evangelicalism); that professors can sometimes highly affect the methods of their students by restricted the books they are exposed to. And, it seems like once again, a generation of younger scholars is starting to arise that have not read Henry, Lindsell, Kaiser, Archer, and a host of other present at the ICBI. In all fairness, it would be wise for the Evangelical community to have people read Kaiser next to Osborne to realize that there are top scholars who think the hermeneutical spiral is flawed. Or when students that I’ve seen think the only view of language today would be the speech-act-theory coming from Vanhoozer, because that’s all they have been exposed to; not realizing many other valid, and systematically superior understandings of language.

    And, while this could go on forever. Unless it is immediately pressing, I’m going to make this my last post. This is your blog, so you can make the final comment.

  14. I have been re-reading Michael Licona’s book on the Resurrection again since yesterday. And also looking myself at the text in Matt. 27:50-54, etc. And I now am going to change my mind, and agree with Licona! It really does appear that the texts of 52 and 53, in their intent and purpose, are a spiritual & theological “event” of an apocalyptic nature, in the eschatological place, for the saints of God even now, and then later! Here is a theology of fulfillment, and in the “Death” of Christ, and to His “Resurrection”!

  15. Marc,

    Just a note, but I was asked by Nick to leave his blog over this subject (which I have done), I suggested maybe your thoughts and arbitration? He was silent. Anyway, this issue and subject got nasty, I simply kept reiterating the “apocalyptic” position itself! I did not want to play their game, I mean how many ways does one need to say this theological point? I simply became the fall guy for the position, it seems? And btw, I have written Locona personally.

    E-mail me if you wish? Thanks 🙂

    • Fr. Robert, I understand that this has been a frustrating experience for you, but I really don’t think that it’s appropriate for me to try and get involved in a discussion that really has nothing to do with me. I’m happy to discuss the details of my own posts, but I can’t get involved in the particulars of how a discussion evolves at another blog. Nick is a very reasonable guy, and I’m sure he’d be happy to continue the discussion if it can be done clearly and carefully, though I doubt you’ll end up seeing eye-to-eye on this one.

  16. By the way, if anyone is curious, Nick has posted a response to Fr. Robert’s concerns here: rdtwot.wordpress.com/2011/09/19/lets-be-clear/. If you’d like to discuss the issue further, please head over there and make your comments. I won’t be taking any further comments on the subject here.

  17. Marc,

    Your right to stay away from this one! I was just really surprised how this whole issue turned out! I was a professor for awhile myself, back in the 90’s in Israel, and I had grad students. But they were all very open minded really. But things have changed since them days certainly!

  18. Along the same line – the whole CSBI business seems to be a bit too ‘legalistic’. Is CSBI now to be deemed authority like scripture? Does CSBI even speak to translation (directly or otherwise)?

    This whole Licona business illustrates that evangelicals are the new Pharisees (and I consider myself evangelical).

  19. Marc: Again, since these posts a lot of water has gone under the bridge! And we can see the whole sad affair about how Mike Licona has been treated by the Giesler Machine! Very sad, and simply troublesome! Again this is just Evangelical or better Fundamentalist Pharisaism, 2011 style! If I had any place today to stand and support Michael Licona I would do so, and I shall continue to pound my wee little pulpit for his academic freedom! I would hope you would do the same?

    I am happy I am really semi-retired and an Anglican, at this point. If I were in the fray I would personally take a very hard line towards Giesler & Co!

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