“…is the Gospel.”

Attention please.

If you end a sentence with the phrase “…is the Gospel”, and you begin your sentence without words like “Jesus, Christ, God, Lord, Savior, etc.”, you have at best said something exceedingly stupid and unBiblical, and at worst have said something idolatrous.

That is all.

God Bless,

Johnathan Pritchett

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Clapping With One Hand: An “Open Letter” to Dr. Licona’s Supporters.

Dear Licona Supporters,

While I appreciate your willingness to show your support for Dr. Licona, and standing beside him, and defend him on the issue of inerrancy and his perfectly valid interpretation, (even though we all go way overboard to claim our own disagreement and reservations about it, so much so that I have lampooned all our disclaimers to no end on this blog…mine included) and all that…

…what has been missed by those scholars, and others around the internet not too cowardly to speak up for Dr. Licona, is that the larger issue of Geisler’s behavior has gone unchallenged publicly. I should say, un-rebuked.

Put simply, this kind of behavior from one orthodox Evangelical towards another is reprehensible, and has been since the false charges and complete mishandling of the issues in Geisler’s first open letter.

Going by Geisler’s own words in his open letters, this has been dragging on for seven months now and Geisler has now fallen way off his rocker. It is high time for someone to call him on the mat. In each successive letter, and in each successive month, Geisler’s tone in public and private against Licona, and apparently others who support him, is now way beyond the pale, especially in view of his rant against Christianity Today for being too supportive of our Evangelical brother and failing to write gloriously about how Geisler’s wretched antics and overblown, COMPLETELY FALSE charges regarding Licona’s views of inerrancy have damaged Licona’s career.

It is disgusting. We teach our kids to be better than this, as the Bible instructs us to do so.

Early on, one might have been able to say that Geisler meant well in challenging an interpretation and disagreeing with it, but simply handled it wrong. Well, he should have corrected it, and so forth, but didn’t. He has made it much worse as time rolled on (an continues to roll on). Remember, it went from Geisler claiming Licona’s interpretation was “inconsistent” to “Licona’s denial of inerrancy…”

Licona doesn’t deny inerrancy, he affirms it. His interpretation isn’t inconsistent with inerrancy either, as a consensus of Evangelical scholars, whose opinion on these matters ought to count far more than Geisler’s (and Mohler’s, by the way) have clearly stated. So, this charge of denying inerrancy is an unrepentant lie and false charge against Licona himself. It isn’t the only one. Various blogs have pointed out the inconsistencies and mis-characterizations of Geisler’s charges against Licona.

Geisler is on a crusade against the man (and now probably others), not the method. It is unconscionable.

Put simply, Geisler’s reprehensible behavior on this matter “should be considered unorthodox, non-evangelical, and a dangerous precedent for the rest of evangelicalism.”

Some of you big wig Evangelicals need to take some action in publicly rebuking this man and calling him to repentance. I don’t want to hear about him simply acting like a crotchety old fart either, and trying to laugh it off. Too much damage has been done that needs repairing. He has been on a personal vendetta against Dr. Licona in both public and private bullying behind the scenes. This is unacceptable. As Dr. Wallace points out, it undermines the authority and holding inerrancy of Scripture for future generations of Evangelicals.

To make matters even worse still is that since his first open letter, he demanded treatment from Licona what he has not given to James White, who has asked of Geisler the same “courtesy”. So much for “do unto others” . This hypocrisy is not forgotten. One of you people who actually matters in large Evangelical circles needs to quit the quibbling over just the interpretation issue in your defenses of Licona, tackle the larger issues, and call Geisler to repent of his ill behavior and petty actions.

2011 has been the year of blog-blather in Christian apologetic circles, between the White-Caner-Geisler thing and the Geisler-Licona thing. This is a shame on us all. It is a distraction.

And yet, in the middle of all of it’s perpetuation is Norman Geisler on all counts. Imagine that!

In short, I do appreciate Dr. Licona’s supporters in showing public support, but this isn’t just about hermeneutics and the bounds of inerrancy anymore. It is about Christ-like character, and months of Geisler’s stubborn lack of displaying any.

The world has been watching…and enough is enough.

That is all.

God Bless,

Johnathan Pritchett

P.S. If Geisler can publicly whine about Licona’s family doing the honorable thing of defending him publicly and not get called on it for such below-the-belt boo-hissing; I can use “crotchety old fart” kind of rhetoric with immunity.

EDIT: This is starting to get a lot of hits, so before I get complaints, go read Exodus 20:16, 1 Peter 3:8, Ephesians 4:32, Titus 3:10, 1 Timothy 5:20, and so forth before griping at me.

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Given his reasoning, Norman Geisler would have to trash Jesus’ brother Jude on the issue of inerrancy regarding his methodology and conclusions.

Norman Geisler writes to Dr. Licona, “Finally, the same mistake seems to be occurring in your interpretation of this text as is made by many current liberal scholars in dehistoricizing other biblical texts, namely, using extra biblical sources as determinative for understanding a biblical text.  So what if other Roman or Jewish legends are similar?” (emphasis mine)

Well, aside from erroneously comparing Licona to “liberals” for no other reason than to well-poison and be rude and inflammatory towards him, Jude cites two non-canonical texts in order to interpret OT texts, and then applies these ideas from non-canonical material informing his OT exegesis to the behavior and fate of false teachers.

Regarding the false teachers’ mouthing off against angelic beings, in verse 9 he brings in a story from the Assumption of Moses, referring to the dispute between Satan and Michael over Moses’ body.

In verses 5 and 7, and a bit from verse 6b (the bit of 6a comes from non-canonical material), Jude cites the OT examples, and then adds some commentary in verse 8, and in verse 9, he makes an echo to a non-canonical story, and in verse 10 makes application to the false teachers again. Then Jude returns to OT citations in verse 11.

In Jude 14-15 Jude almost directly quotes from 1 Enoch. This prophecy is one that Jude applies to the fate of these teachers by way of comparision.

But Geisler states, “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).” (emphasis added)

Problem…Jesus’ brother Jude cites non-Biblical texts outside of the Biblical Canon and uses them to understand both OT texts from Genesis, and the fate of false teachers stirring up a present situation arising in the church. There is nothing in the text that suggests he views the OT citations as more authoritative than the non-canonical texts, which he appears to find equally authoritative. Also, did Jude mean for these to be taken literal and historical or not?

Remember, Jude, especially in regards to the 1 Enoch citation, is using non-Canonical, non-Biblical sources to understand and reinforce his interpretation of the prophecies and events contained in verses 4-5, and 7, which are found in the OT, and then applying them to the behavior and fate of the false teachers he is writing about. This comes out in that he is using Jewish traditions like that of 1 Enoch 6-19 (look at chapter 10 closely) regarding fallen angels and their punishment in verse 6, and relates it directly to the false teachers’ fate in verse 13. Where does it say in Genesis 6 does it say that these fallen spirits were placed in eternal chains? Nowhere. It comes from Jewish tradition and non-Canonical sources…

Hmm…what to do. According to Geisler’s thinking, Jude, and his methodology, which appears similar to Licona’s methodology of using non-Canonical texts to understand canonical passages, is therefore denying inerrancy. What a charge Geisler would have to  make against the Lord’s half-brother, who wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit no less.

But, this is where Geisler’s “reasoning” would have to lead him, were he consistent. But, I’ll let Geisler take this one up with Jude’s brother…(good luck with that one Norm!)

Evangelical commentary is all over the place regarding what to do with these citations of Jude as to whether Jude intends them to be literal and historical events or not, and how this relates to issues of inerrancy and inspiration. At least some evangelical commentators are, by Geisler’s reasoning (or lack thereof) denying inerrancy for either favoring, not favoring, remaining open, or clueless about these citations as to their “literal-ness” and “historicity”. See Moo’s, Green’s, Baukham’s, Reese’s, Brosend’s, Witherington’s, and Watson’s commentaries for the broad overview. While there is hardly a consensus on the matter (dating back to the early church fathers!), and open disagreement (all the “contra’s” in the commentaries against one another’s positions), there is not a single charge of denying inerrancy from any commentator to an other regarding how they “interpret” these citations, whether they take them to be literal and historical or not. Not a single charge from Geisler either…though I doubt he has read much of these commentaries (he can’t even read the book from Licona he is criticizing).

The bottom line is none of them or their interpretations deny inerrancy. Nor does Jude or his methodology…which happens to be strikingly similar to Licona’s own methodology. Hmm…something to think about.

God Bless,

Johnathan Pritchett

P.S. For the record, I do not consider 1 Enoch or Assumption of Moses to be canonical or inspired. I do however believe that these citations, by virtue of Jude using them, to be inspired and true, as well as events that “literally” occurred (i.e. The showdown between Michael and Satan, and Enoch’s prophecy) But this position is NOT in agreement with all the evangelical scholars cited above, and I will let you dear audience read them for yourselves and see the various positions, which, again, are all over the place, and none of them out of bounds regarding inerrancy. Licona wasn’t denying inerrancy in his methodology when using non-canonical material to help him interpret and understand a few verses in Matthew 27. And neither was Jude in using non-Biblical literature to understand OT texts, and what he, as an inspired author no less, was writing about.

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A few reasons why the cowardly Richard Dawkins is useful.

Once again Richard Dawkins has taken the opportunity to defend his cowardice in not debating William Lane Craig. This is useful for several reasons.

1. It shows his cowardice. That is obvious.

2. It shows his inability to be honest, especially since it is not only “Craig and his followers” that are calling his chicken, but fellow atheists as well.

3. His public rants also usually include rants about the (Judeo-) Christian God and His actions in the Old Testament. I’ve covered his rants elsewhere.

It is here in nmber three that I find him to be most useful though, but not for the reasons people think. He is useful in this area because it forces Christians to come to terms that God is sovereign, and does what He pleases. (Psalms 115:3) Sometimes Christians shy away from the very verses that Dakwins always whines about.

We Christians love to quote the following verses:

John 3:16 “For God loved the world in this way: He gave His One and Only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish but have eternal life.”

1 John 4:8 “The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.”

Of course, many just truncate that latter verse to “God is love”.

Now those verses are true. We celebrate those verses.

However, the following is also true:

Deuteronomy 20:13-17 “When the LORD your God hands it over to you, you must strike down all its males with the sword. But you may take the women, children, animals, and whatever else is in the city—all its spoil—as plunder. You may enjoy the spoil of your enemies that the LORD your God has given you. This is how you are to treat all the cities that are far away from you and are not among the cities of these nations. However, you must not let any living thing survive among the cities of these people the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance. You must completely destroy them—the Hittite, Amorite, Canaanite, Perizzite, Hivite, and Jebusite—as the LORD your God has commanded you,”

Dawkins reminds many Christians that these verses are in the Bible. Well, how do you Christians feel about verses like that?

I am curious whether or not Dawkins is right when he states, “Most churchmen these days wisely disown the horrific genocides ordered by the God of the Old Testament” or “You would search far to find a modern preacher willing to defend God’s commandment…”

I hope he is wrong. Christians who are uncomfortable with the fact that God is sovereign, and holy, and has wrath against the wicked, and don’t like the fact that God kills people need to question whether or not they truly do “believe in the God of the Bible”. Because this is the God of love that sent His one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life.

I like that Dawkins puts this in our faces, and hopefully Christians will respond with affirmations such as the following:

Yahweh can kill whomever He wants, whenever He wants, wherever He wants, however He wants…it is His universe.

That isn’t a Bible verse of course, but as Bible-believing Christians, we have to affirm that. We have to defend God’s sovereign right to do as He pleases, even if we aren’t comfortable with the fact that God commanded what He did in verses such as Deuteronomy 20:13-17 and others.

That is part of what it means to “believe in the God of the Bible”…

In any case, if you want to explore this topic some more, have a look at one of my Biola professors, Dr. Clay Jones, who wrote a most excellent piece on this issue. You can find it here.

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Whitfield and Wesley: A lesson learned.

“Do you expect to see John Wesley in Heaven?” Someone asked George Whitfield.

“No,” he said. Then he added “John Wesley will be so close to the Throne of Glory, and I will be so far away, I will hardly get a glimpse of him.”

There is something beautiful about Whitfield and Wesley’s relationship that has gotten lost in the internet era of theological dialogue and debate.

It is so easy to think, say, or type “in essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity”, it is a very different thing altogether to take up the challenge to live it.

God Bless,

Johnathan Pritchett

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Reposting (with permission) Dr. Licona’s response to Mohler (with comments).

Because I am leaving the country today and must attend to last minute preparations, brevity is required. I am grateful to Dr. Mohler for his kind remarks pertaining to both me and my book, which has recently raised quite a bit of controversy in certain evangelical circles. Although I disagree with much of what he has asserted pertaining to my treatment of the raised saints in Matthew 27:52-53, one should not doubt my respect for him and gratitude for the contributions he has made for the cause of Christ and to the Southern Baptist Convention.

An accurate interpretation of a particular biblical text is assisted by an accurate understanding of the cultural milieu in which it was written. It is unfortunate that this does not appear to be a practice of my detractors Drs. Mohler and Geisler. Their judgment that an incompatibility exists between the doctrine of biblical inerrancy and interpreting Matthew’s raised saints at Jesus’ -death as apocalyptic symbols—or even to consider this interpretation as a viable way of understanding what Matthew was communicating (which is my present position)—without engaging in a thorough and sophisticated discussion of the milieu in which Matthew wrote is quite premature.

Dr. Mohler asks, “What could one possibly find in the Greco-Roman literature that would either validate or invalidate the status of this report as historical fact?” This is the wrong question. For it presupposes that Matthew intends the report of the raised saints to be understood as a historical event. So, the first question one should ask is how Matthew intended for his readers to understand this text. If he intended for us to regard the raised saints as apocalyptic symbols, then Drs. Mohler and Geisler are mistaken when regarding them as “historical fact.” It is only IF one can determine after an exhaustive study that Matthew intended for us to regard the raised saints as an event that occurred in space-time that Dr. Mohler could legitimately claim that the Greco-Roman literature offers nothing to assist us toward a correct interpretation of the text. Instead, Drs. Mohler and Geisler have pre-determined what the text means. But it is Scripture that is inerrant. Thus, we must be careful not to canonize our interpretation of Scripture so that we come to believe that it, too, is inerrant.

Article XX of the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics states,

“We affirm that since God is the author of all truth, all truths, biblical and extrabiblical, are consistent and cohere, and that the Bible speaks truth when it touches on matters pertaining to nature, history, or anything else. WE FURTHER AFFIRM THAT IN SOME CASES EXTRABIBLICAL DATA HAVE VALUE FOR CLARIFYING WHAT SCRIPTURE TEACHES, AND FOR PROMPTING CORRECTION OF FAULTY INTERPRETATIONS [emphasis mine]. We deny that extrabiblical views ever disprove the teaching of Scripture or hold priority over it.”

Thus, the Chicago Statement on Biblical Hermeneutics asserts that extrabiblical data can assist us in clarifying what Matthew is teaching and correct faulty interpretations.

We find a similar statement in the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy:

“We affirm that canonical Scripture should always be interpreted on the basis that it is infallible and inerrant. 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 SOVERIGN PROVIDENCE; IT IS MISINTERPRETATION TO IMAGINE OTHERWISE [emphasis mine].

“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. DIFFERENCES BETWEEN LITERARY CONVENTIONS IN BIBLE TIMES AND IN OURS MUST ALSO BE OBSERVED” [emphasis mine].

Thus, the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy asserts that an inattention to the culture and literary conventions in Bible times could lead to a misinterpretation of the biblical text.

Examples in the extrabiblical literature of phenomena similar to the raised saints in Matthew 27 may provide insights pertaining to how Matthew intended for us to interpret his raised saints. When we study the literary conventions in Bible times, we identify specific language in the Greco-Roman (Virgil, Dio Cassius, Plutarch), Jewish (Josephus) and biblical (Matthew 24, Acts 2) literature that may be employed to accent an event believed to have cosmic or even divine significance. Thus, when I noticed what might be similar language in Matthew 27:52-53, the interpretive possibility I proposed in my book emerged. Couldn’t the same be said 2,000 years from now pertaining to a proper interpretation of a text in which it was asserted that “the events of 9/11 were earth-shaking” while others may wrongly interpret the statement “Hell will freeze over before Ahmadinejad converts to Christianity” as a prophecy of two events rather than as a statement of enormous improbability?

The charge that I have “dehistoricized” the text is also problematic, since it likewise presupposes that Matthew intended the raised saints to be understood as historical. But what if he intended for them to be understood as apocalyptic symbols? It would then be misguided to “historicize” them. This would be little different than regarding as historical the seven-headed great red dragon in Revelation 12:3-4 whose tail sweeps up a third of the stars and casts them to earth. I regard this description as entirely symbolic and that to regard it as a real space monster would be to “historicize” the text.

The text in Matthew 27:52-53 has puzzled many New Testament scholars for years and will continue to do so. I remain puzzled but continue to seek a better understanding of what Matthew intended to communicate here. The calls of Drs. Geisler and Mohler for me to retract my opinion that it is possible Matthew intended for his readers to understand the raised saints in Matthew 27:52-53 as apocalyptic symbols is not helpful. Instead, such premature calls stifle scholarship and authentic quests for truth. I will be happy to retract my opinion once I am convinced that Matthew’s authorial intent was to communicate that the raised saints are to be understood as an event that occurred in space-time. So far, I have found the arguments offered by Drs. Geisler and Mohler to be unpersuasive and misguided.

I am grateful to the Southeastern Theological Review for their invitation to participate in a roundtable discussion on the meaning of this text and whether the solution I proposed in my recent book is compatible with the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. It is their desire to publish that discussion within the next 60 days. I will reserve my defense and further criticisms for that discussion and want to express my gratitude to the many who have sent words of support and to those who have written in my defense on the web. It is sad—and perhaps telling—that they have been ignored by Drs. Mohler and Geisler, since some of their arguments are quite good.

The issue here for me is whether the charges that Dr. Licona is out of bounds in terms of inerrancy are legit or not. I hope it is clear that they are not legit at all. As I repeatedly state, I do disagree with his interpretation of the passage. But, those are two different issues, and the charges led unthinkingly by Dr. Geisler, and echoed by Dr. Mohler, are totally out of line. What isn’t, or wouldn’t be out of line is disagreeing with his interpretation and leaving it at that. I disagree with his interpretation, but Dr. Licona’s interpretation does not lead to a denial of inerrancy. That is a serious charge against an evangelical who affirms inerrancy, and operates under the assumption that the Bible is inerrant, as he demonstrates.

There is nothing improper about Dr. Licona’s conclusion. I simply think it is wrong, and all that is why I will defend his interpretation as being a valid option within inerrancy on the one hand, and as I mentioned yesterday, why I am working on my take on the passage as to why I think the saints really were raised from the dead as a historical event, and not just apocalyptic imagery to counter Dr. Licona’s interpretation, on the other hand. It takes time to do this kind of work. It won’t be posted tomorrow, so relax. It isn’t a simple issue. Do people get that? Dr. Geisler’s throwaway arguments for the position I actually agree with are not gonna cause Dr. Licona to “recant”, which is stupid anyway, or simply change his mind and agree with me (and Dr. Geisler). And they shouldn’t! And even if he changes his mind, and that is a big if, he still shouldn’t “recant” for the position he holds now because there is nothing wrong with it. Do people get that?

In any case, picking the apocalyptic imagery and “real” history that is interwoven throughout Matthew is more difficult than doing it in Luke, for instance. Any 15 year old astute reader of each Gospel can get that. So it is rather easy to see apocalyptic imagery there in Matthew 27:52-53 as one more bit with all the plentiful apocalyptic imagery in that Gospel.  I just think dead people came out of their tombs and walked around Jerusalem, and Dr. Licona thinks Matthew meant something else. No harm.

If I were neutral, and I had to pick a view based on either Dr. Licona’s arguments presented in his book or Dr. Geisler’s arguments presented in his “open letter”, you would not be reading all my disclaimers (at this point mostly made in jest, by the way) that I disagreed with Dr. Licona’s view because I would agree with it if it came down to just Licona’s arguments versus Geisler’s arguments for his position (that, again, I actually do agree with and affirm). Thank goodness Dr. Geisler doesn’t inform my exegesis.

This is because Dr. Licona is right in his instincts and methods, all within the bounds of orthodoxy. I think Dr. Geisler is right about his conclusion of Matthew 27:52-53, but his instincts and methods are left as wanting as his bad arguments for the position I ultimately agree with and affirm. This is why we need to revisit methodology, hermeneutics, ancient literary genres, and all that and not merely pay lip service to them in our statements on inerrancy. Because for Geisler, despite Licona’s evidence above, pays only lip service and is acting as if he has no clue what any of that actually means or entails…which is worse since he is a framer of the statements on inerrancy.

Things are never simple are they? The dumbest thing ever said about the Bible to anyone living in 21st century America is that it is always easy to understand. I am NOT saying it is always hard to understand either, even for lay persons. But lets not pretend we have seminaries for no reason whatsoever (maybe they ought to do better at this stuff as well though). The second dumbest things ever said about understanding the Bible were the things said by John Piper to D. A Carson in this video, which amounted to a license for eisegesis, confusion, and ignorance:

It is so easy and crowd-pleasing to argue that “it is easy” to understand or preach the Bible with empty platitudes like Piper spouts in this video…but these are completely head-in-the-sand comments from Piper, and I have to believe, given his attempts at scholarly writing, that he doesn’t even believe what he is saying…which makes it even worse.

Preachers, and all Christians, do some work. It isn’t always that easy. People, please listen to D.A. Carson, and please don’t listen to Piper on this…It is the Bible, Dr. Piper, not the McBible Nuggets. It takes some work and effort to know the what and the how of it, what it says, and what it means.

Carson is right, there is no antithesis here. Piper goes the easy platitude road and says a person should master “one” and maybe do some of the other homework. Piper’s case that we find everything in “the book” to understand it better than anywhere else outside of it is totally misguided. The Bible has no inerrant lexicon as part of its inspired contents. The Bible has no inerrant dictionary and encyclopedia of cultural norms as part of its inspired content. Indeed cultural norms and Hebrew thought in 1000 B.C. Jerusalem are not even like the cultural norms or Greek thought in 1st century A.D. Corinth. Why would all that info be in the Bible when it was assumed that the people originally hearing the Bible already knew all that stuff, stuff that we don’t know unless we study it. The only way to master the Bible is to discard the antithesis Piper posits, and go for all of it. We all should master just the Bible…how do you do that? Listen to Carson and not Piper.

So outside information is really needed a lot of the time. Carson’s concession at the end that his own point is a “footnote” to what Piper is saying concedes the very antithesis he rejected earlier, and was right to reject. And Piper’s earlier comment that “preaching is over” if pastors have to do more homework is overblown alarmist nonsense at best, and just downright stupid at worst. It does and should take work. Respect the Bible enough, in that it was given by God in His providential times and places for His purposes in real history which climaxes in our Salvation in Jesus Christ, and take it seriously and give it the effort to understand it that it deserves.

Why do I bring this up? Well, Dr. Piper’s totally misguided comments in this video, however well meaning he gave them (which amounts to poop as far as I am concerned), is the same sort of problem Geisler has. All the lip service to everything else about context, literary genre, cultural milieu, etc. is just that: lip service. They don’t really want to work hard, or think that that stuff matters even when they deep down know it does.

They just wish it didn’t matter and so they act like it for public consumption and easy “amens”…even from Carson in that video. This is bad for evangelical scholarship and bad for evangelicalism in general.

Is the Bible written for the common person? Yes. Is the Bible easy to understand? Yes and no. It would be a lot easier if we lived and heard it after it was written. The further away from that, the harder it can become for the common person. That isn’t the problem of the Bible, it is the problem of us losing understanding of that culture and those ways of thinking and understanding literature and how it worked.

So sure, the Bible is easy to understand, until it isn’t. And every pastor in church should have people in the congregations who ask deeper and harder questions about it. If not, we’re in trouble. Likewise, pastors had better have something other than bomfoggery as answers to tough questions about the text and its meaning, or we are in serious trouble.

God Bless,

Johnathan Pritchett

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Non-expert Albert Mohler offers his two pennies, under the impression that they are even worth that much…

I really do disagree with Dr. Licona on his interpretation of Matthew 27:52-53…I better put the disclaimer once again before I get witch-hunted…

…please bear in mind that I totally recognize I am also a non-expert and I don’t pretend my opinions on this matter are worth that much (nor do they matter for “the future of evangelicalism”…blah, blah, blah…as in all the overblown alarmist rhetoric that gets tossed around regarding non-issues like this when they pop up)…but, since my level of expertise at least matches Dr. Mohler’s expertise on the issue under discussion (being that neither of us know what we are talking about here), I also offer my $0.02 that is equally as worthless as Dr. Mohler’s $0.02 since offering worthless two pennies is acceptable on internet blogs, as Dr. Mohler’s recent post demonstrates (and the existence of this entire blog equally demonstrates).

I really do disagree with Dr. Licona on his interpretation of Matthew 27:52-53…I better put the disclaimer once again before I get witch-hunted…

Sigh…Mohler is a bit out of his league, as evidenced by this post. He, of course, thinks himself as an SBC gatekeeper (at least for the Calvinist wing of our denomination), so of course he was going to blather about the Dr. Licona thing. Dr. Licona is a Southern Baptist (I think. He did, until recently, work for NAMB after all), and we love to eat our own (from the pews to those with the ivory tower views).

I really do disagree with Dr. Licona on his interpretation of Matthew 27:52-53…I better put the disclaimer once again before I get witch-hunted…

Mohler is the latest in the non-experts to offer their input. I say non-expert, not as a sign of disrespect, as he has a Ph.D and all, but because higher levels of Biblical Theology and Exegesis is out of his field…regardless of how much he or other Systematic Theologians protest this fact and mistakenly think they can hang with Biblical Scholars in terms of understanding Scripture and how it works with all its ancient quirks (I am a blogger, I don’t hang with any of them…lol). I can hear the groans about how irreverently I treat people like Dr. Geisler and Dr. Mohler. You know what though? Neither or them are King Jesus. If I can be applauded by evangelicals for clowning on Emergent leaders, Liberal scholars, etc…don’t start singing another tune when I turn that same type of crankiness towards our own evangelicals.

I really do disagree with Dr. Licona on his interpretation of Matthew 27:52-53…I better put the disclaimer once again before I get witch-hunted…

Though I disagree with Gundry on Matthew, and Licona on that particular passage in Matthew, I think their instincts to seeing the importance of understanding ancient mindsets related to how the portions of the Bible should be read and were understood by the original audiences (even if their conclusions are ultimately wrong) are probably more accurate than Mohler’s could ever be in terms of Biblical interpretation. He may vaguely know something of various “literary genres” because more knowledgeable people on the subject than himself has mentioned it and it crops up in the Chicago Statement on Inerrancy, but he, like many, knows nothing of how those genres were understood by the ancient way of thinking…which, like it or not, is far removed from Mohler’s (and our) own categories of thinking.

I really do disagree with Dr. Licona on his interpretation of Matthew 27:52-53…I better put the disclaimer once again before I get witch-hunted…

To state it again, I do disagree with Dr. Licona’s interpretation of two verses, but I am not against his instincts or methods used to reach his conclusion.

I really do disagree with Dr. Licona on his interpretation of Matthew 27:52-53…I better put the disclaimer once again before I get witch-hunted…

Hypothetically speaking, it could very well be the case Licona could be right, and that by Matthew adding this “special effect” sort of apocalyptic imagery, and its function of keeping it in line with other similar literature of the period, may be the kind of thing that was needed to ADD reliability to his work according to ancient standards, especially given the Jewish audience of Matthew’s Gospel who were used to that sort of imagery, as well as it is found in similar secular documents of the time as well…All Dr. Licona stated was that he thinks it is “most plausible” to take the two verses that way, and does not in any way state “this is how it is” or “I’m absolutely right about this”, rather he states his interpretation and support for it. I just don’t agree with his conclusion. But since I plan on getting my doctorate in this area some day if God wills it, I am curious to have the conversation about interpretation once again…a sane conversation, about the Bible, ancient mindsets, and how literary genre’s work to those categories of thinking. I blame people like Ben Witherington, Craig Keener, David DeSilva and other conservative scholars, as well some “liberal ones” like John Pilch, Bruce Malina, etc. as well for my interest in this area. :) It is the socio-anthropological data of the first century that I find simply fascinating.

I really do disagree with Dr. Licona on his interpretation of Matthew 27:52-53…I better put the disclaimer once again before I get witch-hunted…

So while the modern, western, American reader may think that this kind of thing undermines its reliability by asking questions of “did it *really and literally* happen or not?” It may turn out to be the wrong kind of question to ask about those two verses in Matthew regarding the OT saints and totally irrelevant to an ancient thinker reading or hearing Matthew’s Gospel being read. It could be the sort of thing that made Matthew’s Gospel reliable regarding the rest of its content to his audience, even if it is not in our category of “really and literally” or whatever regarding those saints in the verses…Remember again, the issue is only regarding the particular verses about the old saints. The issue is not about Jesus’ resurrection, as Dr. Licona’s book is about proving the historical fact of the really, literal, bodily, physical resurrection of Jesus. It does so splendidly to boot.

I really do disagree with Dr. Licona on his interpretation of Matthew 27:52-53…I better put the disclaimer once again before I get witch-hunted…

The fact that we are a culture, a way of thinking, a language, a continent, and 2,000 years removed from the writing of Matthew’s Gospel, it may be time to allow our brains to operate in ways that may be closer to the mindset of the authors in their categories regarding the ancient material in the Bible, rather than imposing our modern, western categories. We may get it wrong, but we may be wrong now. Who knows. Licona has no problem believing Jesus physically, bodily, and literally rose from the dead while holding his interpretation of those two verses about the saints being apocalyptic imagery…and if he is right, then neither did Matthew and his audience.

I really do disagree with Dr. Licona on his interpretation of Matthew 27:52-53…I better put the disclaimer once again before I get witch-hunted…

Does anyone even remember what Dr. William Lane Craig said about this passage in his debate with Christopher Hitchens? “I don’t know whether Matthew intends this to be apocalyptic imagery or whether he means this to be taken literally. I’ve not studied it in any depth and I’m open minded about it. I’m willing to be convinced one way or the other.” – William Lane Craig to Christopher Hitchens on April 4th, 2009, regarding Matthew 27:52-53 No one made a stink about that…this was well before Dr. Licona’s book was published, and Dr. Licona’s idea here was nothing new. Where were Geisler and then Mohler on this? Dr. Craig is a Southern Baptist. Oh yeah, it isn’t a big deal… Until someone like Geisler needs a big deal to get some attention.

I really do disagree with Dr. Licona on his interpretation of Matthew 27:52-53…I better put the disclaimer once again before I get witch-hunted…

If evangelicals close off exploring these options due to possible ignorance and fear, we may lose what the inerrant word may be trying to communicate per the Spirit-inspired author’s intent. As Dr. John Mark Reynolds at Biola University often reminds us, we should not get crucified for trying out new ideas, in public…even if we are wrong and regardless of whether or not our minds are changed later. It is as if Dr. Licona wasn’t even allowed to ask the question and explore an answer. This is shameful…

I really do disagree with Dr. Licona on his interpretation of Matthew 27:52-53…I better put the disclaimer once again before I get witch-hunted…

Mohler makes an odd statement here, “The integrity of this affirmation depends upon the affirmation of inerrancy in every detailed sense.”

I really do disagree with Dr. Licona on his interpretation of Matthew 27:52-53…I better put the disclaimer once again before I get witch-hunted…

Well, what if some of the details are wrong? Even William Lane Craig is on record in one of his podcasts disagreeing with certain points of the Chicago Statement. Since when was the Chicago Statement on inerrancy inerrant? In any case, I firmly think that the Chicago Statement is a fine statement of which I am in complete agreement. I think Dr. Licona is as well, and do not think Dr. Licona has violated a level-headed reading of the statement.

I really do disagree with Dr. Licona on his interpretation of Matthew 27:52-53…I better put the disclaimer once again before I get witch-hunted…

Here is another odd statement: “What could one possibly find in the Greco-Roman literature that would either validate or invalidate the status of this report as historical fact?”

I really do disagree with Dr. Licona on his interpretation of Matthew 27:52-53…I better put the disclaimer once again before I get witch-hunted…

Probably quite a lot. In order to think Matthew’s thoughts after him, isn’t it important to try to get as close to how Matthew and his culture thought? This idea of pretending that “Scripture interprets Scripture” or even “grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices” {exactly what Licona was doing}, are the only viable methods we use to understand Scripture is a bogus claim. Mohler probably doesn’t even do that, or doesn’t expect that from the people he probably reads.

I really do disagree with Dr. Licona on his interpretation of Matthew 27:52-53…I better put the disclaimer once again before I get witch-hunted…

For example, where are the complaints that John Piper references the Essenes and their writings for interpretive support in the poorly argued The Justification of God? Where are the complaints that Thomas Schreiner quotes from the Apocrypha, not considered canonical by Protestants, to back up some of his interpretive decisions in his non-exegetical exegetical Romans commentary from Baker… Oh yeah, they’re prominent Calvinists like Mohler, and using those sources for interpretation decisions is somehow “different”..and different “just because”…whatever…For all I know, Dr. Licona could be a Calvinist as well. As that certainly isn’t a guaranteed immunity from their blazing guns that shoot blanks…just ask N.T. Wright

I really do disagree with Dr. Licona on his interpretation of Matthew 27:52-53…I better put the disclaimer once again before I get witch-hunted…

Dr. Licona’s methods are nothing new here. Not one bit. Anyone reading both sides of the argument knows there is no convincing evidence whatsoever that Licona is using “outside sources” to do anything the Chicago Statement forbids in using them. The only thing heard so far from Dr. Licona’s opponents is non-experts like Dr. Geisler and Dr. Mohler offering speculative conjecture and question-begging assertions.

I really do disagree with Dr. Licona on his interpretation of Matthew 27:52-53…I better put the disclaimer once again before I get witch-hunted…


I really do disagree with Dr. Licona on his interpretation of Matthew 27:52-53…I better put the disclaimer once again before I get witch-hunted…

Furthermore, when it says “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”; that is NOT what Licona was doing either because those categories may be inapplicable to begin with regarding the passage here. It could very well be the case that categories of “relativizing or dehistorizing” are not relevant to the issue at all because of ancient ways of thinking and writing as well as Matthew’s intent in writing those two verses, except when imposed by modern mindsets that can’t think in other categories.

I really do disagree with Dr. Licona on his interpretation of Matthew 27:52-53…I better put the disclaimer once again before I get witch-hunted…

I can hear it now “Oh no, Johnathan’s post is precisely the slippery-sloppery-snowball effect we wanted to avoid by rebuking Licona in public!!!”

I really do disagree with Dr. Licona on his interpretation of Matthew 27:52-53…I better put the disclaimer once again before I get witch-hunted…

Lame…this is a conversation worth having in the realm of humility and sanity, and not under threats colored with disingenuous pesudo-concern showed by the empty fluff of Geisler and Mohler. Their complaints against Dr. Licona are more like “we may try to ruin your reputation, career, and ability to provide for your family over a non-issue…but we love you brother!” NOT FALLING FOR IT. This gets conservative, orthodox, evangelical Biblical studies and apologetics nowhere in light of scholarship.

I really do disagree with Dr. Licona on his interpretation of Matthew 27:52-53…I better put the disclaimer once again before I get witch-hunted…

If Licona was anything like Borg or Crossan, we’d have a problem, but Licona is taking the text seriously (even if wrongly), and if the details and categorical thinking that under girds the Chicago Statement are bogus according to the interpretation of some, then Mohler doesn’t take the Bible either “literally” or seriously in the categories it is intended to…and perhaps neither do we.

I really do disagree with Dr. Licona on his interpretation of Matthew 27:52-53…I better put the disclaimer once again before I get witch-hunted…

Does anyone not get that all complaints from Geisler and Mohler about Licona not “recanting” is a sign of honesty and integrity on Dr. Licona’s part rather than him lying and changing his current position publicly “willy-nilly” without actually believing it in order to make them feel better? As I’ve said in previous posts, let him have more time to work it out, and if his position remains, let him be and agree to disagree…but these bogus charges against the man need to stop.

I really do disagree with Dr. Licona on his interpretation of Matthew 27:52-53…I better put the disclaimer once again before I get witch-hunted…

I am curious whether or not Mohler thinks Jesus is a cloud surfer (Matthew 24:30)?

I really do disagree with Dr. Licona on his interpretation of Matthew 27:52-53…I better put the disclaimer once again before I get witch-hunted…

Rant over.

I really do disagree with Dr. Licona on his interpretation of Matthew 27:52-53…I better put the disclaimer once again before I get witch-hunted…

God Bless,

Johnathan Pritchett

I really do disagree with Dr. Licona on his interpretation of Matthew 27:52-53…I better put the disclaimer once again before I get witch-hunted…

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