If you think the discussion in the blogosphere over how to interpret Matthew 27.52-54 is dead you’re wrong. It’s wandering from blog to blog like the zombies it describes. These are some sightings:
Michael Licona has written a response to Al Mohler. He holds his ground as he should until he is convinced that his interpretation is incorrect! In doing this he argues both for his interpretation legitimacy within the confines of the doctrine of inerrancy and he provides the logic for how he reached his conclusion. Near the end Licona says the following:
“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 concur with Licona. This method is not the means to show that they’re interpretation is correct. If he is going to change his view it should be because he concludes that it isn’t what the text is saying. If you haven’t read Al Mohler‘s article yet for context then read, “The Devil is in the Details: Inerrancy and the Licona Controversy.”
Peter Lumpkins comments on how this could impact the SBC.
James White has blogged his take on the controversy. Nick Peters has written a response to James White.
Randy Everist attempts to reason through how this debate relates to inerrancy and interpretation.
Marc Cortez proposed that this debate is about hermeneutics, not inerrancy. Then he invited readers to provide their explanation of the text as long as it is not “it’s too weird to be true”.
Michael Bird has written in defense of Licona’s interpretation being consistent with the doctrine of inerrancy. When you read this post make sure to read John Byron‘s comment explaining why he sees this as different than the evidence provided by the Apostle Paul for Jesus’ resurrection. Also, he says that this debate is an example of why the doctrine of inerrancy is not useful. Nick Norelli has written a response to Byron.
Steve Hall has expressed disdain to this whole debate. Bill Heroman argues that these types of debates are inevitable because people like Geisler and Mohler are a given.
Wow. I don’t even know what to say about your intro. Were you chuckling as you wrote it? I don’t know how I could have held it in, to be honest . . .
On a more serious note, I appreciate your links to these various writers. I have always read it historically and have never given much thought (in large part, because I have never heard anything different) to the idea of interpreting a text like that as non-historical. Thanks for sharing!
@Tony : I was going for humor in that paragraph. As tense as the debate has been any ounce of humor we can import is beneficial!
The substance of the report is that the saints appeared to people in Jerusalem. We may accept this in proof that Jesus closed out the previous dispensation without it being necessary that we accept also the detail of actual bodily exits from tombs. Those Jerusalem appearances may have been more ‘ghostly’ than ‘bodily’ – the bodily detail might have been thrown in because well, ghosts were scarier than zombies.
This reminds me a little of the dichotomy in reports of Jesus’ resurrection, some of which portray bodily phenomena and some of which portray him suddenly appearing from behind closed doors (which – I’m sorry – rules out bodily resurrection).
One of my principles of interpretation is that when two portrayals contradict each other, I may exercise my Christian liberty to choose to believe only one of them (rather than torture the text to make both of them feasible).
Because of this principle I can remain strong in my belief that Jesus in fact returned to his apostles and ‘appeared’ to them after death to prove his resurrection – without having to entertain concepts of a still-wounded, fish-eating, living-dead man.
So yes, I believe the worthy saints were loosed from their bonds by the power of the Son, and yes, Jesus himself also rose from the condition of death (preferrably before the saints did but that’s not clear from Matthew) – but the victory need not have anything to do with the old material form – suffice it that all were clothed in a resurrection body of the ‘ghostly’ type (like the one in which I assume Jesus appeared to Paul). Or would a Mohler believe that Jesus appeared bodily to Paul also?
Rev 20:5 tells us “But the rest of the dead lived not again until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection”. Now, if this is called the FIRST then the saints of MAT 27 did not rise. If, on the other hand, they did indeed rise, the resurrection referred to in REV should be called the SECOND resurrection. Which is which?
Vic, by that reasoning Jesus was not resurrected, and neither was Lazarus, nor the boy raised to life by Paul in the book of Acts, nor the boy raised in the Old Testament by the prophet. You would undoubtedly shout “context!” in protest (hopefully you do neither agree and say Christ did not rise nor agree and say the Bible is simply wrong). And with that protest I would agree. In Revelation, there is the first of a kind of resurrection, and the second of a kind. The resurrections are to ruling and reigning with Christ, and then to death. The numbering is of the series of these two. They’re not meant to infer that no one has been raised before, and such an understanding would be foreign to the context.
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