Understanding Inerrancy – Part 8
1 Peter 1:10–12
1 Peter Lesson #042
March 3, 2016
“Father, we’re thankful for this opportunity to come together as a body of believers to study Your Word. Father, we trust in Your Word. We trust that Your Word accurately and precisely defines who You are and Your plan for salvation. Everything in Your Word is accurate as You revealed it in the original languages.
As we study we come to understand the truth that is there and it shapes our thinking, our worldview, and the way in which we live.
Father, only through God the Holy Spirit can we live the Christian life in the Church Age. We pray we might be focused on our diligent, consistent walk by the Spirit.
Father, we pray You would open our eyes to the truth of Scripture this evening that we might come to understand these things more clearly and our confidence will increase.
Father, we also pray for those in the congregation who at this time are without jobs and without income and the uncertainty that they face. Father, we pray for this time as they’re tested that You would encourage them and that the body of Christ might come together around them to pray for them and to help them as they can.
Father, we pray for so many in the Houston area who face the same situation with the downturn in the economy and we pray that especially in terms of the nation that as we face this election season things might tend to change and improve but we know we go through these cycles just as we do in life.
These tests are designed to strengthen our faith that we might have joy not based on our circumstances but based on our relationship with You. We pray these things in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Let’s begin with turning to Matthew 27 while I give you a little review. As I’ve said in almost the beginning of each session that we’re studying in 1 Peter. That’s why this is part of the 1 Peter series.
We have reverted to a doctrine, The Doctrine of Inspiration and Inerrancy of Scripture, because 1 Peter 1:10–12 talks about this process in the Old Testament. A lot of people don’t understand it.
This is periodic. Every twenty or thirty years we have to go through another battle for the Bible again. This is raging throughout the conservative seminaries. Not Chafer. Not Tyndale. I think there’s a free grace seminary in Georgia and it’s not there.
It’s in a number of other places. The root of this is because back in the 1970s these young hotshot scholars, mostly baby boomers, got in their heads that they wanted to be a scholar like all the other scholars. It’s sort of like we’ve been studying on Tuesday night when the Jews wanted to have a king like all the other nations.
These scholars wanted to be scholars like all the other scholars. They wanted to have the respect of the Harvards, the Princetons, the Oxfords, Edinburg, Basil, and etc. They went off to these schools and became infected. In a lot of cases it was to a small degree but it was still a viral infection that affected their view of Scripture.
They picked up ideas here and there that may have sounded good at the time but they have come to characterize their thinking. Even though they may have only run to the edge of the field and they’re just running along the “out-of-bounds lines” but they didn’t cross over.
Or maybe they crossed over just an inch but their students are crossing over feet and yards outside the bounds. In the last couple of generations since the 70s we’ve seen some real shifts take place in some places that are traditionally thought to affirm biblical inerrancy and infallibility.
We looked at this definition. I know some people in the congregation have memorized this. “God the Holy Spirit so supernaturally directed the human writers of Scripture, that without waiving their human intelligence, vocabulary, individuality, literary style, personality, personal feelings, or any other human factor, His complete and coherent message to mankind was recorded with perfect accuracy in the original languages of Scripture, the very words bearing the authority of divine authorship.”
This is a fundamental definition. One of the challenges that comes from those that reject traditional inerrancy is the term that they use, limited inerrancy. Basically what that means is the same old position that has been espoused by those that reject the total authority of Scripture is that the Word of God is authoritative in all matters of faith and practice.
As long as the Bible is talking about the spiritual life or Jesus’ work on the Cross or salvation, then it’s accurate and inerrant. But when it talks about science or history or geography or some other things in those areas, then it’s not inerrant. There are mistakes.
The question is how do you decide what are mistakes or not? This permeates a lot of thinking. In a lot of ways this is very, very subtle. The Scripture tells us that God is the author of Scripture. One of the critiques that has been made by a scholar by the name of William Lane Craig, a well-known apologist philosopher and theologian, is that inerrancy is just based upon deduction.
Deductive logic which is a problem for some theologians and some pastors, is not the source of the doctrine of inerrancy.
We studied this. I talked about passages like 2 Timothy 3:16–17. These passages clearly teach that. The deduction is derived from conclusions that are arrived at through induction. The Scripture says that God is the source of Scripture. God breathed it out.
Scriptures also teach that God is true. Therefore, Scripture is true. We went through that deduction.
The major premise and the minor premise in that syllogism were derived deductively from Scripture. So Craig’s of an argument and the argument of some who say this is just a theological deduction that is imposed on Scripture is fallacious.
Scripture is breathed out by God which is what we understand as inspiration. This is the first part of this three-legged stool illustration I’ve given you. All biblical truth, Christian belief, everything we believe is grounded upon the authority of the Word of God.
That is a three-legged stool which emphasizes the origin of the Bible. Infallibility which emphasizes the authority of the Bible and inerrancy which describes the accuracy of the Bible.
We’ve looked at these slides each time. Inspiration emphasizes origin of the Bible. Infallibility authority and the enduring nature of the Bible. Inerrancy, the accuracy of the Bible
What we’ve done last time is to look at some of the alleged contradictions which we find in the Old Testament. We went through those and I started off, if you remember, talking about the methodology that a right thing done in a wrong way is wrong.
So you have the study of the Bible and that’s the right thing. But if you study the Bible the wrong way, in other words if you adopt a wrong methodology, you’re going to arrive at wrong conclusions. Those wrong conclusions are going to eventually attack and destroy what you’re trying to protect, which is biblical truth.
We have to affirm the truth of Scripture and how we handle the text which is through a method of interpretation which is substantiated through looking at how the Bible interprets itself which is a plain, normal interpretation of Scripture. It assigns normal modes of language and expression and communication to the language of Scripture.
That is called historical, grammatical interpretation of Scripture.
The historical part of that term is emphasizing that we understand how the Bible uses these words and phrases within the framework of its history at the time in which it was written. Grammar shapes the meaning of language. So in that sense we view history as that which is objective and knowable and that we can have an accurate, though not an exhaustive knowledge of history. That is our presupposition.
Grammar is that language conveys meaning and that meaning ultimately resides in the mind of the author and the intent of the author and it is not determined by the mind of the receiver, the person who hears the Bible. Or the person who reads the Bible does not assign his own meaning to the text.
That’s not something new but it has been developed tremendously in the last 100 years through the philosophy of post-modernism. It is really built on Kantian philosophy that we can’t know things as they are. We can only know things as we perceive them.
Immanuel Kant put forth his philosophy in his book “The Critique of Pure Reason” which came out about the same time as the American War for Independence, 1776. It quickly spread through the ranks of the intelligentsia in Europe and began to shape the philosophical thinking of the early 19th century professors and elites. It impacted how they understood history, how they understood truth, how they understood knowledge, and the Bible.
Historical criticism is an outgrowth of that. I’ll talk a little bit about it as we go through the lesson tonight.
What I want to start with tonight is talking about these alleged problems in the New Testament. I talked about the Old Testament last time so I’ll talk about the New Testament this time.
I want to start with a situation that is current. You can go out on the Internet, I understand, and watch some videos on this and you can read about it. You can Google just a couple of names I’ll give you in a minute and you can read more than you ever wanted to know about some of these issues. This is a huge issue going on right now in New Testament scholarship.
I read to you much of the article Bob Wilkin wrote, “Can we Still Trust New Testament Professors?” That’s just the tip of the iceberg that is floating around in modern evangelical scholarship.
The passage at issue here is Matthew 27:51–54. You might want to turn in your Bibles there. Matthew 27 describes the arrest of Jesus. It describes the trials and the crucifixion of Jesus and His burial, as well. Then the resurrection doesn’t occur until the next chapter.
What we read in Matthew 27:51 and following are part of the story. This is one of those episodes only told in Matthew that a lot of people aren’t familiar with unless they’ve read their Bible. Matthew inserts this right after Jesus dies in Matthew 27:50.
I want to go back to Matthew 27:45 and I want to read the context to you. The way we read this context is that it is talking about history. It’s describing events that occurred in space-time history on a specific day, just before sundown, the Passover Day in Israel. Just before Passover came at sundown.
“From the sixth hour until the ninth hour [twelve noon to 3 PM], there was darkness over all the land.” That’s describing specific events. You have a chronological note there from the sixth hour until the ninth hour. You can’t say, “Well, that could have been from 6:00 AM to 9:00 AM. No, you have to understand that historically this is on a Jewish clock which begins at sunrise. “From the sixth hour until the ninth house there was darkness over all the land.”
“At about the ninth hour Jesus cries out with a loud voice saying, ‘Eli, eli, lama sabachthani?’ My God, My God, Why have You forsaken Me?” Did Jesus actually say that or not? It is presented by Matthew as an historical record of exactly what was going on.
“Some of those who stood there when they heard that said that this man is calling for Elijah. Immediately one of them ran and took a sponge, filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and gave it to Him to drink.”
Matthew 27:49, “The rest said, ‘Let Him alone, let us see if Elijah will come to save Him.’ ”
Verse 50, “Jesus cried out again with a loud voice and yielded up His spirit.”
Now we get to the passage. When Jesus died physically [verse 51] “Then behold the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom: and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split.”
This isn’t describing these events in order but it is describing what happens after Jesus died. It’s just listing the different things that happened. “The veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom: and the earth quaked, and the rocks were split. And the graves were opened: and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the graves after His resurrection, they went into the holy city and appeared to many.”
If you read this in the Greek, it is a listing. This and this and this and this and this. There is no appearance of any kind of break in the description of the different things that happened following Jesus’ death.
The thing that we’re focused on is what occurs in verses 52 and 53. “The graves were opened and many bodies of the saints [the semicolon really isn’t there] who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the graves …” Then we have the time frame there that it was after His resurrection. They went into the holy city and appeared to many.
What happened in 2011 was a scholar by the name of Michael Licona wrote a book, an extremely long book, some 700 + pages that was on the resurrection. He published this 718-page tome [“The Resurrection of Jesus; A New Historiographical Approach”] to defend the physical, bodily resurrection of Christ. Most of what he said was accurate and true and he did a very good job from what the reviews say about defending the physical, bodily resurrection of Christ.
But in a number of places he questions the historicity of certain things that are in the account of Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. One of those is this event in Matthew 27. He calls this a “strange little text”. He claims that this is parallel to Greco-Roman biographies [bios] that use “phenomenal language in a symbolic manner”.
In other words what he is saying is a very popular trend now among evangelical New Testament scholars. They say that in order to solve what they think are contradictions in the text and contradictions between the different gospel accounts you have to look at the standards for biography at that time which were not the same as today.
In the standards today you have to footnote everything and everything is given with precise reference, but at that time when you look at “Plutarch’s Lives” and you look at others, they embellished accounts. They included a lot of legend and myth so you have to sift through it. They don’t have this rigid standard of accuracy which we have in modern times.
He’s using this standard of the world to be his guide for the writing of biography. He also says that this is poetry. It’s poetic. He says it’s legend and it includes special effects. Here are some of the statements he makes in the book: pages 562–563, “It seems to me that an understanding of the language in Matthew 27:52–53 as special effects with eschatological Jewish texts and thought in mind is most plausible.”
What he’s doing is he’s using these extra-biblical Jewish texts to form a standard just as he used the Greco-Roman biographies to form a standard and he’s using that to evaluate Scripture.
Now hold that thought. Pause. In 1983 a man by the name of Robert Gundry was kicked out of the Evangelical Theological Society. This was a huge thing. Gundry had written a commentary on Matthew in the late 70s or right around 1980 in which he said that in order to clear up these apparent contradictions in the gospel you had to understand that Matthew was writing according to Jewish “Midrash” and so Gundry was removed. His membership was canceled and he was voted out of the Evangelical Theological Society. It was a big scandal among evangelical scholars at the time.
Basically what Michael Licona is doing is the same kind of thing.
I don’t think I gave you background on Michael Licona. He formerly taught on the faculty at Southeastern Theological Seminary in Charlotte, North Carolina which was a seminary founded by Norm Geisler. Dr. Geisler was on the faculty at Dallas when I was a student back in the late 70s. He is well known. He’s a writing machine. I’d say he’s probably written over 75 or 100 books and he’s written I don’t know how many articles. The guy is phenomenal. He has a couple of different doctorates and is a very orthodox scholar. He’s in his mid to late 80s at this point.
Licona was basically asked to leave the faculty because of some comments he made in a debate in 2009. At this time when his book came out in 2011, he was serving on a North American mission board for the Southern Baptist Convention. He was the apologetics coordinator for the North American Mission Board. He also had something to do with the Southern Baptist seminary in Louisville, Kentucky.
His background was that he had a bachelor’s and master’s degree both from Liberty University and his Ph.D. in New Testament studies from the University of Pretoria in South Africa. When he published this book on the resurrection of Christ and he challenges the historicity of the account of the resurrection of the saints, it was a small bunker-buster bomb going off in evangelicalism
It’s been exploding more and more down through the last five years. It’s not something you would know about or I would know about except that in the process of some of these debates that went on about his orthodoxy, he got picked up as a faculty member at a little school over here off the Southwest Freeway called Houston Baptist University.
So he’s local. I haven’t heard much about him locally but this battle going on has been going on for a while. He used to teach at Southeastern Seminary. [Question indistinguishable]. That’s a good question, Alan. In 1977 there was a group of over 180 evangelical scholars who met for some time and formulated what’s called the ICBI, the International Conference on Biblical Inerrancy which you can Google. They wrote an extensive definition of biblical inerrancy.
This was signed off on by many scholars across the theological denominational spectrum. I had several faculty members when I was a student at Dallas. My first or second year at seminary there were a number of faculty members including Elliott Johnson who spoken at a Chafer Conference. There was Robert Thomas who has also spoken at a Chafer Conference. He’s also spent a lot of his career at Masters Seminary. He was one of the signers. Norm Geisler was one of the signers.
That whole statement, which is about seven pages, is well written. They state positively what inerrancy is. They give all the Scripture references and they say what we mean is “this” and we don’t mean “that”. That’s how you learn. You not only have to state positively what you mean but you have to state negatively what you don’t mean by it. They did a fabulous job of that.
In the early 80s before this thing with Robert Gundry came up, the Evangelical Theological Society, which is sort of the academic professional organization that all college Bible professors and seminary professors and a lot of pastors are a part of it. I’ve been a member until recently when I got fed up with some of their stuff and I just quit.
There are only two things in their doctrinal statement you have to affirm. One is the Trinity. Two is the inerrancy of Scripture’s very brief statement. “We believe the Word of God [or the Bible] is breathed out by God as inerrant in the original writings.”
In 1981 or 1982 in order to clarify it they adopted the ICBI statement as their definition of inerrancy. So this is what Gundry is held up against, and this is the standard that Licona is being held up against. If you read the literature they’re constantly going to be reciting from the ICBI to show that he has violated the traditional standard.
This is one of the things in that original article I read at the beginning of this series by Wilkin is that he quotes Craig Blomberg who teaches at Denver Seminary as saying that in today’s environment 97% of the members of ETS in Blomberg’s opinion could not affirm what is written in the ICBI.
Looking around this congregation, that’s what you have been taught your entire life. That is what I have been taught my entire life. That is what was the standard view at Dallas Theological Seminary. What Licona has done is that he not only questions that, but he also questions the historicity of the angels at the tomb of Jesus in Mark 16:5–7, thinking of that as possibly just legend or myth. He questions a number of other things that are included in the resurrection account of Jesus.
Then he comes along and says “the account of Christ’s resurrection is accurate and the account of Christ’s resurrection we can depend on every detail of that.” But it runs into some other problems. The problem is that he is using what is popular among many New Testament scholars today to one degree or another [a sliding scale; not every one of them approaches them the same way but it’s something we need to be aware of because they use this methodology of historical criticism].
I talked about that last time in the introduction talking about how that affects the understanding of Genesis 1–3. It’s a methodology which basically dehistoricizes the text. They look at the text and something tells them that this can’t be true so they assign it to a certain literary genre and they can say it’s not really talking about actual literal history.
Licona takes as his presupposition that the writers of Scripture are using the human viewpoint standards of biography that was accepted in the culture of the Greco-Roman world at the time. I want to also note that to a much lesser degree professors at Dallas Seminary such as Dan Wallace, who is very good in Greek but his theology leaks out at points but nevertheless he’s written a great Greek grammar, and Darrel Bock who is from Houston and has been at Dallas for a number of years use the same basic methodology.
They don’t go as far as Licona did. They don’t go as far as Craig Blomberg but in my opinion, they cross the line. They may not have gone very far out of bounds like these other guys have gone further out of bounds but they’re adopting that same idea. That is, that you can go to extra-biblical sources to establish criteria by which you evaluate the Scripture.
I just want to give you about eight observations of what goes on here.
First problem which I’ve already alluded to is that the problem is using extra-biblical literature and human viewpoint cultural norms as the standard for evaluating divine revelation. I’ve talked about this same problem before when you categorize literature and Scripture as apocalyptic genre.
Apocalyptic genre isn’t actual genre but it’s in the inter-testamental literature. It’s in the “Pseudepigrapha”. It’s not in Scripture. Scripture is prophetic literature. I remember talking with Andy Woods when he had to take a doctoral course on apocalyptic literature in the New Testament Department at Dallas. He was just butting heads with the professor because he refused to accept the fact that apocalyptic genre was legitimate.
You’re imposing this extra-biblical standard on the Scripture and then it allows you to do away with things that you would have some problems with and that you don’t think are defensible. This is the standard approach, using a human viewpoint standard to judge and evaluate the Scripture.
Second, their basic attempt and approach is through this use of literary genre. Genre may be an unfamiliar term to you but if you read mystery novels, a mystery novel is a genre. It fits certain categories. You pick up an Agatha Christie book and you know what to expect. You pick up a Nero Wolfe book and you know what to expect. You pick up a romance novel and you know what to expect. That’s a different genre.
You pick up a historical novel. You read Herman Wouk, “The Winds of War” and “War and Remembrance”. That’s an historical novel. You know what to expect. That’s a different genre. They have different categories.
They’re using genres as a way to re-interpret Scripture. So if they come along and say the language in Matthew 27 is poetry and legend and it’s not meant to be history, then they can say on the one hand, I believe it’s inerrant, but because we have a different genre here it’s not to be taken as explaining actual historical fact.
This is what they do with Genesis 1–3. They say it’s an origin myth; therefore we need to understand it that way. We believe it’s inerrant but only because it’s not history. So they’re dehistoricizing the text.
Licona says that this episode of resuscitation of the dead saints fits within legend. We would say it fits the flow of the narrative. Everything surrounding it is historical and literal. The veil is torn from top to bottom. It just goes on about the earthquakes and the rocks were split, all of this terminology.
Third observation is that the resurrection of the saints in this passage is directly connected to the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus is the first fruits and they are the next, following Paul’s order given in 1 Corinthians 15:23.
The language like we find, words like raise and resurrection in Matthew 27 are the same words we find describing the resurrection of Jesus in the Greek in 1 Corinthians 15:23.
You open the door to a direct assault upon the resurrection of Jesus.
Fourth observation is that the text clearly states that these saints came out of their tombs after Jesus’ resurrection. The tombs are open with the earthquake that occurs at the time of the death of Christ. We’re going to hear about that. Steve Austin is going to talk about the geology of the earthquake at the time of the Cross as evidence of the crucifixion when he’s here at the 2016 Chafer Conference. He’s going to connect some of these dots to that. So that’s very clear.
Fifth point, the evidence for the resurrection is the same as for Jesus’ resurrection. The tombs are opened, the text says. Matthew 27:52, “The graves are open, the bodies of the saints were raised. They came out of their graves so the tombs were empty and they went into Jerusalem and they appeared to many people.”
A sixth observation is that some of the other events are also confirmed in Mark and Luke, including the tearing of the veil in the Temple. Even though the resurrection of the saints is only mentioned in Matthew, the other events surrounding it that are mentioned in Mark and Luke are also included.
Seventh observation is that key terms are used throughout this section with an obviously literal meaning, as intended. Earth. Quake. Temple. Veil. Rocks. Tombs. Bodies. Asleep. All of which speak of physical realities in the New Testament. These are not terms that are used metaphorically.
Last point is that part of Lacuna’s argument is that this is the only place this is mentioned so maybe it didn’t happen. Well, let me see. The account of Jesus talking to Nicodemus is only in one place, John 3. The account of Jesus talking to the woman at the well is only in one place in John 4. The episode of Lazarus and the rich man and Jesus talking to Zacchaeus are only mentioned one time. But once is enough in the Word of God.
What we have is an attempt to do away with the infallibility of Scripture.
I want to say some more things about historical criticism which I talked about last time. Just to give us a little more information about this: Historical criticism is a product of the Enlightenment.
Remember the Enlightenment is that period in history which starts from about 1600 and goes to 1800. It is the reaction of the role of the church and the authority of the church during the Middle Ages. The term Enlightenment is to boost their ego in contrast to the Dark Ages where people were under the so-called authority of the church and the authority of the Scripture.
It’s the rise of rationalism and the rise of empiricism as the ultimate determiner of truth. Rationalism is the view that unaided human reasoning could determine all truth. That man could determine even the existence of God just by his unaided reasoning alone. He doesn’t need revelation.
The second was empiricism. The problem was that Descartes, who was the first thinker in the rationalist tradition grounds, his thinking on this idea of “I think; therefore I am.” The criticism is that he can’t get out of his own head. He can’t get out of his head to prove the existence of anything but his own existence. So rationalism ultimately collapses and it’s replaced by empiricism.
This is the view that man through the use of his senses can arrive at ultimate truth. The problem is there’s always new data. Empiricism collapsed with the critique of David Hume in the late 1700s and out of that collapse you have the rise of Kantian philosophy, that you can’t know truth objectively. You can only know it as you perceive it.
This leads to the destruction of absolute truth in modernism. It finally goes to seed. The beginning of post-modernism is really the beginning of the early 20th century.
Even though historical criticism can trace its roots back into the 1600s it really begins to flourish in the early 1800s. It’s really a misnomer. That’s what happens. It’s the double-speak or the new-speak in George Orwell’s “1984” using traditional language to mean something other than what it’s always meant.
We find examples of that all the time in modern politics and in a lot of modern theology. They talk about the resurrection of Jesus but they don’t mean what you hear. When someone stands in the pulpit and says, “I believe Jesus rose from the dead” they may not be talking about a physical, bodily resurrection.
I went to a church here in Houston where the pastor gave a great Easter message but I knew the guy was neo-orthodox and didn’t believe in a literal, physical bodily resurrection. The people I was with said, “No, he believes in the resurrection of Jesus.”
I said, “You’re uneducated. He doesn’t believe in it. He’s neo-orthodox. He doesn’t believe in the authority of Scripture or miracles or the virgin birth.” A lot of people get taken in by this.
Historical criticism is one of those types of words. Let’s talk about the two words there: historical and criticism. Historical is usually taken to mean something that occurred in space-time history. That’s what most of you mean by it. That’s what I mean by it.
If something is historical, it actually happened and it is verifiable through eye witness accounts as well as documentary and other types of evidence. It refers to something that occurred objectively in space-time history and has been observed and reported by others.
Thus, we know that the Bible presents real history and it purports to present eye witness accounts in space-time history. Through the use of extra-biblical evidence which we discover through archeology and other disciplines such as the documents, monuments, and inscriptions that we can confirm that certain historical events and people existed and took place.
Also, culture norms and practices. We can look at the lifestyle presented in Genesis 12–50 in the early patriarchal period around 2000–1800 BC and we can say, “Look at what we’ve learned through archeology about that period. The Bible describes the cultures and norms of that time period in the Middle East.”
We can have an affirmation of biblical validity. However, in post-modernism, knowledge is suspect. No one can truly know anything in post-modernism. You can have your truth and I have my truth but no one knows true truth. No one knows truth objectively.
No one can, they say. They reject that presuppositionally before you even get started. So in post-modernism you can’t have true, objective knowledge. Therefore, you can’t truly know history. You can only know people’s perceptions of history.
See how that ties back to Immanuel Kant. Let me tell you a little story about that. There was a guy in this church a while back that was going to Dallas Seminary seven or eight years ago. He had recorded a class that was taught on church history. When he left the church he told me I needed to go back and listen to those lectures by this particular professor.
The next January I was in Kiev. I keep a lot of different theological lectures on the iPod I was using at the time. I hooked this up to speakers. When I get up and am making breakfast I listen to all these lectures. I had sort of spot-listened to some of this guy’s lectures but I never started with the very first lecture.
So I’m cooking my bacon and eggs and fixing my coffee while I’m wandering around the apartment and listening to this lecture. It’s the first class and he’s going through the syllabus. He’s talking about the objectives in the church history class. He got down to about the third or fourth point and he’s explaining that you cannot know real history as it took place. He said that you can only know the perceptions of the people at the time but you can’t know what really happened.
I thought I was going to stroke out right there. I immediately went in, flipped on Skype, sent e-mails to Charlie and to Tommy and said, “Okay, this is on my website. You can listen to this lesson. I’ve just uploaded it. Listen between eleven minutes in and sixteen minutes in, then give me a call on Skype.”
Ten minutes later Tommy is calling. He was about to stroke out. John Hanna never taught us to think about history that way. This was pure post-modernism in an approach to the history of Christianity. That is what has subtly taken over in the kind of thinking you find in the history departments.
That guy is no longer at Dallas Seminary. He has gone on to other pastures. The point I’m making is that in post-modernism you can’t have true objective knowledge. You can’t know history as objective reality.
I have a quote here from David Farnell from “Vital Issues in Inerrancy”. He says, “The assumption of post-modernism is that all history is by its very nature, only a subjective interpretation of ‘surviving traces of events.’ ”
The assumption of post-modernism is that all history is by its very nature only a subjective interpretation. In that view objective knowledge of historical events is impossible.
So when they’re talking about historical criticism, they’re not talking about objective knowledge of history. They’re talking just about people’s subjective impressions of what might have taken place.
Now the word “criticism” traditionally means to apply objective criteria to documents in order to analyze content and style for authenticity and meaning. But in historical criticism the goal is to change the plain, normal sense of the text to conform to an already predetermined meaning that fits the worldview and assumptions of the critic.
It’s not to evaluate the document. It’s to redefine and reinterpret the document. So the historical critic’s goal is to interpret the biblical text according to the current fads of the time.
Last week we saw that in reference to Genesis 1–3 that the text presents itself as space-time history but modern critics have their epistemological grid set ahead of time by modern science.
The time frame of modern science is what shapes their thinking. They read that into the text and say, “This can’t be history.” They have to figure out some way to redefine the plain meaning of the text. They do so by saying that it’s not meant to be history. It’s meant to be figurative.
Now in the New Testament, I just learned this late this afternoon, there’s a huge conflict over Matthew 23. If you have your Bibles with you, you can flip back to Matthew 23. If you have one of these heretical Bibles like I have which has red letters in it you will see how much is said by Jesus. Why is it heretical to have a red-letter Bible? Because it’s basically saying these words of Jesus are more accurate than everything else.
A red-letter Bible is by definition anti-inerrancy. It’s all the words of Jesus. It’s all the mind of Christ.
I have this red-letter Bible and if you look at Matthew 23, Jesus says everything in chapter 23 except the first verse. That’s the value of a red-letter Bible. You can say, “Oh, where is Jesus talking?”
You can say, “Here He’s talking.”
Matthew 23’s thirty-nine verses is Jesus’ final indictment of the religious system of Israel, of their legalism, of their antagonism of grace orientation. This is that head-on collision that occurs between Jesus and the Pharisees. There’s this huge conflict here. Jesus just rakes the Pharisees over the coals and in that chapter he pronounces eight “woes” over them and challenges the very core of Pharisaical theology.
Now we’ll get there in two or three months. I read this late this afternoon, like about 5:30 and I got alerted to this by about four lines from this article I quoted a minute ago by Farnell.
I sent him an e-mail actually because there was a typo and a whole sentence was left out of a footnote. We had an interchange. I told him I was going to do Matthew 23 in a few weeks and asked, “Where are your sources here? You don’t cite anything in this chapter for your sources.”
He said, “Well, take a look if you have ‘The Jesus Crisis’.”
I said, “It’s sitting right here by my desk.”
He said, “If you have that look up pages 24 and 25 and that will give you an idea of what’s going on in contemporary scholarship.”
Basically what happens is in contemporary scholarship is that because of political correctness, this kind of challenge to Judaism, to Pharisaical Judaism is interpreted as an anti-Semitic attack. If you really believe this is what Jesus did then in some circles this is viewed as not being politically correct and borders on anti-Semitism.
This is a product of post-Holocaust hermeneutics where in a Jewish community those who are dealing with anti-Semitism want to trace the roots of Christian anti-Semitism to the cross. I want to learn a more lot about this in the coming weeks but we’ll get there.
This has impacted a lot of Evangelicals. The historical criticism position is that this is a misrepresentation of Pharisaism, that this tension actually wasn’t between Jesus and the Pharisees in Jesus’ time, but it was between Matthew’s assumed community he’s writing to and the Jews of Matthew’s day. How do you like that?
It was 6:35 and Farnell e-mailed me. Farnell is going to be the speaker at the Chafer Conference in 2017. So Farnell e-mailed and told me to look at these pages. I had them right here and I decided just to read part of this.
One of the advocates of this position is a guy named Donald Hagner. Hagner writes this, “It’s a tragedy that from this chapter in Matthew that the word ‘Pharisee’ has come to mean popularly a self-righteous, hypocritical prig. Unfortunately not even Christian scholarship over the centuries has been able to rid itself of an unfair bias against the Pharisees.”
Basically he’s saying this isn’t historically accurate. So what do you do with historical criticism? You figure out a way to show that this is, by virtue of even genre or something else, not really what Jesus said. That’s what he says.
Hagner goes on to say, “Pharisaism was at heart, though tragically miscarried, a movement for righteousness. This basic drive for righteousness may account for what may be regarded as attractive and biblical, both about Pharisaic and rabbinic Judaism. One can only marvel how radically this appraisal differs from that of Jesus.” [According to Matthew 23, Jesus got it wrong, he says.]
And according to Matthew 5:20 when Jesus says, “Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees you shall in no way enter the kingdom of heaven.”
Hagner says that Jesus got it wrong. Or the Bible got it wrong. Jesus got it right but the Bible got it wrong.
So then, Farnell writes, “How has historical criticism managed to formulate a picture of this group so diverse from the one painted by Jesus? Largely through assuming that the gospel writers, particularly Matthew, took great editorial liberties in describing the life of Christ. Matthew allegedly was writing about the church of his day late in the 1st century.”
When did I tell you Matthew wrote? Probably the late 40s, sixty years before many of these guys think Matthew wrote.
So Farnell says, “Allegedly written late in the 1st century, more than about the actual experiences and words of Jesus. By comparing Matthew with his source, Mark, one can reputedly see how Matthew’s embellishments were intended to make the Pharisees look so bad. The cause of these embellishments is traceable to the presumed tension that existed between Matthew’s community and a noticeable Jewish presence in which Matthew wrote his gospel.”
I won’t read anymore but that just gives you an idea of what’s going on in scholarly circles today. Some of these guys have some good things to say in their commentaries and I have to wade through this garbage. Every now and then they bring up some good historical, grammatical points and things like that.
To wrap this up, I want to look at a couple of alleged contradictions in the last five or six minutes. These are pretty easy. I don’t expect you to remember all of these things. Some of you will study and remember them and make good notes in your Bible, which you should, so you can go back to them if you need to.
What I’ve learned over the years is that when I’ve heard someone defend Christianity or defend against this claim of contradictions, and then I hear someone attack it, I may not be able to bring up the answer at that particular time but I remember that I heard it.
It’s like when I was in college and I would hear things about evolution, I could say, “I don’t know what the answer to that particular situation is but I know I’ve heard it. I know there’s an answer. Just because I can’t bring it up from the memory bank right now doesn’t mean there’s not an answer.” It helps to frontload you on what these issues are.
One claim is that there’s a contradiction between Matthew 10:9–10 where Jesus is giving instruction to His disciples as they’re going out to take the gospel of the kingdom to the house of Israel and the house of Judah, and Mark 6:8, which is talking about the same event.
In Matthew 10:9–10 Jesus says not to take gold or silver or copper in your money belts. Don’t take a bag for your journey nor two tunics, nor sandals, nor staffs; for a worker is worthy of his food.
If you think about it Jesus is not telling them not to take sandals. They’re going to wear the pair they have. He’s telling them not to take extras. When He says not to take two tunics, He’s not saying to go naked. He’s saying don’t take extras. Don’t take anything with you. You’re going to wear the tunic you have on. You’re going to wear the sandals you have on but don’t take an extra staff either. You’ll take the one you have.
In Mark 6:8 then we’re told, “He commanded them to take nothing for the journey except a staff …” People will say that in Matthew He says not to take a staff and in Mark He says to take a staff. See, they say, He’s contradictory. No, if you understand what He is saying He’s telling them not to take extra stuff in Matthew. Mark is just summarizing it and telling them not to take anything more than their one staff, their one walking stick.
This is one that gets brought up. In fact, I mentioned William Craig earlier. He brings this up saying that Jesus got it wrong in Matthew 13:32. This is botanically incorrect. Jesus says in Matthew 13:32 regarding the mustard seed, “This is the least of all the seeds, but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.”
The complaint here is that this is a factually erroneous statement because the mustard seed is not the smallest of all seeds. Before we jump to that conclusion, remember Jesus says this. He’s talking about this. If He spoke a lie; if He’s lying about it, how could He be sinless?
This isn’t just some small factual discrepancy. This goes to the integrity of the gospels. What can we trust? What can we not trust? Can we trust Jesus to say that which is actually true?
How do we understand this? There are a couple of ways in which this has been handled which is legitimate. One of them is in an older work published back in the late 19th century by R.C. Trench called “Notes on the Parables of Our Lord”. In that he says, “This seed, when cast into the ground, is ‘the least of all seeds,’—words which have often perplexed interpreters, many seeds, as of poppy or rue, being smaller. Yet difficulties of this kind are not worth making; it is sufficient to know that ‘small as a grain of mustard seed’ was a proverbial expression among the Jews for something exceedingly minute (see Luke 17:6). The Lord in His popular teaching adhered to the popular language [idiom].” That’s one possibility.
I think the Greek grammar is a better answer because in the Greek the least is this word MIKROS which is an adjective. See this little word here [on the slide], “comp”? That is a comparative. It is the smaller of the seeds. It is not a superlative. It does not say that it is the smallest. He’s not making an absolute statement here. He’s making a comparative that compared to these other seeds, it’s the smaller. He’s not making an absolute statement. Grammatically He’s not claiming that when you compare to all seeds that exist on the earth, it’s the smallest. That is not what He says grammatically.
Ryrie puts it this way, “Another fact to note is that the word smallest is actually a comparative not a superlative, and should be translated (as in the “New American Standard Bible” and “New English Bible”), ‘smaller of all the seeds.’ In other words, the Lord did not state an absolute (the mustard seed is absolutely the smallest), but placed the mustard seed in the class of smallest seeds.”
What appears to be a contradiction on the surface actually isn’t.
Then we have one last example which is one related to the blind man at Jericho. I’m going to show you the different accounts: Matthew 20:29–34 recounting Jesus. We’ll get there in a couple of weeks. “As they went out of Jericho, a great multitude followed Him. And behold two blind men sitting by the road, when they heard that Jesus was passing by, cried out, saying ‘Have mercy on us, O Lord, Son of David!’ ” We’ll just look at those first two verses.
What do we see? The statement is that when they went out of Jericho they run into two blind men. That’s Matthew’s account.
Now Mark’s account says, “Now they came to Jericho. As He went out of Jericho with His disciples [Mark agrees with Matthew that He’s coming out of Jericho] and a great multitude, blind Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, sat by the road begging. And when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out and say, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!’ ”
He’s only got one blind guy there, Bartimaeus. What’s the solution? Mark is just talking about one of the two blind men. He’s going to record what happened in relation to Bartimaeus. He’s not saying there was only one there. He is only talking about one of them. So there’s not a contradiction.
The other thing is as both Matthew and Mark say that Jesus is coming out of Jericho, but in Luke it says it happened near Jericho. He is approaching Jericho when a certain blind man sat by the road begging. So how do we resolve what appears to be a major contradiction here?
One is that the men were pleading with the Lord as He entered Jericho but they weren’t healed until He left. That’s one solution that’s offered.
The one I think more likely is that there were two Jerichos. There’s the ruins of the old city and then there was the new city that was there at the time of Christ. It wasn’t built on top of the tel. If you’ve been to Israel with me you’ve been to that tel in Jericho.
Jesus could have been coming out of the old Jericho on His way to the new Jericho. That’s another very plausible suggestion as to how this is explained. They are writing from different perspectives.
I put one more in just for fun. This one is always brought up that Luke got it wrong. Luke 2:2 identifies the census that was called for by Caesar Augustus at the time of the birth of Christ was taking place while Quirinius was governing Syria. The only Quirinius we know of in history was Quirinius who was the legate in Syria who began to reign in AD 6, probably ten years after Jesus was born.
However, Quirinius is not a strange name. It’s not an unusual name. There were a number of people named Quirinius and there is some evidence that there was another Quirinius who was in the area of Syria serving in the bureaucracy ten years earlier than this.
Just because we don’t know the answer doesn’t mean there’s not an answer. For many years critics insisted the Bible was wrong. That there existed no such people as the Hittites and that was used as a fulcrum to attack the Bible. Then in 1927 we discovered the existence of the Hittite capital of Hattusa in Turkey and all the critics had to eat crow.
Just because we don’t know an answer for what appears to be a contradiction doesn’t mean there isn’t an answer. Numerous contradictions have been pointed out over the years. Yet when we get enough information we find that the Bible is always substantiated.
Nothing has been found to disprove the Bible. There are always answers to these alleged discrepancies. We can have great confidence in the Bible as the inerrant, infallible Word of God, breathed out by God for us. We’ll come back to this topic several more times in the coming months because there’s just so much going on. I just don’t have time to read through the tomes, the two books that Farnell and Geisler have edited are the size of small yellow pages, if you can remember what that looked like.
Or the old “Biblia Hebraica” that was just huge. Six hundred, 700, 800, 900 pages and it is impossible to digest two 900-page books in four weeks. I can’t do it. Some of you think I can but I can’t do that. I can only leap small buildings, not tall buildings. It takes more than one bound.
Father, thank You for this time that we’ve had together to study through the doctrine of inspiration, infallibility, and inerrancy to have our faith strengthened by an accurate understanding of Your Word.
Thank You that You have revealed Yourself to us that we can know You and that we can know things truly even though we may not know them exhaustively.
Father, we pray that our confidence in You will be strengthened from the study and our confidence in Your Word will be strengthened. We know that we can rely upon it, no matter what the circumstances. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.