Thursday Morning at ETS

Thursday morning was full of interesting stuff. First I headed to the DTS alumni breakfast. Every year the seminary hosts a breakfast so alumni can come together and hear from the president about the state of the school. Dr. Mark Bailey gave attendees a quick snapshot of the overall health of the seminary and reviewed some strategic plans to implement our vision of training godly servant leaders for ministry to the church throughout the world. After that I met with Bob and Dale Pritchett of Logos Bible Software for some more in-depth discussion about their direction and some specific projects they have in process. After that I met with a current DTS student for some fellowship. This was the first time he had attended ETS, so it was interesting to hear his take on this more public aspect of our academic work. After that I went to perhaps one of the more important presentations I think I will see this year. Michael Licona offered a defense for his recent writing on the historicity of the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27. I blogged about Licona's book, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, during book week, so this was pretty interesting to see. His paper had three main parts. He first discussed evidence for interpreting Matthew's account in a literal, historical sense. Then he discussed evidence for interpreting it in a symbolic, non-historical sense. Then he closed by discussing the relation of this issue to inerrancy. The evidence he presented in his discussion was interesting (including how the early church fathers understood the account and miraculous, fantastical events which Josephus describes connected to particular events), but I thought his final section was the most important. He essentially argued that the doctrine of inerrancy speaks about the character of scripture but does not interpret scripture. His intent in his discussion about this issue was not to de-historicize what Matthew intended to be historical, but rather to question whether Matthew intended this account to be historical in the first place. His contention is that to make a fuss over this issue is to confuse on a basic level questions of historicity with questions of hermeneutics. In the end, Licona said he is undecided on how to take Matthew's account.

I am sensitive to the issue which Licona raises, and to a certain extent I agree with him about the distinction between questions of historicity and hermeneutics. However, his final resting place of indecision leaves me a little uncomfortable. I acknowledge that from the standpoint of history, there is not much that can be said in favor of the Matthew passage, except for the singular fact that on the surface Matthew appears to attest to this event as a historical actuality. On the other hand, from the standpoint of genre and symbol, there are some parallels in the extra-biblical literature which are worthy of discussion, but there is no slam dunk parallel which seals the deal. My own position is to accept the appearance of history at face value, acknowledging that only my faith in the accuracy of the Gospel author allows me to say that, and we ought to welcome further discussion on the particulars of this passage and the larger issues that it raises.