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Setting the Record Straight on Licona–IVP Interview

                                                                  By Norman L. Geisler


Recently Mike Licona recorded an interviewfor InterVarsity Press (  Being very familiar with the circumstances and issues, there are many things in the interview which call for a response a brief response.

1.  In the interview, Licona expresses is admiration for Richard Burridge from whom he acquired his belief that the Gospels are a Greco-roman genre which allow legends in the text. Once we see how this is manifest in Licona’s view (see # ??), this is a revealing admission.

2. Contrary to Licona’s doubts about the historicity of the raising of the saints in Matthew 27, there is strong evidence for its historicity. Here is a brief statement of some of them: (1) It is part of a historical narrative in a historical record—the Gospel of Matthew; (2) Both the larger setting (the Gospel of Matthew) and the specific context (the crucifixion and resurrection narrative) demand the presumption of historicity, unless there is strong evidence to the contrary in the text, its context, or in other Scripture—which there is not; (3). This text manifests no literary signs of being poetic or legendary, such as those found in parables,  poems, or  symbolic  presentations: (4) It has no indication of being a legendary embellishment, but it is a short, simple, straight-forward account in the exact style one expects in a brief historical narrative; (5) this event occurs in the context of other important historical events—the death and resurrection of Christ—and there is no indication that it is an insertion foreign to the text. (6) The resurrection of these saints is presented as the result of the physical historical resurrection of Christ.  For these saints were resurrected only “after” Jesus was resurrected and as a result of it (Matt 27:53) since Jesus is the “firstfruits” of the dead (1Cor 15:20).  It makes no sense to claim that a legend emerged as the immediate result of Jesus’ physical resurrection. (7) The record has the same pattern as the historical records of Jesus’ physical and historical resurrection: (a) there were dead bodies; (b) they were buried in a tomb; (c) they were raised to life again; (d) they came out of the tomb and left it empty; (e) they appeared to many witnesses. 


3.  Licona mentions the strong influences Gary Habermas was on him and that they became close friends. Indeed, he refers here and elsewhere to the advice given to him by a close friend not to engage in dialog with me on this matter.  As will be seen (see # 18), this mistake has had tragic consequences for Licona. Further, even his close friend Habermas does not agree with Licona’s view that the Matthew 27 raising of the saints is unhistorical. Further Habermas’s attempted defense of Licona is bogus when he said: "In my opinion, Mike Licona doesn't at all deny inerrancy by his interpretation of Matthew 27:52-53," saying, "Evangelicals regularly allow for all sorts of similar moves where particular texts are taken other than literally, whether it is the old earth/young earth discussions of the word 'day' in Genesis 1, …angles on Jesus' Olivet Discourse, or [whether] the signs in the sun, moon and so on were fulfilled literally on Pentecost.”  First of all, no evangelical, using the historical-grammatical hermeneutic denies the historicity of Genesis, however long he considers the “days.”  Second, old-earth inerrantist, as well as young-earthers, affirm the historicity of Genesis. Third, no orthodox theologians, let alone inerrantist, which Habermas claims to be, denies there will be a literal second coming of Christ.  So, at best Habermas’s comments turn out to be irrelevant to the issue of the historicity of the Matthew 27 text and, at worst, a diversion of the issue.  Fourth, Habermas informed me that he voted to exclude Gundry from ETS (1983) for holding a similar view that dehistoricized parts of the Gospel record. Assuming he voted in good conscience, he should feel the same way about his friend, my Licona’s view.  That is, unless he is allowing fraternity to trump orthodoxy.

4. He refers to leaving a position he loved with the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) at their North American Mission Board (NAMB). He fails to mention that before he resigned he flew across the country and tried to convince a top SBC leader that his views were orthodox.  After failing to convince him, he knew his days were numbered in the SBC and resigned.

5.  He speaks of his successful debates with many noted unbelievers.  Yet I was told by friendly followers of Licona that they believed he had lost the debate with Bart Ehrman. After the debate, one father was informed by his son who heard the debate that he did not want to go to church any more!  Indeed, as we shall see, Licona’s views actually open the doors to skepticism about the Gospel records.

 6. He says, “I immersed myself in literature written by philosophers of history and professional historians on the nature of historical knowledge…” and admits being “obsessed with my [his] research.” Yet he does not seem to be aware of the degree he has bought into their unbiblical presuppositions which are manifest in the skeptical conclusions he came to about many Gospel events (see # 7).

7.  He claims, “I subject a variety of hypotheses to strictly controlled historical method in a more comprehensive manner than has been previously offered.” However, he does not seem to realize that this “new historiographical approach” (as he calls it in the subtitle of his book on The Resurrection of Jesus) actually undermines some evangelical beliefs about the complete historicity of the Gospels.

8.  He does not challenge the IVP interviewer who said, “Norman Geisler accused you of denying biblical inerrancy for your interpretation of a few verses in Matthew 27. As a result, you resigned your appointment with the North American Mission Board and left Southern Evangelical Seminary.” First of all, this is a mistaken premise since we never said it was a denial of inerrancy but only that it was a denial of the ICBI view of unlimited inerrancy which Licona claims to believe.  Second, it was not only because of a few verses in Matthew but many places in the New Testament (as shown below) that the charge of denying the ICBI view on inerrancy.  Consider the following: (1). A denial of the physical resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27:51-54 (The Resurrection of Jesus [RJ], 548-553); (2) a denial of the historicity of the mob falling backward at Jesus claim “I am he” in John 18:4-6 (RJ, 306, note 114); (3) a denial of the historicity of the angels at the tomb recorded in all four Gospels (Mt. 28:2-7; Mk. 16:5-7; Lk. 24:4-7; Jn. 20:11-14) (RJ, 185-186); (4) The claim that the Gospel genre is Greco-Roman biography which he says is a “flexible genre” in which “it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins” (RJ, 34); (5) In a debate with Bart Erhman at Southern Evangelical Seminary in the Spring of 2009 that Licona asserted concerning the day Jesus was crucified that: “I think that John probably altered the day in order for a theological—to make a theological point there.  But that does not mean that Jesus wasn’t crucified.”  However, it does mean that the Licona believes that text is in error!  This is a flat denial of the inerrancy of Scripture!

   9.  Licona claims that “Matthew’s story of some saints raised at Jesus’ death has left people scratching their heads, from the early Church through modern scholarship.”  However, this is totally misleading since one is hard pressed to find any orthodox scholar in early or later pre-modern church history who denied the historicity of this passage.  Indeed, from the earliest times it was considered historical. ???

10.  Licona casts doubt on the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27 by asking: “Why is Matthew the only one to report it?”  But we may ask: “How many times does something have to be mentioned in a clearly historical Gospel record for it to be true?  And since Licona claims to believe in the divine inspiration of Scripture, then we may ask how many times does God have to say it for it to be true? Many events are mentioned only once in the Gospels, such as Jesus sermon to Nicodemus (Jn. 3); His encounter with the woman at the well (Jn. 4); the story of Zacchaeus (Lk 19), the visit of the wise men (Matt 2), the healing of the invalid (Jn. 5), and may other events. Shall we reject all of these too?

11. Licona claims that “If these saints were raised with resurrection bodies, then Matthew contradicts Paul who wrote that Jesus was the first to have been raised with a resurrection body (1 Cor. 15:20).”  However, this is a clear misinterpretation of Matthew 27 which says clearly that the saints were not resurrected until after Jesus was.  The door of the tombs was “opened” when Jesus died (Mt. 27:52), but the bodies only came “out of the tombs after his [Jesus’] resurrection” (Mt. 27:53).  See the excellent article on this point by John Wenham ((see J. W. Wenham, “When Where the Saints Raised?  Also, see John Calvin’s New Testament Commentaries, vol. 3,  211-212 and Thomas Aquinas, Catena Aurea [Commentary According to St. Matthew], vol. 1, 963-964). 

12.  Lacking biblical and historic Christian support for denying the historicity of the account in Matthew 27 of the resurrection of the saints, Licona identifies his source.  He said, “As I had been reading through the Greco-Roman and Jewish literature of the period, I found numerous examples of similar reports of phenomena that were connected to historical events having a huge amount of significance. In one case, Virgil lists 16 phenomena related to the death of Julius Caesar in what is certainly a poetic genre.” But since when do extrabiblical legendary accounts become hermeneutically definitive in determining the historicity of a Gospel narrative.  The ICBI framers (with which Licona claims to agree) spoke to this very point, declaring Explaining Hermeneutics declares (in EH Article 13): “We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual.” (see also # 20 below).

13. Licona insists that dehistoricizing a Gospel narrative is not really different from using figures of speech.  He wrote, “It’s much like we might say that the events of 9-11 were “earth shaking” or that “it rained cats and dogs.”  However, this is clearly not the case.  For figures of speech can be, and often are, used of literal events.  The Bible speaks of putting “chains” on Satan and using a “key” to lock him up (Rev. 20), but this should not be used to deny the real literal existence of Satan.

14.  Licona is guilty of stereotyping those who oppose his denial of the historicity of certain Gospel events.  He caricaturizes them as “ultraconservatives who have what I regard as an overly wooden view of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy accused me of dehistoricizing the biblical text because I didn’t believe it because of its supernatural nature.”  But this is clearly not the case. If it were, then virtually all the great orthodox commentators in the history of the Christian Church up to and through the Reformation were “ultraconservatives” with an “overly wooden view of the doctrine of biblical inerrancy” have been guilty!  Further, the nearly 300 contemporary ICBI scholars (which Licona claims to agree with) are also guilty of the same.  It does not seem to occur to Licona that perhaps it is the few contemporary scholars (in comparison to the history of Christianity) who follow Greco-Roman legends who are wrong. 

15.  Licona relies on a misuse of the hermeneutical principle of looking for the “intention” of the author in a text to determine its true meaning.  He affirmed, “The matter for me was whether Matthew had intended for his readers to think that some saints had actually been raised” (emphasis added).  This ambiguous term “intention” can mean unexpressed intention or expressed intention.  But there is no way to determine an author’s unexpressed intention.  And his expressed intention in the text of Matthew 27 clearly indicates that Matthew intended it to be taken literally and historically for many reasons (see #??)   In short, the meaning of a text is discovered by its context, and both the immediate and more remote contexts indicated this text should be taken literally.

16. Licona uses a false analogy to justify his position, claiming that “Many early Christian males castrated themselves after misinterpreting Jesus’ teaching about some making themselves eunuchs for the sake of God’s kingdom (Matthew 19:12).”  First of all, the issue in Matthew whether the passage is historical, not whether it has figures of speech in it.  In fact, it does have one figure of speech in it; it speaks of physical death as “sleep” (Mt. 27:52). Second, the context in Matthew 27 and the rest of Scripture would indicate that Jesus was using a figure of speech when he spoke of making oneself a “eunuch” for the kingdom.  The immediate context is about a whether or not someone should Marry (Mt. 19:10), not whether they should mutilate their bodied so that they could not marry.  Further, the rest of Scripture indicated we should not mutilate our bodies which embody the image of God (Gen. 1:27; Jas. 3:9).

16.  Licona passes over one of the most crucial objections to his view with a passing reference to his book when faced with the objection that “one might attempt—as many already have—to make the same move with Jesus’ resurrection. But I provided reasons in my book why such a move fails.”  But the brief treatment in his book does not exonerate his view from the charge that if the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27 as a result of Jesus resurrection is taken as legendary, they does this not undermine confidence that Jesus’ resurrection is historical?  As  noted Southern Baptist scholar Dr. Al Mohler put it on his web site: “Licona has handed the enemies of the resurrection of Jesus Christ a powerful weapon — the concession that some of the material reported by Matthew in the very chapter in which he reports the resurrection of Christ simply did not happen and should be understood as merely ‘poetic device’ and ‘special effects’….”

17. Licona engages in a case of special pleading when he claims that “Most of the highly respected evangelical scholars sided with me in the controversy.”  First of all, opponents could easily say the same thing.  It all depends on who is choosing the text group and on what grounds. Second, a survey of Christian leaders that I took show that some 70 per cent did not agree with Licona’s view.  Third, Licona himself acknowledged that even of those who believed his view was not unorthodox, nevertheless, “Many did not agree with the interpretation of Matthew’s raised saints I proposed.”  Fourth, as shown above, denying the historicity of this text is contrary to the vast majority of the great teachers of the Christian church up to modern times.

18. Licona downplays the Southern Baptist reaction to his view, saying, “I remain persona non grata with some SBC entities and that’s unfortunate…. I’ve never regarded Southern Baptists as the only true evangelical Christians.”  The truth of the matter is that both inside and outside the SBC there are hundreds, even thousands, who believe Licona’s view is contrary to the ICBI understanding of inerrancy which was also adopted by the ETS (the largest group of scholars in the world confessing inerrancy).  The truth is that the leaders of most SBC seminaries do not believe his view on this matter is orthodox.  Many, like Page Patterson and Al Moher have spoken out against it in print.  Another SBC president wrote me, saying, he would never hire Licona.  Still another SBC president agreed with the International Society of Christian Apologetics) that his view was not consistent with the ICBI view on inerrancy.  The Board of the largest SBC university decided not to give Licona a faculty position.  The faculty of another non-SBC school, Southern Evangelical Seminary, voted to exclude Licona from their faculty and his picture and position were dropped from their catalog.  The list goes on.

19.  Strangely, Licona complained: “I’ve been very disappointed to see the ungodly behavior of a few of my detractors. The theological bullying, the termination and internal intimidation put on a few professors in SBC…all this revealed the underbelly of fundamentalism.”  The truth is that name calling, such as this, as no place in a scholarly dialog.  All of those I know (many of whom are identified above) who disagree with Licona’s view are sincere, dedicated scholars who desire to preserve the orthodoxy of the Christian church against deviant view such as Licona’s.  Calling their defense of the Faith and act of bulling” diminishes their critic, not them.  Indeed, calling ones opponent a “tar baby” (which Licona does) and labeling their actions as “ungodly behavior” is a classic example of how not to defend one’s view against its critics.  What is more, while Licona condemns the use of the internet to present scholarly critiques of his view as a “circus,” he refused to condemn an offensive YouTube cartoon produced by his son-in-law and and friend who falsely caricaturing scholarly critiques of his view and wrongly claiming that we said Licona had “sinned.”  No such statement was ever made.  Further, producing cartoon caricatures portraying critics of your view as a Scrooge” may reflect creativity, but they are no substitute for orthodoxy.  Even Southern Evangelical Seminary, where Licona was once a faculty member, condemned this approach in a letter from “the office of the president,” saying, “We believe this video was totally unnecessary and is in extremely poor taste” (12/9/2011).  One influential alumnus wrote the school, saying, “It was immature, inappropriate and distasteful” and recommended that “whoever made this video needs to pull it down and apologize for doing it” (12/21/2011).  Further, when asked to apologize, he refused to do so.

20.  Licona claims his view is consistent with inerrancy—eve n with the ICBI view of inerrancy.  However, this is clearly false, as the following ICBI citations reveal: Article 13: “We affirm the propriety of using inerrancy as a theological term with reference to the complete truthfulness of Scripture” (emphasis added in all these citations). Article 9: “We affirm that inspiration, though not conferring omniscience, guaranteed true and trustworthy utterance on all matters of which the Biblical authors were moved to speak and write. We deny that the finitude or fallenness of these writers, by necessity or otherwise, introduced distortion or falsehood into God’s Word.” Article 12: “We affirm that Scripture in its entirety is inerrant, being free from all falsehood, fraud, or deceit. We deny that Biblical infallibility and inerrancy are limited to spiritual, religious, or redemptive themes, exclusive of assertions in the fields of history and science.” Article 18: “We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatico-historical exegesis, taking account of its literary forms and devices, and that Scripture is to interpret Scripture. 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.” 

            In addition, selections from the official ICBI commentary titled Explaining Inerrancy were added: Article 12: “Though the Bible is indeed redemptive history, it is also redemptive history, and this means that the acts of salvation wrought by God actually occurred in the space-time world.… All the claims of the Bible must correspond with reality, whether that reality is historical, factual or spiritual. By biblical standards truth and error is meant the view used both in the Bible and in everyday life, viz., a correspondence view of truth.” Article 18: “When the quest for sources produces a dehistoricizing of the Bible…it has trespassed beyond its proper limits. By biblical standards of truth and error is meant the view used both in the Bible and in everyday life, viz., a correspondence view of truth.”  Another official ICBI commentary on Explaining Hermeneutics declares (in EH Article 13): “We deny that generic categories which negate historicity may rightly be imposed on biblical narratives which present themselves as factual.  Some, for instance, take Adam to be a myth, whereas in Scripture he is presented as a real person.  Others take Jonah to be an allegory when he is presented as a historical person and [is] so referred to by Christ.”  This makes it unmistakable clear that myths, legends, and embellishments, such as Licona allows in the Gospels, cannot be part of an inerrant (wholly truthful) book such as the Bible.

 20.  One is shocked to hear Licona claim that the inerrancy of Scripture debate here described is only “splitting hairs” and is not really an “essential” doctrine.  He wrote, “So, I also didn’t want to spend my time splitting hairs over an interpretation that, in my opinion, doesn’t have any bearing on the essentials.”  He wrote, “I do not regard the doctrine of biblical inerrancy to be foundational to the Christian faith”! If one means by this that he could be saved without believing in inerrancy, then there is no problem.  There are saved people who do not believe in inerrancy.  However, the doctrine of inerrancy (the total truthfulness of the Bible) is foundational to every other doctrine of the Christian Faith. For the every other foundation doctrine (like the deity of Christ, His death and resurrection) are based on the Scripture. And if the Bible is not divinely authoritative (and thereby, inerrant), then we would have no divinely authoritative basis for believing and other fundamental doctrine of Scripture. In this sense, the inerrancy of Scripture is the fundamental of the fundamentals.  And if the fundamental of the fundamental is not fundamental, then what is fundamental?  The answer is fundamentally nothing.  Of course, Jesus’ death and resurrection could be true without there being an inerrant Bible.  However, we would not have a divinely authoritative basis for believing that it is.  So, contrary to Licona’s claim, the doctrine of biblical inerrancy is foundational to the Christian Faith.

21.  Licona describes most SBC inerrantists as “an ultraconservative wing that would like to pull the denomination back into fundamentalism where people are told, “We know the answers. Don’t question me. Just get back in line and follow me. I’m protecting the Church.” However, I don’t think that’s where the majority of SBC church members or even SBC professors are.”  Besides being false about both the number and nature of Southern Baptist, this is a demeaning way to characterize those who disagree with those who are sincerely and earnest trying to preserve the orthodoxy and vitality of one of the largest Protestant denominations in the world! As a non SBC scholar, I have the greatest respect for the Sothern Baptist leaders who championed the inerrancy cause.  They all deserve bronze plaques in Nashville and some (like Page Patterson) deserve a statue.  Ironically, some of the names whom Licona drops as SBC leaders he respect disagree with his view on inerrancy and one of them told me in a letter that he would never hire Licona at his school.

22. Speaking of “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy [which] defines it most exhaustively,” Licona claims, “But even those who helped compose it aren’t in complete agreement about its meaning. I continue to be a biblical inerrantist and subscribe to both the Lausanne Covenant and the Chicago Statement.”  However, this is flatly false.  There are only three living framers of the ICBI statements (J. I. Packer, R.C. Sproul, and myself), we all agree that Licona’s view are not compatible with these statements.  What Licona does to the ICBI statements is typical of what they do with the New Testament, namely, they read their meaning into it (eisegesis) rather than reading the framer’s view out of it (exegesis).  Indeed, Licona is so bold as to affirm that we do not properly understand the statements we framed.  No wonder they misinterpret the New Testament. Were Washington, Madison, and Jefferson here, by this same logic they would have to say that they did not properly understand The Declaration of Independence!

23. Lincona misunderstands and mischaracterizes the historical-grammatical Interpretation of the Bible as the belief that “everything in the Bible should be interpreted literally. For example, I don’t think that Jesus’ teaching on lust meant that guys should actually gouge out their eyes if they struggle with it (Matthew 5:28-29).”  No sophisticated proponent of the historical-grammatical interpretation of the Bible (which ICBI affirms) denies there are symbols and figures of speech in the Bible, and gouging out one’s eyes is certainly one. The ICBI statement affirms clearly that ???  But even symbols and figures of speech have literal referents, as indicated above (in # 12).  But allowing for figures of speech within a text (like “asleep” for dead in Matthew 27) does not mean it was not referring to a literal dead body that was subsequently literally raised from the dead as a result of Jesus’ literal death and resurrection.

24.  Licona still refuses to recant his view on Matthew. He said, “The controversy forced me to dig deeper and I have since modified my position to one of uncertainty pertaining to how Matthew intended the saints raised at Jesus’ death to be interpreted.”  However, there are several  problems with this response.  First, it all short of a retraction.  Second, he has not retracted the theological method (the use of Greco-Roman biography which allows for legends in the NT text) which led him to his unorthodox conclusion on Matthew 27.  Finally, this was only one of many text which Licona’s method led him to doubt the historicity of many Gospel events (see # 7).  He has not recanted his view on any of these to date.

25.  Licona contents that his view is just a matter of interpretation, not a matter of inerrancy.  But this maneuver was also condemned by the ICBI framers for good reasons: Licona insists that his view is only a matter of interpretation but not a matter of inerrancy.  Thus, he believes that one can allegedly hold different interpretations of a text without denying its inerrancy.  However, this is a false disjunction of interpretation from inerrancy for several reasons.

First, there is only a formal distinction between interpretation and inerrancy, not an actual disjunction.  Otherwise, biblical inerrancy is an empty vacuous claim that the whole Bible is truth without making a claim that anything in it is actually true

Second, Licona’s bifurcation of interpretation and inerrancy would mean that even a totally allegorical method which spiritualizes away every literal truth of the Bible (including the death and resurrection of Christ) could be held without denying inerrancy. This means that if Mary Baker Eddy or her Christian Science followers claimed to hold the complete inerrancy of whatever the Bible teaches and yet, as they do, deny the literal truth of the death and resurrection of Christ, then she could not be rightly charged with denying the inerrancy of the Bible.

Third, such a disjunction of interpretation from inerrancy as Licona makes is contrary to the nature of truth itself. For truth is what corresponds to reality. ICBI clearly defines truth as “what corresponds to reality,” affirming that “all the claims of the Bible must correspond with reality, whether that reality is historical, factual or spiritual” (R. C. Sproul, Explaining Inerrancy, 41).  But, if Licona’s claim is valid, then there is no reality to which the claim that “the Bible is completely true” actually corresponds

Fourth, even granting the obvious claim that the Bible must be interpreted in order to understand its meaning, this does not imply, as Licona claims, that hermeneutical methods are inerrancy-neutral. For there are hermeneutical presuppositions that are contrary to an evangelical view of inerrancy.  For example, a total allegorical method like that of Christian Science is not compatible with and evangelical view of what is meant when one claims the Bible is completely true.  This is why the famous ICBI “Chicago Statement” on biblical inerrancy includes Article 18: “We affirm that the text of Scripture is to be interpreted by grammatical-historical exegesis….”  In short, any method of interpreting Scripture that does not use the literal, historical-grammatical method is inconsistent with inerrancy.  This means that any other method, like an allegorical method, is incompatible with an evangelical view of inerrancy.

Fifth, the historical-grammatical method does not approach the Bible with a historically neutral stance.  After all, it is not called the “literal” method for nothing.  It assumes there is a sensus literalis (literal sense) to Scripture.   In short, it assumes that a text should be taken literally unless there are good grounds in the text and/or in the context to take it otherwise.  As a matter of fact, we cannot even know a non-literal (e.g., allegorical or poetic) sense unless we know what is literally true.  So, when Jesus said, “I am the vine” this should not be taken literally because we know what a literal vine is, and we know that Jesus is not one.

Sixth, the ICBI inerrancy statement against “dehistoricizing” a biblical narrative presupposes its historicity. Contrary to Licona, biblical inerrantist do not approach a biblical narrative with a history-neutral presupposition (Article 18).  Indeed, neither do common persons reading road signs or news papers approach them in literal-free manner.  We approach almost everything in life with the presumption that it is literally true, unless there is good reason in the text or context to do otherwise.

Seventh, what is more, Licona’s “new” approach rejects another venerable hermeneutical principle expressed by ICBI when it insists that “Scripture is to interpret Scripture” (Article 18, emphasis added).  For Licona insists that extra-biblical data (e.g., Greco-Roman legends) can be used to interpret Scripture.  He wrote, “There is somewhat of a consensus among contemporary scholars that the Gospels belong to the genre of Greco-Roman biography” which, he adds, “often included legend” that is a “flexible genre” in which “it is often difficult to determine where history ends and legend begins” (RJ, 34).  But the Greco-Roman use of legend mixed with history is not a suitable model for interpreting a biblical narrative.

One ICBI framer summarized the issue well: “Inspiration without inerrancy is an empty term. Inerrancy without inspiration is unthinkable. The two are inseparably related. They may be distinguished but not separated. So it is with hermeneutics. We can easily distinguish between the inspiration and interpretation of the Bible, but we cannot separate them. Anyone can confess a high view of the nature of Scripture but the ultimate test of one's view of Scripture is found in his method of interpreting it. A person's hermeneutic reveals his view of Scripture more clearly than does an exposition of his view” (R. C. Sproul, “Biblical Interpretation And The Analogy of Faith” in Inerrancy and Common Sense, ed. by Roger R. Nicole,134, emphasis added).  Indeed, ICBI insisted that the historical-grammatical method of interpreting Scripture was part of its understanding of biblical inerrancy.