Friday, January 31, 2014

D.A. Carson, Leon Morris, and Matthew 27:52-53

Commentator Leon Morris concludes in his commentary on Matthew (edited by D A Carson) [1] that it is more likely that Matthew’s point of writing about the saints is not something that happened literally.  He concludes:

Nobody else mentions this, and we are left to conclude that Matthew is making the point that the resurrection of Jesus brought about the resurrection of his people. Just as the rending of the temple curtain makes it clear that the way to God is open for all, so the raising of the saints shows that death has been conquered. Those so raised went into Jerusalem and appeared to many. Since there are no other records of these appearances, it appears to be impossible to say anything about them. But Matthew is surely giving expression to his conviction that Jesus is Lord over both the living and the dead. [2] (emphasis original)

The New Bible Commentary (also edited in part by D.A. Carson) says that there is not enough information to come to a reasonable historical conclusion about what Matthew actually meant when he reported the event in question.  It says,

There is no other record of this remarkable occurrence, and Matthew does not give enough detail for us to know exactly what he thought happened. For instance, why the delay between the raising of the bodies and their appearance in Jerusalem; and what happened to them afterwards? The symbolism is fairly clear, but we do not have the resources to determine the status of the story as sober history. [3]

D.A. Carson signed the ICBI statement [4].

[1]According to Geisler and Roach, D.A. Carson signed the ICBI statement on January 1st, 1979. Geisler, Norman L., and William C. Roach. Defending Inerrancy.(Grand Rapids: Baker, 2011) 346.
[2]Leon Morris, The Gospel According to Matthew, The Pillar New Testament Commentary, edited by D.A.Carson(Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1992), 724-26.
[3]New Bible Commentary: 21st Century Edition, ed. D. A. Carson, R. T. France, J. A. Motyer and G. J. Wenham, 4th ed. (Leicester, England; Downers Grove, IL: Inter-Varsity Press, 1994), Mt 27:45–56.
[4] D.A. Carson conveyed to me in a email in Dec 2013 that he does take this as a historical event.  However, he does edit material that at least indicates that this is a very difficult passage to interpret thus throwing out the straightforward literal interpretation.


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