In The Resurrection of Jesus
, Licona [of Houston Baptist University] presents a defense
of the historicity of the bodily resurrection of Jesus from the dead, arguing that Jesus' resurrection must have been literal.
But the passage at issue is Matthew 27:51-53, which reads: "At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. They came out of the tombs after Jesus' resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people."
Licona...writes, "It seems best to regard this difficult text in Matthew as a poetic device added to communicate that the Son of God had died and that impending judgment awaited Israel." The bodies of many holy people, Licona suggests, were not literally raised to life.
Quarles [of Louisiana College]...said the context of the passage suggests Matthew intended for readers to understand the words as descriptions of actual occurrences.
"The misinterpretation of a text as important as the Bible can have rather grave consequences..." Quarles said.