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Products>Jesus, Contradicted: Why the Gospels Tell the Same Story Differently

Jesus, Contradicted: Why the Gospels Tell the Same Story Differently

, 2024
ISBN: 9780310159629

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The differences and discrepancies in the Gospels constitute the foremost objections to their reliability and the credibility of their message. Some have tried to resolve Gospels contradictions with strained harmonization efforts. Many others conclude that the Gospels are hopelessly contradictory and, therefore, historically unreliable accounts of Jesus.

In Jesus, Contradicted, New Testament scholar Michael Licona shows how the genre of ancient biography, to which the Gospels belong, actually allows biographers to be flexible in how they report events, construct a narrative, and make an argument. Licona demonstrates that the intentional changes to the Jesus tradition by the Evangelists reveal that the differences in how the Gospels report events are not grounds for their rejection. Instead, they are a result of the Gospel writers employing standard literary conventions common in their time for writing ancient biography.

Licona introduces readers to the genre of ancient biography through Plutarch, who wrote 48 of the 90 extent biographies written within 150 years of Jesus, giving numerous examples of compositional devices employed by Plutarch, and comparing them with instances in the Gospels where the Evangelists appear to use similar techniques. Licona also examines Theon’s Progymnasmata, a first-century textbook that provides six techniques for paraphrasing one’s sources when writing a narrative. In doing so, he helps readers understand why the Gospels report many events differently. Finally, Licona concludes by addressing the thorny question of whether the editorial moves commonplace in ancient biography are compatible with the doctrines of the divine inspiration and the inerrancy of Scripture.

Rather than trying to resolve discrepancies by bending the Gospel narrative, which risks making them say things they aren’t saying, Jesus, Contradicted situates the Gospels within their proper context and helps readers account for differences in the Gospels in a cohesive and historically cogent way.

  • Introduces readers to the genre of ancient biography
  • Situates the Gospels within their proper context
  • Demonstrates that the intentional changes to the Jesus tradition by the Evangelists reveal that the differences in how the Gospels report events are not grounds for their rejection
Michael R. Licona

Dr. Mike Licona is associate professor of theology at Houston Baptist University. He holds a PhD in New Testament studies from the University of Pretoria, which he earned with distinction and the highest mark.

Dr. Licona was interviewed for Lee Strobel’s book The Case for the Real Jesus and he appeared in Strobel’s video The Case for Christ. He is the author of numerous books, including The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, Paul Meets Muhammad: A Christian-Muslim Debate on the Resurrection, co-author of the award-winning book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, and co-editor of Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy, and Science. His next book will concern ancient compositional devices resulting in discrepancies in the Gospels and Plutarch’s Lives. Dr. Licona is a member of the Society of Biblical Literature, the Institute for Biblical Research, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the Evangelical Philosophical Society. He has spoken on more than 70 university campuses and has appeared on dozens of radio and television programs.


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  1. DQ



    I have read his first book, Why Are There Differences in the Gospels. It was very slow reading, and very academic, nevertheless, if you want a fuller understanding and description of the techniques used in ancient biographies it is worth the wading. So I am grateful that Licona has written a more user friendly book. He mentioned Robert Guelich in his book as someone who years ago saw the gospels as portraits of Jesus. Guelich was my professor of the gospels in seminary and we covered this extensively. And when I read Licona I could almost hear Dr. Guelich’s voice in the background going “Amen.” Unfortunately, Dr. Guelich died young or he probably would have written the forward to this book. Also this book should also be read in conjunction with Richard Baukham’s book on “Jesus and the Eyewitness.” It is an excellent book on how oral tradition functioned in the early church. One of the key words in Licona’s book is that the “gist” of the story is what is important. And Baukham’s book on oral tradition also points out the same. For some that have a very wooden and almost “docetic” view of Scripture, Licona’s book will cause tremendous headaches. But all one has to do is read Kings and Chronicles together!! The techniques talked about by Licona are actually the same found in the Old Testament! So what does that tell us!! I can imagine this as an invaluable textbook in many seminaries in gospel studies. And those that hold to a mechanistic view of inspiration will simply be confirming Bart Ehrman’s line of thinking which is incredibly flawed understanding of inerrancy. I also believe that pastor’s need to get this information to their congregations and teach about the synoptic problem, lest they are unduly influenced by heretics such as Ehrman and their faith is destroyed. Thank you Dr. Licona for your great service to gospel studies and to the church.
  2. Robert Lawrence
    one of the most dangerous attacks on Inerrancy in decades. While Licona is one of a recent generation of conservative scholars that have embraced a Heiser like approach to hermeneutics, Mike has taken far too much liberty with comparing secular writers to prophetic authors, assuming that in the writing of Scripture, the frailty of human authors is permitted. His research mentions a writing textbook used in ancient time as his authority for these 'writing devices' yet the book he refers to is NOT a writers guide to what is permissible in writing ancient biographies, but rather a book of creative writing exercises that includes among other exercises, simply refuting all true points to see where it leads the writer. The result of Mike's conclusions from this lead him to the false conclusion that history was not written in the first century with total accuracy, and therefore the Gospels should not be expected to either. But to say that since Josephus minimized the heinous acts of the Romans in his history books out of fear of offending them, it is possible that the Gospel writers followed that literary style, undermines the entire historical accuracy of the gospels. His latest book does not minimize this concern for me. In fact, it undermines the incredible contribution Mike has made to evangelical scholarship in his prior works verifying the historical truth of the gospel. His permission of 'literary devices' to explain apparent contradictions, using the methods in his latest arguments and this book, can be used by skeptics to reduce the resurrection to another literary device used by the Apostles and writers of Scripture.