Contradictions in the Gospels: An Interview with Mike Licona

On April 21 Christianity Today published an interview with Dr. Michael Licona about his new, provocative, and innovative book, Why Are There Differences in the Gospels?: What We Can Learn from Ancient Biography (Oxford). In the interview Licona says things such as, [Christians] often engage in “harmonization efforts, which sometimes subject the Gospels to a sort of hermeneutical waterboarding until they tell the harmonizer what he wants to hear”; “If I fail to [let the Bible’s evidence about itself speak], I deceive myself, claiming to have a high view of Scripture when in reality I would have a high view of my view of Scripture.”

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And the heart of the interview–and the recent book: “What my book does is look at how one of the most highly regarded biographers of antiquity—Plutarch—reported the same events differently. By looking at those different accounts, I can identify patterns in those differences, infer compositional devices from those patterns, and then read the Gospels with those devices in mind. It’s truly amazing to see the Gospel authors using many of the same compositional devices employed by Plutarch!”

And what does he say about historical reliability in the Gospels? You’ll just have to read the interview and, more importantly, read the book!


38 thoughts on “Contradictions in the Gospels: An Interview with Mike Licona

  1. RWL

    Is it ancient biography or ancient historiography? Bauckham (2006) and Byrskog (2000) assert the Gospels are ancient historiographies, not ancient biographies? What do you think?


    1. Peter Connell

      It seems that the literary devices – regardless of how one would classify the writing – are what is in view here — and there may be something to what is written. I plan on buying the book and giving it a read. Bauckham has written some fascinating things himself, especially in the area of Christology.


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  3. Once again this is a warning to all Christians. Liconia called Matthew a liar by reporting the saints rising from the grave on the night of Christ’s crucifixion never happened. A point excellently defended by Norman Geisler. It is sad a young man who started with so much promise had denigrated to the skeptics such as Blomberg and McGowan.


    1. Clarke Morledge

      Craig Blomberg a “skeptic?”

      So, when Blomberg wrote “Can We Still Believe the Believe?” as a defense of the Bible, what do you think he was defending?

      Furthermore, Matthew can only be called a “liar” if he, in fact, is making an historical claim, that turns out not to be true. As I understand Licona, if Matthew is using a literary device consistent with all other Greco-Roman biography of the time period, then Matthew is not making a specific historical claim. So, if it turns out that Matthew is not making such an historical claim, then charging Matthew with a falsehood is irrelevant.

      That would be like charging Jesus with making a falsehood, if no historical farmer named “X” could be found who planted that seed along the path, on the stony ground, among the thorns, and in the good soil.

      To your favor, you could be correct that Matthew IS indeed making an historical claim. But it just means that Licona’s interpretation of Matthew is wrong. It does not imply a denial of inerrancy. The inerrancy of Scripture and the inerrancy on someone’s interpretation (yours, mine, Licona’s) must be kept distinct from one another.

      If I had to issue a “warning to all Christians,” it would be that your remarks come across as confusing.


      1. Inerrancy means ALL the Scriptures is true. Blomberg uses that word but it does not mean what the rest of the conservative evangelicals. As far ass Matthew using a device where he stressed the truth is still lying. Either the saints came out of the graves or they did not. There is a reason why Blomberg has unkind and rude things to say about Geisler, because Geisler knows the truth behind Blomberg’s deception.


  4. I totally agree with the issue of harmonization, yet it goes far beyond the Gospels. I was browsing a church’s add for a pastor that insisted in its statement of faith on multiple harmonizations across the board! Part of it is the theologians haven’t done a good job cleaning up after the apologist! Adding this book to my reading list now!


  5. PC1

    I found this link to a round-table discussion between Licona and some well-known evangelical authors. It includes discussion about inerrancy and I found it very informative. Personally, although I appreciate the point Licona makes regarding ‘apocryphal’ language in Matthew, I view the rising of these ‘saints’ to be historical, and that is what Matthew intended. Quarles and Kruger particularly make important points about the text. However, I find it very disappointing that it seems Licona effectively lost his job over this issue in 2011. He is clearly a committed Christian who is convinced of the resurrection of Jesus and what that means for humanity, and is keen to tell others about Him. To be treated like that is pretty awful.



  6. text scholar

    Hey Wallace, this may be a little off topic, but do you believe that Luke 22:19b where Jesus tells us to “do this in remembrance of me” is a later textual addition or original?


  7. Gary

    I recently read Licona’s book and I just read the referenced article. I applaud Licona’s attempt to be fair and open-minded with the evidence. I believe thAT has hit the proverbial nail squarely on its head: The Gospels were not written as modern history textbooks nor even as modern biographies in which precise historical accuracy is mandatory. They were first century books written in a very different genre from anything we are familiar with today. Yes, they were biographies about Jesus, but they were also a means of evangelization (skeptics would call them, “propaganda”); their very purpose can be summed up by the Gospel writers themselves: “these things are written THAT YOU MIGHT BELIEVE!”

    If you read Licona’s book you will see that one of the literary devices used by Plutarch is the invention of details which the author believes enhances the story; which makes the story better. THIS IS KEY! This would never be allowed in a modern biography but it was perfectly acceptable in first century Greco-Roman biography as long as it did not alter the central core story and character of the central character.

    What was the central, core story of Jesus? Answer: It is told in the Early Creed of First Corinthians 15. Jesus was crucified and died, was buried, and then rose from the dead. He then appeared to many of his followers (no descriptions of these appearances given). It would therefore be perfectly acceptable in first century Greco-Roman biography for an author to “flesh-out” this bare-boned story and give it more detail, such as: an elaborate trial before his crucifixion; an earthquake, three hour eclipse, and dead saints shaken out of the graves at this death; burial in a rich man’s tomb; angelic beings at an empty tomb on the third day; very detailed appearances of the resurrected Jesus in which he eats food, walks, talks, and asks them to touch his wounds; and finally an ascension into heaven before his disciples’ very eyes.

    All this would have been perfectly acceptable in a Greco-Roman biography. It would have been acceptable because it does not change the central story of Jesus nor does it change the core characteristics of Jesus: He was the Son of God who was killed but who defeated sin and death and rose from the dead.


    1. Peter Connell

      While I think that Licona’s book brings up some valid points worthy for consideration—to throw “the gospels” into a genre that allows the writer to incorporate “the invention of details” and then basically say that the throwing in of such details that never happened does not constitute lying—is ludicrous in my opinion.

      What you are saying is that in the Greco-Roman world, making stuff up was perfectly acceptable, and this fabrication of non-factual “facts” was supposed to enhance the credibility of the writing to the point that the reader “might believe” the general thrust of what was written. I’m not buying that for a moment.

      This proposed view detracts from rather than adds to the the thought that the Scriptures were given by inspiration of God.


      1. Gary

        Mike Licona is not the only scholar to propose this view. NT Wright comments in his master work, “The Resurrection of the Son of God”, that the author of the Book of Acts used this very technique in describing Paul’s Damascus Road experience. (The author of Acts invented details for his stories.)

        The story of Paul’s conversion is repeated three times in the Book of Acts. Each time the story is slightly different. In one telling of the story, the companions of Paul see something but hear nothing. In another telling of the story, the companions of Paul see nothing but hear something. Is this a contradiction? Not at all, according to Wright. What the author of Acts has done here is a standard literary technique used by first century Greco-Roman biographers. The author deliberated changed the story…”to keep the reader’s interest” (to make his book more interesting).

        To a fundamentalist Christian this is absolute heresy, but to moderate Christian scholars it is simply an obvious fact based on evidence from the literature of that era.

        Even conservative scholar Richard Bauckham believes that the Gospel authors invented some of their stories. In Bauckham’s “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses”, Bauckham states that it is blatantly obvious that the author of Matthew (who Bauckham does NOT believe was Matthew the Apostle) borrowed the author of Mark’s story about the calling of Levi the tax collector to be a disciple of Jesus for his own story about the calling of Matthew the tax collector: The author of Matthew invented the story of the calling of Matthew the Apostle to make his story (and book) more interesting!


      2. Peter Connell


        I’m well aware of others believing a bit of this. The examples in the story of Paul’s conversion you cite as evidence of the view of NT writers fabricating “facts” reminds me of a little place on the Puget Sound in Washington State. As you drive up the coast one sees a little “point” jutting out into the water; but as you continue driving, you see that it really wasn’t a “point” after all. The place is called “Point No-Point.” 🙂

        The variations in Paul’s story are not contradictory at all. The story in Acts 9 outlines the fact that he was travelling with others (verses 7 and 8) they “heard a voice” in verse 7 and they led him by the hand in verse 8. This chapter tells us they heard the voice but saw “no man” (KJV) or “no one” (ESV). It does not say that they “saw nothing.”

        In Acts 22, verses 9 and 11 tell us that he was accompanied by others, but while THEY HEARD the voice they “did not understand (ηκουσαν) the voice” (vs. 9, ESV). That is, they did not understand what was said. Verse 9 says that they “saw the light” – which does not contradict Chapter 9’s account in any respect. There is no contradiction between this account and Acts 9 regarding hearing or seeing.

        In Acts 26, verse 13 tell us once again that “others” were travelling with Paul at the time of the event. The Acts 26 account does not mention anyone seeing or not seeing anything (other than Saul, who saw the light)–and this also contradicts neither Acts 9 nor Acts 22). One cannot say that they “saw” or “heard” nothing based on an “argument from silence” – as this would be a fallacious argument. A bit of information that IS added (not the same as “fabricated”) in this account by Paul not mentioned in either Acts 9 or 22, namely, that the voice that spoke with him was in the Hebrew tongue. This would explain why, in Chapter 22 the account mentions none of those accompanying Paul “understood” or comprehended the meaning encompassed in the voice that they heard. Koiné Greek was the lingua franca of the region as well as being the language of the New Testament (Machen, 1923, p.p, 2-5). Some Aramaic was certainly spoken in Judea, but as Saul travelled to Damascus, it is doubtful that other were as tutored in Hebrew as was Saul (who sat at the feet of Gamaliel; Acts 22:3). This reveals that the voice was for Saul to understand. It is also significant that it was delivered in the Hebrew language to the monotheistic Pharisee named Paul. His response was revealing: “Who art thou Lord?” – this using the language of deification that was reserved only for YHWH. The response was also revealing: “I am Jesus whom thou persecutes.”

        In these three examples we see none of the contradictions that you intimated were present, but we DO see additional features within the texts that complement one another without contradiction when we use a solid grammatical-historical approach when examining the Scriptures.

        I would write more to address other things mentioned, but I need to get back to some work that is going undone at the moment.

        Machen, A. W. (1923). New Testament Greek for Beginners. Toronto, CA: Macmillan.


      3. Gary

        I am not a scholar, Peter, so I cannot debate you on the intricacies of the original Greek. But I am not the one saying that the author of the Book of Acts (who most scholars believe was also the author of the Gospel of Luke) fabricated details in his stories. Renowned New Testament scholar, NT Wright, said that.

        NT scholar Richard Bauckham is the darling of conservative Protestants and evangelicals, yet even he admits that the Gospel authors invented details in their stories. And of course renowned moderate scholars such as Raymond Brown are in full agreement with Licona, Wright, and Bauckham on this issue. Brown agrees with Licona that Matthew’s “Guards at the Tomb” story was an “apologetic invention”.


  8. Gary

    NT Wright also believes that the four authors of the Gospels invented the stories in which Jesus predicts his death and resurrection.

    Therefore, three New Testament scholars whom conservative Christians hold in high regard for their scholarship—Licona, NT Wright, and Bauckham—believe that the authors of the Gospels invented some of the details in their Gospels. None of these invented details change one single Christian doctrine. They were simply literary devices to flesh out the bare bones story of Jesus as found in the Early Creed. The authors of the Gospels were writing books for evangelization purposes. They were not writing history text books. The core story of Jesus’ death, burial, and claims of post-death sightings is historical fact. The rest is quite possibly literary fiction.


  9. Gary

    Peter: Here is more evidence that the author of Luke/Acts invented stories in his Gospel:

    “We know a lot about the reign of Caesar Augustus from the writings of historians, philosophers, essayists, poets, and others living about that time. In none of these writings, including an account written by Caesar August himself about his own reign, is there a solitary word of any empire-wide census. And indeed how could there have been one? Think about it for a second: are we to imagine the entire Roman Empire uprooting for a weekend in order to register for a census? Joseph returns to the town of Bethlehem because he’s from the lineage of David. But King David lived a thousand years earlier. Everyone in the empire is returning to the home of their ancestors from a thousand years earlier? How is that possible? How would people know where to go? If you had to go register to vote in the town your ancestors came from a thousand years ago, where would you go?!? And are we to imagine that this massive migration of millions of people, all over the empire, took place without any other author from the period so much as mentioning it?”

    This event did NOT happen. There was no world-wide census. Jesus was most likely born in Nazareth, not Bethlehem. Luke’s birth narrative in Bethlehem was a literary/theological invention, and a brilliant one at that. It has captivated the minds of children (and adults) for two millennia!


  10. Gary

    It seems no one else is interested in continuing the discussion on this topic, so let me say this in conclusion:

    Mike Licona has done evangelical and other conservative Christians a huge favor. No longer do these Christians need to twist themselves into pretzels trying to harmonize the many discrepancies in the four resurrection stories in the Gospels. From now on whenever a skeptic points out one of these discrepancies, all Christians need to say is this: There are no discrepancies. These DIFFERENCES in the retelling of the life of an historical character were standard practice in first century Greco-Roman biographical literature. The core story is the same in all four Gospels: Jesus was crucified. He was buried. Shortly after his death, his followers believed that he appeared to them.

    The question then comes down to this: Do YOU believe the early Christians’ story? Do YOU believe that they really saw a reanimated, three day brain-dead corpse or were they mistaken, caught up in emotional, religious hysteria, “seeing” things that were not there (illusions, false sightings, vivid dreams, trances, and possibly hallucinations)?


  11. kwells

    My humble opinion is that we need to contend for the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth and His resurrection. And that’s pretty much it. With apologies to all on this thread. I have been continually saddened over the decades by those who, at least seemingly, would gladly see thousands condemned to hell if it means they can keep their microscopically granular infallibility.
    I’m not talking about doctrine like Hell or Soteriological requirements, but simple, even trivial story details.

    The bible is a precious gift from God to His people, but it is not a member of the Godhead. It is not to be worshiped like the Quran. Even Jesus himself promised forgiveness for all who would say anything against His Person, no matter how pejorative and vindictive. It was the Religious Gatekeepers who He implied were committing the unforgivable sin. Where is grace and love, therefore, for those whose lives and careers testify to their love of the truth and of Christ? No one stands toe to toe with the likes of Bart Ehrman in a public forum on multiple occasions for fun, money or fame.

    You may defend your bibliology (which I pray has not descended to bibliolatry) and stake your faith on encyclicals like the CSBI, But men like Wallace, Keener, Licona, and Blomberg defend Christ.

    I understand if this is inflammatory and wont make it past the referee, but this issue really grieves me.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Jared

      Thank you for the much needed perspective. Apologists like Gary Habermas and authors like Lee Strobel and Frank Morrison always impress me with their simple appeal to “majoring on the major” – focusing on Christ resurrected, the thing that matters the most. I want Jesus to have walked on water – I really, really do. And I believe it does have a lot to say about how much we can trust the Scripture as a whole. But if he didn’t walk on water, it still doesn’t affect whether he was God – it just affects the honesty of his followers. If he died and rose again, then there is still a spiritual reality that needs to be reckoned with!


      1. Gary

        “But if he didn’t walk on water, it still doesn’t affect whether he was God – it just affects the honesty of his followers. If he died and rose again, then there is still a spiritual reality that needs to be reckoned with!”

        And THAT is the million dollar question, my dear Christian friends: Did a brain-dead first century corpse really come back to life, escape it’s sealed tomb, and later fly off into the clouds/outer space, or, is this story the product of the wild imagination of superstitious people?

        I suggest that NO quantity of alleged eyewitness testimony is sufficient for modern, educated people to believe this tale. Why? Ask yourself this question: If five THOUSAND villagers in the highlands of Guatemala claimed that thirty years ago they witnessed a man turn into a lava-spewing volcano after eating magic beans, would this be sufficient evidence for you to believe that a man can transform into a volcano???

        Of course not.

        And I suggest that the same logic should apply to a two thousand year old claim that a first century corpse turned into a space-levitating superhero.


      2. Jared

        Caricaturing the evidence never really dismisses it. It’s always ok to say, “It’s not enough for me – so I don’t believe.” But to many of us, the evidence we have seen and experienced and researched is compelling. If it were as simple as you state, you are right – no one would believe. That’s the essence of straw men – they are easy to blow down. This isn’t really the place for a debate for me, but there are countless books detailing what some consider a preponderance of evidence to base their own beliefs on. For anyone still on their own personal fact finding journey to see if the faith has substance, I encourage you to look up any book on apologetics to explore.


      3. Gary

        Hi Jared,

        I take this subject very seriously. It is not something I have simply dismissed out of hand without examining the evidence. Here is a list of all the scholarly books and articles I have read regarding the central claims of Christianity, in particular, the Resurrection:

        1. “The Resurrection of the Son of God” by NT Wright
        2. “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses” by Richard Bauckham
        3. “Making the Case for Christianity” by Maas, Francisco, et al.
        4. ” The Resurrection Fact” by Bombaro, Francisco, et al.
        5. “Miracles” , Volumes 1 and 2, by Craig Keener
        6. “The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus” by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona
        7. “Why are There Differences in the Gospels” by Michael Licona
        8. “The Son Rises” by William Lane Craig
        9. “The Virginal Conception and Bodily Resurrection of Jesus” by Raymond Brown
        10. “The Resurrection of Jesus” by Gerd Luedemann
        11. “Resurrection Reconsidered” by Gregory Riley
        12. “John and Thomas—Gospels in Conflict?” by Christopher Skinner
        13. “The Argument for the Holy Sepulchre” (journal article) by scholar Jerome Murphy-O’Connor
        14. “Israel in Egypt” by James Hoffmeier
        15. “The Bible Unearthed” by Finkelstein and Silberman
        16. “The Resurrection of Jesus in the Light of Jewish Burial Practices” by Craig Evans, (newsletter article) The City, a publication of Houston Baptist University, May 4, 2016
        17. “Has the Tomb of Jesus Been Discovered?” by Jodi Magness, SBL Forum
        18. “Genre, Sub-genre and Questions of Audience: A Proposed Typology for Greco-Roman biography” (article) by Justin M. Smith, St. Mary’s College, University of St. Andrews, Scotland
        19. “Twenty-Six Reasons Why Jews Don’t Believe in Jesus” by Asher Norman (not a work of scholarship per se, but it is endorsed by Talmudic scholars for its accuracy in presenting a Jewish perspective of Jesus and the Christian New Testament)

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Gary

        Jared, you said this: “to many of us, the evidence we have seen and experienced and researched is compelling.”

        I find the order of the sources of evidence you listed in this sentence very interesting. Instead of stating, “The historical and archeological evidence is compelling” you have given priority, consciously or subconsciously, to your own personal experiences, visual and perception, over and above “research”, the source for all other historical claims regarding alleged events in Antiquity.

        I believe that this is the crux of the problem for why Christians and skeptics never see the strength of the evidence for this ancient claim in the same light. You and many other Christians believe that you have witnessed visually and experienced perceptually supernatural acts which you attribute to your god. We skeptics challenge you to prove that any one of these alleged “miracles” could not be explained as a rare, but random NATURAL coincidence.

        The historical evidence itself is very poor for the claim that a first century corpse came back to life, exited it’s sealed tomb, and later levitated into the clouds. The fact that early Christians claimed that over five hundred people witnessed seeing this resurrected corpse is NOT sufficient evidence to believe that an event which defies all we know about how the universe operates really did happen twenty centuries ago. If FIVE THOUSAND villagers in Guatemala claimed that thirty years ago, a man turned into a volcano after eating magic beans, would you believe them?

        I doubt it.

        Eye witness testimony is not sufficient for very extra-ordinary claims which defy all we know about the operation of the universe.


      5. Jared

        That’s just the way you measure evidence. It’s hardly authoritative. If I told you about my awesome uncle and then gave you 10 books on him, you could still doubt him. It all changes when you meet him.
        There’s only a certain degree of certainty you could ever gain from dusting off books. And if the faith claim was that Jesus rose and died again, it wouldn’t be particularly compelling. Instead, the claim that He’s still alive and active today IS measured in eye witness testimony, which is truly sufficient for all of us who sought Him out and experience Him regularly.
        You’ve done your reading, which is commendable. That’s your due diligence, and no one could argue that you didn’t care enough to look into it.
        The only other thing I’d encourage you to do is take your Christian friends out to coffee and ask them what their personal relationship with Christ looks like. If it’s just historically true and not relevant today, then it wouldn’t be worth engaging. Instead, what we find is billions of people who find it incredibly meaningful, powerful, life changing and experiential.
        I don’t know a whole lot of Christians who read their way into the faith. A consistent theme with all the people I disciple is that they have experienced God in powerful and moving ways that I can’t simply dismiss, as you do, as “natural coincidence.” I have my own journey, and while we disagree with how much evidence the scholars amass, which I find incredibly detailed and compelling, I could never doubt my own daily relationship with God.
        Yours will always be an argument from silence. “I haven’t experienced God myself.” That’s not like to sway Believers, unless they only believe because they were raised that way and haven’t engaged the faith on their own.


      6. Gary

        One day at the age of nine, I sincerely and with all my heart prayed to Jesus, asking him to forgive me of all my sins, save my sinful soul, and make himself the Lord of my life. I felt a great peace in my heart and great assurance and comfort. Shortly thereafter I was baptized.

        In my teen years, I began to have doubts about my salvation. “Had I really and truly believed in Jesus as my Lord and Savior?” “Had I fully repented of ALL my sins?” “Did I ask Jesus to save me because I wanted him to be my Lord and Savior or simply because I was afraid of Hell?”

        The uncertainty of my salvation was very emotionally draining.

        One night, I prayed to God and said, “Dear Lord, I will do ANYTHING you want me to do. I will become a preacher or a missionary if that is what you want me to be. I will forsake all worldly pleasures. But PLEASE give me assurance of my salvation!” I went into the backyard, burned all my rock-n-roll records in the trash bin and again asked Jesus to save me and to be my Lord and Savior. Once again I felt great peace and assurance.

        In my twenties I joined a non-denominational evangelical church in which the people were much more expressive and emotional about their faith and experiences of Jesus than my previous Baptist congregation. As people prayed to Jesus their eyes would roll back in their heads, they would cry, they would sway with the rhythmic songs about Jesus. Why had I never felt that kind of INTENSE emotion about Jesus??? Was it because I lacked enough faith? Was it because of some sin of which I was unaware? Or, was it because I was STILL…unsaved???

        So I have “experienced Jesus”, my friend. I know the warm feelings of peace, comfort, and serenity. I know how wonderful it feels to have a supernatural “big brother” figure who is more powerful than any force on earth and has the power to do ANYTHING for me, if he desires. That gave me GREAT comfort.

        But I began to ask myself this question: Is that still, small “voice” that at times speaks to me, moves me, and leads me to do “God’s will” God, or, just…ME? And here is the conclusion I have come to, my friend: The evidence is overwhelming that corpses do not come back from the dead. The evidence is overwhelming that corpses do not levitate into the sky. And the evidence is overwhelming that children who believe that they have an IMAGINARY FRIEND also experience peace, comfort, and security. Are their feelings and perceptions about their invisible friend any different than those Christians claim to receive from their invisible friend. And what about miracles? Jesus only seems to heal conditions that could have very natural explanations, even if that natural explanation is very rare.

        The evidence is very strong to me, my friend: Jesus “the Christ” is simply an imaginary friend. He died two thousand years ago. He is still dead. He was not a god. The intense emotions and perceptions Christians experience are no different than the intense emotions and perceptions of people in other religions and of children with imaginary friends.

        It is all an ancient superstition, friends.


      7. Gary

        For those of you who are of the evangelical/”born again” branch of Christianity, I would encourage you to think about this: How many born again Christians do you know who have had multiple “born again” experiences for the simple reason is that they “felt” or “perceived” that they may not be truly saved? There is an evangelical pastor from North Carolina who states that he has repeated the born again experience FIVE THOUSAND times!

        This belief causes people serious psychological trauma, folks. I grew up believing that something was wrong with me. The truth is, I was the healthy one! I was the one who figured out that the voice I heard in my head was just…ME!

        Liked by 1 person

      8. Jared

        This definitely highlights a culture problem within the church. Churches often tend to employ guilt, shame, and fear as motivators, as opposed to Jesus who routinely employed forgiveness and grace, love in defiance of norms. You don’t see his disciples engaging in the same vanities, yet our churches seem to thrive off altar calls for the already-saved to come back up and do it all over again.
        Churches need to better disciple people to live out the identity and grace God has given. Christian author Shane Claiborne famously called our multiple born again experiences “spiritual masturbation” – it feels good but produces no fruit. You’ve definitely noted a real issue within institutionalized faith.
        I’m going to step out on a limb here and guess the pastor you mention was making a point – that he needs forgiveness daily.
        But the point remains. Handing a faith to someone, however true it may be, can be incredibly damaging if you don’t disciple them along and help them grow more knowledgeable in it. Shallow faith that is easily taken advantage of or shaky theology that is used for corrupt purposes have often been the root of many great problems in our history.


  12. Joey Henry


    You placed so much faith in scholars. While scholars have their place in weighing the evidence, they are not the final authority. Real evangelicalism places the final authority on Scriptures; and this has been the confession of Christians since day 1: No one believed and confessed that the authors of the Gospels were inventing stories. This is a novel view built by liberal scholars and blindly adopted by conservative scholars with a twist in the 20th century. The Gospel writers did not give a single hint that they were inventing stories. Nor did the Christians that read the Gospels for 2 millenia. The problem with scholars like Licona is that they presuppose that the Gospel is not unique and would follow the conventional method of Plutarch. But did they really have the worldview of Plutarch when writing about Jesus or did the writers have the worldview of the Old Testament where truth and accuracy were rightfully understood and death was the penalty of prophets who speak about God and lied? The background of the Gospels was the worldview of the OT where test is applied to false prophets, who invented prophecies or false events, not the worldview of pagans.

    Sure, there are challenges here and there regarding harmonisation. This is not a surprise for even the early fathers understood the importance of such endeavour. Begin with the right foundation on the nature of Scripture. And here is where Licona should take a pause beacise his proposed solution says that the authors made up stories that didn’t happen and no one since Christianity was founded has confessed that view. Perhaps the Holy Spirit has only spoken now and only the scholars on the 20th centuey unlocked the key to this knowledge. This is not Christianity. This is akin Gnosticism.



    1. Gary

      “Real evangelicalism places the final authority on Scriptures; and this has been the confession of Christians since day 1: No one believed and confessed that the authors of the Gospels were inventing stories.”

      There is a difference between inventing an entire story and inventing details in that story. The core story never changed: Jesus was crucified; buried; and shortly thereafter some of his followers claimed to see him alive again. This is what we find in the earliest written Christian record: The Creed in First Corinthians 15.

      What Licona (myself, and the majority of NT scholars) are suggesting is that the authors of the Gospels were not constrained by modern literary rules. It was perfectly acceptable in the first century to change the DETAILS of a Greco-Roman biography as long as the core STORY remained intact.

      Your comment is a demonstration of lay conservative/fundamentalist Christians, once again, setting themselves up as a more knowledgeable authority than the experts in the field.


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