Review Of Michael Licona’s Why Are There Differences In The Gospels? -- By: Lydia McGrew

Journal: Global Journal of Classical Theology
Volume: GJCT 15:3 (Feb 2019)
Article: Review Of Michael Licona’s Why Are There Differences In The Gospels?
Author: Lydia McGrew


Review Of Michael Licona’s Why Are There Differences In The Gospels?

Lydia McGrew

Lydia McGrew is a widely published analytic philosopher, home schooling mother, blogger, and the wife of philosopher and apologist Timothy McGrew. She received her PhD in English from Vanderbilt University in 1995. She has published extensively in the theory of knowledge, specializing in pure formal epistemology and in the application of formal epistemology to the evaluation of testimony and to the philosophy of religion. Her articles in philosophy have appeared in such journals as Ergo, Philosophical Studies, the Journal of Philosophical Research, and Erkenntnis. She and Timothy McGrew co-wrote the article on the resurrection of Jesus for the Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology, and she wrote the article “Historical Inquiry” for the Routledge Companion to Theism. In 2017 she published Hidden in Plain View: Undesigned Coincidences in the Gospels and Acts, which defends the reliability of the New Testament using a long-neglected argument from incidental details.

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Abstract: Michael Licona’s Why Are There Differences in the Gospels? purports to show that the Gospels have been influenced by literary devices allegedly used in Greco-Roman literature. The devices that Licona believes he has found in Greco-Roman biography involve altering chronology, fabricating details, and changing other facts. His attempts to apply these ideas to the Gospels do not succeed. Repeatedly, the claim that a biblical passage manifests a fact-altering “compositional device” fails to satisfy the significant burden of proof borne by such a complex claim. Licona often overlooks much simpler explanations or rejects them too hastily. Sometimes he (following other New Testament critics) conjectures factual change or invention by a Gospel author when there is not even any apparent discrepancy between accounts. Sometimes he conjectures the invention of entire scenes or incidents. These issues are important to Christians who are interested in whether or not we can know about Jesus in a reliable way from the Gospels. It is therefore necessary to look into Licona’s claims in detail rather than accepting them lightly. Since they cannot stand up under investigation, the traditional view of the Gospels—that their authors intended them as factually truthful reports—has not been undermined by his work.

Review Essay: Why Are There Differences in the Gospels? What We Can Learn From Ancient Biography, Michael R. Licona (Oxford University Press, 2017).

1. Fictionalizing Literary Devices

The aim of Why Are There Differences in the Gospels?, according to its author, is to “investigate compositional devices that are often inferred by classi...

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