Gospels and Contradictions, Mike Licona

Gospels and Contradictions, Mike Licona February 18, 2013

There is a bit of a dustup among the Baptists in the south (not sure how to name this set of connections) over Mike Licona’s discussion of the “contradictions” of the Gospels, in which he makes a thoroughly helpful comparison of the Gospels to Plutarch’s own five accounts of the death of Caesar. His conclusions are unsatisfying to Albert Mohler.

HOUSTON (BP) — Mike Licona, an evangelical apologist whose interpretation of a portion of Scripture led to concerns over biblical inerrancy, joined the faculty of Houston Baptist University last fall and recently addressed what some claim are contradictions in the Gospels.

Houston Baptist University is affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas and has a ministry relationship with the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention. The SBTC does not place trustees on the HBU board or allocate Cooperative Program funds to the university.

Licona’s handling of Scripture, as voiced in an interview in November, drew concern from R. Albert Mohler Jr. of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and Jim Richards of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention and support from Robert Sloan, Houston Baptist University’s president, in subsequent comments to Baptist Press….

As he studied the Gospel accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Licona began keeping a document of the differences he noticed. The document grew to 50 pages. He then read ancient biographies written around the time of Jesus because New Testament scholars often regard the Gospels as ancient biographies, he said.

Licona focused on Plutarch’s biographies. The assassination of Julius Caesar, he noted, is told in five different biographies by Plutarch.

“So you have the same biographer telling the same story five different times. By noticing how Plutarch tells the story of Caesar’s assassination differently, we can notice the kinds of biographical liberties that Plutarch took, and he’s writing around the same time that some of the Gospels are being written and in the same language — Greek — to boot,” Licona told Esposito.

“As I started to note some of these liberties that he took, I immediately started recognizing these are the same liberties that I noticed that the evangelists take — Matthew, Mark, Luke and John,” Licona said.

“… If this is the case, then these most commonly cited differences in the Gospels … aren’t contradictions after all. They’re just the standard biographical liberties that ancient biographers of that day took.”…

Mohler, in comments to Baptist Press Feb. 6, said, “It would be nonsense to affirm real contradictions in the Bible and then to affirm inerrancy.”

“Even Dr. Licona concedes that we ‘may lose some form of biblical inerrancy if there are contradictions in the Gospels.’ What you lose is inerrancy itself,” Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said. “The Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy clearly and rightly affirms ‘the unity and internal consistency of Scripture’ and denies that any argument for contradictions within the Bible is compatible with inerrancy. An actual contradiction is an error.”

Mohler identified two other major problems regarding Licona’s methodology.

“First, we cannot reduce the Gospels to the status of nothing more than ancient biographies. The Bible claims to be inspired by the Holy Spirit right down to the inspired words,” Mohler said.

“The second problem is isolating the resurrection of Christ from all of the other truth claims revealed in the Bible. The resurrection is central, essential and non-negotiable, but the Christian faith rests on a comprehensive set of truth claims and doctrines,” Mohler said. “All of these are revealed in the Bible, and without the Bible we have no access to them.”

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