Mike Licona’s Research on Plutarch’s Lives Relative to the Gospels

On July 12, 2014, Nick Peters interviewed Mike Licona about research on Plutarch’s Lives (links below).

Some data points mentioned by Licona beginning about the 30:00 mark:

– Licona wanted to research ancient biographies written 150-200 years either side of Christ for comparison purposes.

– He made a list of these, identifying about 80-90 of them.

– Of these, Plutarch wrote about 60 of them, 50 of which are extant.

– Of these 50, Licona has identified 9 that involve contemporaries which would give rise to multiple accounts of the same events.

– In these, Licona has identified 42 stories that appear 2 or more times in these 9 biographies.

– Of these 42 stories, he has studied 32 of them so far.  He’s found lots of differences in the stories and has been able to see 5 distinct types of differences, leading him to conclude that there are “compositional devices” that account for the differences.

– In the Gospels, Licona has identified 50 pages of differences between them which he now sees as perhaps being explained to a signficant degree by these very compositional devices.

– Here are the 5 literary devices used by Plutarch, as identified by Licona.  First, he gives an example of how Plutarch uses each device and then he gives at least one example of how he sees the device being used in the Gospels.

— Compression (about 56:00)
— Displacement (about 1:07:00)
— Spotlighting (1:15:30)  –  most frequent of the five
— Transferral (1:26:50)
— Simplification (1:32:30)

– Licona has spent the last six years working on this project.  He plans to spend the rest of this year completing his analysis of the remaining 10 stories (33 to 42).  Then the next year writing a book on the subject, which he expects to be published in November 2016.

– Licona refers to ancient Greco-Roman biographies as writings intended to illuminate the character of the subject.  (I think he was quoting Plutarch on this point.).  History is for reporting events, but biography is selective regarding events in order to convey the character of the subject.

Here are some miscellaneous notes I made on the recording:

– Michael Licona is 53 years old and is Nick Peter’s father-in-law.  Mike has been a Christian since age 10.

– Licona covers the difference between Acts 9, 22, and 26 accounts of Paul’s conversion in his big book on the resurrection of Christ.

– In the 1st Century, a single scroll had a maximum limit of 25,000 words.  Luke’s is the longest Gospel and comes in just below that at about 24,000 words.  Is this why the Luke 24 account of Christ’s post-resurrection appearances is compressed when compared to what Luke wrote about them in Acts 1?

– Licona has spent the last three years reading the Gospels (especially the synoptics) almost exclusively in Greek.

– Licona has ADD and an average IQ.  He has worked extra hard to achieve his academic status.

(Deeper Waters Podcast Schedule:  Mike Licona Interview:  Plutarch research and its impact on the Gospels)

This entry was posted in Alleged Discrepancies, Genre, Greco-Roman Culture, Other Biblical-Era Literature. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Mike Licona’s Research on Plutarch’s Lives Relative to the Gospels

  1. Nick Peters says:

    Many thanks for sharing this and mapping it out!

    • Mike Gantt says:

      Mike Licona has been providing great service to the body of Christ for many years, most recently through his magnum opus on the resurrection of Christ and now with his research on 1st Century literary styles which help us understand the Gospels better.

      You are providing quality, in-depth interviews with reliable biblical scholars through podcasting – also a service to the body of Christ.

      Both of you are helping believers in Christ and I am privileged to benefit from that help and to call the attention of others to it. Godspeed in all that you do for Him. He is worthy of your combined efforts.

  2. Steve says:

    This file appears to be corrupt. It is cutting out after a brief intro.
    Bummer.

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