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)

Ancient and Modern Historiography: What Are The Gospels? | THINKAPOLOGETICS.COM

I think the writer here is Eric Chabot.  In any case, he is focused on the genre of the gospels.  In the conclusion, he writes:

It is my hope that more people will take the time to look at the genre of the books of the Bible and actually attempt to know what it is they are trying to interpret. While this may be a challenge for some people, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience.

The post is replete with facts and sources relevant to understaning the genre (literary framework) through which the gospel writers deliver their message.

Although there are many portions of this post that are worthy of excerpting, here is one that is particularly pithy [emphasis added]:

Michael Bird has recently noted that the content of the Gospels is singularly determined by Jewish Christian content, while the literary form of the Gospels is a clear sub-type of Graeco-Roman biography.

(8 min read; 2,020 words)

Ancient and Modern Historiography: What Are The Gospels? | THINKAPOLOGETICS.COM.

Is Our Copy of the Bible a Reliable Copy of the Original? by Rich Deem

The content of this post has been moved to Comparing the Textual Integrity of the Bible to Other Documents of Antiquity |  Rich Deem.

Are There Other Resurrection Myths? – William Lane Craig

One of today’s urban myths is that antiquity is filled with myths of dying and rising gods of which Christianity was just a copy-cat formulation.  In less than two minutes, Christian philosopher William Lane Craig sets the record straight.

Are There Other Resurrection Myths? – YouTube.

(ht: Stephen J. Bedard at Hope’s Reason)

Is there any non-Christian evidence for the Crucifixion of Jesus? by Tim O’Neill on Quora

Tim O’Neill, Atheist, Medievalist, Sceptic and amateur Historian,” answers this question on Quora.  In short, he sees no reasonable basis for rejecting the crucifixion of Jesus as historical.  In his own words:

The crucifixion of a minor Galilean preacher who caused a disturbance at Passover was a very insignificant event at the time, though it had a profound impact on his small group of followers.  So the only references to it by non-Christians tend to be to explain who these followers revered.  But the fact that the crucifixion was such an awkward element of their faith for these early Christians makes it most likely that this was a historical event, since it is extremely unlikely it’s an element that would simply be invented.

(3 min read; 685 words)

via Is there any non-Christian evidence for the Crucifixion of Jesus? – Quora.