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Why Do the Gospels Contain Differences?

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  • Why Do the Gospels Contain Differences?

    I just finished watching a lecture on this topic by Mike Licona. His main point is that ancient biographers used compositional devices that gave them flexibility to change what they were reporting to emphasize something. Sometimes the same author told the same story in ways that would appear to contradict themselves, but they were actually using one of those devices.

    For instance, compression is where the author combined several events that took places over a period of time and made it appear to happen at the same time. Transference is used sometimes where someone sends a messenger and the author has the person who sent the messenger saying the words rather than the messenger. Dislocation is where the author takes an event or part of an event and places it in a different context.

    Mike Licona identified eight of these devices, but he only talked about those three in the video. When we look at the Gospels, we can see that the authors were using these device, which account for many of the supposed contradictions.

    EDIT:
    Here is a transcript of an interview on the same topic.

    Last edited by Soyeong; 02-12-2014, 03:48 PM.
    "Faith is nothing less than the will to keep one's mind fixed precisely on what reason has discovered to it." - Edward Feser

  • #2
    You can see compression in Luke, where the postresurrectiuon events seem to occur in one day, but the same author in Acts says this was over 40 days. I wonder about whether the "beloved disciple" in John is similarly a literary device. In Luke (I think) Peter runs to the tomb on his own, in John, the "beloved disciple" runs there with him. Is he something like a narrator, rather than someone who was really present?
    My Blog: http://oncreationism.blogspot.co.uk/

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    • #3
      I'd watch the video, but the audio quality is far too abysmal for me to suffer through 42 minutes of ear torture, however interesting the subject matter is. If there was a video with better audio quality I'd watch it. An audio transcript of the lecture wouldn't be so bad either.
      ~Formerly known as Chrawnus~

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Soyeong View Post
        His main point is that ancient biographers used compositional devices that gave them flexibility to change what they were reporting to emphasize something.
        While I would dispute that the Gospels are "biography," the point is still well-made. But the argument ignores a larger issue: there are doctrinal differences in the Gospels (this is far more visible when considering the non-canonical gospels as well as the ones accepted in canon). In the Gospel of Mark, the divinity of Jesus is at best questionable, as it is never mentioned, and Jesus is specifically stated as being unable to do some things. In the Gospel of John, the divinity of Jesus is explicitly stated from the first chapter.

        Yet my argument should not be taken as major or irreconcilable differences between the Gospels. It is, at best, indicative of the refinement of the beliefs of the Christian community over the first seventy years of the Church. (I should note that I am persuaded that all four canonical Gospels were written before 100 ce.)

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Chrawnus View Post
          I'd watch the video, but the audio quality is far too abysmal for me to suffer through 42 minutes of ear torture, however interesting the subject matter is. If there was a video with better audio quality I'd watch it. An audio transcript of the lecture wouldn't be so bad either.
          Ya, I agree that the audio wasn't the best, but I didn't think it was that bad, sorry.

          Here in a transcript of an interview that Licona gave on the topic. He's in the process of writing a book on it that he is hoping will be available by fall of 2016.
          Last edited by Soyeong; 02-08-2014, 04:29 PM.
          "Faith is nothing less than the will to keep one's mind fixed precisely on what reason has discovered to it." - Edward Feser

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          • #6
            Originally posted by Soyeong View Post
            Ya, I agree that the audio wasn't the best, but I didn't think it was that bad, sorry.

            Here in a interview that Licona gave on the topic. He's in the process of writing a book on it that he is hoping will be available by fall of 2016.
            Some people have more sensitive ears.

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Outis View Post
              While I would dispute that the Gospels are "biography," the point is still well-made. But the argument ignores a larger issue: there are doctrinal differences in the Gospels (this is far more visible when considering the non-canonical gospels as well as the ones accepted in canon). In the Gospel of Mark, the divinity of Jesus is at best questionable, as it is never mentioned, and Jesus is specifically stated as being unable to do some things. In the Gospel of John, the divinity of Jesus is explicitly stated from the first chapter.
              John certainly wanted to emphasize that Jesus was divine, but I don't think there was any doctrinal dispute between him and Mark. If you want to start another thread on this topic, then I'd be happy to discuss it with you, but for now I'll leave you with this article.
              "Faith is nothing less than the will to keep one's mind fixed precisely on what reason has discovered to it." - Edward Feser

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              • #8
                Originally posted by Outis View Post
                While I would dispute that the Gospels are "biography," the point is still well-made. But the argument ignores a larger issue: there are doctrinal differences in the Gospels (this is far more visible when considering the non-canonical gospels as well as the ones accepted in canon). In the Gospel of Mark, the divinity of Jesus is at best questionable, as it is never mentioned, and Jesus is specifically stated as being unable to do some things. In the Gospel of John, the divinity of Jesus is explicitly stated from the first chapter.

                Yet my argument should not be taken as major or irreconcilable differences between the Gospels. It is, at best, indicative of the refinement of the beliefs of the Christian community over the first seventy years of the Church. (I should note that I am persuaded that all four canonical Gospels were written before 100 ce.)
                The only disagreement I have with the above is that the 'first version' gospels were most likely written between ~65CE and ~200CE with Mark being the first, between ~65 and ~85 CE. I believe there is some question as to when the final form of each gospel was accepted generally. The many minor errors in different versions aside, there are some significant differences between later documents, that are sufficient to question what were the original gospels. The following is a common view held by traditional scholars to explain the differences, which I do not consider adequate.

                Originally posted by http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/tgc/2013/05/15/the-difference-between-original-autographs-and-original-texts/
                Historically, Christian affirmations of biblical authority are often expressly restricted to the "autographs." And there are obvious reasons for this view. Biblical authority does not apply to whatever a later scribe might happen to write down—it applies to what the biblical authors actually wrote.

                But does the lack of autographs mean such affirmations of biblical authority are meaningless? No, because the authority does not reside in a physical object, but in the original text. And the original text has been preserved in another way, namely through the multiplicity of manuscripts.
                Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
                Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
                But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

                go with the flow the river knows . . .

                Frank

                I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by The Pixie View Post
                  You can see compression in Luke, where the postresurrectiuon events seem to occur in one day, but the same author in Acts says this was over 40 days. I wonder about whether the "beloved disciple" in John is similarly a literary device. In Luke (I think) Peter runs to the tomb on his own, in John, the "beloved disciple" runs there with him. Is he something like a narrator, rather than someone who was really present?
                  From the transcript of this interview:

                  Originally posted by Mike Licona
                  John is not the only evangelist to mention the primary person while neglecting to mention others who are present. In Luke’s resurrection narrative, when the women returned from the empty tomb and informed the disciples that Jesus was raised and that angels had announced this to them, Peter got up, ran to the tomb and found it empty (Luke 24:1-12). This appears to contradict John who says Peter and the beloved disciple ran together to the tomb and found it empty (John 20:1-10). But one need read only twelve verses further in Luke 24 to see what Luke has done. Jesus is conversing with the disciples walking to Emmaus who are kept from recognizing him. He asked why they are troubled, and they relayed the story to him: “We thought Jesus was the Messiah. But he was crucified on Friday. Then something strange happened this morning. Our women folk went to the tomb and discovered it empty. They also informed us they had seen angels there who told them Jesus has risen from the dead. Then some of our own went to the tomb and discovered it empty as the women had claimed” (Luke 24:21-24).

                  In verse 12, Luke mentions only the lead disciple, Peter, running to the tomb. But the “some of our own” in verse 24 strongly suggests that Luke knows of one or more who had accompanied Peter. In these examples, both Luke and John appear to employ spotlighting. On occasion, they mention only the chief person involved, although they also appear to be aware of others who were present and who are mentioned by another evangelist. And while we are on the subject of the resurrection narratives, the use of spotlighting may be precisely why Matthew and Mark mention a single angel at the empty tomb, whereas Luke and John mention two. Perhaps Matthew and Mark are focusing on the angel announcing the news to the women that Jesus was raised from the dead just as Plutarch focused on the major person bringing the letters to Cicero.
                  "Faith is nothing less than the will to keep one's mind fixed precisely on what reason has discovered to it." - Edward Feser

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Soyeong View Post
                    John certainly wanted to emphasize that Jesus was divine, but I don't think there was any doctrinal dispute between him and Mark. If you want to start another thread on this topic, then I'd be happy to discuss it with you, but for now I'll leave you with this article.
                    I will admit, I have no interest whatsoever in argument by link. I will do my utmost to refrain from such behavior unless I feel incapable of making the argument myself. I may start another thread on the topic, time permitting, and if I do I would enjoy hearing your thoughts on the issue.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Soyeong View Post
                      Ya, I agree that the audio wasn't the best, but I didn't think it was that bad, sorry.

                      Here in a transcript of an interview that Licona gave on the topic. He's in the process of writing a book on it that he is hoping will be available by fall of 2016.
                      Thanks, I'll check the interview out when I have the time.
                      ~Formerly known as Chrawnus~

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by Outis View Post
                        I will admit, I have no interest whatsoever in argument by link. I will do my utmost to refrain from such behavior unless I feel incapable of making the argument myself. I may start another thread on the topic, time permitting, and if I do I would enjoy hearing your thoughts on the issue.
                        Sorry, I wasn't trying to argue by web link, I just didn't want to go off on that tangent here. The link was there for informational purposes rather than argumentative.
                        "Faith is nothing less than the will to keep one's mind fixed precisely on what reason has discovered to it." - Edward Feser

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by shunyadragon View Post
                          The only disagreement I have with the above is that the 'first version' gospels were most likely written between ~65CE and ~200CE with Mark being the first, between ~65 and ~85 CE. I believe there is some question as to when the final form of each gospel was accepted generally. The many minor errors in different versions aside, there are some significant differences between later documents, that are sufficient to question what were the original gospels. The following is a common view held by traditional scholars to explain the differences, which I do not consider adequate.
                          All four of the canonical Gospels were substantively written before 100 ce, according to the mainstream scholarship. I might be willing to go as far as 120 ce. 200 ce is untenable. While there may be a few copies with more radical differences, we have a sufficient corpus of texts to have a reasonably reliable critical text, and the variant texts are widely known as unreliable.

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Soyeong View Post
                            Sorry, I wasn't trying to argue by web link, I just didn't want to go off on that tangent here. The link was there for informational purposes rather than argumentative.
                            I understand, and did not mean to sound as if I was chiding you.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Outis View Post
                              Yet my argument should not be taken as major or irreconcilable differences between the Gospels. It is, at best, indicative of the refinement of the beliefs of the Christian community over the first seventy years of the Church.
                              Then how is it an issue at all?

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