Michael Licona has a new book on Gospel differences coming out later this year. Here’s an excerpt from an interview with Licona (posted by Sean McDowell) explaining what his research uncovered:
Most approaches [to Gospel differences] involve trying to harmonize various passages to see if all the details can fit together. This can be a legitimate practice. But many times it can go way too far. Both Richard Burridge and more recently Craig Keener have shown that the Gospels belong to the genre of “ancient biography.” If this is correct, it would be plausible that we would see the same amount of flexibility in the Gospels as we observe in other ancient biographies. So, I wanted to learn what those flexibilities were. By carefully reading ancient biographies written around the same time as the Gospels and comparing how they tell the same stories differently, I began to recognize that some of the differences resulted from compositional devices. Then when I went to the Gospels, I could see that the authors were probably employing the same compositional devices as other ancient biographers; specifically Plutarch. I began to realize that the differences across the Gospels are not so much contradictions but the result of compositional devices that were the standard practice in historical writing of that day….
This research suggests that almost all of the differences we observe in the Gospels probably resulted from the use of compositional devices that were part and parcel of the literary conventions of ancient historical writing and were not the result of the Gospel authors using inaccurate sources or being pitifully inept historians.
Read the rest of the interview to hear about one of these ancient compositional devices found in the Gospels.