Jesus, Contradicted

Jesus, Contradicted

Taught by Michael R. Licona

New Testament scholar Michael Licona offers a fresh approach to the question of differences, discrepancies, and apparent contradictions found in the Gospels. 

Course Details

  • 13 Units
  • Self-paced
  • 10.5 hours of video
  • Intermediate
  • Jesus, Contradicted

Course Description

The differences and discrepancies in the Gospels constitute one of the foremost objections to their reliability and the credibility of their message. Some have tried to resolve Gospels contradictions with strained harmonization efforts. Others conclude that the Gospels are hopelessly contradictory and, therefore, historically unreliable accounts of Jesus.

In the Jesus, Contradicted online course, New Testament scholar Michael Licona shows how the genre of ancient biography, to which the Gospels belong, actually allows biographers to be flexible in how they report events, construct narratives, and make arguments. Licona demonstrates that the intentional changes to the Gospels by the Evangelists are not grounds for their rejection. Instead, they are a result of the Gospel writers employing standard literary conventions for ancient biographies.

Using Plutarch’s work, Licona offers numerous examples of compositional devices employed in Plutarch’s biographies and compares them with instances in the Gospels where the Evangelists appear to use similar techniques. Licona also examines Theon’s Progymnasmata, a first-century textbook that provides several techniques for paraphrasing sources when writing a narrative. In doing so, Licona helps students understand why the Gospels report many events differently. Finally, he addresses the thorny question of whether the editorial moves commonplace in ancient biography are compatible with the doctrines of the divine inspiration and the inerrancy of Scripture.

Rather than trying to resolve discrepancies by bending the Gospel narrative, which risks making them say things they aren’t saying the Jesus, Contradicted online course situates the Gospels within their proper context and helps students account for differences in the Gospels in a cohesive and historically cogent way.

By completing this course, you’ll gain:

  • Foundational knowledge about the Gospels in their ancient culture and context
  • A richer understanding of the compositional devices used by ancient biographers
  • Insight into the doctrines of inerrancy and divine inspiration
  • Confidence in your growing knowledge through personalized review sessions and unit assessments

Meet Your Instructors

Michael R. Licona

Ph.D., University of Pretoria

Michael R. Licona is professor of New Testament studies at Houston Christian University. He is the author of numerous books, including the critically acclaimed The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach. Mike is a frequent speaker on university campuses and has engaged in dozens of public debates on the historicity of Jesus’s resurrection. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society, the Institute for Biblical Research, the Society of Biblical Literature, and the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas.

Course Outline

  • The Quest for a Better Answer

  • Normal Variation in Reporting and the Use of Sources

  • Who Wrote First?

  • The Gospels as Biography

  • Truth-Telling in Ancient Biography

  • Compositional Textbooks


  • Plutarch and More Compositional Devices

  • Transferal

  • Displacement

  • The Outer Limits of Compositional Devices

  • Fine-Tuning Our Doctrine of Scripture: Inspiration

  • Fine-Tuning Our Doctrine of Scripture: Inerrancy

  • Final Thoughts


BibleMesh is now offering an integrated reading experience for our new book-based courses. As before, students will be guided through their reading with book excerpts embedded within the course. This allows for an improved reading experience within the course. Students will also be able to pop out the book reader into a full-screen, fully-featured web-based reading platform where they will be able to see the wider context of each excerpt and access the complete book.

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