Now he's going after Licona's latest book which he finds disturbing. It's hard to read a title like that, which I have decided to parody in my own title, without thinking about the snowflakes running around feeling triggered. What will be more pertinent to us is to see if Wilkin butchered Licona's book as badly as he did Blomberg's. So let's jump to it.
No doubt, because Evans has dealt with this kind of fundamentalist approach that produces people like Bart Ehrman. In fact, this is the kind of approach Ehrman regularly argues against and I think sadly to this day, he still holds. This is how the Bible should be because it's the Word of God. Of course, it's never explained why it being the Word of God means that it will somehow become that which a modern 21st century Western society immediately understands. If being readily understood is a requirement for Scripture, then we have to ask why is it that so many Jews misunderstood Jesus as the promised Messiah in fulfillment of the Scriptures in His time, or why Peter said Paul wrote things that were hard to understand and which some people distorted. Sorry, but just because you want to call the Bible the Word of God does not mean that it is easy to understand and is straightforward.
I give Licona credit for bringing his ideas down to the lower shelf at times. For example, in the introduction he indicates that the “the historical accuracy of ancient literature may be viewed in a manner similar to what we observe in movie theaters today” (p. 6). He considers the Gospels to follow the biographical/historical practices of “ancient literature.” Licona believes that the four Gospels are like a movie that is based upon real events, but which obviously takes many liberties with the facts.
That is an outstanding illustration. He views the Gospels kind of like A Beautiful Mind, Catch Me If You Can, Schindler’s List, Into the Wild, Moneyball, Ray, or The Pianist. If you’ve seen any of those movies, you surely did not come away thinking that what you saw was an accurate portrayal of what was said and done. If you want to know what parts of the movie were true, you do a google search. When you do, you find out that quite of lot of what was presented in the movie never was said or done.The problem is Wilkin has taken an idea and run with it. Did the Gospel writers take liberties in some areas? Yes. To what extent? It's not said. All one needs to do to speak of some liberties being taken is to look at the same event or dialogue in different Gospels. You find different wordings and such that take place. Some accounts have one person being healed and some have two. The Sermon on the Mount has differences. The voice at the baptism of Jesus has differences. Licona has never said this means the description is inaccurate. Perhaps it would be if these were 21st century biographies, but they are not.
While I don’t view the Gospels in that way, and I don’t think it is spiritually healthy to do so, I appreciate him making it so clear that is how he understands them.Wilkin can think this, but does he assume that his way is spiritually healthy? I question that because again of all the deconversions that have taken place. I find it quite spiritually unhealthy when one person is ready to throw out the resurrection of Jesus because they can't find absolute certainty on, say, how old King Saul was when he began to reign.
Licona continues, “Some movies claim at the beginning to be ‘based on true events’ while others claim to be ‘inspired by true event.’ The latter will involve more dramatic license than the former. Even in the former, however, we expect reenacted conversations to be redacted to varying degrees for clarity, dramatic impact, and artistic improvement” (p. 6). I find it odd that the Gospel writers could make improvements on what Jesus said. Couldn’t the One who created language have spoken in such a way as to be artistic and memorable? Are we to understand that the King of kings needed His disciples to redact what He said?But who said redaction means improvement? For one thing, Jesus's words would have originally been in Aramaic so when we translate to Greek, we already have a change. What happens if someone paraphrases Jesus's words to get the gist of what is being said? Is that meant to be an improvement or a summation of it? What about differences in the Gospels on the words of Jesus at various times? Did Jesus say literally every single word or has one person taken minor liberties? What about the end of John's Gospel? Since not everything was written, could we accuse John of saying he thought some parts of the life of Jesus just weren't important enough to be mentioned?
Licona does suggest, however, that the Gospel writers took less liberties in changing speeches and events than secular authors did: “the extent of editing by the evangelists is minimal by ancient standards” (p. 199).It would be nice of Wilkin to tell us how he knows what Jesus said and did without doing so in a question-begging way, say a presuppositional approach. I also think Wilkin is hitting the panic button. When we have Jesus saying "Love your enemies", I do not think it was originally that Jesus said "String them up and crucify them" and that eventually this somehow became love them. This seems entirely unlikely. If all we have is the gist, what is wrong with that? That is accurate enough. The gist is what we use today in most day to day conversations. Not having the exact words is not a problem. We have the exact voice.
Licona is trying to correct what he considers two extremes. One wrong extreme is those who “assume those authors [the Gospel writers] must have written with the degree of accuracy and almost forensic precision we desire and expect today” (p. 201). He says such “devout Christians” are sometimes guilty of “subjecting the Gospel texts to a sort of hermeneutical waterboarding until they tell the exegete what he or she wants to hear” (p. 201). What they want to hear is that the words reported accurately represent what Jesus said and did. That is one extreme to avoid.
The other extreme is “critics of a cynical type [who] have often appealed to Gospel differences as a means for not taking seriously what they report” (p. 201). While the Gospels are not historically accurate in all details according to Licona, they do give us “general historical accuracy” (p. 201).
Sadly, if what Licona says is true, then we really do not know what Jesus actually said or did. We have a general picture. We have the gist. But we do not know how much of what the Gospel writers report was dramatic license.
Licona goes through nineteen Gospel accounts and explains how the Gospel writers redacted and improved what Jesus said. Here are some examples:From the standpoint of historical writing, this is entirely true. Licona is writing a book that is not an apologetics book per se, though it serves that purpose, but a book written to show interaction with scholarly material and to give a scholarly look. Wilkin however is quite dishonest with this quote. Let me continue it for the benefit of the reader.
However, it is worth observing what Luke 23:3-4 says: "Pilate asked Jesus, 'Are you the king of the Jews?' and Jesus answered, 'Yes.' Then Pilate said to the chief priests and the crowd, 'I find no cause for guilt in this man.' " Luke's report seems implausible if read independently of John. Would the Roman governor respond in such a manner after Jesus had just affirmed Himself as a king? Yet Pilate's responses to Jesus's claim to be a king is entirely plausible if a dialogue had occurred between the two that was at least somewhat similar to what we read in John. Since John was probably written after Luke and is largely independent of Luke, both evangelists must have known a tradition such as we read in John."I consider it quite dishonest for Wilkin to give one part and then ignore that Licona gives an argument in favor of historicity. Those who do not read the book will not know this and it's doubly tragic if they don't read it because of how Wilkin has handled it.
Sadly in Wilkin's world, the very suggestion is anathema. He leaves out that Licona immediately says that Mark may have shined his spotlight on one person or identifying his source. Having just finished the second edition of Jesus and the Eyewitnesses, I think the latter is far more likely.
Licona says “there are numerous reasons why differences exist” (p. 2). The first reason he cites is “a slip of memory”! Really? The Gospel writers inaccurately reported events because of bad memories? What, then, does John 14:26 mean? The Lord said, “The Holy Spirit…will…bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” That is the promise of perfect memory. But Licona never discusses John 14:26 (though he does mention it in a list of verses in footnote 25 on p. 241).Wilkin has two problems here. The first is that Licona is speaking of all ancient literature at this point. Differences exist in discussions of the same event in other writers. The second problem is John 14:26 really doesn't apply. If it did, it would apply only to Matthew and John. At that, it would only call to mind what Jesus said as His actions are not included. Mark and Luke are not part of this group meeting so why should we think they would be included?
We could say there is a third problem because if there is this perfect memory, then why are there any differences in the accounts? Why would Matthew use so much of Mark? Does he really need to read Mark if he has a perfect memory of the events?
Which is not anything Licona has said. He instead says we should not read them with the standards of modern biographies but rather those of ancient biographies. Licona nowhere says there are made up dialogues and events. If Wilkin thinks this, then I want to see the quote.
The bottom line for Licona is that we should not read the Gospels like we would a report with “the degree of accuracy and almost forensic precision we expect and desire today.” We should change our expectations when we read the Gospels. We must read them as stories which are based on fact, but which contain a significant amount of made up dialogue and events.
In other books and messages, Licona strongly asserts that Jesus actually died on the cross for our sins, rose bodily from the dead on the third day, and appeared to many in His glorified body. But in this book we find little in the way of certainties. This book places the Gospel writers on par with Plutarch, an unbelieving author who played loose with his sources and made up much of the “history” he reported (see, for example, pp. 90-91).Except it doesn't. It realizes that the writing styles could be similar. This is no more alarming than saying that Josephus and John both wrote in Greek and therefore, if we compare the words that they use, we're placing John on par with Josephus. The book is also not mean to give us certainties. It's meant to help us understand as a hypothesis how ancient Gospel writers wrote.
Licona is entitled to his opinions, however dangerous they are. However, I do not recommend this book or his ideas.And Wilkin is entitled to his misrepresentations, however wrong they are, however I do not recommend his work. He has sadly shown himself to not be an honest reviewer.