The Resurrection of Jesus: Authority & Method in Theology Paperback – 1 Nov 2010
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"With impressive?erudition, Licona marshals all possible evidence of Jesus' resurrection and considers its significance in a careful, methodical way.?He then compares several alternative explanations of the disciples' faith in the resurrection, judging them according to important criteria, and concludes that Jesus' bodily resurrection provides the best explanation of their conviction, and so is worthy of belief. This is an?astonishing achievement and a major contribution to the ongoing debate. It is clearly written and full of fresh insights and arguments that will enrich discussion for years to come."--C. Behan McCullagh, author of The Logic of History
"The most important event in the story of Christian beginnings is the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, who was widely believed by his followers to be the Messiah of Israel and the very Son of God. Their conviction that Jesus was such a being was confirmed by the resurrection. Without the resurrection of Jesus there really are no grounds for Christian faith. Consequently, there is no topic more important than this one and this is why Michael Licona's book on the resurrection of Jesus is so welcome. Licona demonstrates expertise in every field that is germane to the question. He knows the philosophical arguments inside and out, as well as the relevant historical, biblical, cultural and archaeological data. This is the book for believers and skeptics alike."--Craig A. Evans, Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament, Acadia Divinity College, Nova Scotia, Canada
"The resurrection of Jesus is--in many ways--too important a topic to be left to theologians! In this thoroughly researched and well-argued volume, Mike Licona brings the latest in discussion of historiography to bear on the question of Jesus' resurrection. In a discipline that is often overwhelmed by theological special-pleading, it is refreshing to have this sober and sensible approach to the resurrection that evaluates the historical data and the arguments of many of the scholars writing on the subject. There are few biblical scholars who will not learn something from this important book."--Stanley E. Porter, president, dean and professor of New Testament, McMaster Divinity College
"This book is the most thorough treatment on the resurrection and historiography to date, useful also to those studying the intersections of philosophy of science, history and theology. Drawing masterfully from a wide range of disciplines, Licona builds a coherent case showing that the best explanation for our evidence involves Jesus' historical resurrection. Licona's research also makes clear that the frequent skepticism about this claim in much of the academy reflects not serious historiographic consideration but the mere inheritance of outdated philosophic assumptions."--Craig S. Keener, professor of New Testament, Palmer Theological Seminary
"At first glance this book is very provocative even for a theologian who is convinced that the Easter faith is based on an authentic encounter with God. But at second glance I became aware that Michael Licona is not dealing with the 'resurrection faith' but more modestly with the 'resurrection hypothesis'--in other words, with those aspects of the resurrection faith that are accessible to historical arguments. It is fascinating to follow his arguments step by step in his investigation of the resurrection of Jesus as a unique event in history. I once learned that historiography is limited to events with analogies, immanent causality and sources that must be criticized. These are, according to Ernst Troeltsch, the great theologian and philosopher of historicism, the three principles of modern historical research. Must we revise these principles? Must we reformulate them? Perhaps! In any case, it is refreshing to be confronted with quite another approach that evaluates carefully the historical data, discusses respectfully the arguments of opponents and demonstrates a humility concerning the results, claiming only historical degrees of plausibility for its own hypothesis. Many arguments are valuable also for readers who do not agree. It is a necessary book, and I recommend it to all who are interested in a responsible way to interpret the Bible and the Christian faith."--Gerd Theissen, University of Heidelberg
"No episode in the life of anyone in history is more important than the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth. Vehemently denied or vigorously defended, it has intrigued the world for twenty centuries. A host of scholars have addressed the phenomenon, so what more could be said? In The Resurrection of Jesus, Michael Licona tells us indeed. In brilliant detail, he begins with the anomaly that I, as an ancient historian, have noted for years: that secular historians often have a much higher regard for the New Testament as source material than do many theologians and scholars of religion. The latter tend to overlay their research with preconceived and hopelessly subjective opinions, often ignoring the basic rules of historiography. Licona corrects all this in showing how the research and writing of history ought to be done objectively, especially in dealing with Jesus. I warmly commend this book to all who want to know if the resurrection of Jesus really happened."--Paul L. Maier, Russell H. Seibert Professor of Ancient History, Western Michigan University
"Treatments of the resurrection from various angles have become fairly common in recent years, though careful assessments are rare. But efforts that place the resurrection of Jesus against the meticulous backdrop of historiographical principles are perhaps the rarest of all. The brilliance of Mike Licona's approach is his attempt to look far beyond his own discipline of New Testament studies in an effort to develop a rigorous method by which he could analyze and evaluate a historical claim such as the resurrection. His approach is original, and accompanied by painstaking honesty regarding the prospects of arriving at the best answer on this matter. Those who take the time to work through the various conclusions will, in my opinion, be rewarded by a cautious, thorough and painstaking study that could scarcely be outdone. I can vouch for the extent of Mike's gut-wrenching level of soul-searching before and during this time of study, and can attest that it was a real effort to come to grips with a final conclusion, wherever that might lead. There is no question that the reader is the one who will benefit from this process. This is simply required reading for anyone who wants to master this subject."--Gary R. Habermas, Distinguished Research Professor, Liberty University and Theological Seminary
"What Licona calls a new historiographical approach is nothing of the sort. Rather, it is an old, time-honored approach still found among the great majority of historians. What is new is the application of genuine, rigorous historical investigation--methods and theories as defined by professional historians, not biblical scholars--to the question of whether Jesus was raised from the dead. He leaves no stone unturned in his examination of the evidence, and engages those with different views fairly yet with a tour de force that unmasks their lack of explanatory adequacy concerning the resurrection. "The book is clear and logical, written in an irenic, respectful tone, yet with passion, self-criticism and an engaging style. In short, Licona models what a true historian should do as he investigates the evidence for Jesus' resurrection. He has succeeded in making a compelling case with which all biblical scholars, as well as any who are concerned with whether Jesus was raised from the dead, must wrestle. When it comes to the resurrection of Jesus, the metanarrative of our lives hangs in the balance. But that metanarrative goes beyond what Licona has presented. An unbiased reader (if there were such a thing!) will have to work out the implications for him- or herself."--Daniel B. Wallace, executive director, Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, and professor of New Testament studies, Dallas Theological Seminary
"Michael Licona's thorough study of beliefs in Jesus' resurrection is to be recommended, since it is informed of the social sciences, ancient data, . . . attends to the New Testament witnesses and engages most of the recent discussions. He rightly argues that the early Christians did not interpret Jesus' resurrection in a metaphorical or poetic sense to the exclusion of a literal event that had occurred to his corpse."--James H. Charlesworth, Princeton Theological Seminary
"With impressive erudition, Licona marshals all possible evidence of Jesus' resurrection and considers its significance in a careful, methodical way. He then compares several alternative explanations of the disciples' faith in the resurrection, judging them according to important criteria, and concludes that Jesus' bodily resurrection provides the best explanation of their conviction, and so is worthy of belief. This is an astonishing achievement and a major contribution to the ongoing debate. It is clearly written and full of fresh insights and arguments that will enrich discussion for years to come."--C. Behan McCullagh, author of The Logic of History
About the Author
Licona is a member of the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Institute for Biblical Research and the Society of Biblical Literature. He is also a frequent speaker on university campuses and at churches, and has appeared on dozens of radio and television programs.
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However, in Licona's "The Resurrection of Jesus", the author takes the scope and thoroughness of the treatment of the subject to another level entirely. Indeed, the work is so comprehensive (which is implied by its 718 pages of content) that it is difficult to find fault, so I'm not going to, other than to observe that perhaps the scale of the text was something of a challenge to the editor, given the instances of typos.
Licona addresses the kinds of issues which crop up frequently in the works of popularist critiquers of biblical narrative history. There's a useful section on historical theory and enquiry. He deals with the issues surrounding the ways in which secularist historians tend to engage with texts which themselves deal with a subject-matter which includes the supernatural. There's a brilliant section on historical sources, which not only brings the reader bang up to date with the current state of New Testament critical research, but also encompasses the primary non-Christian texts, which Licona deals with very honestly and thoughtfully.
There's quite a bit in the book that I DID expect (arguments regarding the traditional resurrection hypotheses) plus a series of fair and analytical treatments of the main 'alternative' (ie. skeptical) hypotheses, including Geza Vermes, Gerd Ludemann, The Jesus Seminar etc.
All in all, there is much to commend here, not least Licona's clear and straightforward style of writing. Given that so much of this topic revolves around the current state of the academic debate, it could have been technical and dry - but it is engaging and accessible throughout.
An excellent contribution! Thank you Michael Licona.
Those that want to start with something easier to read/more accessible might wish to chose the other work he contributed to with Gary Habermas.
Most helpful customer reviews on Amazon.com
I am so glad that I did! The controversy worked in my favor, because this book is by far the finest, most comprehensive and most honest work on the resurrection that I have ever read. Although I personally am not convinced of Dr. Licona's interpretation of Matt 27, I am open to it and I must admit that I do not fully understand the genre of apocalyptic imagery as well as he does. Yet that is only 2-3 pages of disagreement in a 700 page gold mine; and one thing that I am sure of is that if Dr. Licona is correct in his interpretation, then it most certainly is compatible with the doctrine of Biblical inerrancy! When scholars like Markus Vinzent are writing books and articles claiming that all four Gospels were written in the 2nd century as responses to Marcion's Luke, such ferocious and defamatory arguments against Dr. Licona by Norman Geisler over the genre of Marr 27:52-53 seem like a waste of time! Surely such a witch hunt is a modern example of the kind of divisiveness that Paul condemned in Corinth.
I really am grateful for Dr. Licona's work on the resurrection and for the detail and open-mindedness with which he investigated the data. His respect for the arguments of other scholars and openness to investigate their views, makes his refutations of them all the more credible and powerful. I must admit that Dr. Geisler's explanations and harmonization's of biblical difficulties are sometimes so ad-hoc that they are prone to create doubt in the most devoted believer. I am grateful to Dr. Licona's work for being so honest and for making just good sense. I can now defend these alleged difficulties with confidence
In this book, Licona presents the reader with a scale for knowing with varying levels of certainty. Also, he provides the reader with various criteria used by historians to examine theories that attempt to account for the evidence.
There are many notable aspects to this work. Licona has a wonderfully informative section on miracles in which he examines the claims of various scholars (from David Hume to Bart Ehrman) who are detractors of miracles in some fashion. He examines the arguments of these scholars and rightly finds them wanting. Most importantly, he provides two criteria for identifying an event as a miracle. To be rationally justified in identifying an event as a miracle, the said event has to 1. Be a naturally impossible event and 2. Occur in a religio-historical context where one might expect God to act (or where such an act would make good sense). This section was very helpful to me. Licona truly destroyed the myth that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
Concerning the positive case for the resurrection, Licona presents three key facts that are accepted by the vast majority of scholars of various stripes. These facts are 1. Jesus died by Crucifixion 2. Very shortly after Jesus’ death, the disciples had experiences that led them to believe and proclaim that Jesus had been resurrected and had appeared to them And 3. Within a few years after Jesus’ death, Paul converted after experiencing what he interpreted as a postresurrection appearance of Jesus to him. It is these facts that are bedrock to the case for the resurrection of Jesus. Theories must account for this data.
When evaluating theories, Licona subjects them to various criteria for finding the best explanation. For example, a theory will be tested by its explanatory scope, explanatory power, plausibility, degree of ad hoc, and its illumination.
Surprisingly, Licona does a convincing job of showing the resurrection hypothesis as being the best explanation over rival theories using only these three lines of evidence. He shows how the resurrection fulfills each of the criteria that make it the best explanation of the historical bedrock.
This was a great work with little that could be added to it. It was very thorough and is, in my opinion, one of the most persuasive books on the evidence for the resurrection out there. The only thing that was missing was the mention of the criteria of authenticity, which are used by scholars to test whether something can be said to be historical with a higher probability. Licona regularly uses these criteria when examining what is bedrock. He just doesn’t explain them to the reader. In a way this makes sense as this book is geared towards academics. However, it would be profitable for those readers that are not as acquainted with historiography.