When it comes to the truth of Christianity, no subject is more important than the Resurrection. The entire Christian faith hinges on it, and without it our faith becomes pointless. The apologetic task of defending the Resurrection is tantamount to defending Christianity itself, or at least defending its most defining facet.
Thanks to the work of Josh McDowell, Gary Habermas, and many others, apologists have been well equipped thus far to defend the resurrection. By examining the resurrection in a different light, Mike Licona and his new book “The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach” attempts to set a new path forward for contemporary apologists. Using the tools of the historian, Licona builds his own case for the resurrection that many apologists will be able to identify with, but with several twists of his own to make a unique case.
Lets start with the good of this book: Mike Licona is a scholar and a gentlemen in the truest sense. While he sharply critiques the works and positions of many people in this book, not once does he treat or speak of them in a less-than-respectful manner. He is humble and honest to admit the strengths of other positions, and he attempts to represent them well. Licona’s example in this book (and elsewhere) is a shining example of a Christ-like character in apologetics.
The first two chapters of the book are well worth the price of admission. His opening treatments on the philosophy of history, the horizons of the historian, and historical methodology are, in my opinion, the best parts of the book. Not that his massive breakdown of the historical bedrock in chapter 4 isn’t impressive, but his treatment of the philosophy of history, horizons, and methodology have been sorely missed in other works related to evidence for the resurrection. Even if evidentalism or historical apologetics aren’t your strong suit (I lean more presuppositional in my apologetic methodology), the first chapter should be required reading for any apologist who may employ history in his or her defense of the faith. Examining the positions of David Hume, C. Behan McCullagh, John P. Meier, Bart Erhman, and others in chapter 2, Licona takes time to examine antagonistic stances on miracles and critique them. Taken together with the first chapter, these two chapters lay the groundwork for subjects beyond the scope of Licona’s text, making it a worthwhile read for all kinds of apologists.
After listing the sources of evidences in chapter 3, in chapter 4 the breakdown begins. Licona leaves no stone unturned, spending as much time as he needs on people, passages, and documents associated with the resurrection. At nearly 200 pages this chapter is impossible to read in one sitting; thankfully Licona has indexed every subject within the chapter, making it easy to find a stopping point and find specific information when you need it. After the evidence has been broken down, in chapter 5 Licona assesses the various hypotheses to explain the evidence. Covering Lüdemann, Vermes, Crossan and others, Licona ends the book with his resurrection hypothesis, a hypothesis that shines thanks to Licona’s painstaking detail to the preliminary considerations and apologetics issues, the breakdown of the evidence, and the comparison to other hypotheses.
As far as the bad of this book goes, there isn’t much to be had. While Licona quotes quite a bit of Greek in dealing with certain passages, he thankfully includes translations for us laypeople. That being said, its worth mentioning that this is not meant to be an introductory level text on defending the resurrection. Younger apologists will have a very difficult time with some of the more technical elements of the book; it would be best to read more accessible works and work up towards Licona’s book over time. It is a worthwhile read, but not an easy one.
Licona’s text has become the must-have book for defending the resurrection. Apologists of any and all stripes and methods will find something to gain from reading Licona’s work, and it will become a go-to source for the resurrection for many years to come. If you have not picked up a copy, you’re missing out on one of the finest apologetics texts in recent memory.