Licona on the Resurrection (Pt. 4)

Licona, Michael R(2010) The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic. (Buy from IVPress.com here)

Read Pt. 1 here.
Read Pt. 2 here.
Read Pt. 3 here.

In previous entries about this book the subjects have been the goals of the author for this book, his definition and approach to historiography, and historical epistemology as it relates to postmodern theory, realism, and the like. Now that we know how Michael Licona intends on investigating the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection it is time for the work to begin.

Where does he begin? Well, I think he does what should be done. He puts miracles on the table.

A miracle is defined as “an event in history for which natural explanations are inadequate” (p. 170).

Can a historian affirm miracles? If not, then is there any reason to continue discussing something like the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection since the early church claimed it was an act of their God? If so, what are some guidelines that prevent a historian from accepting all claims to divine intervention when exploring the past?

Licona concludes “that historians are not prohibited from investigating the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus, although historians affirming its historicity cannot grant resurrection in its full theological sense (p. 198). In other words, yes, a historian can affirm Jesus rose from the dead but all that comes along with this, like how it happened and why it happened, that may be beyond the work of a historian.

Prior to reaching this conclusion he first engages the objections of David Hume, C. Behan McCullagh, John P. Meir, Bart D. Ehrman, A.J.M. Wedderburn, and James D.G. Dunn.

As he moves from Hume to Wedderburn/Dunn he shows how others have noticed gaps in Hume’s theory so they altered it a bit. This doesn’t prevent Licona from challenging their alterations as well. This is a fascinating chapter which I will not summarize here because I think this is where one must really read the book. That being said, I think he does a fine job tackling the objections to postulating miracles as possible answers to historical situations. Likewise, he finds balance so that every time something is suggested in a historical writing that appeals to gods or magic we don’t have to say that all claims are equal (Licona even quote Flew who said that of all miracle claims the resurrection has the best support).

If you have read the book what did you think of this chapter? What do you think of the historian appealing to miracles? What guidelines would you suggest?

In the next section Licona reviews the historical documents that will be investigated. To that we will turn when we continue our review of this book. In the meantime, this is Holy Week, so is there a better time for us to meditate upon the miracle of a resurrection that occurred in the middle of history? No, there is no better time than now.

Also: For those interested, since Licona challenges Ehrman in his book, I thought it fitting to include this debate between the two.

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15 thoughts on “Licona on the Resurrection (Pt. 4)

  1. I think Ehrman’s opening comments pretty much sum up these frequent debates he is in. Either people come to hear him get creamed, or in other settings they gather to him do the creaming. The biggest thing gained from these debates is Eherman getting a lot of money (from people involved in getting him I hear he gets 5,000 bills.

    Having said that, I believe Christ rose from the dead, but Eherman wins this. Sorry for commenting on the video and not the book.

  2. In regards to Mike Licona’s claim that we can address miracle claims, I think he’s entirely in the right. Hume’s argument fails miserably in the light of frequent miracle occurrences, especially in the eastern world.

    A big contribution for building a foundation to Licona’s argument will be Keener’s upcoming “Miracles”. I really look forward to reading that!

  3. @alien: You say he wins because he walks away with a nice paycheck or do you think he has better arguments?

    @Daniel: I agree with Licona over against Hume as well, though I think Wedderburn and Dunn, who are not too far from Licona’s position, have solid insights as well.

  4. haha, well I guess both. Trying to argue that historians can prove Jesus rose from dead seems silly to me, and ultimately unprovable. Sure, you can make a case that it is historically the best answer, but you can’t prove it, can you? Well, I didn’t see any ‘proof’ any way. I think you might as well go trying to prove that God exists, it’s not going to happen, and it wasn’t intended to.

    But maybe I have different definition of proof, and I admit I didn’t watch the rebuttals (oopsie), I ran out of time.

  5. @alien: To Licona’s credit I don’t think he is arguing in this book that he can “prove” that Jesus rose from the dead. Rather, he wants to show that it makes the most sense of the evidence. It may be a large project, but I don’t think it is very distinct from Wright, Craig, Habermas, et al., in its basic assumptions and goals. The major difference would be that he outlined his approach to history and historiography.

  6. @pf: True, but I am sure it doesn’t hurt. If he does a one day trip to debate for a hour that is great cash considering the work invested, especially since he already has his materials ready. That said, he must believe in his cause enough to accept the invites so I am sure it is not all about the paycheck.

  7. Brian- Yes this book looks a lot more interesting than the debate. That’s why I am not a big fan of these debates, they are usually just a commercialization of the issue to promote a seminary, church, etc. Besides nothing new is ever said, just read their books!

    pf- well that was a few years back and I was mostly just trying to be funny. I just wish seminaries and churches spent their money more wisely. Don’t get me wrong I love debates, they are fun, but can be very expensive and usually as informational as a State of the Union address. I bet folks are chomping at the bit to hear a Piper/Mcarthur debate.

    That’s just my opinion and stuff.

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