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.
Read Pt. 4 here.
Read Pt. 5 here.

This post is the second straight one where we examine the sources that Michael Licona uses in his investigation into the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus (see Pt. 5 for the last one). As I mentioned last time Licona put together the following ratings in order to rate the value of each document as a solid source for historical research into this topic: unlikely, possible-minus, possible, possible-plus, highly probable, indeterminate, and not useful (p. 201). The categories explored in pp. 235-276 include (1) Non-Christian Sources; (2) Rabbinic Sources; (3) Apostolic Fathers; and (4) Other Non-Canonical Christian Literature; (5) Revelation Dialogues.

Non-Christian Sources:

Licona summons Josephus who mentions Jesus in Ant. 18.63-64 and 20.200. The only one of these two that may address the resurrection is 18.63-64, though it is oft debated whether or not some or all of this text is an interpolation. I have highlighted the areas Licona finds authentic:

At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man, if indeed one should call him a man. For he was a doer of startling deeds, a teacher of the people who receive the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following both among many Jews and among many of Greek origin. He was the Messiah. And when Pilate, because of an accusation made by the leading men among us, condemned him to the cross, those who had loved him previously did not cease to do so. For he appeared to them on the third day, living again, just as the divine prophets had spoken of these and countless other wondrous things about him. And up until this very day the tribe of Christians, named after him, has not died out.”

After Meir he provides an adjusted text where instead of “For he appeared to them on the third day…” it reads, “For they reported that he appeared to them alive.” Licona finds this alteration possible. Overall he gives Josephus’ writings the ranking of possible.

Other include Tacitus (possible); Pliny the Younger (not useful); Suetonius (not useful); Mara bar Serapion (not useful); Thallus (possible); Lucian (not useful); and Celsus (unlikely). So amongst non-Christian authors only Josephus and Tacitus may possibly provide statements useful for investigating the resurrection of Jesus.

Rabbinic Sources: 

Licona cites only b. Sanhedrin 43a from the Babylonian Talmud. It mentions Jesus’ crucifixion. He ranks it as unlikely.

Apostolic Fathers:

Clement of Rome is seen as possible-plus because Licona finds good evidence for an early date for the composition of 1 Clement. Polycarp is possible because he is fairly early and Irenaeus says he knew the Apostle John. The Letter of Barnabas receives the ranking of possible-minus because it seems to be written sometime inbetween 70 and the 130’s, after the fall of the temple when temple reconstruction was still possible.

Non-Canonical Christian Literature:

The Gospel of Thomas receives several pages of commentary (pp. 257-268) addressing the views of Koester, Pagels, Funks, Evans, Hurtado, Perrin, et al. He determines the document to have possible value for “the presence of some unique apostolic testimony” but unlikely as regards the resurrection. The Gospel of Peter and the  Gospel of Judas both receive the rank of unlikely.

Revelation Dialogues: 

In the last part (pp. 272-275) Licona mentions revelation dialogues. He names  a few, assigns them the ranking of unlikely, and then says a bit about Pseudo-Mark (Mk. 16.9-20) and possible issues surrounding the ending of the Second Gospel.

All in all, as is likely predictable, it is canonical books that will receive the most respect and attention. In the next part of the book Licona examines “historical bedrock” concerning “the fate of Jesus”.