Licona, Michael R. (2010) The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic. (Buy from IVPress.com here)
I’m beginning to wonder if it will still be 2011 when I finish discussing this book. Currently, I have posted six times and that got me to pg. 276 of 622! In this seventh post we begin working through Chapter Four “The Historical Bedrock Pertaining to the Fate of Jesus” (which ends at pg. 464).
Licona begins by examining “historical bedrock pertaining to Jesus’ life”. Before we can discuss his fate we must ask what scholars have concluded regarding the historically verifiable aspects of Jesus’ life. He lists two things:
(1) Jesus the Miracle-Worker and Exorcist
(2) Jesus: God’s Eschatological Agent
A third thing he finds much more debatable, but something worth defending:
(3) Jesus’ Predictions of His Death and Vindication/Resurrection
For (1) he cites the work of Graham Twelftree who has shown that many understood Jesus to be a miracle-worker and exorcist (this is different that saying he actually did miracles and exorcised demons). (p. 281) Every Gospel source (Mt., Mk., Lk., Jn., Q) speak of Jesus this way as did Josephus (e.g. Ant. 18.3), Celsus who called him a magician (in Origen’s Contra Celsum 1.37), and even the Talmud (b. Sanh. 43a) where he is accused of practicing sorcery. (pp. 281-283)
As for (2) many recognize Jesus as having “viewed himself as God’s eschatological agent–the figure through whom the kingdom of God was coming”. (p. 283) This doesn’t mean he was correct, or that he was this person, but that it seems fairly evident he understood himself this way. Licona provides a short defense for this assertion.(pp. 283-284)
It is (3) where Licona spends most of his time providing defense:
(A) Mark 8.31 where Peter rebukes Jesus for predicting his own death seems like something that the early church would not have made up because it is shameful for both Peter and Jesus. (pp. 284-285)
(B) Semitic elements from some of those passages where Jesus predicts his death (Mt. 16.13-23 and Lk. 9.22). (pp. 285)
(C) The “primitive tradition” of the Eucharist. (pp. 285-286)
(D) Jesus’ weakness in his prayer in Gethsemane (why make Jesus look so weak when some much Jewish literature portrayed martyrs to be as strong and brave?) in Mt. 14.32-41; Mt. 26.36-45; Lk. 22.39-46).
Licona then wraps up this section by investigating the logia which support this view and then tackling objections. This leads us into the section where Licona provides historical bedrock for Jesus’ fate with a Jesus we can confidently say was known as a healer/exorcist, who thought himself to be God’s eschatological agent, and who predicted his own death (and possibly resurrection).
One a final note, one interesting suggestion from Licona was that Jesus’ predictions regarding resurrection can be given historical probability on the same grounds as other Jewish martyrs who believed that YHWH God would raise them on the last day. (p. 298). The statements about “three days” seem to argue against it, but it is interesting.