Review: The Resurrection of Jesus

April 21, 2011

I’ve got enough nerd in me that I like reading academic books. For fun. You know, the kind where the bottom 1/3 of the page is usually taken up by footnotes. I try to always have at least one book like this on my current reading list. I like to think that it means I am keeping my mind sharp, even if I don’t comprehend a good portion of what I read. And even if it takes me a few months to work through the book.

I’m not down for any academic book, but when it comes to theology or historical Christianity, especially in the first century, you have my attention. So, when I had the chance to review a copy of The Resurrection of Jesus: A Historiographical Approach, by Michael Licona, I was in.

The aim of the book is to use historical method to evaluate the events of Jesus’ resurrection. As you might expect, there is much debate as to whether a miraculous event is even open to being scrutinized under historical method. Licona spends a good portion of the book dealing with that issue. The first section indirectly deals with this issue as Licona points out that no one can approach historical method without their own horizon, their own understanding of how things work. And so we evaluate history in light of our horizon. While our horizon can never be done away with, we do well to at least be aware of how it will shape our understandings and conclusions.

In the second section, Licona deals more directly with that question. Even aside from the topic of resurrection, this section alone made the book worth reading as historical source materials spanning all cultures are full of events that raise the eyebrows of modern readers. This was the most interesting section of the book for me.

In the final two sections, Licona writes more directly about the historical analysis of the resurrection. First he deals with the historical references, both found in and out of what would be considered the Christian Scriptures. He follows this in the final section with a critique and comparison on how contemporary historians have dealt with the resurrection as a historical event. I enjoy comparisons like this because they offer an opportunity to extend my own understandings, and Licona writes in a way that invites learning even from those you don’t fully agree with.

I am sympathetic to Licona’s horizon as one who also believes that a man named Jesus rose from the dead, so I had little resistance to his conclusions. But for someone like myself who isn’t in the academic world, this book is an invitation to think through how ancient and sacred writings about the supernatural can be engaged by the skepticism of modern minds.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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