Michael R. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historigraphical Approach (IVP Academic, 2010). Reviewed by Jim West.

It is patently obvious that so far as Licona is concerned, the fourth part of his impressive tome is the most important. It is both the longest and the most detailed. Indeed, it takes over 187 pages for him to establish what he calls the ‘historical bedrock pertaining to the fate of Jesus’, i.e., those things about which he, at least, can be certain about the life of the Historical Jesus and his ‘fate’ (a curious choice of words). As this very involved very meticulous and very detailed chapter opens, Licona advises his readers that There is a strong consensus today among scholars that Jesus thought of himself as an exorcist, a miracle-worker and God’s eschatological agent. Many likewise maintain that he was convinced he would die an imminent and violent death and subsequently would be vindicated by God. … Accordingly, if the resurrection hypothesis turns out to be the best explanation of the relevant historical bedrock, we are warranted in calling it a miracle (p. 281). Licona then discusses each of these points in fine detail, offering evidence both for and against each point, and concludes that we can be virtually certain that - Jesus died by crucifixion. - Shortly after his death, his disciples had experiences that led them to believe and proclaim that Jesus had been resurrected and had appeared to them. - And a few years later Paul converted after his own postresurrection experience of Jesus (pp. 302-303). He then reinforces his points through a marshalling of every bit of relevant data. But his argument falls on hard times when he insists (as many apologists do) that After Jesus’ death, the disciples endured persecution, and a number of them experienced martyrdom. The strength of their conviction indicates they were not just claiming that Jesus had appeared to them after rising from the dead. They really believed it (p. 366). The ‘proof from a willingness to suffer martyrdom’ argument means that every person who has died for every religion (and there have been loads of both) also possessed the true faith else they wouldn’t have endured said death on its behalf. Which means that Licona and other Christian apologists must now accept the truth claims of Islam and Buddhism and all the rest because the adherents of those faiths also died for them. When

one is arguing for the truth of Christianity and the truth of the resurrection of Jesus, falling back to the martyrdom argument is a sign of argument-weakness. Perhaps the very best segment of the chapter, and perhaps of the entire book (to this point) is the masterful way Licona treats the conversion of Paul and the way he deals with its various (and sometimes contradictory) telling. Readers will instantly know that Licona has expended his best efforts here. Unfortunately his treatment of the conversion of James isn’t quite so good- for one simple reason: he assumes that James is Jesus ‘half-brother’ without any attempt to examine the very question of their relationship. Or in other words, he assumes what should be explained. He avoided that pitfall in his treatment of Paul. Would that he had here as well. Too his credit, however, he doesn’t include either the testimony of James or the story of the empty tomb as aspects of the ‘historical bedrock’. Conservative readers will be aghast at the dismissal of the empty tomb. If any segment of the book will get Licona in hot water with his intended audience, this will be it. The chapter concludes In the next, and final, chapter we will consider six hypotheses that purport to explain what happened to Jesus; specifically, whether he rose from the dead (p. 464). That, too, is where we’ll go next.