In 2010 scholar Michael Licona published a 718 page book titled “The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach.” The purpose of this magisterial work was to apply the latest methods of the discipline of history (which is called “historiography”) to the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection.
“Why would anyone want to do such a thing?” you might be wondering. Well, the reality for us is that Jesus death and resurrection is an historical fact. We cannot talk to those who were there. We didn’t see it ourselves. We only have documentary evidence that it happened. And that sort of evidence is precisely what historiography deals with.
“But why 718 pages?” you might bemusedly question. Isn’t that a bit of overkill? Perhaps yes, if we were talking of the death of Julius Caesar, or the birth of Emperor Charlemagne, or some such event. But the resurrection of Christ is an event that changes everything. Such an event deserves to be examined as thoroughly as possible, using whatever means we have.
“But isn’t it enough just to have faith?” you might object. Indeed, your faith will be credited to you as righteousness! But faith is not blind, it rests on truth. And if the resurrection is not true, then, as Paul says, “we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Cor. 15:19) It is not faithful to ignore evidence, nor unfaithful to seek it.
So what is Licona’s conclusion?
On page 619, he says, “Since the resurrection hypothesis is the best explanation, fulfils all five criteria [for historicity] and outdistances all of its competitors by a significant margin, I contend that we may declare that Jesus’ resurrection is ‘very certain,’ a rendering higher on the spectrum of historical certainty than I had expected. Since the resurrection hypothesis is based on historical bedrock, those who disagree with my conclusion must criticize my method.”
Huh? What did he just say? What Licona said, with the language and weight of a scholar, was:
Jesus is risen!
He is risen indeed!
Let us, brothers and sisters, with the language and weight of followers of Christ, share this message with the whole world.