Book Review: Raised on the Third Day: Defending the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus by W. David Beck, and Michael R. Licona

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on Think Apologetics. Tabernacle of David considers this resource trustworthy and Biblically sound.


Raised on the Third Day: Defending the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus by W. David Beck, and Michael R. Licona is a series of essays dedicated to the life and work of historian and apologist Gary Habermas. Habermas is known for his extensive work on the resurrection, as well as Near Death Experiences and The Historical Jesus.

The book is broken up into chapters written by various authors. Some of these chapters (not mentioned in order here) feature authors such as the following:

1. Michael R. Licona discusses the earliest evidence for the resurrection which are Paul’s letters. Anyone who studies the work of Habermas knows he always appeals to Paul as the earliest source for the resurrection of Jesus. Of his 13 books, critical scholars even accept six of Paul’s letters as being authentic in that we can be certain of the author and date of these writings. There are other scholars such as Luke Timothy Johnson and Raymond Brown that think more than six of them are authored by Paul. Of course, there are arguments for Pauline authorship on all 13 letters.

2. Sean McDowell who rightly says the argument for the disciples suffering for their faith must be nuanced correctly.

3.  Craig Evans, who argues for the reliability of the burial of Jesus (contra Bart Ehrman and others). Evans utilizes the work of Josephus and elsewhere to show why and how Jews held to a proper burial of the deceased.

4. Darrell Bock, who shows the limits of pushing for the unreliability of a women’s testimony at that time.

5. William Lane Craig, who has recently done extensive work on the atonement, demonstrates the organic connection between the atonement and the resurrection of Jesus.

6. Two chapters on the Shroud of Turin. One chapter is by Mark Foreman, who has taught with Habermas at Liberty, while the other chapter is written by Barry Schwortz. What is fascinating about the chapter by Schwortz is that he is Jewish (not a Jewish believer in Jesus). Schwortz thinks all the evidence points to the Shroud being the actual burial cloth of the Jesus of the  New Testament.

7. Dale C. Allison contributes a chapter on Near Death Experiences and Christian Theology. Allison would like to see more theologians tackle the issue of NDE’s. They have certainly done plenty on death and the afterlife but the work on NDE’S is lacking.

8. Robert Stewart does a fine job of discussing the limitations of Habermas’s “minimal facts” argument for the resurrection of Jesus. After Stewart notes he is the son of a judge, he notes that judges like to say “What matters is not what you know; but what you can show!”-pg 11.

In Stewart’s view, “the minimal facts argument works best as a strategy to argue a case, rather than a strategy to discover the facts of a case. He goes on to say the minimal facts works best not as a method of discovery, but rather as a presentation method; it’s not about epistemology, but instead about persuasion.” -pg. 11. For Stewart, he thinks the minimal facts argument can be used and should be used. But it obviously won’t be a success with everyone. It is relative to the person and the context at hand. Of course, I knew this. The one thing I do not like is when Christians use the minimal facts argument without explaining “why” scholars of different backgrounds hold to the data behind the minimal facts.

9. Historical Epistemology and Divine Action by Benjamin Shaw was one of my favorite chapters. Shaw does a fine job of explaining the debate on trying to arrive at the proper definition of a miracle and why historians should and can allow the investigation of divine action into the historical endeavor.

10. Three chapters that did not have as much to do with history or the resurrection were by Francis Beckwith (his chapter on rites and abortion) and David Baggett and David Beck who discuss the moral argument.  Badgett (who has specialized in the moral argument) does go one step further in discussing how the moral argument can be used as a case for Christianity. Craig Hazen also contributes a chapter about his experience with presenting Jesus and the exclusive claims of Christianity in real life/teaching experiences in secular settings.

11. Popular level apologists Frank Turek and Alex McFarland both contribute chapters about practical tips that apologists can learn from Habermas. What is interesting is that one can tell that many people have not only been influenced by the hard work and contribution of the scholarship of Habermas, but also by his personal care, his ability to minister to others, and his personal devotion to his faith.

This book is a fine contribution to apologetics. It shows how one person’s faithfulness to God’s calling can impact the lives of so many others.

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