"This book is the most thorough treatment on the resurrection and historiography to date."
Licona begins by conceding that when scholars have researched the historical account of the resurrection in the past, they have often come to very different conclusions on a number of issues. However, unlike many skeptics and critics, Licona is careful not to jump to the conclusion that no accurate portrait of the historical Christ can be uncovered.
On the contrary, the fact that numerous portraits of the historical Jesus exist only serves to drive Licona to ask more questions.
"What approach should be taken for an investigation involving the historicity of the resurrection? When writing on the resurrection of Jesus, biblical scholars are engaged in historical research. Are they doing so without adequate or appropriate training? How many have completed so much as a single undergraduate course pertaining to how to investigate the past? Are biblical scholars conducting their historical investigations differently than professional historians? If professional historians who work outside of the community of biblical scholars were to embark on an investigation of the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus, what would such an investigation look like?" [p. 19]
And as a result, Licona has written a book on the topic of the resurrection that is fresh and ground-breaking.
"So how does my research differ from previous treatments? In the pages that follow I will investigate the question of the historicity of Jesus' resurrection while providing unprecedented interaction with the literature of professional historians outside of the community of biblical scholars on both hermeneutical and methodological considerations." [p. 20]
The Introduction concludes with Licona's summarizing the content of each chapter.
Chapter 1- Important Considerations on Historical Inquiry Pertaining to the Truth in Ancient Texts
This chapter begins by the author clarifying some key terms that will be used throughout the remainder of the book.
- History- past events that are the object of study [p. 30]
- Historiography- matters in the philosophy of history and historical method [p. 31]
- Is History Knowable?
- Isn't History Always Written by Winners?
With candid transparency, the author acknowledges that the historian is challenged by their horizon. However, Licona proposes "six tools that, when combined, can be effective guides that bring us closer to objectivity."
These tools are:
- The historian's horizon and method should be public.
- Peer pressure
- Submitting ideas to unsympathetic experts
- Account for the relevant historical bedrock
- Detachment from bias
"As postmodern historians have referred to "the death of history," realist historians, which are by far the majority, feel justified in proceeding, though with caution. If history is truly dead, there are no means by which historians can distinguish fact from fiction and no way of weighing the plausibility of numerous hypothesis. Indeed, there are other consequences that are difficult for postmodernists to live with if their view of knowing the past is correct, such as a collapse of the legal system. Moreover, the arguments of postmodern historians are often self-refuting since they involve reasons for why we can know that we cannot know." [p. 126]
As the chapter progresses, Licona then examines the question, "What is a Historical Fact?" I appreciated the author giving attention to this oft overlooked question and found his definition of a historical fact satisfactory and fair:
"Richard Evans defines a historical fact as something that happened and that historians attempt to "discover" through verification procedures." This is the definition I hold and will use throughout this volume." [p. 93]
- Who Shoulders the Burden of Proof in Historical Inquiry?
- Is History a Science?
- What do Historians Do?