Category Archives: Historical Jesus Debate

The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach

I wanted to point everyone’s attention to a new book on the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus. It is a very detailed book and something I would encourage everyone to consider owning. It will help you deal with the modern day critical schools that doubt the resurrection and it will also encourage your faith to know the historical evidence that we have and better enable you to defend the Faith when skeptics and non-believers ask you to give a reason for the hope that you have.

Here is the product description:

The question of the historicity of Jesus’ resurrection has been repeatedly probed, investigated and debated. And the results have varied widely. Perhaps some now regard this issue as the burned-over district of New Testament scholarship. Could there be any new and promising approach to this problem? Yes, answers Michael Licona. And he convincingly points us to a significant deficiency in approaching this question: our historiographical orientation and practice. So he opens this study with an extensive consideration of historiography and the particular problem of investigating claims of miracles. This alone is a valuable contribution. But then Licona carefully applies his principles and methods to the question of Jesus’ resurrection. In addition to determining and working from the most reliable sources and bedrock historical evidence, Licona critically weighs other prominent hypotheses. His own argument is a challenging and closely argued case for the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus, the Christ. Any future approaches to dealing with this “prize puzzle” of New Testament study will need to be routed through The Resurrection of Jesus.

Please do consider buying the book through this Amazon link above. It will help the ministry expenses for maintaining this web site. Here are two recommendations for the book as well:

“The resurrection of Jesus is–in many ways–too important a topic to be left to theologians! In this thoroughly researched and well-argued volume, Mike Licona brings the latest in discussion of historiography to bear on the question of Jesus’ resurrection. In a discipline that is often overwhelmed by theological special-pleading, it is refreshing to have this sober and sensible approach to the resurrection that evaluates the historical data and the arguments of many of the scholars writing on the subject. There are few biblical scholars who will not learn something from this important book.”

—Stanley E. Porter, president, dean and professor of New Testament, McMaster Divinity College

“The most important event in the story of Christian beginnings is the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, who was widely believed by his followers to be the Messiah of Israel and the very Son of God. Their conviction that Jesus was such a being was confirmed by the resurrection. Without the resurrection of Jesus there really are no grounds for Christian faith. Consequently, there is no topic more important than this one and this is why Michael Licona’s book on the resurrection of Jesus is so welcome. Licona demonstrates expertise in every field that is germane to the question. He knows the philosophical arguments inside and out, as well as the relevant historical, biblical, cultural and archaeological data. This is the book for believers and skeptics alike.”

—Craig A. Evans, Payzant Distinguished Professor of New Testament, Acadia Divinity College, Nova Scotia, Canada

Book Review: The Modern Search for the Real Jesus

Amazon Link: The Modern Search for the Real Jesus

The Modern Search for the Real Jesus


The Modern Search for the Real Jesus is an introductory survey of the historical roots of “Gospels Criticism,” as it has been done since the enlightenment. The book is written by Robert B. Strimple. The basic outline of the book starts in the 18th century and develops the first stages of Gospels Criticism, which has come to be known as the “Old Quest” for the historical Jesus. This quest was basically terminated with the likes of Albert Schweitzer and some rationalist critics who saw the “Old Quest” as fundamentally flawed in its approach to the historical nature of the Gospels themselves. Then, finally in the 20th century, Rudolf Bultmann appeared and gave a ‘watershed’ theory that would ultimately result in a “New Quest” for the historical Jesus. If I could summarize the book into funny categories, I would divide Strimple’s history of ‘Modern’ Gospels Criticism into these three basic categories: 1) Finding your own personal Jesus, 2) Burning everyone’s Personal Jesus, and 3) Solo Fide (Only Faith) – Jesus doesn’t matter anymore. Yes, that is how I felt after I read through the book and processed the basic thought patterns of each transformation of Gospels Criticism. Ultimately, instead of trying to summarize what each person said and thought, the most important thing to understand about Gospels Criticism is that everyone basically subscribed to three principles of history: 1) Any historical work can never be sure, it is only ‘probable’ that something happened, 2) If we cannot see it duplicated today, then it never could have happened in the past (i.e. – no miracles, resurrections, etc.), and 3) Every effect has to have a sufficient cause. Given these three principles, it should become clear that any ‘divine’ activity is strictly prohibited from being ‘known’ in history.


The full worth of this book should be seen in the comprehensive understanding that is given to every figure addressed throughout the book. Each person’s primary methodology in Gospels Criticism is clearly explained with the practical implications laid out for each. I especially enjoyed all the comments by Strimple throughout the book that he set in parentheses (). It became clear, after reading the first two parts of the book, why Strimple divided the various critics into the areas noted above. The “Old Quest” really was obsessed with creating Jesus in their own personal image. Then the “Old Quest” ended in flames with the old critics being called on the carpet for making Jesus in their own image. Finally, the last portion of the book, resolved the events of the burning of the old quest by showing how Bultmann and his disciples embraced the fruits of rationalistic historical criticism – since you really cannot know anything about the ‘historical’ Jesus, a radical faith (without Jesus) is the only real means of finding personal fulfillment in studying the Gospel writings.

One of the more helpful aspects of understanding the “Old Quest” is what Strimple calls their ‘apologetic’ purpose. The very first two critics Strimple mentions saw themselves as apologists for Christianity given the new era of rationalistic enlightenment. In their sincerity, they saw themselves as making Christianity palatable for a modern person who didn’t know what to do with all the miracles and faith claims of the Bible. But this of course lead these early critics to deny the very heart of the good news of Jesus – that he not only died for sins but that he was resurrected from the dead and lives today in heaven, at the right hand of God, saving people from Satan, death, and sin through the work of his Spirit. That is where the liberal critics step in. Knowing that most of the things that were important to historic, orthodox Christians were now gutted from the Gospel accounts, these liberal critics sought to reconstruct Jesus into a ‘real’ historical figure that people could actually appreciate and follow after – since after all, everyone knows that Jesus had to be a great guy – even though his followers added all that non-historical data to his life in the Gospel accounts. But in the end, they only made Jesus look like themselves (i.e. – a deist, a Hegelian, or a liberal protestant) Strimple, in effect, captures the heart of each Gospels critic as he traces their work through to their ultimate conclusions. This leads us to the last two sections of the book.

Strimple very clearly lays out the downfall of the “Old Quest” by means of the skeptical “radical” critics and the climactic work of Albert Schweitzer. Thus, the downfall of the “Old Quest” can be categorized by two claims from the ‘fire-starters’ noted above: 1) The Gospels were heavily influenced by followers of Jesus, so much so that they are primarily theological works, not historical work. 2) The “Old Quest” critics ended up reconstructing the life of Jesus to look a lot like their own worldviews, which was essentially the same thing the “Old Questers” were accusing the Gospel writers of doing to Jesus! This second claim is one of the only positive things that Albert Schweitzer gave to the history of Gospels Criticism.

Finally, in the last portion of the book, Strimple gives us a very helpful picture of the Bultmann’s thinking and how he and his disciples proceeded to embrace the ultimate futility of the modern Gospels Criticism movement. First, I would like to note the partial ‘breath of fresh air’ that I experienced when reading the sixth chapter on Martin Kähler, the supposed forerunner to Bultmann. Kähler’s work, while not affirming the inerrancy of Scripture, seemed to be thoroughly affirming of orthodox Christian doctrine and faith. But, in the end, his impact on Gospels Criticism was not revival. It was instead food for thought that pushed Bultmann to the conclusions that he drew. Strimple strongly presents the ultimate foolishness of Bultmann’s existential and a-historical conclusions about the Jesus of history. Recalling my third section title in the summary above, Bultmann basically proposed that faith is the only means for a person to be justified in seeking out a life of ‘authentic existence.’ This is the concept of ‘solo’ fide – only faith – where Bultmann concluded that knowing the history of Jesus didn’t matter. Instead, what the Gospel writers were trying to accomplish was to show their reads how to live a truly authentic life. And that authentic life could come in any form, not just Christian religion. Thus, it was the ‘left-wing’ disciples of Bultmann who really ‘got it’ and carried out Bultmann’s conclusions to their ultimate end – ‘who cares about Jesus anymore, we just want an authentic existence!’


I found only two negatives in this survey of Modern Gospels Criticism: 1) Strimple did not always connect the three parts together very clearly as he structured the book into chapters. Yes, he made it clear why he segregated the book into the three parts, but as I read, the information was sometimes so much that I did not always track with who came first and why someone influenced another person. It might just be the case that undertaking any such survey like this is always prone to that weakness. 2) Though I attribute this second issue to when Strimple wrote the book, I would have liked to have seen a fourth section covering what has more recently been called the “Third Quest” for the historical Jesus. The book dates itself by not addressing anything beyond what has taken place directly after Bultmann.


The Modern Search for the Real Jesus is a short, yet comprehensive, book that will accurately introduce a well read student of the Bible to the historical roots of Gospels Criticism. I say ‘well read’ because the book contains several references to the German language and also deals with fine distinctions and critical methodology. This book is primarily going to benefit someone seeking to be a pastor or Bible scholar, both of whom will run into these methods and conclusions in much of the scholarly commentary work done on the Gospels today.

Colbert takes on Bart Ehrman… a second time

Once again, Colbert hands Bart Ehrman a rattle snake and tells him to chew on it! Just kidding, but please observe as Stephen Colbert uses standard Christian apologetic arguments against Dr. Ehrman’s claim. I especially love the final example about the elephant, even though his telling of the story isn’t quite as eloquent as I would present it. 🙂

The Colbert Report Mon – Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Bart Ehrman
Colbert Report Full Episodes Political Humor NASA Name Contest

[HT: James Grant]

N. T. Wright on the Resurrection

James Grant says,

Mark Driscoll provided something of an overview of N. T. Wright’s book The Resurrection of the Son of God. Here is Driscoll’s brief five-point summary of Wright’s argument:

  1. Resurrection and its cognates mean “life after ‘life after death.’”
  2. Ancient paganism strenuously denied the possibility of resurrection.
  3. A strong belief in the hope of future resurrection existed only within the bounds of certain sects of Judaism.
  4. The only possible reason why early Christianity began and took the shape it did is that the tomb really was empty and that people really did meet Jesus, alive again.
  5. Though admitting it involves accepting a challenge at the level of worldview itself, the best historical explanation for all these phenomena is that Jesus was indeed bodily raised from the dead.

Read his whole post.

[HT: James Grant]

CPX interview with Don Hagner

Lee Irons said:

John Dickson of the Centre for Public Christianity (CPX) interviewed my friend and mentor, Donald Hagner, on various issues related to New Testament history. The interview has been chopped up into smaller bits each around 4 to 8 minutes long.

The interviewer was well prepared and asked excellent questions. He interacted with Don’s areas of expertise (the rabbinic model of oral tradition, the Gospel of Matthew, the apostolic fathers) and proposed questions that gave him an opportunity to answer common skeptical objections to the historicity of Jesus and the Gospels.

It will be evident, as you watch the interview, that Don does not subscribe to a doctrine of inerrancy such as that enshrined in the Chicago Statement. And yet he adopts a believing posture toward the New Testament as historically reliable and apostolic in origin.

Here are the video links below:

The apostle Paul: redneck or revolutionary?
How should we view the apostle Paul?

Doubts about Jesus and the New Testament
Is the existence of Jesus in doubt?

History and faith
How does the Christian historian avoid
being a Christian apologist?

Sources behind the gospels
Does the use of sources by the gospel
writers make their texts suspicious? 

Gospel of Matthew exposed. Part 1
A brief guide to Matthew’s gospel.

Gospel of Matthew exposed. Part 2
How do scholars explain difficult passages
in Matthew

Gospel of Matthew exposed. Part 3
What are the major themes of Matthew’s gospel?

How was the New Testament put together?
How did the ancient church choose which
books to include in the New Testament?

Second Century Literature
Who were the key Christian writers in the
second century?

The N.T. Wright Project

Some students from Princton Theological Seminary have started a research project for the purpose of studying the foundational works of theology by N.T. Wright. Here is their description of the project:

Rarely in the course of our seminary study do we have the opportunity to study theologians whose work is currently transforming the life of the church. Tom Wright is one such theologian, and a small group of us at Princeton Theological Seminary, together with one of our professors, Ross Wagner, have decided to spend this semester immersed in Wright’s work. We hope to carefully read some of his most foundational writings and to engage each other through this blog on the issues and ideas which emerge from this study. From time to time we will have guest authors from a wide spectrum contribute, and we also invite those of you in church, parachurch, or seminary communities to read and respond to our blog posts as a way of keeping this project closely grounded in the church today. Welcome and enjoy!

I encourage everyone to keep up with this blog, especially if you don’t have the ability to read Bishop Wright’s works in full by yourself. These students will be summarizing and analysing and discussing much of what he has written and I think we will all benefit from their work. May God bless this project!