Are you already a Christian? Then you need to know if Jesus bodily rose from the dead – both for greater confidence in your own beliefs and to be prepared to answer the most important question your curious friends have about Christianity.
In either case, then, you need to not just read, but study, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona. (In two other posts, I’ve summarized and simplified for memorization the argument of the book).
Currently, this book is my #1 recommendation for studying the evidence for the resurrection.
While there are other, longer, more robust defenses (e.g., Michael Licona’s The Resurrection of Jesus and N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God) and shorter, simpler books (e.g., The Case for the Resurrection by Lee Strobel), there is no other book that is so:
- concise, and
Let’s consider each of these points in turn.
The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus covers a tremendous amount of information. In dozens of conversations at Harvard about the resurrection, I have never exhausted all of the sources and levels of support for each point in this book. Unless you are in a graduate-level program of theology or history, I think it is very unlikely that you will need more information.
Why is this important? Because after reading many popular-level apologetics books, you may only be trained to make a few points; but when challenged, you might be in completely new territory and unsure how to proceed. With this training manual, you are going to be amply prepared to understand the robust historical evidence for every claim. That’s intellectually satisfying.
For instance, to demonstrate the historical evidence for the claim that, “Jesus’ disciples sincerely believed He rose from the dead and appeared to them,” the authors cite and explain references from the Apostle Paul, two kinds of oral tradition within the New Testament, all four gospel accounts, Clement, Polycarp, Ignatius, Dionysus of Corinth, Tertullian, and Origen.
This level of comprehensive detail for each point is impressive. As you read this book, you are going to have the information you need to make a reasonable, well-informed decision about the bodily resurrection of Jesus.
How can a book that is so thorough also be concise?
On the one hand, this is a matter of perspective. For instance, N.T. Wright’s book on the subject is 740 pages, and part of a larger series of equally large books on the subject. But this book is just 384 pages! That’s about 50% fewer pages to read.
But it truly is a concise book. First, 40% of the book is an incredibly detailed appendix of all their arguments – the bare-bones outline of the entire book. The appendix is invaluable when you want to refresh your memory of a certain section or if you’d like to read a compressed version of the arguments themselves.
So the book is really only about half as long as it looks. The information is organized in two ways – an extended version with illustrations, analogies, and explanation for how it all fits together – and a condensed version for study and review.
The other reason the book is concise is that it focuses on the most important details. Want to talk about inerrancy? The Old Testament? The nature of heaven? No, no, no. The authors are incredibly disciplined and they focus on one topic: the resurrection of Jesus.
They are also incredibly well organized. The book focuses on five key facts about Jesus and his disciples that are strongly supported by the mainstream, scholarly practice of historical research. With those facts carefully established, the book then tests one theory after another against them. Only the historical hypothesis, “Jesus bodily rose from the dead,” is capable of explaining all of the facts.
Unlike a lot of authors, Licona and Habermas have dedicated considerable attention to thinking about how their readers can share this content with their friends in a natural, conversational manner.
Isn’t that one of the main reasons people don’t read books like this? “I would never, ever talk about that book with anyone. I think I will just not read it. That’ll save some time.”
But if you are a Christian with even a half-hearted desire for evangelism, I promise you that the resurrection of Jesus is going to come up. Think about it! From the outside perspective, this is one heck of a crazy idea. Why in the world would your friend change their mind and go, “You know, I guess Jesus’ dead, rotting body could have stopped decomposing, come back to life, walked around for 40 days, and then ascended to sit at the right hand of God. I should become a Christian!”
If you are regularly leading friends to know Jesus, then keep doing whatever you are doing! But if that is not your experience, then you probably need to change your method. For instance: what if you had reasons? What if you could humbly, graciously, and thoughtfully explain why the resurrection of Jesus was a historical fact? Yes, the Holy Spirit would still need to be at work, but let’s be clear: the Holy Spirit honors and uses conversations where disciples of Jesus present reasons and evidence to their curious friends that show Jesus is the Risen Lord.
Consider: which approach honors God more?
- “I don’t know much about the most important belief of my life. Why don’t you just make a leap of faith and completely change your life without any evidence to ground that decision?”
- “I’ve carefully studied the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus and I think it is the best and most reasonable explanation of the facts. Would you be interested in talking through some of this with me? It will only take a few minutes to lay out the most important points.”
On a regular basis I see, by God’s grace, nonChristians become Christians because they study this evidence with me. This book is designed to train you to present the evidence in a straightforward, approachable, genuine, and enjoyable manner.
If you love God, I encourage you to decide today that you will become equipped to discuss the resurrection of Jesus with your friends!
Still not convinced? Consider these endorsements of the book:
- It may be the most thorough defense of the historicity of the resurrection. — J. P. Moreland
- I highly recommend this rigorous and vigorous treatment of this subject which in so many ways is the most crucial one for Christian faith and praxis. — Ben Witherington
- To my knowledge, the chapters addressing naturalistic theories are the most comprehensive treatment of the subject anywhere. –Paul L. Maier
- There is nothing like this on the market. It is interesting, engaging, and crucial material. — Norman Geisler
- This compelling book is the most comprehensive defense of Jesus’ resurrection anywhere. — Lee Strobel
Get a copy of The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary Habermas and Michael Licona today.
After you read it for yourself, invite a few friends to read it with you so you can study it together, practice talking about the subject with one another, and become well prepared to lead your friends into an intellectually – and emotionally – satisfying relationship with God.
Jesus is Risen! May all people know this glorious truth and give glory to God.
For further resources, consider Reasons for God’s resource page on the resurrection.