A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life

A Weblog Dedicated to the Discussion of the Christian Faith and 21st Century Life
I do not seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this also I believe, –that unless I believed, I should not understand.-- St. Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109)

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

On the Resurrection of Jesus, Or Why Historians Can't Have It Both Ways

If [it is] correct that historians cannot say anything about God, they are also restrained from assigning any intrinsic probability to the resurrection of Jesus. Said another way, if historians cannot investigate the claim "God raised Jesus from the dead," because "God" as the cause makes it a theological rather than historical matter, they likewise cannot say that it is improbable that miracles occur, since such a work of God is likewise a matter for theologians and philosophers.--Michael R. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, p. 176.


James F. McGrath said...

I'm not at all persuaded by this. Surely one does not have to subscribe to a viewpoint that eliminates the possibility of the miraculous, in order to acknowledge that miracles of the sort that a resurrection from the dead is are not common, and thus by definition have a lower probability than other events that might produce stories of a resurrection.

Following Licona's logic, unless one adopted an explicitly theological stance, a detective would not be able to assess whether it is more likely that a person was murdered by the person whose fingerprints were on the murder weapon, or died because God wanted them dead, either using the shooter as instrument, or miraculously covering the evidence of divine involvement by placing a person's fingerprints on a weapon.

Is viewing the latter as less likely really a reflection of an antisupernaturalist stance, and inappropriate in secular criminology?

Mike Licona said...

James: I don't think we're in disagreement. My statement actually appeared in the context of refuting Bart Ehrman's claim that historians cannot investigate miracle claims because historians cannot detect God and, thus, resurrection is a theological rather than a historical conclusion. Allan could have made that more clear.

Allan R. Bevere said...


Sorry for the confusion. Thanks for the clarification. Love your book, btw.

James F. McGrath said...

Thanks for the clarification! I've no one to blame for myself for the misunderstanding - I have your book on my "to read" shelf and have been looking forward to getting to it for a while now, and so need to prioritize reading it! :-)

Allan R. Bevere said...


I will take the blame here. I cannot assume that those reading the quote have the book. When I quote texts, I try to make sure the context is clear, but I failed on this one.