When it comes to the Christian faith, there is no doctrine more important than the resurrection of Jesus. Biblical faith is not simply centered in ethical and religious teachings. Instead, it is founded on the person and work of Jesus. From a soteriological perspective, if Jesus was not raised from the dead, we as His followers are still dead in our sins (1Cor.15:7). Jesus said in John 11:25, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in me shall live even of he dies.”
Jesus could not have made full atonement for our sins without the resurrection. Also, through the resurrection, Jesus took on the role as advocate and intercessor (1John. 2:2;Rom. 8:34). His resurrection also guaranteed us the opportunity of having a resurrected body’s like His (1 Cor.15:20-23,51-53;1 Pet.1:3;Phil.3:20-21;John.5:25-29).
Here some of my picks to read on the resurrection:
1. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus by Gary R. Habermas and Michael Licona (Paperback – Sep 25, 2004)
This book is apologetic in nature. Gary Habermas, who has been one of the top resurrection apologists over the last few decades and his protégé Mike Licona give one of the most thorough treatments that I have seen. They discuss just about every counterargument that has ever been formulated against the historicity of the resurrection. They also provide some charts and acronyms that are extremely helpful.
2. Did the Resurrection Happen?: A Conversation with Gary Habermas and Antony Flew (Veritas Forum Books) by Gary R. Habermas, Antony Flew, and David J. Baggett (Paperback – Apr 29, 2009)
This is rich reading. The first part of the book was an updated version of a debate that took place between the late Anthony Flew (who left atheism for deism or some kind of theism) and Gary Habermas. Flew was quoted as saying the resurrection of Jesus was the best attested miracle that he had seen. David J. Baggett offers an assessment of the debate along with some of the counterarguments to the resurrection.
3. Beyond Death: Exploring the Evidence for Immortality by Gary R. Habermas and J. P. Moreland (Paperback – Jan 2004)
This is an interesting book. It provides some apologetics and comments about ethical issues. It also goes over the arguments for near-death experiences. It is a nice combination of philosophy, apologetics, theology, and ethics.
4. The Death of Death: Resurrection and Immortality in Jewish Thought by Neil Gillman (Paperback – Apr 2000)
This is written by Jewish author Neil Gillman. He traces the history of resurrection thought in Judaism and why many modern Jewish people don’t accept the resurrection concept. Guess what? He even discusses naturalism and how it has impacted the Jewish community.
5. The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach [Paperback] Michael R. Licona (Author)
This was Mike Licona’s doctoral dissertation. This is not simply an apologetics book. It is very helpful resource for Biblical scholars, historians and philosophers. It is a very long book but fairly easy to read. Mike has provided a large chapter on what he calls ‘horizons.” Horizons are the presuppositions that impact all Biblical scholars and historians. Horizons always play a role in how we approach the resurrection. Mike also covers the work of several scholars on their work on the resurrection such as J.D. Crossan, Geza Vermes, Michael Goulder and others. He also provides several responses to the arguments of Bart Ehrman (whom he has debated). He covers the historical sources for the resurrection and confirms that the “historical bedrock” for the historical Jesus is the following:
1. Jesus died by Roman crucifixion
2. Very shortly after Jesus’ death, the disciples had experiences that led them to believe and proclaim that Jesus had been resurrected and had appeared to them
3. Within a few years after Jesus’ death, Paul converted after experiencing what he interpreted as a post resurrection appearance of Jesus to him.
Licona provides a response to the naturalistic alternatives to the resurrection and shows how they don’t meet what he calls the requirements of:
2. Explanatory scope and explanatory power
3. They are less ad hoc
6. Risen Indeed: Making a Sense of the Resurrection [Paperback]: Stephen T. Davis
Stephen Davis has been one of the top theistic philosophers for quite some time. This book covers a wide variety of topics such as the philosophical issues surrounding the resurrection. Davis provides a nice critique of naturalism and discusses some of the challenges of dualism and physicalism. I found the chapter on resurrection and judgment to be quite interesting.
7. The Resurrection of the Son of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God, Vol. 3) by N. T. Wright (Paperback – Apr 2003)
This was the third volume in N.T Wright’s work on Christian origins. Along with the Licona book, it is probably the most comprehensive book to date on the topic. Wright covers a wide variety of issues such as the worldview of the Second Temple Judaism period, the resurrection in Jewish thought (in the Bible and the extra-biblical Jewish literature). He has also provided a correction that has been long overdue in Christian discipleship/theology. Does everyone know going to heaven is not what resurrection is? Sadly, due to a lack of teaching on the resurrection, Wright points out that the average Christian assumes that that the final destination is to be in the intermediate state- the place that is called ” heaven.”
Hence, immortality is generally viewed as the immortality of the soul. Contrary to what many people think, salvation in the Bible is not the deliverance from the body, which is the prison of the soul. The believer’s final destination is not heaven, but it is the new heavens and new earth- complete with a resurrection body. In the final state, heaven including the New Jerusalem portrayed as a bride breaks into history and comes to the renewed, physical, earthly, existence (see Rev 21). This shows that God is interested in the renewal of creation- God cares about the physical realm.
Wright has been quoted elsewhere as saying the following:
“ If nothing happened to the body of Jesus, I cannot see why any of his explicit or implicit claims should be regarded as true. What is more, I cannot as a historian, see why anyone would have continued to belong to his movement and to regard him as the Messiah. There were several other Messianic or quasi-Messianic movements within a hundred years either side of Jesus. Routinely, they ended with the leader being killed by authorities, or by a rival group. If your Messiah is killed, you conclude that he was not the Messiah. Some of those movements continued to exist; where they did, they took a new leader from the same family (But note: Nobody ever said that James, the brother of Jesus, was the Messiah.) Such groups did not go around saying that their Messiah had been raised from the dead. What is more, I cannot make sense of the whole picture, historically or theologically, unless they were telling the truth.” (John Dominic Crossan and N.T Wright. The Resurrection of Jesus. Minneapolis, MN, Fortress Press. 2006, 71).
8. Resurrection Reconsidered – Paperback (Aug. 1, 1996) by Gavin D’Costa
This book contains a variety of essays on the resurrection. Some of them are written by skeptics and those who are of other religious backgrounds. One chapter that stands out is an essay written by Rabbi Dan Cohn-Sherbok. I saw Sherbok speak several years ago. What is interesting are his comments about why he doesn’t buy the resurrection story. He says:
“As a Jew and a rabbi, I would be convinced of Jesus’ resurrection, but I would set very high standards of what is required. It would not be enough to have subjective experiences of Jesus. If I heard voices or had a visionary experience of Jesus, this would not be enough.”
Sherbock goes on to say the only things that would convince him would be something that takes place in the public domain. Such an event would have to be witnessed by multitudes, photographed, recorded on video cameras, shown on television, and announced worldwide. The resurrection would have to be announced on CNN and world media.
With these expectations, I wonder how Sherbock even knows anything happened in the history of the Jewish people. None of the events in the Torah, etc, can meet these expectations that he has for the resurrection. So he sets an expectation level that will never be met. Oh well!
9.The Resurrection of Jesus: A Jewish Perspective by Pinchas Lapide and Wilhelm C. Linss (Paperback – Mar 31, 2002)
In contrast to Sherbok, the late Pinchas Lapide was an Orthodox Jewish scholar who did some significant work in Christian/Jewish relations. He came to think that the evidence for Jesus’ resurrection was quite compelling. He said,
”The resurrection of Jesus by Creator is a fact which indeed is withheld from objective science, photographers, and a conceptual proof, but not from believing scrutiny of history which more frequently leads to deeper insights. In other words: Without the Sinai experience-no Judaism; without the Easter experience-no Christianity. Both were Jewish faith experience whose radiating power, in a different way was meant for the world of nations.”
Lapide was so impressed by the creed of 1 Cor. 15, that he concluded that this “formula of faith may be considered as a statement of eyewitnesses.”
What is ironic is that Lapide thought Jesus was not the Messiah for the Jewish people. But he was resurrected for the sake of the Gentiles. He thinks it is part of God’s redemptive plan for the nations. Interesting indeed.
10. The Resurrection of Jesus: John Dominic Crossan And N.T. Wright in Dialogue by Robert B. Stewart (Jan 2006)
This book is an exchange between John Dominic Crossan and N. T. Wright on their different understandings of the historical reality and theological meaning of Jesus’ Resurrection. The book highlights points of agreement and disagreement between them and explores the many attendant issues.
This book brings two leading lights in Jesus studies together for a long-overdue conversation with one another and with significant scholars from other disciplines. The book also contains a series of responses to Wright and Crossan by scholars such as Robert Stewart, William Lane Craig, Craig Evans, R. Douglas Geivett, Gary Habermas, Ted Peters, Charles Quarles, and Alan Segal.
11. The Resurrection of the Messiah by Christopher Bryan
This is a book I have been reading through this summer. Bryan has been doing some excellent scholarship. This book is a combination of literary, historical, and theological approaches in a study of the doctrine of the Resurrection. Bryan does examine the sources for the resurrection. He also includes an appendix where he critiques John Crossan’s (of the Jesus Seminar) on whether the resurrection is “the Prophetization of History.”
Amazon gives the summary of the book here:
If the God of Israel has acted to save his people through Christ, but Israel is not participating in that salvation, how then can this God be considered righteous? Unlocking Romans is an intriguing study of Paul’s letter that is directed in large extent toward answering this question in order to illuminate the righteousness of God the book of Romans reveals. J. R. Daniel Kirk explains that this God is best understood not in abstractions, but in the particularity of Israel’s story. This story contextualizes the identity of God and the quality of Gods righteousness. The answer here, Kirk claims, comes mainly in terms of resurrection. Even if only the most obvious references in Romans are considered – and Kirk certainly delves more deeply than the obvious – the theme of resurrection still appears not only in every section of the letter, but also at climactic moments of Paul’s argument. The network of connections among Jesus resurrection, Israel’s Scriptures, and redefining the people of God, serves to affirm Gods fidelity to Israel. This, in turn, demonstrates Paul’s gospel message to be a witness to the revelation of the righteousness of God. Unlocking Romans is a clear and inviting theological study of what many consider the Bibles most theological book.
This is an excellent short little book by one of the most influential New Testament theologians of the last century. It can be read in about an hour.
This book features a series of essays on the resurrection. Some of essays present some objections to the resurrection which can be helpful for all of us who are in the apologetic endeavor. One of my favorite essays is written by Richard Bauckham.
The Amazon review says:
A team of scientists and theologians from both sides of the Atlantic explore the Christian concept of bodily resurrection in light of the views of contemporary science. Whether it be the Easter resurrection of Jesus or the promised new life of individual believers, the authors argue that resurrection must be conceived as “embodied” and that our bodies cannot exist apart from their worldly environment. Yet nothing in today’s scientific disciplines supports the possibility of either bodily resurrection or the new creation of the universe at large. Bridging such disciplines as physics, biology, neuroscience, philosophy, biblical studies, and theology, Resurrection offers fascinating reading to anyone interested in this vital Christian belief or in the intersection of faith and scientific thought.
I think all apologists should read Holding’s work. Why? Because he is one of the most well known internet apologists and he has dealt with the majority of junk arguments on the internet. He also has had plenty of online debates and a public debate with Richard Carrier.