2 Must-Read Books on the Resurrection of Jesus
In our five-part Evidence for the Resurrection series, we build a historical case for Jesus’ bodily resurrection from the dead three days following his crucifixion. If you read this series, you find that there is a plethora of historical evidence for the resurrection, along with various issues of historical, methodological, and philosophical significance to consider. (View each part here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5.)
The series is meant to be a primer on the resurrection – it is enough to gain a basic understanding of the evidence and talk about the resurrection in an informative way. At the same time, the resurrection of Jesus is a deep and multifaceted area of study, and it is worthwhile to go deeper in our study of it.
In that vein, featured below are brief reviews of two must-read books on the resurrection of Jesus. We highly recommend that you check them out in order to expand your understanding of the event that changed the world.
1. The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus – Gary Habermas and Michael Licona
Gary Habermas and Michael Licona are two of the foremost historians on the resurrection today and The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus is their collaborative, comprehensive treatment of the topic. It begins by explaining historical methodology for those who are unfamiliar, and then builds a case using the minimal facts approach. This approach uses historical evidence to establish facts about Jesus that are accepted by the majority of scholars who study the subject, even including the most skeptical ones.
Habermas and Licona continue their case by considering various hypotheses to explain these facts, arguing that the hypothesis that God raised Jesus from the dead is clearly the best explanation. Finally, they fortify their case by responding to various objections likely to be raised by skeptics in the context of the resurrection, but which fail to disprove the resurrection itself.
Overall this book presents a persuasive case for the resurrection, but what really sets this book apart is its design as a teaching resource. It is accessible for those who come in with no previous knowledge of the issues. Moreover, it is specifically designed as a training resource to equip Christians to defend the resurrection when sharing their faith with non-Christians. The book therefore includes acronyms and mnemonic devices to help readers remember the arguments and evidence, chapters on how to share the resurrection evidence in conversation, and even comes with a DVD resource with an interactive game quiz.
We highly recommend The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus for anyone who wants to learn about the resurrection, but we especially recommend it for those who consider themselves beginners or want to learn how to talk about the resurrection in evangelism.
2. Reasonable Faith – William Lane Craig
William Lane Craig is one of the most prominent living Christian apologists and philosophers today, and Reasonable Faith represents his seminal comprehensive apologetics resource. In this book he presents a cumulative case for Christian theism, first defending five arguments for the existence of God, and then taking the last half of the book to defend the notion that this God revealed himself to the world through Jesus Christ, and did so most emphatically by raising Jesus from the dead.
Craig’s work on the resurrection stemmed out of his doctorate work in theology at the University of Munich, and is so expansive that it has been featured in many other books, websites, videos, and college debates and lectures. The roughly 200 pages in Reasonable Faith devoted to the resurrection is likewise careful, scholarly, and highly detailed.
Before discussing the resurrection itself, Craig spends a chapter discussing the question of how we can have historical knowledge at all, given the scarcity of evidence we sometimes have, the biased nature of such evidence, and temporal distance between the events themselves and our present time, among other issues. He then spends another chapter discussing the issue of how we could ever verify that a miracle occurred in history.
After arguing that such issues do not prevent our ability in principle to infer that a miracle occurred in history, he moves on discuss Jesus more directly. But before focusing on the evidence for the resurrection itself, Craig spends yet another chapter discussing another background or preliminary issue, this time discussing Jesus’ radical self-understanding of himself as the divine Jewish Messiah. Proving that Jesus really understood himself this way, Craig notes, is important as it establishes the proper historical and religious context for understanding the resurrection as God’s vindication of Jesus – that is, God’s confirmation that Jesus really is who he claimed to be.
Following this, Craig offers a 70-page defense of the historical evidence concerning the events after Jesus’ death – such as the empty tomb, the disciples’ experiences of Jesus appearing to them alive after his death, and the formation of strong and sincere beliefs by the disciples that Jesus had risen – and arguing that these are best explained by the resurrection hypothesis.
Craig’s defense of the resurrection of Jesus is substantial and persuasive, but what sets Reasonable Faith apart as a resurrection resource is its surrounding material on historical methodology, the defense of miracles, and Jesus’ radical self-understanding, all on top of arguments for the existence of God. This other evidence supplements Craig’s detailed defense of the resurrection by placing such a defense in the context of a powerful cumulative case for Christian theism.
We highly recommend Reasonable Faith for anyone interested in the resurrection, but we especially recommend it for more advanced thinkers who want highly detailed discussion of the evidence, along with those who are interested in a prominent and persuasive cumulative case for Christianity.
Why not read them both?
Regardless of your degree of interest or background knowledge regarding a historical case for Jesus’ resurrection, either of these books will provide something enriching for you. Additionally, we think you will find that your understanding of the resurrection will be expanded all the more if you read both of them together, starting first will The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus and then moving on to Reasonable Faith.
You can find book of these books on Amazon (where they are likely to be cheapest) by clicking the text links and images above.
Feel free to leave any thoughts, questions, or other suggestions you have in the comments section below!