Michael R. Licona

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Michael R. Licona
Michael R. Licona.jpg
Born Michael R. Licona
(1961-07-17) July 17, 1961 (age 52)
Baltimore, Maryland
Residence Cumming, GA
Nationality American
Education BA (1983), MA (2000), PhD (2009)
Alma mater Liberty University
University of Pretoria
Employer Houston Baptist University.
Spouse(s) Debbie Licona
Children 2

Michael R. 'Mike' Licona (born July 17, 1961)[1] is an American New Testament scholar and historian. Associate Professor in Theology at Houston Baptist University, and the director of Risen Jesus, Inc. Licona specializes in defending the Resurrection of Jesus.


Licona was raised in a Christian family, and became a Christian at age 10. When he entered Liberty University, he wanted to go into the ministry as a musician, and obtained an undergraduate degree is in music performance (saxophone). He is are also an accomplished martial artist, having studied under Sang Ki Eun, and Robert Fujimura,[2] the latter having been Executive Director of the United States Taekwondo Union.[3]

Licona completed his Ph.D. in New Testament Studies (University of Pretoria) which he completed "with distinction" and the highest mark as well as an M.A. in Religious Studies from Liberty University. He was the Apologetics Coordinator at the North American Mission Board (Southern Baptist Convention) through 2011. His book The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach is considered one of the top authoritative treatments on the subject, having been endorsed by many prominent scholars.[4] He has also lectured on more than 70 university campuses throughout North America and appeared on numerous television and radio programs, including Faith Under Fire, The Case for the Real Jesus, and The Case for Christ.


The Da Vinci Code[edit]

Licona believes that the Da Vinci Code movie was helpful for Christian evangelism.[5] He also argues that Dan Brown's attacks on the Bible's reliability are easily refuted. Brown provides two strands of evidence from the Gospel of Phillip, which is a Gnostic gospel dated to the late second century at the earliest, and whose lone manuscript is dated to the fourth century and, due to a number of holes in it, words are missing. Brown's version reconstructs the text, adding words that are not in the manuscript, and interpreting the word for "companion" differently than its normal translation as "friend" or "colleague."[6]

Talpiot Tomb[edit]

Licona states that as an ancient historian, he finds numerous problems with the hypothesis that the Talpiot tomb was the resting place of Jesus. He argues that first, it is in the wrong location. Family members were normally buried in their hometowns. In Jesus’ case, this would be Galilee, not Jerusalem. So if Jesus was not resurrected, we should be looking for his ossuary in Galilee. According to tradition that goes back to the 6th century, there are two possible sites for Mary’s burial in Jerusalem, and the Talpiot tomb isn't one of them. Second, the list of names is unimpressive. Of nearly 1,000 ossuaries that have been discovered in Jerusalem, at least 22 have the name “Jesus” inscribed on them and two have “Jesus, son of Joseph.” There is also no evidence in the Bible or in church tradition of Jesus having any relatives named Matthew. Licona notes that in a debate with Elaine Pagels, she mentioned that Brown is perhaps the only person in the world who believes that Jesus and Mary Magdalene were married. Finally, the DNA evidence establishes little. At best, it only links possible familial relationships between those in the Talpiot tomb. It cannot even suggest that the remains belong to the family of Jesus of Nazareth. Licona concludes: "When the Talpiot tomb hypothesis is weighed on the historian’s scale, a few beans may be placed on the side in its favor while a brick of historical evidence is placed gently on the side against it. The tip of the scale that follows is not a gentle one."[7]

Culture War[edit]

Licona finds it objectionable that modern public schools teach that humanity is the result of nothing more than naturalistic evolutionary changes over hundreds of millions of years. He argues that the discussion of naturalistic evolution pertaining to the origin of humankind is not necessarily a battle between science and religion, but is instead a culture war. He says modern scientists are not engaging in science when stating dogmatically that naturalistic evolution is a conclusion beyond debate. Such a statement is merely their secular philosophy using a lab coat to disguise itself and asserting that if a life form looks like design, walks like design and quacks like design, it must be random processes in disguise.

He states that there are actually good reasons for holding that life is the byproduct of an intelligent Designer. Astronomy supports the idea that the universe which was created out of nothing and delicately balanced to provide exactly the conditions required to support life. In the absence of an absurdly-improbable accident, the observations of modern science seem to suggest an underlying plan. Similarly, he argues that the origin of life appears to be almost a miracle, given the number of conditions which would have to be satisfied to get it going.[8]

Gospel Differences[edit]

Licona mentions that the argument that the Gospels contain contradictions is not as forceful as people like Bart Ehrman argue. He mentions that the survivors of the Titanic had contradictory testimonies, some arguing that the ship broke in half, and others arguing that the ship sank whole. He argues that even given this, a biblical scholar will have no trouble harmonizing the minor differences in the accounts.[9]

Matthew 27 controversy[edit]

In a passage in his 2010 book, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, Michael Licona questioned the interpretation of the story of the resurrection of the saints in Matthew 27, and suggested the possibility that it might be apocalyptic imagery. This led to controversy with fellow Evangelical scholars Norman Geisler and Albert Mohler, who both accused Licona of denying the full inerrancy of the Bible in general and the gospel narratives in particular.[10] Licona maintained that adjusting an interpretation on a text is not a denial of inerrancy. In the course of events, Licona resigned in 2011 from his position as research professor at Southern Evangelical Seminary and as apologetics coordinator for the North American Mission Board (NAMB).[11] Other Evangelical scholars such as William Lane Craig, J.P. Moreland, and Gary Habermas voiced their support for Licona by signing an open letter to Geisler.[12] In a round table discussion on the issue, Craig Blomberg urged that another educational institute of similar prestige offer him a teaching role.[13] Licona was hired shortly afterward by Houston Baptist University.[14]

Personal life[edit]

Licona is married to Debbie and has two children; a daughter Allie and a son Zach.

Debates and dialogues[edit]

  • "Dale Martin at Acadia Divinity College, "Did Jesus Think He was Divine?" (October 19, 2012)". 
  • "Dale Martin at Saint Mary's University, "Did Jesus Rise Physically from the Dead?" (October 18, 2012)". 
  • "Greg Cavin at Antioch Church, "Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?" (July, 2012)". 
  • "Shane Puckett (Agnostic) at West Monroe Baptist Church, "Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?" (January, 2012)". 
  • "Yusuf Ismail (Muslim) at the University of Potchefstroom,(South Africa), "What was the 1st century fate of Jesus" (September 2011)". 
  • "Stephen Patterson (Jesus Seminar) at Florida State University, “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” (March, 2010)". 
  • "Richard Carrier (Atheist) at Washburn University, “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” (February, 2010)". 
  • "Bart Ehrman (Agnostic) at Southern Evangelical Seminary, “Can Historians Prove that Jesus Rose from the Dead?” (April, 2009)". 
  • "Bart Ehrman (Agnostic) at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, “Can Historians Prove that Jesus Rose from the Dead?” (February, 2008)". 
  • "Ali Ataie (Muslim) at the University of California (Davis), “What was the First Century Fate of Jesus?” (November, 2006)". 
  • "Steve Yothment (Atheist) at the University of Georgia, “Resolution: God Created Man” (March, 2006)". 
  • "Elaine Pagels on Ron Insana Show, “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” (April, 2005)". 
  • "Elaine Pagels on Faith Under Fire, “The Gospel of Thomas” (February, 2005)". 
  • "Shabir Ally (Muslim) on Faith Under Fire, “Who was Jesus: Divine or Prophet?” (November, 2004)". 
  • "Richard Carrier (Atheist) at UCLA, “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” (April, 2004)". 
  • "Shabir Ally (Muslim) at Regent University, “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” (March, 2004)". 
  • "Dan Barker (Atheist) at the University of Wisconsin (Madison), “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” (April, 2003)". 


  • The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach. IVP Academic. 2010. ISBN 978-0-8308-2719-0. 
  • Dembski, William, ed. (2010). Evidence for God: 50 Arguments for Faith from the Bible, History, Philosophy & Science. Baker Academic. ISBN 978-0-8010-7260-4. 
  • Paul Meets Muhammad: A Christian-Muslim Debate on the Resurrection. Baker Academic. 2006. ISBN 978-0-8010-6602-3. 
  • Licona, Michael; Habermas, Gary (2004). The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus. Kregel. ISBN 978-0-8254-2788-6. 
  • Behold, I Stand At the Door and Knock: What to Say to Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses When They Knock on Your Door. Truth Quest Publishers. 1998.  AISN: B00126UFDS


  1. ^ U.S. Public Records Index Vol 1 (Provo, UT: Ancestry.com Operations, Inc.), 2010.
  2. ^ "Michael Licona Interview". The Best Schools. Retrieved 10 April 2014. 
  3. ^ "About Taekwondo". 
  4. ^ "The Resurrection of Jesus". InterVarsity Press. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  5. ^ Licona, Michael R. (May 16, 2006). Baptist Press. 
  6. ^ Licona, Michael R. (May 15, 2006). "Was Jesus married?". Baptist Press. 
  7. ^ Licona, Michael R. (Feb 27, 2007). "Has the family tomb of Jesus been found?". Baptist Press. 
  8. ^ Licona, Michael R. (Feb 12, 2009). "Darwin at 200: Academic Fascism". Baptist Press. 
  9. ^ Licona, Michael (Sep 17, 2009). The problem of differences: Do the Gospels contradict one another?. 
  10. ^ http://normangeisler.net/public_html/MikeLiconaonInerrancyWorse.html
  11. ^ http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/november/interpretation-sparks-theology-debate.html
  12. ^ http://www.reclaimingthemind.org/blog/2011/09/press-release-michael-licona-response-to-norm-geisler/
  13. ^ http://www.risenjesus.com/images/stories/pdfs/a%20roundtable%20discussion%20with%20michael%20licona%20on%20the%20resurrection%20of%20jesus.pdf
  14. ^ Erin, Roach (Feb 13, 2013). "HBU's Licona addresses Bible's 'contradictions'". 

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