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 55)
Baltimore, Maryland
Residence Cumming, GA
Nationality American
Education BA (1983), MA (2000), PhD (2009)
Alma mater University of Pretoria
Liberty University
Employer Houston Baptist University.
Religion Christianity
Spouse(s) Debbie Licona
Children 2
Website Risen Jesus

Michael R. 'Mike' Licona (born July 17, 1961)[1] is an American New Testament scholar, Christian apologist and historian. He is Associate Professor in Theology at Houston Baptist University and the director of Risen Jesus, Inc. Licona specializes in the Resurrection of Jesus, and in the literary analysis of the Gospels as Greco-Roman biographies.

Interview with Brian Marshall at the Christian Student Fellowship at the University of Kentucky.


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 in music performance (saxophone). He is 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 has been endorsed by many prominent New Testament scholars and historians.[4][5][6] 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.[7] He appeared in the DVD version of The Case for Christ and was one of the scholars interviewed in Strobel’s book The Case for the Real Jesus.[8] Licona also appears in a documentary film that was released February 2015 titled "Mining for God" which deals with how Christianity is often misrepresented and misunderstood in modern western culture.


Gospel differences[edit]

Licona’s present research concerns why there are differences in the Gospels. Like the majority of contemporary scholars, Licona views the Gospels as belonging to the genre of ancient biography and contends they are best interpreted with this in mind, since ancient biographies were written with slightly different rules than those used with modern biographies. Licona’s research focuses on identifying biographical devices employed by Plutarch and asking whether these can account for the differences one observes when comparing stories about Jesus that appear in two or more of the canonical Gospels.[9]

Historical case for Jesus' resurrection[edit]

Licona’s doctoral research concerned investigating Jesus’s resurrection using the methodology of a historian. He states that almost all scholars writing on the subject of Jesus’s resurrection are biblical scholars and philosophers, and virtually none of them have any training in matters pertaining to the philosophy of history and the historical method of comparing hypotheses.[10] Licona contributes a primer on these subjects and applies his findings to the question of whether Jesus had actually risen from the dead in his book The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach. This volume is 718 pages in length and is documented with more than 2,000 footnotes.[11]

Matthew 27 controversy[edit]

In a passage in his 2010 book, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach, 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.[12] 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.[13] 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).[14] 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.[15] In a round table discussion on the issue, Craig Blomberg urged that another educational institute of similar prestige offer him a teaching role.[16] Licona was hired shortly afterward by Houston Baptist University.[17]


In the course of the controversy over the raised saints in the Gospel of Matthew, Evangelicals such as Norman Geisler and Albert Mohler have questioned whether Licona is moving away from his evangelical views and is headed in a similar path traveled by the agnostic New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman.[18] Licona’s approach seems to provide fodder for his critics. While asserting his belief in the divine authority of the Bible and even its inerrancy, he claims he cannot presuppose these beliefs while engaged in historical research. He also claims the doctrine of biblical inerrancy is not a doctrine fundamental to the Christian faith. In a radio exchange with Bart Ehrman, Licona said that if Jesus actually rose from the dead, Christianity is true even if it were also true that some things in the Bible were not.[19] Licona noted what he saw as several problems with the argument for inerrancy provided by Norman Geisler.[20]

Personal life[edit]

Licona is married to Debbie and has two children; a daughter Allie and a son Zach. Licona's son-in-law Nick Peters is a Christian apologist who blogs on a regular basis[21] and has a weekly podcast called Deeper Waters.[22]

Debates and dialogues[edit]

  • Fales, Evan (atheist) (2014-06-24), Can historians investigate miracle claims?, St. Paul, MN: University of St. Thomas , and Did Jesus rise from the dead? .
  • Dale, Martin (October 19, 2012), Did Jesus Think He was Divine?, Acadia Divinity College .
  • ——— (October 18, 2012), Did Jesus Rise Physically from the Dead?, Saint Mary's University .
  • Cavin, Greg (Jul 2012), Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?, Antioch Church .
  • Puckett, Shane (Agnostic) (Jan 2012), Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?, West Monroe Baptist Church .
  • Ismail, Yusuf (Muslim) (Sep 2011), What was the 1st century fate of Jesus, ZA: University of Potchefstroom .
  • Patterson, Stephen (Jesus Seminar) (Mar 2010), Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?, Florida State University .
  • Carrier, Richard (Atheist) (Feb 2010), Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?, Washburn University .
  • Ehrman, Bart (Agnostic) (April 2009), Can Historians Prove that Jesus Rose from the Dead?, Southern Evangelical Seminary .
  • "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)". 
  • Pagels, Elaine (Feb 2005), "The Gospel of Thomas", Faith Under Fire 
  • Ally, Shabir (Muslim) (Nov 2004), "Who was Jesus: Divine or Prophet?", Faith Under Fire 
  • Carrier, Richard (Apr 2004), Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?, UCLA 
  • Ally, Shabir (Muslim) (Mar 2004), Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?, Regent University 
  • Barker, Dan (Atheist) (Apr 2003), Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?, Madison: The University of Wisconsin 


  • 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. ASIN B00126UFDS. 


  1. ^ U.S. Public Records Index Vol 1 (Provo, UT: Ancestry.com), 2010.
  2. ^ "Michael Licona Interview". The Best Schools. 2012-05-02. Retrieved 10 April 2014. 
  3. ^ "About Taekwondo". Taekwondo club. 
  4. ^ "The Resurrection of Jesus". InterVarsity Press. Retrieved 15 April 2014. 
  5. ^ Beasley-Murray, Paul (2011). "The resurrection of Jesus: a new historiographical approach". Evangelical Quarterly. 83 (3): 274–75. 
  6. ^ Quarles, Charles (2011). "The resurrection of Jesus: a new historiographical approach". Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society. 54 (4): 839–44. 
  7. ^ "Faith Under Fire: Michael Licona and Elaine Pagels". You tube. Google. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  8. ^ "Faculty Page". Houston Baptist University. Retrieved 1 August 2014. 
  9. ^ "Why Are There Differences in the Gospels" (You tube) (video). Google. Retrieved 29 June 2014. 
  10. ^ Licona, Michael R. (2010). The resurrection of Jesus : a new historiographical approach (2nd print. ed.). Downers Grove, Ill.: IVP Academic. pp. 611–612. ISBN 0830827196. 
  11. ^ Anderson, Garwood. "Review Essay". Academia. Retrieved 31 July 2014. 
  12. ^ "A Roundtable Discussion with Michael Licona on The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach" (PDF). Southeastern Theological Review. 3 (1): 71–98. 2012. Retrieved 28 August 2014. 
  13. ^ Geisler, Norman, Mike Licona inerrancy worse .
  14. ^ "Interpretation sparks Theology debate", Christianity today, Nov 2011 .
  15. ^ Michael Licona response to Norm Geisler (World wide web log) (press release), Reclaiming the mind, Sep 2011 .
  16. ^ "A Roundtable discussion with Michael Licona" (PDF). Risen Jesus. Retrieved 29 June 2014. 
  17. ^ Erin, Roach (Feb 13, 2013). "HBU's Licona addresses Bible's 'contradictions'". 
  18. ^ Mohler, Albert. "Biblical Inerrancy and the Licona Controversy". The Christian Post. Retrieved 29 June 2014. 
  19. ^ "Bart Ehrman & Mike Licona Discuss Decisions". Risen Jesus. Retrieved 29 June 2014. 
  20. ^ "On Chicago's Muddy Waters". Risen Jesus. Retrieved 29 June 2014. 
  21. ^ Peters, Nick. "Deeper Waters". Word press. Retrieved 3 July 2014. 
  22. ^ Peters, Nick. "Deeper Waters Podcast". Deeper Waters. Word press. Retrieved 3 July 2014. 

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