Editor’s Note: I am currently blogging through my book Easter: Fact or Fiction, 20 Reasons to Believe Jesus Rose from the Dead. That book is available on Amazon by clicking the picture or link below. Please check it out! (Scroll down for links to the other parts to this post) (CLICK HERE FOR THE AMAZON LINK)
Chapter 17: Minimal Facts Argument:
“Habermas lists twelve facts that he claims the majority of scholars regard as historical. From these he developed a “minimal facts” approach in which he selects only four to six of the twelve facts and builds a historical case for the resurrection based only on these. Over time his approach has changed, and his present contention is that the hypothesis that Jesus rose from the dead can be demonstrated to be superior to the others if one were to use only those facts that the vast majority of contemporary scholars grant as historical. Though his lists have varied, Habermas maintains that the following three facts pertaining to the fate of Jesus are granted as historical by a nearly universal consensus of scholars writing on the subject since 1975.”
Dr. Michael Licona
Gary Habermas is a professor and resurrection expert who has earned a Ph.D. in Philosophy (from Michigan State) and is a bestselling author and noted debater. Of all of the dozens of professors I’ve ever had, Dr. Habermas is in the top 3 – maybe the best. He is engaging and interesting as a speaker, but is also very genuine and warm. I still remember crying in class as he told us about his first wife’s battle with cancer, and ultimate slow and painful death. He had been an expert on the resurrection of Jesus prior to slowly watching his wife die, but the reality of the resurrection, and the hope it provided, became clearer and more tangible in the aftermath of that great tragedy.
In his writing, debating, and teaching, Dr. Habermas utilizes an apologetics approach that he has dubbed the “Minimal Facts Argument,” which seeks to make the case that it is historically likely that Jesus rose from the dead. From his research Habermas has been able to show that of the 3,400 works that he studied, the majority of scholars (Christian, liberal, atheist and otherwise) accept the following 12 events as historical fact:
*Jesus died by crucifixion.
*Jesus was buried.
*His death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope, believing that his life was ended.
*The tomb was empty a few days later.
*The disciples had experiences that they believed were literal appearances of the risen Jesus.
*The disciples were transformed from doubters who were afraid to identify themselves with Jesus to bold proclaimers of His death and Resurrection.
*This message was the center of preaching in the early church.
*This message was especially proclaimed in Jerusalem, where *Jesus died and was buried shortly before.
*The church was born in Jerusalem and grew rapidly.
*Orthodox Jews who believed in Jesus made Sunday their primary day of worship.
*James, the half-brother of Jesus, converted to the faith when he saw what he believed was the resurrected Jesus.
*Paul was converted to the faith after his experience which he believed was with the risen Jesus.
From these “minimal facts,” Habermas believes it is not difficult to show the reasonableness of a belief in the resurrection. The key here with the Habermas approach is that he has compiled a data set featuring the opinions of over 3,400 scholars on the above issues, so that when he mentions that a majority of them believe each point of the Minimal Facts Argument, he means that literally and mathematically. While this argument does not prove the resurrection, it does paint a picture of several agreed upon and remarkable facts, which, when taken together, seem to demonstrate the occurrence of something extraordinary on the first Easter Sunday. Whether you are a skeptic or a Christian who wants more information, you should be pleased to know that Dr. Habermas has a lot of excellent free material on the Minimal Facts Argument (and other resurrection related issues) on his website, www.GaryHabermas.com
 Michael R. Licona, The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach (Downers Grove, IL; Nottingham, England: IVP Academic; Apollos, 2010), 463.
Links to the other 20 posts in this series (20 Reasons To Believe Jesus Rose from the Dead)