Gerd Lüdemann's Homepage
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© ACE Weekly 4. April 2002
Last week's cover story sparked such a voluminous response - and
dialogue - that we've elected to provide space for this week's cover
story to address the commentary. The content does not necessarily
reflect the editorial views of Ace (any more than last week's cover),
and is not intended to represent the entirety of the extensive reader
response. It is intended to constitute a representative sampling.
...Submitted by David Fitts
Did Jesus really "resurrect" from the dead? Did Jesus
For some, the answers are a matter of faith. For others, it is a
question of scientific/historic investigation. Without a doubt, the
Christian religion has been tinkered with over these past 2 millennia.
The enduring question of who or what we are still remains. Is it
possible to answer these questions?
Great teachers and philosophers have attempted to answer these
questions, with religions sometimes formed in the wake of the legacy.
Sidhartha Gatauma, commonly referred to as "the Buddha," may
have been more of a philosopher than a prophet, as his teachings
decidedly veered out of what is commonly accepted as the basis of
religion. Take, for instance, the following quote: "Believe
nothing, o monks, merely because you have been told it...or because it
is traditional, or because you yourselves have imagined it. Do not
believe what your teacher tells you merely out of respect for the
teacher. But whatsoever, after due examination and analysis, you find
to be conducive to the good, the benefit, the welfare of all
beings-that doctrine believe and cling to, and take it as your
So, apparently, we are left to our own devices, our own experience
in determining the nature of reality. One of the greatest Catholic
minds of modern times, Thomas Merton, recognized that the dynamic of
faith crossed the religious lines of belief.
He explored Buddhism, meeting with the Dalai Lama in an effort to
understand a different faith. He did so while rooted firmly in the
strength of his own faith.
Medical science has begun to acknowledge the power of faith and
prayer in healing. This dynamic doesn't seem to operate on ideological
lines at all. It doesn't matter if you're Christian, Muslim, Jewish,
Hindu, Buddhist or Pagan, if one's faith is sufficient, even a
terminal disease can be reversed.
The Buddha also said that the mind was the source of both
happiness and suffering. And, as "miracle" healing
demonstrates, the mind (or simply 'mind') is far more powerful than we
have here to fore recognized. The renowned Polish psychic, Wolf
Messing, discovered under duress that he had the ability to cast his
thoughts into the minds of others. This realization allowed Messing to
escape his Gestapo interrogators and make his way into the Soviet
Union. Scientists there verified this amazing ability, as well as
others. Messing would have gone to Siberia with the rest of the war
refugees of Europe, but he was able to demonstrate his ability to
What does this power of mind have to do with religious teachings?
Recognition of 'mind' is the basis of many teachings and religions.
Created in the image of God, does this make us small 'creators?'
Certainly we hold that art/music can be held up as examples of our
ability to create. But many of the teachings also draw a stark
distinction between 'mind' and ego.
While it is recognized that we can have uniqueness as individuals,
our egos can reek havoc on our experience of life and how we relate to
others. Hence, many of the teachings were designed to have followers
recognize the difference between ego based motivation and that of
'higher mind' or God.
It seems that many of the great teachers have admonished their
followers to not turn the teachings into a personality cult. If we do
this, we have missed the point. Alas, the work to be done is first and
foremost an "inside job." We must "know
ourselves." And as the great Zen writer, Alan Watts said:
"When you confer spiritual authority on another person, you must
realize that you are allowing them to pick your pocket and sell you
your own watch."
So, in looking at the question: "Did Jesus resurrect?"
really matter? Or does the message of love and peace, prevalent in the
New Testament, matter more? The message (or symbolism) of the
resurrection may be a message of life eternal and that what is
apparently so (death) is not as it may seem. The notion of practice of
peace and love, however, can be verified in the here and now by how we
relate to others. It's an inside job, with verification through our
relatedness to others.
Clearly, the ego is much more comfortable operating in the
"domination and control" paradigm that is the cornerstone of
many cultures, including ours. It seems apparent that the Christian
message of peace and love is in direct conflict with the paradigm of
"dominate and control." If you are truly
"Christian," how do you resist playing the game of
"dominate and control?" This question certainly plays out in
other religions too, with differences in interpretation, but with the
common thread of the ego based "dominate and control"
paradigm. This may explain why, when the prophets, avatars, wise ones,
come and impart information, this information is soon
distorted/co-opted to fit the existing paradigm. In effect, the words
of wisdom are twisted into a logic used to justify the existing
dominant paradigm. The focus moves decidedly toward belief (making it
about the 'personality' of the bringer) and away from the original
practice (we individuals getting a handle on who we are as egos and
how this effects our relatedness to one another).
A large component of faith is the belief in something that can't
be verified through rational means. Hence belief in the
"Resurrection." I have noticed that people claiming to be
"Christian" find it fairly easy to diverge from the message
of love, peace and non-violence. As long as you believe in the
Resurrection, it's okay to "smite thy neighbor." Is this
'human nature' or simply a dynamic of the "domination and
The ultimate actions of a human being are recognizing who we are
in the here and now; to demonstrate the willingness to question and
investigate our beliefs; and, after due diligence, changing what
doesn't work. Anything short of this might be termed
"insanity" or certainly less than fully human.
How do we as people, find a way to honor who we are as
individuals, to allow for individual differences without wounding,
maiming, or killing in the process? I'll leave you with the words of
the 14th century Sufi poet, Hafiz:
"The great religions are the ships, poets the lifeboats.
Every sane person I know is jumping overboard.
This is good for business, Hafiz!"
Submitted by Jim Gorham:
I can distinctly remember hearing for the first time such theories
regarding the Resurrection of Jesus as espoused by the distinguished
professor Gerd Lüdemann. Being a man of faith I must admit I found
them somewhat unnerving and a bit intimidating as they seemed to come
from men of great learning and distinction. Was my faith in Jesus and
the Resurrection something akin to belief in the tooth fairy? If I
were exposed to all the relevant data would I reluctantly be forced to
admit that skeptics such as Lüdemann were right? Does the
institutional church attempt to silence such men, knowing full well
that traditional beliefs have no answer to these learned critical
thinkers? For me these were all serious questions for which I needed
serious answers. And after years of study and a masters degree in
theology, I can say with confidence that I've gotten solid answers to
those questions. Allow me to summarize my conclusions:
There's nothing new about these learned critical theories; they've
been around for centuries. The reason they've not caught on has
nothing to do with a conspiracy of silence by church authorities who
know the critics have a point. On the contrary, once one is aware of
the relevant facts, these critical theories are decisively refuted.
There's a core of details surrounding the Resurrection story that
theologians of all philosophical persuasion consider to be knowable
history, far beyond any reasonable doubt. To suggest as Mr. Lüdemann
has, that the disciples suffered from some hallucination of the risen
Christ flies in the face of such core historical knowledge. Consider
the scholarly consensus that Jesus was buried in a tomb, and the tomb
was in fact empty on that first Easter morning. This simple fact
renders the hallucination theory impotent and the reason is fairly
simple. If the hallucination theory were correct, then the body of
Jesus was still lying in a tomb, the location of which was well known
to the authorities and the disciples. Thus the authorities' refutation
of the disciples alleged hallucination would be as simple as removing
Jesus' body and publicly displaying it. The fact they didn't is
compelling evidence the body was missing. So maybe the disciples stole
the body? Not likely. Why would the disciples risk life and limb
preaching the resurrection of Jesus, when all the while they possessed
his rotting corpse? Is it possible that some third party stole the
body? Again not likely, given the white hot atmosphere surrounding the
execution of Jesus, and his public prediction of his own resurrection.
The gospel story of the Roman seal and guards being placed at the tomb
has to be regarded as very credible. No uninterested third party is
going to risk his life over what would amount to a prank.
Additionally, it takes no small stretch of the imagination to believe
the witnesses had the same hallucination over a 40 day period! Until
Mr. Lüdemann comes up with a credible explanation for what happened to
the body of Jesus, his theory will forever be consigned to the ash
heap with the other implausible theories which collapse under critical
Elsewhere, Lüdemann argues that much of what the New Testament
proposes was not the original message, but may have been tagged on by
later generations of believers. Again the facts refute him. A study of
early church history reveals a tenacious adherence to the undefiled
message of Christ. Any hint of innovation was rebuked by the leaders
in the strongest possible terms. To suggest that all kinds of pious
legends regarding what Jesus said and did could easily make their way
into the accepted message of the early church is naive at best.
Additionally, scholars have conclusively shown the major tenets of the
faith had already been cemented within two to five years of the
crucifixion. This is deduced from Paul's letter to the Corinthians
about the year 50 AD. Here and elsewhere the apostle gives us the
basic tenets of the Christian faith in creedal form (I Corinthians
15:3 - 8). Thus, as scholars assure us, these early creeds enshrine
beliefs that would obviously have to be dated much earlier, going back
to within a couple of years of the Resurrection itself. Creeds simply
don't develop overnight!
To those who hold to a belief in the traditional message of
Christianity, you can rest assured your beliefs are well-founded and
utterly rational. There's no need to feel intimidated by the views of
men such as Lüdemann. In fact I would urge you to confront the issues
he raises by your own historical research. It will only tend to
strengthen your faith. To those who are persuaded by the scholarship
of Lüdemann and others like him such as the Jesus Seminar, I would
counsel you to read a good critique of their work by other competent
scholars. You may then well understand why their work is not
considered credible by the majority of biblical scholars.
Submitted by Chaplain Christopher Platt
This is almost too much fun!
I penned a "Counterpoint" critical of Gerd (the Absurd)
Lüdemann and was accused of "betraying the liberal agenda."
My agenda is NOT that easily classified. Does it get any better than
this? I submit that it does not.
Lüdeman, back in the 90s, acknowledged that the Resurrection of
Jesus is essential to the Christian faith. He came to refer to the
Resurrection as the "Great Deception" and read the Last
Rites not only over the dead-as-a-doornail body of Jesus but over the
entirety of Christianity as well.
Why in the world does he want to teach in a Protestant seminary?
Lüdemann the historian apparently does not understand that his
views are nothing new. The Gnostics agreed with him 2,000 years ago.
The 150 year old "Quest for the Historical Jesus" is
"raging against the dying of the light" as it undergoes its
own death throes. Lüdemann, the "Jesus Seminar," and
millions of undergraduate philosophy majors notwithstanding, nothing
new is being written in this field.
Six years ago a cover story entitled 'Rethinking the Resurrection'
appeared in Newsweek. It concluded that "...apart from what is
found in Scripture, there is little that one can say about the
identity of Jesus. Like Socrates, Jesus is inscribed in the words of
those who wrote about him. And all of them proclaimed his Resurrection
from the dead."
As a person who applauds freedom of speech and the separation of
church and state, I defend Lüdemann's right to write whatever he
pleases. I am not forced to read it. If I do read it, I am not forced
to agree with it. This stance is peculiar to just a few nations,
including the United States of America. Lüdemann, of the University of
Gottingen in Germany, is attempting to apply this nation's standards
to another nation. The Lutheran Church is the Church of Germany. The
church-state consortium does not approve of Lüdemann as a seminary
The German courts have twice declared that this is their right.
One last point: From a literary and academic perspective, this
brouhaha has elevated Lüdemann to a position of prominence which he
does not deserve. Both John Shelby Spong (an Episcopal bishop) and
John Dominic Crossan are much better writers than Lüdemann and all
three are writing about the same things.
© ACE Weekly 4. April 2002