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Die Intoleranz des Evangeliums
Selected Texts from the New Testament
Prometheus Books - November 2006
Contemporary Christians usually suppose that Christianity is quite
congenial to the democratic ideals that are the basis of free, open
Western societies. Among these ideals is freedom of religion, which
encourages a broad tolerance for different belief systems.
Nonetheless, a careful examination of core Christian beliefs and the
history of Christianity reveal little tolerance for thinking or acting
outside the "orthodox" Christian tradition.
In this enlightening analysis of key New Testament texts,
historian of early Christianity Gerd Lüdemann discusses the inherently
intolerant attitude that has characterized monotheistic belief systems
generally and Christianity in particular. As Lüdemann points out,
Christianity evolved within the context of the pluralistic Roman
Empire, which generally allowed separate belief systems as long as
political allegiance to the Roman state was never questioned.
Ironically, Christians inherited their essential intolerance from
Judaism, whose first commandment is the expression of a jealous God:
"I am the Lord your God'. Thou shalt have no other gods before
me." After Christianity became the state religion of Rome,
tolerance disappeared and did not reappear on the world stage until
the European Enlightenment of the 18th century.
Besides the discussion of these issues, Lüdemann presents a
textual analysis in five chapters of some of the letters in the New
Testament. In each case he translates the letter, presents textual
commentary, and demonstrates how the text reflects Christian
intolerance of heretics and nonbelievers.
In conclusion, Lüdemann suggests that attempts to harmonize
Christianity with the democratic ideal of tolerance cannot really work
because there is a logical contradiction between monotheism and
Christology, on the one hand, and the core values of a pluralistic
society, on the other.
Gerd Lüdemann is professor of the history and literature of early
Christianity at the University of Göttingen and formerly a visiting
scholar and associate professor of New Testament at Vanderbilt
Divinity School. He is the author of many books and articles on the
origins of Christianity including The Acts of the Apostles; The
Resurrection of Christ: A Historical Inquiry; Paul: The Founder of
Christianity; Jesus After 2000 Years; and The Great Deception: And
What Jesus Really Said and Did.
250 pages ISBN 1-59102-468-4 Hardcover: $26 * World Rights in