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By Jeannine F. Hunter, News-Sentinel staff writer
October 19, 2002
German theologian Dr. Gerd Luedemann will lecture on "The
Great Self-Deception: Paul, the Founder of Christianity" at 10:30
a.m. Sunday, Oct. 20, at the Candy Factory.
The New Testament scholar's visit is sponsored by the Rationalists
of East Tennessee. The organization provides fellowship and community
education for people who "support free inquiry and the
exploration of ethical and intellectual alternatives to supernatural
Luedemann rejects the theology of the Virgin Birth and
Resurrection. He has written several books on the Resurrection of
Jesus and many other studies in the New Testament and early
Christianity including "Heretics: The Other Side of Early
Christianity." "The Great Deception: What Jesus Really Said
and Did," was rejected by numerous Christian publishers because
Luedemann outlined why he declared he no longer affiliated with
"I said the church has no basis for its teaching and that
nobody has a right to call themselves a Christian, and I called myself
no longer a Christian because Jesus didn't rise," Luedemann said
in a telephone interview from Nashville where he's spent the past
semester as a visiting scholar at Vanderbilt Divinity School.
Luedemann, 56, is on leave from the University of Goettingen where
he's taught for two decades. He will return to Germany within the next
two weeks to resume teaching courses on early Christianity history and
literature of early Christianity.
When asked what he called himself, Luedemann said, "You could
call me a secular humanist. I am not an atheist. ... You cannot deny
God. We, as humans, we cannot deny what is greater than us. I am an
agnostic secular humanist."
In 1998, Goettingen University declared that Luedemann's views
disqualified him from teaching ministerial students. School officials
reassigned him to chair a newly assigned discipline, "History and
Literature Early Christianity." He sued over his dismissal and
sought to reclaim his full teaching status.
The controversy intensified when Luedemann penned the book, which
concluded the Resurrection had not taken place.
"The church saw it (book), and I said that Jesus' body rotted
in the tomb, and it was picked up in the newspapers. I had to respond
to the discussion," he said.
He said was protected from being fired because "the
government said if somebody has an opinion, he or she cannot be
punished for it" yet he was "deprived of every academic
As for the theology that spread after Jesus' death, Luedemann
said, "Self deception. The disciples believed that he rose, but
modern scholarship deduced that he hadn't. It was a Jewish sect that
turned it into a world religion... I studied the disciples, but,
without Paul, it would have remained a very little sect within
Luedemann said some of his peers in Germany have called him
"a self-declared heretic. They know that what I say is based on
scholarship. As an historian I cannot accept metaphysical or
Jeannine F. Hunter may be reached at 865-342-6324 or
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