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 Die Intoleranz des Evangeliums

Intolerance and the Gospel

Selected Texts from the New Testament

Prometheus Books - November 2006

Gerd Lüdemann

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 English only

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