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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very useful commentary on the ancient gospels
If you liked The Five Gospels, you'll love Jesus After 2000 Years.
Gerd Luedemann is a scholar based in Germany who participated in the Jesus Seminar and recently came out as a non-Christian (explained in his book The Great Deception). Having read five of his books, I must say that "Jesus After 2000 Years" is my favorite and the one that I have found the most...
Published on July 23, 2003 by Peter Kirby

versus
9 of 38 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Great questions, poor answers
I was happy to hear that Gerd, a major scholar in teh jesus seminar movement, finally came out of the closet to say that he was, in fact, an athiest and not a theist. It was a case of being honest about one's position. (I wonder when Spong will make a similar declaration?)
The authors of this book, leading experts in debunking the Gospels, have not said anythijng...
Published on September 7, 2003 by matt


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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very useful commentary on the ancient gospels, July 23, 2003
By 
Peter Kirby (Placentia, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Jesus After 2000 Years: What He Really Said and Did (Hardcover)
If you liked The Five Gospels, you'll love Jesus After 2000 Years.
Gerd Luedemann is a scholar based in Germany who participated in the Jesus Seminar and recently came out as a non-Christian (explained in his book The Great Deception). Having read five of his books, I must say that "Jesus After 2000 Years" is my favorite and the one that I have found the most useful. It is not more popularizing pablum on the historical Jesus. Rather, it is a critical commentary on the ancient texts: the Gospel of Mark, the Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel of Luke, the Gospel of John (by Frank Schleritt), the Gospel of Thomas, and the Apocryphal Jesus Traditions (by Martina Janssen). As Luedemann says in the preface: "My plan is to offer a new translation of the most important extant traditions about Jesus in the first two centuries and then to investigate their historical credibility, in such a way that educated lay people, too, can follow the argument."
The format of the book is brilliant. Each section begins with a fresh translation of the text; for example, the first is Mark 1.1-8, starting with "Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ." Those portions of the text that apparently belong to the creation of the gospel writer are presented in italic text. Following the translation is a section on "Redaction and tradition." In this section we find commentary on the meaning of the text, such as "This sums up the whole Gospel of Mark, which sets out to be the gospel of Jesus Christ." Finally, there is a section titled "Historical" in which the value of the tradition for reconstructing history is presented, such as, "John the Baptist practised baptism for repentance by the Jordan; by it the sins of those being baptized will be forgiven on the day of judgment, which is imminent." Occasionally there is a section on "Later revision," such as on John chapter 19, "Verse 35 is clearly an addition by the revisers," followed by arguments for that conclusion.
This is not the kind of book that is meant to be read from front to back. As a commentary, it is best used as a reference work whenever you are studying a particular passage in the gospels. This commentary is distinguished by its critical approach and emphasis on the question of historicity.
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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Reference Work, June 20, 2005
This review is from: Jesus After 2000 Years: What He Really Said and Did (Hardcover)
Gerd Lüdemann's ambitious Jesus After 2000 Years represents an attempt at what Lüdemann describes as a "long overdue" historical stocktaking of the writings about Jesus, including both canonical and non-canonical writings. Lüdemann's expressed aim is to produce a comprehensive work that is accessible to the lay reader, not a life of Jesus, which he says is not currently possible, but an historical analysis of what people said about him later. In this aim he is admirably and thoroughly successful, producing a work of unexcelled usefulness and clarity that should become a well-thumbed entry on the bookshelf of every person interested in New Testament research and writing.

Lüdemann's masterwork covers nearly 700 pages, the standard size in a field where gigantic tomes are the norm. It is broken up into three major sections: a short introduction laying out his historical methodology, a weighty second section that offers a pericope-by-pericope study of the canonical gospels, and a shorter section on the non-canonical gospels. A short final chapter offers a life of Jesus in extremely tentative form. There is no review of the letters of Paul.

The key section of the book is the analysis of the Canonical gospels. Each pericope is presented in a fixed format. First the text of the gospel is presented, with redactional additions from each evangelist printed in italics. Lüdemann then presents a quick verse by verse discussion of the redaction and tradition history, followed by a separate section on historicity. To save space, Lüdemann simply presents his conclusion. For example, on Luke 8:1-3, he writes: "Apart from the names, the historical yield is nil." The reader is left to work out the reason from the information presented on the section in Redaction and Tradition, and in light of Lüdemann's methodological criteria.

Frequently the key information for historicity is presented in the section on Redaction and Tradition. For example, in the section on Luke 8:1-3 Lüdemann states about verse 3: "[3]For Joanna cf. 24:10. Only the information that she was married to Chuza, a steward of Herod, and the name Susanna reflect tradition. The note about well-to-do women in the company of Jesus derives from later times...Luke has projected them back into the time of Jesus."

The usefulness of this approach is immediately obvious. The exegete interested in a quick-and-dirty glance at any passage in the Gospels need only look it up in Lüdemann. Not only will there be discussion of the redaction history and historicity, but frequently Lüdemann provides other information, such as links to the OT, links to other NT writings, or explanations of the literary or theological function of the verse. A veritable information storehouse, Lüdemann will probably never be read in its entirety at a single sitting, but I have found it incredibly enjoyable in small chunks.

Lüdemann's prose style is also a major joy for its ruthless elimination of adornment and rhetoric. The magisterial authoritarianism of a John Meier or the Irish eloquence of a Dom Crossan are nowhere in evidence. Even when utilizing the favorite method of Historical Jesus scholarship, the Declarative Method ("It's true because I say it") Lüdemann is extremely spare: "It is impossible to doubt that the two brothers were followers of Jesus and were fishermen by profession," he says of Mark 1:17. That crusty "It is impossible to doubt" is the limit of his rhetorical invention.

Lüdemann offers a number of seemingly sensible methodological criteria for ferretting out what is historical in these writings. Some of the them, such as multiple attestation, are familiar and need no explication. In a major step forward, he also offers criteria of inauthenticity, making explicit the assumptions of a number of exegetes. These latter criteria include violations of the laws of nature, offerings of solutions to community problems of a later time, and several others. Lüdemann rightly rejects the criteria of plausibility that some exegetes have been drawn to, criticizing it as too woolly.

Unfortunately Lüdemann's own criteria are no improvement. Crossan has dealt effectively with the various criteria that have been proposed, and Lüdemann apparently either missed that discussion or did not take it to heart. His authenticity criteria are vulnerable to the same criticisms that Crossan made; namely, such criteria are subjective, incoherent, and ultimately, just discover their own assumptions.

For example, Lüdemann offers the criterion of rarity, "which relates to those actions and sayings of Jesus that have few parallels in the Jewish sphere. Jesus absolute prohibition against judging (Matt 7.1) is a candidate for this." The critical reader will note several problems. First, how many parallels constitute "few?" Second, what is the "Jewish sphere?" Do we count only those who resided in Palestine? Do sophisticated Hellenized Jews influenced by Stoic philosophies like Philo count? How about the Herodians and their families? Lüdemann gives us no clue in setting boundaries, so ultimately criteria like this lose all meaning. Additionally, the example he gives is a common ideal found in many cultures and contexts, and thus unlikely on the criterion of rarity to go back to Jesus (why limit "rarity" to only the Jewish sphere?). Finally, why should rarity itself be a criterion of historicity, and why should it cover both actions and words? Certainly "rarity" as such would be almost a requirement of fiction (why would anyone want to read about someone who was exactly the same as everyone else?). A much more rigorous and comprehensive discussion of these criteria is necessary to justify both their inclusion and the way they are constructed.

A second and even more serious problem is that where criteria clash Lüdemann offers no way of resolving the problem. For example, in the famous pericope about the Syro-Phoenician women Mark 7:24-30), Jesus terms her a "dog." Ludeman reads this anecdote as deriving from debates in the early Christian community about the role of gentiles, declaring that a historical core is undetectable. Yet, one might well argue that it falls under his criterion of offensiveness (Lüdemann apparently rejects this) in that Jesus behaves immorally in insulting a woman who has come to beg his help.

It goes without saying that Lüdemann, as with all NT HJ scholars, offers no set of criteria to support the idea that there is historical data in the Gospels to begin with. That is simply an unexplored axiom.

There are minor issues. It is unclear why Lüdemann does not discuss the issue of the Cynic parallels to Jesus' sayings. Though there are occasional penetrating analyses of the literary style of the Gospels (for example, he explains that the Trial before the Sanhedrin and the Trial before Pilate are parallel, and thus, the former is a fiction based on the latter), in the main the breaking up of the text into pericopes tends to obscure larger structural features that may indicate their purely literary and fictional origin. Additionally, he does not reach for creation via the Old Testament as often as this reviewer thinks he should, except in the Passion Narrative.

All in all, I highly recommend purchasing the exceptionally useful and informative book. Despite its weak points, which in any case are not so much Lüdemann's as they are faults of all New Testament historical scholarship, this work should be on everyone's NT bookshelf.
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12 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cuts through the clutter to the _history_ of Jesus, February 20, 2004
By 
Peter Stoffel "~Peter" (Charlotte, NC United States) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Jesus After 2000 Years: What He Really Said and Did (Hardcover)
This book was recommended to me from a friend when I mentioned that I understood that different parts of the bible were written at different times, but didn't know what was added by enthusiastic translators/editors.
This book clearly answers that question.
Jesus After 200 Years is a 700 page tome that is a little intimidating when you first get your hands on it. However, the book is broken down into seven manageable chapters (not including the important-to-read introduction). Basically, it starts with the earliest known written gospel, Mark, and works backwards in cronology to Matthew, Luke, and John. Chapter five examines the gospel of Thomas; six looks at Apocryphal Jesus Traditions and the final chapter is a nine page biographical-summary description of the _historical_ life of Jesus -written as though he were an ancient secular historical figure.
Here is what the book so interesting and valuable. For every bible passage the author indicates which portion is true to the earliest known records/version of the bible, and which portion was added/embellished at a later date. Incredibly insightful!
The book is very "readable" because, as the author explains in his preface, he has not cited every source for every little thing, so you are not bombarded by subscripts and superscripts. To quote, "They say nothing to lay people and specialists know them anyway." (There are plenty of authors cited in the book, just not the particular article or book they wrote that he is pulling from.)
As another reviewer mentioned, this is not a book that you read cover-to-cover. Instead, you should read the introduction to all of the chapters and then reference the book when examining certain sections of the bible.
If you have a bible on your bookshelf, you need to have this next to it.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE GERMAN NEW TESTAMENT SCHOLAR EVALUATES ALL THE TEXTS ABOUT JESUS, June 25, 2013
By 
This review is from: Jesus After 2000 Years: What He Really Said and Did (Hardcover)
Gerd Lüdemann (born 1946), is a German scholar who taught New Testament from 1983 to 1999 at the University of Göttingen. After complaints from churches, his Chair of New Testament was renamed the "Chair of History and Literature of Early Christianity"; his research funding was also cut and his teaching was no longer part of the curriculum. He has also written books such as What Really Happened to Jesus: A Historical Approach to the Resurrection, Virgin Birth?: The Real Story of Mary and Her Son Jesus, The Great Deception: And What Jesus Really Said and Did, etc.

He wrote in the Preface to this 2001 book, "This book sets out to fill a gap in theological literature... The historical-critical research into Jesus which has been developed for around 250 years may have become the standard for scholars, but it has hardly been able to command a general consensus... Consequently uninitiated readers get the impression that research is unplanned, full of contradictions, and is going nowhere. This leads them either to sink into resignation or to hold even more firmly to a faith which is above historical questions. Yet neither resignation nor uninformed faith make sense... So it seems to me that a historical stocktaking of critical concern with the central person of Christianity, Jesus of Nazareth, which has been the business of scholars... is long overdue... My plan is to offer a new translation of the most important extant traditions about Jesus in the first two centuries and then to investigate their historical credibility, in such a way that educated lay people, too, can follow the argument." (Pg. vi)

He states, "It is very probable that Jesus called a group of twelve during his lifetime. Were we to regard this group as a post-Easter creation, it would be difficult to explain why it disappeared again immediately after its institution... Moreover, the existence of Judas as one of the twelve suggests the historicity of the group of twelve in Jesus' lifetime. For who would have invented the existence of Judas who delivered up Jesus as a member of the group of twelve had this person not been historical?" (Pg. 22)

He observes, "Jesus' success in his home town was slight. We may infer as a historical fact that the designation of Jesus as 'son of Mary' was already used against him in his home town. The phrase is then to be designated as a taunt which puts a finger on a sore spot in Jesus' descent... the father of Jesus is not mentioned at this point because there is doubt about who his real father it. Had Jesus been a physical son of Joseph, the expression 'son of Mary' would never have found its way into an early Christian text. The phrase 'son of Mary' is so shocking that only Mark has the courage to repeat it." (Pg. 40)

He states "How did the 'virgin' have Jesus as a child if Joseph is not the father? Here Jewish polemic speaks clearly and at the latest in the second century relates that Mary had an affair with the Roman soldier Pantera... this seems to be on the right lines. However, we must rule out a sexual transgression on the part of Mary... since in that case Joseph would hardly have taken his fiancée Mary to himself. Moreover we should note that ... her presumed age at the time of the betrothal (between twelve and fourteen) make a sexual adventure highly improbable. Therefore---shocking as this may seem to begin with---we are driven to assume the rape of Mary as a likely explanation of this dark stain on her history and that of her son Jesus." (Pg. 123)

It notes, "Anyone who is in search of the historical Jesus will not find him in the Gospel of John. For the Fourth Gospel has already left far behind what Jesus really said and did... Certainly John contains some historically reliable information about Jesus: for example, that he comes from Nazareth (1:45), that he had disciples and brothers (2:12; 7:3)... But apart from such general information... a critical analysis of the Gospel of John leaves hardly anything for the historical Jesus." (Pg. 416) [NOTE: This chapter was written by Frank Schleritt, not Lüdemann.]

Lüdemann's opinions are obviously controversial, but his arguments are important to study for anyone investigating the historical Jesus... whether one agrees with him or not.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Essential Resource, August 31, 2006
This review is from: Jesus After 2000 Years: What He Really Said and Did (Hardcover)
Michael Turton and Peter Kirby have already provided excellent reviews of this outstanding book, so there's no need to repeat what they have already said. My only criticism of this book is that Ludemann often ignores some very cogent information about the pericopes because it does not fit into his categories (pericope, redaction, tradition, and historical). For example...

- Mark 3:21 ("And when those close to him heard it, they set about seizing him for they said 'He is out of his senses...'") is presented as if "those close to him" refers to his family (the traditional explanation), however, his family does not appear until verse 31, and many scholars believe the reference is to the disciples. In fact, some translations of Mark 3:21 change the wording to from "close to him" to "his relatives" or "his family". And Mark 3:21 is traditionally used as an example of Jesus being at odds with his birth family. The competition between different early Christian groups often resulted in Jesus' family ties being downplayed and sometimes negated, thus coloring Mark 3:21 as well as other texts (e.g., John 7:5). Yet Ludemann makes no references to these trends, which would enhance the reader's understanding.

- Matthew 10:4 lists the disciples, among whom is "Simon the Canaanean", a word often used in those days to refer to a person who was "hot, and by extrapolation, to someone with zeal - hence, a Zealot. In fact, Luke (6:15) lists as a disciple one "Simon the Zealot" who is undoubtedly the same person. Since Matthew lists Simon alongside Judas Iscariot, whom many believe derived his name from the assassin group, then it's interesting to note that among Jesus' followers were men whose names implied their association with the Zealots. This would be an interesting fact to include, but Ludemann doesn't.

Apart from this, my only other criticism of the book is Ludemann's extremely "Short Life of Jesus" at the end of the book. There are so many problems with this 7 page "biography" that you're better off not reading it.

I agree with the other reviewers that this is a major piece of work and any serious scholar should have it readily available.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent evaluation of the background of the text, March 28, 2013
By 
Michael_in_SC (Southern California) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Jesus After 2000 Years: What He Really Said and Did (Hardcover)
This is an exemplary book that provides critical analysis of the texts of the gospels and provides a scholarly judgement on the sources, authenticity of the sayings and actions (i.e. whether plausibly real, or a literary creation) and other background. This is for the reader who wants to get beneath the surface of the text.
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9 of 38 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Great questions, poor answers, September 7, 2003
By 
matt (the reading room) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Jesus After 2000 Years: What He Really Said and Did (Hardcover)
I was happy to hear that Gerd, a major scholar in teh jesus seminar movement, finally came out of the closet to say that he was, in fact, an athiest and not a theist. It was a case of being honest about one's position. (I wonder when Spong will make a similar declaration?)
The authors of this book, leading experts in debunking the Gospels, have not said anythijng really new in terms of their brand of scholarship, but it is a nice synopsis. In my view, they make the same mistake as the Seminar. They decide ahead of time that the gospels are myth (reactions to guilt on the disciples' part, anti-semitism, etc.) and then look for ways to prove it, rather than holding the possibility open that they may in fact be true.
Something that traditional Christian scholars are bad at is making themselves more marketable. Unlike the Seminar folk, they don't use titles like "What Jesus really said" or "Virgin Birth? How Jesus was really Conceived and why the Church is scared of this book". Look at the titles of Gerd's books. They are meant to be sensational appeals to all those people who are looking for reasons to mock Christianity. Not that Christians haven't done many stupid things worth mocking, but the whole exercise is just as silly as the fundamentalist, holy rollers who think that you can claim the name and get rich.
What this book fails to take into account is the massive amount of scholarship that totally disagrees with their own. The authors present their theories as if they were obvious facts that only a stupid Christian could disagree with. The real fact is that these authors start with conclusions and work a theory, weak theories in fact, and then act as if they proved the theory that they only assumed. Just read the other review to see what I mean. He calls attention to the fact that the authors will say,"Such and such a verse is not really a true word of Jesus but only a later addition to the text..." But that is the whole issue. There are thousands of other very compitent scholars who criticize these very authors for such slips in logic, but they don't sell thousands of books because they are not selling new ideas that will revolutionize the faith. The slip in logic is assuming what one was trying to prove. Of course if the Gospels are made up fiction then the faith is a joke, but that is the question. Are they made up fiction? OIs the whole of Church history founded upon a lie?
I would suggest that you read this book along with the works of N. T. Wright. To give you insight into the Jesus Seminar, and the publishing craze behind it, Luke Timothy Johnson's The Real Jesus cannot be overlooked.
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Jesus After 2000 Years: What He Really Said and Did
Jesus After 2000 Years: What He Really Said and Did by Gerd Lüdemann (Hardcover - May 1, 2001)
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