Customer Reviews: The Great Deception: And What Jesus Really Said and Did
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on September 28, 2000
Dr. Gerd Ludemann has gained notoriety for being removed from the Evangelical Lutheran theological faculty of the University of Gottingen, Germany, after he decided to "renounce Christianity" in his missive "A Letter to Jesus". The American edition of "The Great Deception" includes a 14-page preface describing the background of his removal, as well as the text of the nine-page letter. Neither is directly relevant to this work's main topic, but both are fascinating background ---- Ludemann asserts that "the process of falsifying and over painting the man Jesus, his words and actions, began in earliest Christianity and is already at an advanced stage in the New Testament." He examines numerous sayings and actions of the New Testament Jesus in the light of his four criteria of inauthenticity, and five criteria of authenticity. His goal: to uncover the "historical Jesus." Most of his criteria are benign. But one of his criteria of inauthenticity would be objected to by many believers: "those acts which presuppose that natural laws are broken." Professor Ludemann makes the naïve eyebrow raising statement that: "Nowadays hardly anyone seriously assumes that Jesus in fact walked on the sea, stilled a storm, multiplied loaves, turned water into wind and raised the dead. Rather, these narratives were credited to Jesus only after his death or his supposed resurrection in order to heighten his significance." (Perhaps in academic circles in Germany, NOT in everyday America!) ---- Professor Ludemann clearly and repeatedly states that he sees theology as a scientific discipline based on solid scholarship. His book does not disappoint. He painstakingly documents his thesis. He not only highlights discrepancies between different accounts of the same actions of Jesus, but also shows how and why the later Gospel writers (Matthew, Luke, and John) elaborated upon - and changed -- Mark's account. He shows where all of them lifted, adapted, and inserted Old Testament passages and accounts into their accounts of Jesus' life. He explains the theological issues that caused the alteration of narrative, anecdote, parable, and wording. In short it this book is a provocative, and worthwhile read. If theology is merely apologetics under another name, this is merely scandal. If indeed theology is a scientific discipline searching for truth - then this is beyond doubt theology
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on June 29, 1999
This is a small book, easily read in a couple of sittings if need be. Nor is the text impenetrable, as is the case with many German theologians. Ludemann explains why many of the sayings attributed to Jesus cannot be genuine. His work complements that of The Jesus Seminar.
Ludemann begins with "A Letter to Jesus" that sets out his personal journey away from the less questioning faith of his childhood. This is a powerful piece of writing in itself. Ludemann does not give in to the tendency to obfuscate. This is honest, direct writing.
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on March 12, 2001
This book is aimed at the general reader and is intended to give the reader an introduction to critical analysis techniques as they apply to the purported sayings of Jesus. Ludemann divides the text into four sections: Authentic Saying of Jesus, Inauthentic Sayings of Jesus Authentic Acts of Jesus and Inauthentical Acts of Jesus. In all four sections, Ludemann shares the critical tools that shed light on the authenticity of the saying. While it is clear that there is no absolute final answer to whether a particular saying or act is authentic, Ludemann's tools are actually quite compelling and allow the reader to acquire the critical tools required to make his own assessment of a New Testament passage. For the disbeliever, this will reinforce one's belief that much of the New Testament is propaganda; for the believer it will allow the reader to see Jesus through a new perspective, free of the "spin" of the early Christian church.
Because this book teaches you some of the elementary skills of the Bible academic, I found this book to be surprisingly thought-provoking. This will enable you to read the New Testament and form your own judgment about the legitimacy of the events and sayings recorded there.
I suppose I have made this book sound heavy and taxing, but it is an easy read, leaving you wanted to take on Ludemanns volumns aimed at a more academic audience.
Well worth picking up!
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on January 4, 2014
As I began reading this book, it brought to mind books I have read by Bishop John S. Spong, except that Ludemann isn’t a “Jesus person” the way Spong is. In that sense Ludemann reminds me a little of Bart Ehrman.

I could understand and appreciate the section on ‘inauthentic sayings’ of Jesus, and I had no trouble believing Ludemann’s point of view. And I was OK with the ‘authentic actions’ of Jesus. But I could not follow his logic on several words of scripture that he considers ‘authentic sayings’ of Jesus, especially those he labels as “offensive,” which he cites as one of the criteria for something to be considered “authentic.” He explains why he considers “offensive wording” to be authentic, although I had a hard time understanding his connection. I had always been troubled when I read these so-called “offensive” sayings of Jesus in the Bible, which certainly did not sound like what I thought Jesus would have really said – but on the other hand, why on earth would the writers of the Gospels make up something that made Jesus sound at worst angry, or prejudiced, or at best petulant. These saying do NOT show Jesus in a good light! So maybe Ludemann has a point. It’ll take me some time to wrap my mind around that connection.

I started out thinking of this as a 4-star rated book, but I am having such difficulty emotionally going along with that one section (for other than just the “offensive” criteria), that at least for now, I can’t bring myself to give it more than a 3-star rating.

For those of us who are what Bishop Spong calls “believers in exile,” this book is well worth reading, but it is a bigger jump away from the Jesus I’m used to in Spong’s books. Of course Spong still calls himself a Christian, nominal though it may be, whereas Ludemann starts out his book with a letter to “Dear Jesus,” in which he lays out all the reasons he’s saying goodbye to the Jesus of Christianity. He does give Jesus credit for being a real live person of the past – at least he’s not making the person of Jesus of Nazareth a mere figment of pure mythology.
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on July 19, 2010
Herr Professor Doktor Luedemann was my teacher thirty years ago. He was an honest person then and this book written over ten years ago only reinforces my opinion of him. He will find an audience among the open minded, inquiring minds; he won't be welcome among those who want certainty and absolutes in their religion. The Great Deception book is really a precursor to his much larger and comprehensive "Jesus After 2000 Years" published in 2000. The 2000 book and the popular percusor are necessary antidotes to the over confident conclusions of the Jesus Seminar of the 1990s. Luedemann takes the Seminar to task on their rejection of Jesus as an apocalyptic preacher. Always the inconoclast, Luedemann includes in the Deception book his "Letter to Jesus" which outlines his rejection of faith in a Christ. I would have given the Deception book five stars, but then, the 2000 book would require six.
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on May 22, 2006
Gerd Ludemann is in my mind one of the leading world authorities on the "Church" and the authentic teachings of Jesus. Right from the start, this book was a breath of fresh air from the hyponisitzed publications lining the shelves of modern biblical writing and research. Mr. Ludemann flows impressively through a much needed open look at the scriptures of the 4 Gospels. He breaks apart the almost paralysing and confusing mixture of specific time related writing and the more authentic and openly proven correlating writings which would have more credibility as real teachings.

As I read through his book, I found my belief in what was truly taught surfacing more clearly. His approach to the more authentic and vast stripped down real core essence of the words atributed to the Master Jesus, became ever so clear for myself each page I read. I cannot give credit to his writing of this book enough. Unfortunately, this publication grained him much negative criticism from those who, of course, seek not to openly search their faith and reality. This book helps standardize and strengthen the root of the religon founded upon Jesus. This book is a must for anyone interested in 2 things:

1) A more complete and gnostic root tradition of the unlaced teachings of Jesus

2) Scholarly deconstruction of a ball of yarn called the Gospels to see the true essence missing and often ignored or promoted by Church Father
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on February 19, 2015
As the author says in the introduction, this book is just a "taste" of a fuller exposition of the topic in a much larger work, "Jesus After 2000 Years: What He Really Said and Did" which is over 700 pages. Obviously, in this short version, there is not going to be extensive, detailed analyses. Nevertheless, for the lay reader who is interested in the very basic ideas behind historical criticism, it's a good, fast, overview.

Of more interest, is Ludemann's account of what happened to him after years of research when he finally came to the unavoidable conclusion, that Christianity as we know it, was basically a fraud. The Confederation of Protestant Churches in Lower Saxony tried to have Ludemann dismissed from his position within the theological faculty of a major university. It seems that theological faculties in German universities are governed by TREATIES between the state and the different Christian groups!!! I find that astonishing. But then, probably something similar is true in the US since Princeton has a theological seminary. The problem here is the obvious, glaring contradiction between the claims for "scientific" academic theology and the necessity to be bound to a "confession of faith". In other words, in NO WAY is theology as taught at the university level even remotely scientific. Theologians make claims about things that need to be PROVED and that is NOT what they are doing at the university level which is where it should be done!

As it is, theology is rather ridiculous because it REQUIRES the sacrifice the intellect since it is inevitably based on revelation and must privilege its texts and the alleged authors of those texts. Ludemann points out "in their research and teaching, most of my colleagues have long since left the principles of the church behind them but (want to) attach themselves to this tradition by symbolic interpretation and other interpretative skills. Hardly one of them shares the eschatological presuppositions of the church's tradition, and very few expect, for example, the return of Christ in judgment. To keep quiet about this could similarly be described as a tactic."

This is a damning statement about theologians today: they KNOW there's something rotten in their field, but to keep their jobs, to keep the power of the church, they keep quiet. Obviously, Ludemann was too honest and sincere to play this game, unlike Bart Ehrman who folded to the pressure and wrote a ridiculous book about the "Historical Jesus". But that's another subject.

The main thing here is that, if the teaching of theology at the university level is to be supported by public funds, then it MUST devote itself to doing real, science-system based research, and MUST inform its students of the results of that research. Public institutions should NOT be used to "reveal and preach", leading another generation of the naive and gullible into servitude to ancient superstitions. What would happen if a group of physicists and mathematicians proved that the Big Bang never happened? Are they required to "believe" in it? Would they lose their jobs for writing books and papers about it? Obviously not though it is certain that even science follows trends and one is more likely to get published if supporting the current mainstream view. But when those paradigms begin to break down, science is able to correct itself; theology must be free to do the same. Theology must become scientific, it must stop evading the real issues and plastering over the cracks in the nonsense that has passed for religion the past 2000 years.

Thus, I recommend this book to the lay reader. If they wonder about the more technical details of how a text can be evaluated as being authentic or inauthentic, then I suggest they read "Jesus After 2000 Years: What He Really Said and Did". Additional good reads along the same line are Richard Pervo's "Dating Acts" and Tyson's "Marcion and Luke-Acts" and Robert Price's "The Case Against the Case for Christ". That should get your neurons firing and you can follow references from there!

After all, it is KNOWING THE TRUTH that sets one free.
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on March 25, 2016
German New Testament scholar Gerd Lüdemann views religion as an evolving product shaped by human hiatory. In this book, Lüdeman applies the principles of scientific theology to New Testament saying and actions of Jesus to identify those he believes are authentic and those that are inauthentic. For example, Lüdemann questions statements and actions of Jesus that provide answers to community issues that occur in a later time and he questions statements and answers that presuppose a Gentile or non-Jewish audience. On the other hand, he believes that statements or actions of Jesus that might offend later Christian communities or statements that cannot be derived from post-resurrection communities may be authentic. This leads Lüdemann to question the authenticity of the anti-Jewish statements attributed to Jesus in the New Testament, among other things. I am not completely sold on scientific theology – it strikes me as an oxymoron, but I find his method interesting nonetheless. Those who believe the Bible is the Word of God will probably find this book offensive. Those who see the Bible as the work of man, will find this book fascinating.
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on July 1, 2001
Interesting and well written book that exposes some of the fiction behind the Gospels. Of interest to those who approach the Xtian Bible with an inquiring mind. Not of any interest to fundamentalist Xtians whose beliefs are based on wish fulfillment rather than on a rational analysis of their religion.
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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,Virgin Birth?: The Real Story of Mary and Her Son Jesus,Jesus After 2000 Years: What He Really Said and Did, etc.

He wrote in the Preface to the U.S. edition of this 1998 book, "In the course of my investigation... I have come to the following conclusion. My previous faith, related to the biblical message, has become impossible, because its points of reference, above all the resurrection of Jesus, have proved invalid and because the person of Jesus himself is insufficient as a foundation of faith once most of the New Testament statements about him have proved to be later interpretations by the community. Jesus deceived himself in expecting the kingdom of God. Instead, the church came; it recklessly changed the message of Jesus and in numerous cases turned it against the mother religion of Judaism." (Pg. xii) He later adds, "the present book gives an account of why I myself must from now regard as illegitimate any return to the preaching of Jesus as a foundation for Christian faith." (Pg. xxiv)

He suggests, "So a decision about historicity is not identical with a decision about what Jesus said or did. However, we may say that the decision about what is 'unhistorical' is 'identical' with the decision about what he certainly did not say and what certainly did not happen. Still, these qualifications do not affect the value of the judgments made." (Pg. 24)

He concludes, "The final result of this journey through a selection of New Testament texts is sobering. It casts light on the brutal reality of the first century: the process of falsifying and overpainting the man Jesus, his words and action, began in earliest Christianity and is already at an advanced stage in the New Testament... this book quotes around half of all the authentic sayings and actions of Jesus, whereas the inauthentic sayings and actions presented here represent only a small selection from a wealth of inventions." (Pg. 109)

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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