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Looking through a glass darkly....
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