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The Great Deception: And What Jesus Really…

The Great Deception: And What Jesus Really Said and Did

by Gerd Lüdemann

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I probably need to read this book again, but on a first reading it struck me as deeply unsatisfactory. The author attempts to demonstrate the inauthenticity of a wide range of recorded sayings of Jesus in the Gospels, mainly on the grounds that they presuppose a historical context of the Gentile missionary church rather than the ministry of Jesus in Palestine, which the author characterizes as essentially apocalyptic. However, although he presents his criteria in an opening section, he fails to call on them adequately in discussing each text. As a result, the argument for each individual reading appears superficial and incomplete: far too often the author says that inauthenticity is "demonstrated" when it appears merely to have been asserted. I am not ill-disposed towards his conclusions, but in this book I do not find him arguing for them in a manner which would convince the critical reader. The word "deception" in the title sets an unnecessarily combative tone, since the author regards Pauline Christianity as a self-deception by people who believed it (i.e. a delusion), rather than a deliberate lie perpetrated by those who knew it to be false.

The personal introductory section, in which the author emotionally takes leave of the (mainstream Lutheran) Christian faith in which he was brought up, provides a discordant prelude to the rational discussion which follows. It would have been better as an afterword or epilogue.

MB 30-xii-2008, rev. 7-i-2009, 4-iii-2009 ( )
1 vote MyopicBookworm | Dec 30, 2008 |
As an eminent biblical scholar at Göttingen University, Prof. Gerd Lüdemann has been working for many years to determine which of the words and actions attributed to the figure of Jesus are more likely to be authentic. The four biblical books known as the Gospels were written between 70 and 120 years after Jesus' birth, and clearly contain much information that was added long after the fact. Lüdemann and other scholars of the international Jesus Project use internal and external evidence to try to determine which sayings, action, and events they describe are more likely to be true, and which represent additions by writers with particular political agendas.

“The Great Deception” presents Prof. Lüdemann’s public break with established doctrine. His “Missive to Jesus,” which forms the first chapter, is his dramatic farewell to his childhood religious views. The second chapter outlines the criteria by which authenticity of Jesus’ alleged words and actions are to be determined. For example, words and events that clearly refer to the Jewish revolt in 70 AD must be late additions. Likewise, sayings that presume a Gentile audience come from a later sphere, as Jesus lived entirely in a Jewish milieu. The ensuing chapters apply these criteria. The third and fourth chapters respectively focus on the inauthentic sayings and actions of Jesus, and the fifth and sixth chapters on those deemed to be authentic. What emerges is a dimly – recognizable Jesus, but one that appears far more likely than the mystical anti-Jewish figure that some take him to be.

Prof. Lüdemann has paid a high professional price for his intellectual courage and independence. He was removed from his faculty position by the administration at Göttingen, and permitted only to teach courses not required for any degree program. Significantly, many theologians of the Jesus project clearly share Lüdemann’s overall views, but have retained their professional positions through greater circumspection. Gerd Lüdemann’s case has gained international attention as a clear violation of academic freedom. Information about his life and work is readily available online, including at his personal home page: http://wwwuser.gwdg.de/~gluedem/eng/index.htm

Given that "The Great Deception" focuses on a subset of the relevant Bible verses, a more detailed and recent exposition of Lüdemann’s interpretations is available in his book "Jesus After 2000 Years: What He Really Said and Did". ( )
7 vote danielx | Jan 4, 2008 |
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