Friday, April 27, 2007

Lüdemann on Pope Benedikt’s book

Jim West has drawn attention to Gerd Lüdemann's critique of Papst Benedikt's new book, Jesus von Nazareth. Unsurprisingly, the tone of Lüdemann's argumention is a tad too one sided for my liking, but he is correct in the following:

'Als Ganzes ist das päpstliche Jesuswerk entgegen dem Anspruch seines Verfassers kein historisches Buch, sondern eine Sammlung von gottesdienstlichen Meditationen über die Gestalt Jesu, ergänzt um Ausflüge in die neutestamentliche Wissenschaft'

The book doesn't attempt a sustained historical argument in the way that, say, Sanders, Borg or Wright do, but I for one am not judging it merely in this light. While the Pope certainly does have his eyes firmly on matters relevant to historical reconstruction, this is done in such a way that rides upon, rather than constitutes, his main points. But, together with Lüdemann, my general impression of the book thus far is also that it does indeed have the character of 'gottesdienstlichen Meditationen'. To be honest I am finding the blatant confessional element rather refreshing, however! And more than that, I suspect that this book will also serve a noble ecumenical role. Evangelicals will be attracted and encouraged by his commitment to and work with the biblical testimony. Those bored stiff of plain academic argumentation will really like his gentle pastoral tone and message. Biblical scholars will appreciate the role the Pope gives historical-critical methods (at least in theory), and the manner in which he expresses gratitude to the academic guild.

In his final paragraph, Lüdemann writes: 'Wäre nicht der Papst der Verfasser dieses Buches, würde es von akademischen Exegeten nicht oder doch nur als eine peinliche Entgleisung zur Kenntnis genommen werden und in kirchlichen Buchläden bald verstauben'.

While not in the same league as other 'historical-Jesus' works, one would be unfair to judge the book merely in this light. No, the book is far from being simply 'eine peinliche Entgleisung'.


At 4/27/2007 2:47 PM, Anonymous Mike Aubrey said...

Being that I don't speak German, I appreciate your commentary on the book and Lüdemann's critique, but I was wondering if you could explain the meaning of 'gottesdienstlichen Meditationen'. Thanks!.


At 4/27/2007 3:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Although I haven't yet read the book. I suspect that you have hit the nail on the head. The Pope, just by the nature of his office, is going to have a far larger viewing audience than Sanders, Borg and Wright combined. So I would imagine that his primary concerns, were the pastoral care of his flock and the presentation of the Gospel. I doubt that he was motivated by the acclaim of a fractious guild.

John McBryde

At 4/27/2007 10:27 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ludemann is a pain in the arse, liked only by other pains-in-the-arse.

At 4/27/2007 10:30 PM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

Hi Mike,
'gottesdienstlichen Meditationen' = "church service meditations"

John, thanks for puting that so clearly; that is indeed what I was heading at.

JS, Hi there!
Almost! See above.

At 4/27/2007 11:28 PM, Anonymous peter said...

Although I am an outsider to the field of biblical studies, I have read some of Lüdemann's rantings against his former religion, and I can't say I'm impressed. He makes dubious claims like the following all the time: Die wissenschaftliche Jesusforschung ist zu dem Ergebnis gekommen, dass unter den überlieferten Jesusstoffen am ehesten Gleichnisse echt sind.

Lüdemann does not need to be convinced of the difficulties in establishing the historical reliability of the Gospels. But unfortunately, he is also firmly convinced of the ability of sceptical scholarship to reliably chop off all the `legendary accretions'.

If the meditations that Lüdemann describes as `bordering on kitsch' are the worst that the Pope's new book has to offer (I wonder, by the way, if Lüdemann thinks that poetic language can ever be useful), I am all the more determined to read it as soon as I can get my hands on it.

At 4/28/2007 5:35 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks Chris.

In contrast to Lüdemann, perhaps a "God-serving" instead of a self-serving meditation?


At 4/28/2007 8:03 PM, Anonymous Peter Aschoff said...

I am tired of hearing Lüdemann (and others, for that matter) say: "Die Wissenschaft hat festgestellt..." The days of naive Scientism are long gone and many of the "results" he is promoting are outdated.

You do not have to agree with the Pope but how can one be so patronizing?

At 5/01/2007 1:43 AM, Anonymous Chris Tilling said...

It seems Lüdemann's comments haven't generated too much sympathy amongst some who would otheriwse perhaps have agreed with him!


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