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'.