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What Really Happened to Jesus: A Historical Approach to the Resurrection [Paperback]

By Gerd Ludemann (Author)
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Item description for What Really Happened to Jesus: A Historical Approach to the Resurrection by Gerd Ludemann...

Were the resurrection appearances real physical events - or nothing more than grief-induced hallucinations? What does it mean to say, Jesus rose from the dead? Dissatisfied with what he regarded as evasive answers given by theologians and scholars about the nature of the resurrection of Jesus, Gerd Ludemann here subjects the New Testament traditions to a thorough investigation. In particular, Ludemann is concerned with the story of the empty tomb and the subsequent appearance stories first related by Peter. Ludemann's startling and somewhat radical conclusions have created a stir in Europe. This book, written for nonspecialists, presents Ludemann's provocative conclusions. Readers will find a positive, albeit a revolutionary, new way of viewing the resurrection.

Publishers Description

Dissatisfied with what he regarded as evasive answers given by theologians and scholars about the nature of the resurrection of Jesus, Gerd Ludemann subjected the New Testament traditions to a thorough investigation. In particular, Ludemann was concerned with the story of the empty tomb and the subsequent appearance stories first related by Peter. Ludemann reaches surprising and somewhat radical conclusions. This book, written for nonspecialists, presents Ludemann's provocative conclusions. Readers will find a positive, albeit revolutionary, new way of viewing the resurrection.

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Westminster John Knox Press
Pages   147
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.41" Width: 5.32" Height: 0.5"
Weight:   0.5 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Jan 1, 1996
Publisher   Westminster John Knox Press
ISBN  0664256473  
ISBN13  9780664256470  

Availability  51 units.
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More About Gerd Ludemann

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Gerd LUdemann is a professor of the history and literature of early Christianity at the University of GOttingen, Germany. Professor LUdemann's published conclusions about Christianity aroused great controversy in his native Germany, where the Confederation of Protestant Churches in Lower Saxony demanded his immediate dismissal from the theological faculty of his university. Despite this threat to his academic freedom, he has retained his post at the university, although the chair he holds was renamed to disassociate him from the training program of German pastors. LUdemann is also the author of "Jesus After 2000 Years, Paul: The Founder of Christianity," and" The Resurrection of Christ: A Historical Inquiry."

Gerd Ludemann has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Jesus Seminar Guides

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1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Bible & Other Sacred Texts
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History > General
3Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Church History
4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Jesus > Historical Jesus
5Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > Christology

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Reviews - What do customers think about What Really Happened to Jesus: A Historical Approach to the Resurrection?

Nice try - But the Resurrection is a secure fact of history.  Sep 21, 2006
"Let us say quite specifically: the tomb of Jesus was not empty, but full, and his body did not disappear, but rotted away... A consistent modern view must say farewell to the resurrection of Jesus as a historical event." So concluded Gerd Ludemann in the closing pages of WHAT REALLY HAPPENED TO JESUS: A HISTORICAL APPROACH TO THE RESURRECTION.

With his goal a "purely historical investigation" Ludemann observed that since the evangelists were not neutral observers, he would treat everything said with skepticism, a hermeneutic of suspicion. He began with 1 Corinthians 15:1-11, a text containing a widely recognized early creed. Conceding that all the appearances mentioned occurred in the "first couple of years after the crucifixion of Jesus," he nonetheless attempted to pry apart the appearances, casting doubt on when Paul reported each of them to the Corinthian church, so he could observe that "The final form of its tradition (what the appearances were like) had not yet been fixed." The nature of the appearances, and their alleged "later" morph from vision to bodily resurrection, was very important for his subsequent argument about them. N.T. Wright, analyzing this passage, argued that Paul was merely appealing to bedrock facts that he knew were common knowledge in the Corinthian church. Wright observed as an aside that he found Ludemann's "traditio-historical analysis [of this passage] almost entirely worthless."

Cleverly, he used differences between the gospels to cast doubt on the details but then used similarities to argue for a common source and eliminate multiple attestation. With that he was able to sweep away the historicity of Jesus' burial, the women's Easter morning visit to the tomb and their role as first witnesses to the resurrection, plus Peter and John's tomb visits. All are "without historical value for the question of the `resurrection events.'" Indeed his analysis revealed a presupposition beyond mere skepticism and suspicion. Ludemann seemed to favor a hermeneutic of deceit. The evangelists were not just biased but dishonest, inventing stories out of whole cloth to suit their apologetic needs. He would have us accept that a community called to lives of integrity, with Jesus Christ as their exemplar, would tolerate the fabrication of their foundational stories. Would Peter allow a story, a complete forgery, of his visiting the empty tomb to be invented twenty years hence? Would he die for such a story? Not likely.

With the empty tomb so disposed, the contest moved to "visions" of the risen Jesus. Ludemann began his investigation by observing that "The accounts of the resurrection of Jesus...ha[ve] nothing to do with the real historical event." So what happened? Ludemann returned to the formula in 1 Cor 15. Visions began with Peter, mourning Jesus' death and his own failure in denying him, finding relief in a "seeing" or hallucination of the risen Jesus. Peter's vision provided the "initial spark" that prompted the rest of the visions. Let the reader judge for himself the adequacy of Ludemann's explanation for each vision. Hallucinations are subjective experiences of individual minds. As such they are not something that can be seen by a group of people. What then of the twelve and the five hundred? In Luke 24 the disciples were invited to touch Jesus and also watched him eat. Are we to believe that they all identically hallucinated this complex event? Ludemann sidestepped this problem by denying the historicity of the twelve despite multiple attestations including the early creed in 1 Cor 15. Though Luke, the careful historian, described an entirely different event, Ludemann attributed the five hundred to Pentecost, an event after the Ascension. Hallucinations typically require a particular, expectant state of mind. Yet Peter was consumed with guilt and remorse while James and Paul were respectively in denial and opposition. He attributed Paul's vision to a "Christ complex" brought on by self-hatred for persecuting Christians or his possible unconscious conversion before his conversion. For Ludemann, nearly any state of mind would do. He also did not address why the conflagration of visions ignited by the spark of Peter's experience was suddenly extinguished. His analysis neither explained the origins of the visions nor their sudden ending. By contrast, even critical scholars allow that Jesus actually appeared in some objective sense. Contrary to his stated goal, Ludeman's investigation was not "purely historical," but flew in the face of the historical data.

Though Ludemann parsed many words, he neglected "resurrection," a word 1st century Jews, with their 2nd Temple theology, understood as a bodily resurrection. They had other words for visions. Though pre-scientific, they also knew that dead people stayed dead. Wright maintained that to convince them otherwise would require both an empty tomb and appearances of the risen Jesus. Nothing else could explain the beliefs that arose from the beginning of the church. Ludemann's end of book attempt at an alternative scenario failed to explain the historically attested rise of these beliefs just as he failed to explain away the empty tomb and appearances of the risen Jesus.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is a secure fact of history. That's "What Really Happened to Jesus."

Resurrection of an Old Theory  Sep 11, 2006
In this book, Gerd Lüdemann undertakes the worthy project of ascertaining whether or not Jesus Christ really rose from the dead. His method is to discuss each New Testament passage related to Jesus' burial, resurrection, and subsequent appearances. In the manner of the Jesus Seminar, he pronounces judgment on the historicity of each passage, concluding that most are unhistorical, based on conjecture and fanciful interpretations. Lüdemann's inevitable conclusion is that Christ's resurrection was not real, but rather a series of visions experienced by Peter, Paul, James, the other disciples, and more than 500 others. He says, "the critical investigation of the various resurrection appearances produced a surprising result: they can all be explained as visions" and also "the original seeing of the Easter witnesses was a seeing in the spirit; they did not see a revived corpse." He variously describes these visions as "psychological processes", "religious intoxication", "mass ecstasy", "mass psychoses", and "mass hysteria."

Lüdemann's theory is just one of many suggested naturalistic explanations of Christ's resurrection that have been around for centuries. Lüdemann's particular view falls into the category of hallucination theories--the idea that Christ really did not rise from the dead and all the supposed witnesses of the resurrection actually had the same subjective vision. This theory was popular in the 19th century, but eventually fell out of favor. The problem with naturalistic hypotheses of the Resurrection is their nagging failure to explain all of the known data, namely the death of Jesus, his empty tomb, his many resurrection appearances, and the transformed lives of the disciples. The hallucination theory is no exception. Here are five reasons to disbelieve Lüdemann's theory.

First, hallucinations are private, individual events. How could hundreds of people share exactly the same subjective visual perception? There were simply too many appearances, in too many different circumstances, to different groups of people to be explained as mass hallucination. Even if one thought that the phenomenon was an illusion, a perceptual misinterpretation of an objective reality, such as the Marian apparitions that are common today, it would be difficult to believe. These types of group experiences require a sense of expectation and emotional excitement. This was exactly the opposite of the disciples, who were depressed, frightened, and confused by the unexpected death of their friend. Furthermore, Jewish theology did not anticipate individual resurrections; rather they believed in a corporate resurrection of the righteous at the end of time. Christ's followers were clearly not expecting him to be raised from the dead.

Second, why did the hallucinations abruptly end after 40 days? Why didn't the eye-witnesses continue to have them as well as new believers?

Third, wouldn't any of the witnesses try to touch the risen Christ and thereby discover the non-corporeal nature of their vision? In fact, the Gospels recount several such instances that demonstrate the bodily nature of Christ's resurrection, but Lüdemann simply dismisses all of them as unhistorical.

Fourth, hallucinations do not transform lives. Studies have shown that those who have experienced hallucinations disavow them in the presence of others who have not "seen" the same thing. However, the disciples who were eye-witnesses to the resurrected Christ were beaten, tortured, and murdered while boldly preaching that Jesus died and came back to life.

Fifth, if Christ really wasn't raised from the dead, then the fledgling religion could have been quickly crushed simply by exhuming his decaying body from the grave and thus proving to everyone that he was still dead. Lüdemann claims, "The tomb of Jesus was not empty, but full, and his body did not disappear, but rotted away." However, the empty tomb is a well-attested fact and refuting it requires yet another naturalistic theory, but Lüdemann avoids the issue altogether.

The Resurrection is the cornerstone of Christianity. This is what drove Paul and many since him to check it out so thoroughly. Although Lüdemann tries valiantly to hold on to his Christian faith despite his rejection of the real bodily resurrection of Christ, he doesn't seriously wrestle with Paul's bold proclamation that "if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith" (1 Cor 15:14). If the Resurrection didn't happen then Christianity is false, plain and simple.

Lüdemann reveals his naturalistic presuppositions when he says, "Earliest Christian faith arose out of the interpretation then of an event against the background of the world-view then, in other words in the framework of the possibilities then. Today we interpret the same event differently, namely within the framework of today's possibilities...With the revolution in the scientific view of the world, the statements about the resurrection of Jesus have irrevocably lost their literal meaning." Lüdemann thinks that two thousand years ago people were gullible enough to believe in a real resurrection, but today we're much smarter and realize that such miracles cannot occur. I think Lüdemann underestimates the ancients. I'm quite sure they grasped the concept that dead men normally stay dead. Even they would require substantial evidence to believe otherwise. The evidence for the empty tomb and Christ's appearances is so strong that Lüdemann seems guilty of first arriving at his naturalistic conclusion and then rearranging the facts to suit it. Unfortunately, the evidence weighs heavily against his view. He makes far too many assertions and provides far too little proof to believe his claims.
Critical Thinking Gives Way to Preference  Feb 20, 2001
On page 130, Mr. Ludemann sums up his conclusions this way, "At the same time this means that the assumption of a resurrection of Jesus is completely unnecessary as a presupposition to explain these phenomena (i.e. the post-mortem appearances of Jesus). A consistent modern view MUST say farewell to the resurrection of Jesus as a historical event." MUST? Do you notice the shift from possibility to necessity? He makes the case, at least in his own mind, that Jesus's post-mortem appearances could be explained as the self-induced hallucinations of the so-called eyewitnesses. But then he declares that since this is a possibility it is therefore a necessity! Surely there is another possibility, that Jesus did rise from the dead just as the Bible claims. So, what logic forces us to conclude the former? The logic is simply Mr. Ludemann's preference that it be that way. This kind of "reasoning" is like that segment of the scientific community that declares, "If God did not exist, then man, in order to deal with his mortality, would invent Him. Since this is a possibility, then it must be a reality. Therefore, there is no God." Such lapses in logic indicate obvious bias and not an objective search for truth. It would be reasonable to conclude, therefore, that the rest of the work suffers from the same kind of bias. For these reasons I would not recommend this book.
Why a Bodily, Fleshy Resurrection of Jesus Is a Legend  Oct 2, 2000
This book is designed to be a more popular version of Ludemann's 1994 volume, THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS: HISTORY, EXPERIENCE, AND THEOLOGY. Ludemann presents the same arguments as he did in his 1994 volume, but in a much easier-to-read format. I use WHAT REALLY HAPPENED... as a companion to the 1994 volume.

Just as was the case in his 1994 volume, Ludemann argues that a strictly historical investigation of the New Testament texts does not support apologetic claims: Jesus may not have received an honorable burial, the empty tomb story is legendary, the appearance stories are embellished, etc. Ludemann concluded that "We can no longer take the statements about the resurrection of Jesus literally" (p. 134) and that "the tomb of Jesus was not empty, but full, and his body did not disappear, but rotted away" (p. 135). But Ludemann also concluded that a person could consistently accept the results of his devastating historical investigation and yet remain a Christian. Interestingly, it appears that Ludemann no longer holds this view and, indeed, no longer even claims to be a Christian. (See the introduction to the North American edition of Ludemann's GREAT DECEPTION.)

Like the 1994 book, my only complaint about WHAT REALLY HAPPENED... is the lack of a bibliography and detailed indices (e.g., NT verses, subject, author).

Cutting away the myth  Aug 6, 2000
This is an enlightening book by Luedemann. One criticism I have hears leveled against the book is that the events as reconstructed by Luedemann are insufficent to account for the rise of Christianity. But the question that this book provoked in my mind is how have most Christians come to thier faith? By having objective visions of the resurrected Jesus or through an internal, existensial decision? In any event a excellant read reflecting the thoughts of modern New Testament scholarship.

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