Gerd Lüdemann has a New Book Out!

I like Gerd, he’s a brilliant scholar and has produced some excellent publications which continue to challenge scholars in New Testament.  The blurb from the book, though, is a little troubling for a minimalist like myself:

Biblical historians have long held that the New Testament abounds in sayings incorrectly attributed to Jesus. In order to assemble as complete a collection of authentic sayings as possible, they have, for the most part, been intent on seeing how the sayings deemed authentic are connected to one another, and attempting to picture their specific contexts. In What Jesus Didn t Say, Gerd Ludemann flips the coin and focuses on the inauthentic words of Jesus not only those thought to be clear inventions, but also sayings that exhibit noteworthy alterations to their original form and intent. For his selection, he uses sayings that: are attributed to Jesus after his crucifixion; presuppose a pagan rather than a Jewish audience; involve situations in a post-Easter community; reflect the editorial influence of the author. According to Ludemann, the sheer abundance of inauthentic Jesus-sayings demonstrates that, soon after his sudden and dramatic death, he became the center of a new faith. From the very beginning, Christians imagined what answers Jesus would offer to the questions that arose among them. When the words they recalled no longer seemed adequate, they revised or invented new sayings to suit the existing situation.

One has to wonder how anyone can locate ‘authentic’ vs. ‘inauthentic’ sayings from a figure of which we have no historical record.  We have theological narratives of the figure, which might constitute a layer of historical evidence, but these wouldn’t be valuable as historical data, not like a biography or a history might be–and even in those cases, such as with the biography of Apollonius, problems abound for historian seeking ‘authentic’ sayings or deeds!   I would be interested in reading about his methods, but I suspect that his method involves utilizing a lot of the same resources that produced the Jesus Seminar, and led to a lot of the same poor conclusions.   For example, did he lump all ‘testimony’ to a figure of Jesus, dated in the first two centuries CE, into one pile and search for similar sayings attributed to him?  And if so, how did he determine that a saying, which might appear in almost every ‘testimonial’, was an authentic saying vs, one that was part of the kerygmatic tradition of the church or if it wasn’t an intertextual emulation of something from scripture or another source?  Does he have methods which can demonstrate this or did he just continue along the same sort of ‘party line’ as other historical Jesus proposals which have utterly continued to show their narrowed focus?

I would be interesting in a copy, and perhaps so should my readers.  Amazon lists it, and you are encouraged to go investigate these questions for yourself!

(h/t to Jim West!)


Astrophysicist Discusses Gods and Aliens

When I first saw the interview title (‘Is there a God? Aliens? An Astrophysicist answers’), my instinct was to say ‘Well, here’s another case of a person speaking on matters they have no expertise in.’   But I was pleasantly surprised when I read the following:

“What I tell people is that science in general and astronomy in particular do not address the question of whether or not there is a God. In science, conclusions are made based on evidence and confirmation of predictions, and that’s what differentiates scientific knowledge from unscientific knowledge.

“Recently Pope Benedict said something like this: ‘The Big Bang theory is proof that God exists.’ Actually it’s not. It’s only proof that something happened at the beginning of the universe, where there wasn’t space or time and then there became space and time. For many people, astronomers’ discoveries confirm what they thought was true all along: that God is there. And then for many others, the discoveries of astronomers confirm what they thought all along, and that is that God is unnecessary — that God doesn’t exist.

“So the Big Bang doesn’t really prove whether God or the gods are real or not, or whether the flying spaghetti monster is real or not; it’s just really, really cool — and what you believe follows from it is just a leap of faith.

via Is there a God? Aliens? Astrophysicist answers – Technology & science – Science – LiveScience –

His answer, in sum, is simply ‘Why are you asking me whether God exists?’  He isn’t saying God does or doesn’t exist, nor does he offer any theological advice.

Jim West has posted up some thoughts on his blog about this:

Theologians don’t dive into science and opine on topics like physics and mathematics and chemistry, so why do sciency people think they have the tools to speak about theology?  Instead of answering questions they can’t, why can’t they just say ‘that’s not my field, I think it best you ask a theologian’.

But I think Jim might have misread the article (very unlike him).  He doesn’t offer a single comment related to the study of God–and in fact is rather dismissive of it, which is precisely what Jim is asking of him.  Saying ‘Science doesn’t address God’ is precisely what we’d expect to hear from a scientist when asked about God.

Jim continues:

Or perhaps theologians should babble on about science.  Let’s see how the sciency people like that.  [And we know they don’t.  Just start a conversation on intelligent design or creationism and their little sciency heads explode in rage.  Well here’s some rage back at ya!]

But the thing is, Jim, if more theologians said ‘well religion doesn’t address science’ more often, I think scientists would be less inclined to cringe every time a theologian (dilettante) states the world is only 6,000 years old, that multi-celled organisms don’t spring from single-celled organisms, or that evolution is a myth–all things that are outside their field of expertise.  What this scientist said is what you want scientists to say (essentially):

‘We don’t know, we don’t deal with those sorts of questions.  Ask me about quarks or something.’

When he was asked his opinion, he stated it.  But he was quite clear about his agnosticism and, in my opinion, quite appropriate in his answer.

In any event, the article is worth the read.  And to all of my atheist friends, take heed!  Using science as a device to say ‘well, God doesn’t exist’ just doesn’t work.

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