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!)