Gerd Ludemann's "Resurrection of Christ"

When a scholar like Gerd Ludemann publishes with Prometheus Press, take it as meaning, "I knew my thesis would never survive peer review." To be fair, Ludemann is not one to be nasty, as his cohort of the same path, Robert Price. Nevertheless Ludemann does mirror Price on the far more important count of being able to construct historical contrivances without documentation in order to explain away recorded history that has all of the documentation. The Resurrection of Christ is mostly an extended exercise in this sort of literary creativity.

Thus for example, Paul includes himself in the list of 1 Cor. 15 "to defend his apostolic authority" [41]. That's not quite true, though; from a Greco-Roman rhetorical standpoint, Paul's self-inclusion is part of a narratio, in which a self-testimony that would be expected to round off the feature. As well, assertions of fact are under suspicion merely for having an "apologetic ring" -- so does any claim of truth, for that matter; even that Gerd Ludemann has a Ph. D. If he happens to assert this, should we immediately suspect that he doesn't actually have one, and that because he is "defending his authority" we ought to be suspicious that a) someone else questions it, and b) they may be right? Critics like Ludemann we suspect would have a serious issue with such a judgmental indictment upon their characters, but they have no problem accusing Biblical authors of the same thing.

Ludemann's book shows great deficiencies in terms of being aware of current scholarship. His claim that Matthew stressed the "newness and cleanliness" of Jesus; burial cloth "to convince his audience of Jesus' uniqueness" [53] and to stave off the implication of a dishonorable burial fails on multiple points: 1) he obviously has not read McCane's work showing in effect that a pedantic reference to a clean cloth, as he supposes, is going to in any sense convince anyone that Jesus' burial was not shameful; 2) he has failed to recognize that the Gospels were written for and to Christians, so that Matthew is not trying to and does not have to "convince" anyone of anything in terms of Jesus being unique; 3) it's just plain overdone; one may as well argue that Matthew stresses a linen cloth as a polemic against producers of other fabrics.

Ludemann is also missing McCane in his treatment of Jesus' burial by Joseph [62]. Otherwise, a materialist worldview is simply taken for granted: A text that reports miracles is automatically unhistorical, no further explanation needed (eg, Jesus could not have risen to heaven, because "there is no such heaven to whcih Jesus may have been carried" [114]); the apperance to the 500 was a mass hallucination [80] (see here for an idea how far Ludemann has to go to get this out of the realm of hypothesis); misuse of Matthew 28:17 as doubt over Jesus' resurrection (rather than over what to do next, now that he has been resurrected [98]); words of Jesus must be inauthentic because they can be "explained by [an author's] theological purpose" [112](so can we say Ludemann didn't write his book, because what is in it serves his theological purpose?).

On the other hand, though he usually lacks Price's fire, Ludemann is not entirely above the occassional insult. He has particular scorn for N. T. Wright and his book The Resurrection of the Son of God, a huge volume he barely touches; only Ludemann could decipher from Wright's measured prose against historical revisionism a "bitter polemic" of any sort [37]. Who is indeed bitter here is shown in that Ludemann insults Wright by preferring to rebut him with Thomas Paine (!), and addresses him snidely in the first person [200].

His accusation of inconsistency by Wright is confused: Ludemann is apparently angered particuarly because Wright called on him for assuming ancient people were too unlearned to know that dead people did not ordinarily rise. But as a reply, he only insults Wright for reaching "theological" conclusions, and offers a vague spectre of "goodbye scholarship" when miracle claims are admitted, which is nothing but the same begged question of naturalism that Wright's point implicitly refutes.

Ludemann's centerpiece is his attempt to reconstruct how resurrection belief came to the apostles, but here he fails most conspicuously, as his theories would never work in the social world of the NT. A mourning Peter would never think a vision of Jesus was Jesus himself, but Jesus' guardian angel (a twin brother, as it were); and he would never think that this Jesus, even if Jesus, was resurrected (as that was not expected until judgment). The same Peter would also not experience "guilt" [166] but shame. His idea of Paul as a man with a "Christ complex" who always had to be number one is refuted by the ancient understanding of honor as a limited good. Thus Ludemann's effort to create a "chain reaction" [173] scenario fails from the very first and most critical links. His rebuttal as well to the opportunity of authorities to open or point to the empty tomb [181] doesn't hold water:

  1. He points to the "rapid decay of flesh" in Palestine's climate. But this in itself would not keep authorities from pointing to the tomb, and making the claim that Jesus' body was within; as it is, the lack of even this shows that they could not make such a claim, for the tomb was empty.
  2. His claim that the "place of burial was unknown" is a farce, for there is no way the location of Joseph's tomb could be unknown (and it is a counsel of despair to suggest that Joseph, or the burial in his tomb, is not historical, especially after McCane)
  3. And, a "no visiting holy places" objection that fails to realize that Jews were not typically inclined to verenate persons and places as described.

It's a valiant attempt, but in the end, nothing but invention of history to explain away history.