Last week I presented a short paper at a conference on the resurrection at the Catholic University at Louvain La Neuve in Belgium. It was a great experience and Amanda and I made a nice vacation out of it as well. Belgium is a beautiful country.
But what I want to talk about here is one of the speakers at the conference. Without a doubt, the most well known speaker at the conference was Gerd Lüdemann. Lüdemann focused on the first number of verses of 1 Cor. 15, which is one of our most useful texts. I actually liked a lot of what Lüdemann said and he speaks highly of this text, giving it a very early date. Where he lost me was his explanation of what the disciples and other witnesses actually experienced. Lüdemann holds Peter’s denial of Jesus as a historical event. He then suggests that since Peter was already filled with guilt, the added grief of losing his friend Jesus caused him to see a vision of Jesus to deal with the emotions within him. I will admit, if it was only Peter who saw the risen Jesus, this explanation would be quite possible. But what about the others of the Twelve? The other disciples? What about Jesus’ brother James who had a complete turnaround from doubting Jesus’ identity to becoming the head of the Jerusalem church? What about Paul, who went from persecuting and killing Christians to becoming the Church’s greatest theologian and church planter? None of that makes sense if all that took place was that Peter had a guilt-driven hallucination. It makes more sense that each of these people experienced in some way the risen Jesus and that the power of that experience drove them to proclaim the Gospel throughout the known world.