Gerd Lüdemann and the Resurrection

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.

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2 thoughts on “Gerd Lüdemann and the Resurrection”

  1. What allegedly happened to James is a story that arose after the NT stories, and non-canonical, isn’t it?

    As for the “snapping,” of Peter and Paul, it’s a genuine phenomenon. And Peter left less definite evidence of his evangelistic efforts than Paul did.

    As for first-person stories of the resurrected Jesus appearing to anyone, all we possess in the NT are four words from Paul, “Jesus appeared to me.” Four words, that’s the only first-person description of Jesus’ resurrection in the NT. Every other story is second hand.

    Neither do the appearance stories in 1 Cor. match what’s in the Gospels. Pauls says there was a singular appearance to one person, Peter, and then the disciples, and to “over 500,” and a singular appearance to James, and then the apostles. Compare the fourth Gospel which says Jesus appeared to everyone but Thomas, and then came back to appear to the entire 12 at once. Luke doesn’t mention Thomas being absent at all. Luke and John say the appearance was in Jerusalem, but Mark and Matthew say it was in Galilee. Paul says nothing about where, and says nothing except that “Jesus appeared.”

    Who knows what people saw, or where or when?

    We do know however that the words allegedly spoken by the resurrected Jesus grew in their reported number over time:

    See also this article on differences between the Gospel resurrection stories:

    And this recent article in JBL, “How Accurate are Eyewitnesses? Bauckham and the Eyewitnesses in the Light of Psychological Research” appears in the latest edition of Journal of Biblical Literature 129 (2010) 177-197:

    And this review as well :

    It must be said however, that many will remain unconvinced by the alternative model of a “Formal Controlled Tradition” that Bauckham proposes in this book. It may be true that the literary features of mark show a closer connection with the testimony of Peter than is commonly assumed. But the evidence fails to sustain Bauckham’s hypothesis of a fixed body of Jesus tradition formulated by the Twelve in Jerusalem and mediated directly to the author of Mark through the apostolic preaching of Peter. Without accepting Bauckham’s dubious claim that Peter’s appearance at the beginning and end of Mark represents a literary device for identifying the work’s authoritative witness, it is very difficult to affirm the other alleged indication of the author’s reliance on Peter’s testimony, which are ambiguous at best. Equally questionable are the historical conclusions Backham draws from Paul’s Letters about the formal transmission of Jesus traditions. The level of institutionalization thus ascribed to the Jesus movement in the earliest stages of its development strains credibility. Likewise, Bauckham’s hypothesis about the Beloved Disciple as the eyewitness author of the Fourth Gospel will not convince many. Often resting on unproven assumptions, the argument frequently invokes highly conjectural explanations of textual evidence that are not easily affirmed. For examples, most will find fanciful the attempt to account for the infrequency and obscurity of references to the Beloved Disciples by appealing to the author’s need to establish his credibility as a perceptive disciple before disclosing his identity as the actual author of the Gospel. Even if we were to accept as probable many of the conclusions Bauckham draws from the Gospels, there still remains a larger question that weakens the argument of the book. If it is true that the Evangelists attached such importance to eyewitness testimony, then why are indications of this not more obvious and explicit? In response, Bauckham claims that ancient readers would have expected the Gospels to have eyewitness sources and so would have been alert to the subtle indications provided by the text. This explanation ascribes to the Evangelists and their readers a full measure of literary sophistication and an informed familiarity with the canons of Greco-Roman historiography. But this seems to far exceed what we can claim to know about the first eyewitnesses and those who listened to their testimony.
    –Dean Bechard of the Pontifico Instituto Biblico, Rome–final paragraph of his review of Richard Bauckham’s, Jesus and the Eyewitnesses. Review published in Biblica, v.90, fasc.1, 2009, p. 126-129.

  2. You have a lot here but I will touch on just a couple of things. Regarding James, there are fuller accounts that are post-NT. But that is what is intriguing. It seems clear from all four Gospels that James along with the other brothers did not believe. It is also clear from Acts and other sources that James was the head of the Jerusalem church. What happened? Paul gives this offhand comment in an early creed, possibly from within a couple of years of the events according to Ludemann. There is no attempt in the NT to pull this all together and to give it legendary flavor.

    Also, my main point is that to put it all to guilty experience of Peter really does not explain how the church could begin so rapidly with the resurrection as a central belief and many people claiming to be witnesses.

    As for Bauckham, I liked his book, but it seems like he was overly eager in a few places. But even without Bauckham, Paul in 1 Cor. 15 seems to expect that his readers could go to Jerusalem and talk with eyewitnesses (and not just Peter!). How do we explain this?

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