Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Book Note: Eyes That See Not (G. Luedemann)

There just arrived in my mailbox today Weststar's newest book on the historical Jesus. Eyes That See Not: The Pope Looks at Jesus by Gerd Luedemann.

This book is particularly important in my opinion because it critically dismantles Pope Benedict's so-called historical approach in his book Jesus of Nazareth. What is significant, is not the historical Jesus that Professor Luedemann reconstructs, but that he shows how the academic process and the critical portrait of Jesus is different from the doctrinal. These are separate quests, with separate sets of assumptions. Luedemann writes, "The historian is obliged to present objective evidence for his or her assertions. The rules of the game do not permit one to rely on uncorroborated testimony or claims of authority."

Why did Professor Luedemann feel that it is necessary to respond to the Pope's book? He says that there are two reasons. First, "the enthusiastic response it has received even among educated people reflects the fact that the very existence of biblical criticism is widely unknown." Second, he worries that many Catholic biblical scholars might be intimidated by writing an honest evaluation of the Pope's work. So he has undertaken the task of defending historical reason.

Luedemann hopes that his historical-critical approach to each passage that the Pope also discusses will help readers learn "how reasonable twenty-first century people" can read the Bible outside its normal doctrinal interpretation.

I think this book would be a valuable book to use in adult education church groups, read slowly alongside the Pope's book. When finished, I bet that the adult education classes would have a good idea how the historical method works in comparison with the theological.


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worth said...

I'm halfway through Pope Benedict XVI's Jesus of Nazareth, and it's certainly not an important work of textual criticism - nor is it meant to be. While Bart Ehrman's Misquoting Jesus is very illuminating for those who are unfamiliar with the field, the Pope's work demonstrates a thorough doctrinal knowledge of not only the New Testament scriptures and tradition but also of the Old. He also goes to great lengths to look beyond the scriptures themselves and delve deeply into the works of Jewish (and other) scholars and how they interpret the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, whether they agree with the Nazarene or not.

José Solano said...

From the Epilogue to Gerd Lüdemann, Heretics: The Other Side of Early Christianity.

“1. The view of the Bible as the Word of God or as Holy Scripture belongs to a past time. Today it hinders understanding. The Bible is the word of human beings.

2. The idea of the sinlessness of Jesus belongs to a past age. It hinders understanding of the human being Jesus. Jesus is either fully a human being or not a human being at all.”


No. 1. This view of the Bible will prevail long after Lüdemann’s time has past. Something other than Holy Scripture hinders his understanding. Everyone knows the Bible is written by human beings.

No. 2. Lüdemann misses the point and the mark. One needs to understand that Jesus is indeed fully human. It is we who are less than fully human. It is merely Lüdemann’s arrogance that measures and qualifies the humanity of Jesus by our own. He simply has it backwards. We should not be surprised that a faithless Lüdemann espouses such thoughts. He is not alone.

Now, with such assertions who is inspired to buy his books which he seem to be rolling off the press at an alarming pace for thoughtful, reflective exposition?

The problem with these atheist/agnostic thinkers is that they simply fail to understand the real value and function of faith in the understanding of scripture and imagine that to be objective one must be faithless, which to them means “unprejudiced.” This faithlessness causes them to see the “gaps” in the Scriptures as missing elements that do not allow us to form conclusions because they create disconnects between one biblical declaration and another. Yet they quickly move ahead to fill in the gaps with their assumptions which they of course imagine to be very logical/rational, and which they may be—from the faithless perspective. But from the perspective of faith the gaps are left open and are assumed to have rational connective, though as of yet unknown elements. This is simply because we accept the veracity of the story even if there are some interpretive incongruities. We accept the Resurrection of Jesus Christ. After that it is not difficult to accept a lot more from Scripture.

If you start from the faithlessness that the miraculous cannot happen then of course everything biblical is fundamentally ridiculous in terms of historical events. There may remain some poetic, metaphorical elements of philosophical-psychological value.

Now, both theists and atheists are concerned with objective history but what the person of faith rejects is the demand of certain historians for faithlessness so as to be objective. Faithlessness is not a qualifier for objectivity, indeed the faithless, from the perspective of the faithful is immersed in subjectivity because a teaching coming from God, that is, from the Supreme Objective, helps to ground the faithful in objectivity, objectivity in the questions of ultimate concern.

Forgive my long comment which could be much longer. I have not read Lüdermann’s Eyes That See Not’, and unless I find a cheap used copy much later I doubt that I will. But I have read his article, “An Embarrassing Misrepresentation” on the Pope’s Jesus of Nazareth and find Lüdemann’s problem of perspective to be exactly what I refer to above. It displays the essential prejudice of it “cannot be a miracle because there are no miracles.”

I can’t resist one more comment. To demonstrate my point Lüdemann asserts in his section “The Rejection of Historical Reasoning” he says, “Benedict rejects the broad consensus of modern New Testament scholars that the proclamation of Jesus’s exalted nature was in large means the creation of the earliest communities. He considers it ‘much more logical’ to conclude that Jesus’s status as an incarnate deity must have been evident to his immediate followers, the more so since such a phenomenon could have been understood only in terms of a perception of divine mystery.” There you have it. Logic can only exist from the perspective of disbelief in the miraculous or in the biblical account which is the imagined “broad consensus of modern New Testament scholars,” and this leads right to the doorstep of the Jesus Seminar.

Again, my apologies for the long comment. Even as it is I feel it’s been rushed off.