Monday, August 6, 2012

Luedemann, Conzelman and the Resurrection.

I enjoy reading the biographies and autobiographies of various theologians. I like to get to know what makes/made them tick. Over the years I have discovered some very real people behind the scholarly persona with which I was more familiar.

With that in mind, I was interested to see this interview with Gerd Luedemann. He is a New Testament scholar in Germany and is well-known for his public statements that the resurrection never happened. In a an interview with Frederik Mulder at Resurrection Hope, Luedemann talks about how he gave up belief in the resurrection. But he also "outs" Conzelman as a doubter as well. Here is part of the interview.

Mulder: So tell us what happened between 1994 and 1999. In your 1994 book you put forward the view that Jesus' body decomposed in a tomb and that Peter and Paul experienced hallucinations of the risen Jesus. In the same work you maintained that one can remain a Christian despite this. You based this insight on your appreciation for the Marburg systematics theologian Wilhelm Herrmann [picture left] who separated faith and history from each other [Herrmann was Rudolf Bultmann and Karl Barth's dogmatics professor]. And then in 1999 in your "Letter to Jesus", you famously said you cannot be a Christian any longer. So please tell us more about your five year existential experience of being a Christian [between 1994 and 1999], and how it eventually panned out.

Luedemann: Well, in 1994 the quotation from Herrmann was from a book in which he says that we can live with the little we really believe and not with the much that we have to believe ... I had these ideas. I was however never able to make a system of it, because I did not believe it.

Mulder: So why did you say it then? Why did you say "yes" for Christianity in 1994 despite your historical findings?

Luedemann: Look, I was a professor in Theology. There had to be a synthesis.

Mulder: So you pretended?

Luedemann: No. You end up with that [synthesis]. The only thing I enjoyed in that book was the things I said about DF Strauss that the tomb is full. And I learnt that from Conzelman. I visited him a lot.

Mulder: Did Conzelman say that in public?

Luedemann: In private.

Mulder: So Conzelman in private said the tomb was not empty, but in his academic and public work he would not say that?

Luedemann: Or he was undecided. You see, I had a good relationship with Conzelman. He died in 1989. He was sick for three years. I went to him once a week, and asked him all sorts of questions. He talked to me about Martin Hengel from Tuebigen. He would say to Hengel: "The grave is full!".

Mulder: Conzelman would say that to Hengel?

Luedemann: He would say that to him. And I immediately said he is right about that.

Mulder: So when did you lose your faith?

Luedemann: I probably never had faith.

You can read the full interview here.


  1. Hi John,
    Thanks for this. I also like biographies and autobiographies of theologians. I think it was John Barclay in Durham, UK that got me into it in 2008. Autobiographies of i.e. Albert Schweitzer, FF Bruce and Adolf Schlatter helped me appreciate and understand their scholarly work a lot. I left out quite a few significant pieces of my Luedemann interview which I hope to discuss in a forthcoming article.
    Best regards
    NS: I am Frederik not Frederick (I know this is quite confusing :)

  2. Really enjoyed this interview, thanks!

  3. I will never understand why an unbeliever wants to be involved in Christian theology. If I wasn't a believer, all of this would be exactly not what I'd spend my time on.