Skip to main content

Lüdemann, Gerd 1946–

Lüdemann, Gerd 1946–

PERSONAL: Born 1946, in Germany; children: four.

ADDRESSES: Office—Platz der Göttinger Sieben 2, 37073 Göttingen, Germany. E-mail[email protected]

CAREER: Has taught at Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN; Georg-August University, Göttingen, Germany, 1983–, professor of New Testament studies until c. 1998, currently professor of early Christianity.


Untersuchungen zur simonianischen Gnosis, Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht (Göttingen, Germany), 1975.

Paulus, der Heidenapostel, Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht (Göttingen, Germany), 1980, translated by F. Stanley Jones as Paul, Apostile to the Gentiles: Studies in Chronology, Fortress Press (Philadelphia, PA), 1984, translated by M. Eugen Boring as Opposition to Paul in Jewish Christianity, Fortress Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1989.

Paulus und das Judentum, Kaiser (Munich, Germany), 1983.

(With Martin Schröder) Die religionsgeschichtliche Schule in Göttingen: Eine Dokumentation, Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht (Göttingen, Germany), 1987.

Das frühe Christentum nach den Traditionen der Apostelgeschichte: Ein Kommentar, Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht (Göttingen, Germany), 1987, translated by John Bowden as Early Christianity according to the Traditions in Acts: A Commentary, Fortress Press (Minneapolis, MN) 1989, translated as The Acts of the Apostles: What Really Happened in the Earliest Days of the Church, Prometheus Books (Amherst, NY), 2005.

Texte und Träume: Ein Gang durch das Markusevangelium in Auseinandersetzung mit Eugen Drewermann, Vandenhoeck and Ruprecht (Göttingen, Germany), 1992.

The Resurrection of Jesus: History, Experience, Theology, Fortress Press (Minneapolis, MN), 1994.

(With Alf Özen) What Really Happened to Jesus: An Historical Approach to the Resurrection, translated by John Bowden, Westminster John Knox Press (Louisville, KY), 1995.

(With Alexander Bommarius) Fand die Auferstehung wirklich statt? Eine Diskussion mit Gerd Lüdemann, Parerga (Düsseldorf, Germany), 1995.

(With others) Osterglaube ohne Auferstehung? Diskussion mit Gerd Lüemann, Herder (Freiburg on Breisgau, Germany), 1995.

Das unheilige in der heiligen Schrift: Die andere Seite der Bibel, Radius-Verlag (Stuttgart, Germany), 1996, translated by John Bowden as The Unholy in Holy Scripture: The Dark Side of the Bible, Westminster John Knox Press (Louisville, KY), 1997.

Heretics: The Other Side of Early Christianity, translated by John Bowden, Westminster John Knox Press (Louisville, KY), 1996.

Die "Religionsgeschichtliche Schule": Facetten eines theologischen Umbruchs, Peter Lang (New York, NY), 1996.

(With Alf Özen) Historische Wahrheit und theologische Wissenschaft: Gerd Lüdemann zum 50, Peter Lang (New York, NY), 1996.

(With Martina Janssen) Suppressed Prayers: Gnostic Spirituality in Early Christianity, Trinity Press International (Harrisburg, PA), 1998.

Virgin Birth? The Real Story of Mary and Her Son Jesus, Trinity Press International (Harrisburg, PA), 1998.

Der grosse Betrug: Und was Jesus wirklich sagte und tat, Zu Klampen (Lüneburg, Germany), 1998, translated as The Great Deception: And What Jesus Really Said and Did, Prometheus Books (Amherst, NY), 1999.

Im Würgegriff der Kirche: Für die Freiheit der theologischen Wissenschaft, Zu Klampen (Lüneburg, Germany), 1998.

Studien zur Gnosis, Peter Lang (Frankfurt on Main, Germany), 1999.

(With others) Jesus nach 2000 Jahren: Was er wirklich sagte und tat, Zu Klampen (Lüneburg, Germany), 2000, translated as Jesus after 2,000 Years: What He Really Said and Did, Prometheus Books (Amherst, NY), 2001.

Paul, the Founder of Christianity, Prometheus Books (Amherst, NY), 2002.

Urchristendum: Eine Kritische Bilanz seiner Erforschung, Lang (Frankfurt aim Maine, Germany), 2002, translated by John Bowden as Primitive Christianity: A Survey of Recent Studies and Some New Proposals, T. & T. Clarke (New York, NY), 2003.

The Resurrection of Christ: An Historical Inquiry, Prometheus Books (Amherst, NY), 2004.

Die Intoleranz des Evangeliums: Erläutert an ausgewählten Schriften des Neuen Testaments, Klamppen (Springe, German), 2004.

Also author of numerous scholarly papers and articles.

SIDELIGHTS: German scholar Gerd Lüdemann has written extensively on the subject of Christianity, compiling numerous texts on Jesus, Mary, and the apostles. His most controversial work, however, came following his own personal crisis in faith, one which caused him to deny the most basic tenants of Christianity and that put him at odds with religious leaders as well as the administration at the University of Göttingen, Germany, where he is a professor. Lüdemann began teaching at the University in 1983 as a professor of New Testament studies. In the mid-1990s, as he began to question many aspects of the New Testament stories regarding Jesus and his actions, Lüdemann's writings began to reflect his new ideas, causing tension with the university's officials. Heretics: The Other Side of Early Christianity was an early indicator that Lüdemann might be shifting away from his faith. The volume serves as an examination of scripture and its basis. Steve Schroeder, in a review for Booklist, commented that the "argument is accessible," adding that "some readers will be put off" by the author's "assertion that the Bible is the word of human beings, not … God."

When the controversial The Great Deception: And What Jesus Really Said and Did was published in 1998, the university stripped Lüdemann of his position and made him a professor of early Christianity. His classes were no longer given as credited courses, and he was unable to advise doctoral candidates in theology. Although he maintained his salary, any additional benefits of his position were eliminated. The blow to Lüdemann's reputation made it nearly impossible for him to continue teaching religion.

The Great Deception begins with a letter addressed to Jesus Christ that reads very much as Lüdemann's resignation from Christianity. In it he states several of his doubts about the inconsistencies in the supposed teachings and miracles of Christ and what he knows to be true based on careful readings of the scriptures and other historical religious documentation. Lüdemann's main concerns include how the Bible states that Christ himself instituted the Eucharist, something he views as highly unlikely since Jesus, as a Jew, would never have suggested that anyone ingest blood—even symbolically. What is more, the Eucharist suggests that Jesus himself is already dead, which makes his performing the ceremony nonsensical. Lüdemann points to several instances such as these in which it appears that early Christians manipulated the truth in order to lend authority to certain rituals or beliefs. He goes on to explain that even early Christians were not one unified group that followed all the components of the fledgling religion consistently. In reality, there were splinter factions, including one led by James, the brother of Jesus, who, during his brother's lifetime, refused to believe in his brother's teachings; another faction was led by the apostle Paul, who never actually met Jesus.

Lüdemann's study is based in the Protestant tradition that believed in critical analysis of the Bible. In a radio interview with Rachel Kohn for the Radio National program The Spirit of Things, he explained the history of his methods: "The Reformation thought of the New Testament as the word of God, and Martin Luther made a difference between, for example, the letters of James and the letters of Paul, but still he trusted in the historical work of the New Testament. Historical criticism started its work and claimed that none of the authors that wrote the gospels, and those of the letters, are the authors that really wrote them … so that people were wondering whether one could trust the New Testament at all." Lüdemann extended this train of thought to Jesus, and whether it was likely that actions and words attributed to him were genuine. Ultimately, he determined that eighty-five percent of the stories of Jesus were manufactured. In a review for Free Inquiry, Robert M. Price noted that "Lüdemann devotes the body of the book to a very helpful set of examples of sayings and stories of Jesus that critical scholars dismiss as inauthentic, using each to illustrate the battery of criteria whereby such decision are made…. Then he shifts gears to demonstrate how the same criteria may be used to vindicate an admittedly much smaller number … as authentic. I must confess my astonishment at the optimism."

In a follow-up book, Jesus after 2,000 Years: What He Really Said and Did, Lüdemann continues to examine Jesus in an historical context, addressing not only the standard New Testament but the apocryphal texts as well. He includes a life of Jesus that reiterates his belief that Christ was an illiterate peasant, a carpenter, and a teacher, much affected by the life of John the Baptist, and who claimed God as his father. Mark Allan Powell remarked in Catholic Biblical Quarterly that "the book is impressive in its erudition but seems unlikely to persuade those who are not already convinced of its essential premises." He went on to note that, despite the volume's claim that no one actually accepts that Jesus really performed miracles, "millions of intelligent and educated people accept all these things, as do a good number of critical biblical scholars." In Free Inquiry, Terry Miosi called Lüdemann's work an "excellent book," and commented on the "outstanding and massive analysis" he performs on Gospels of the New Testament, Thomas, and the Apocrypha.



Booklist, October 1, 1996, Steve Schroeder, review of Heretics: The Other Side of Early Christianity, p. 301; October 1, 2004, Steven Schroeder, review of The Resurrection of Christ: A Historical Inquiry, p. 305.

Catholic Biblical Quarterly, October, 2001, Mark Allan Powell, review of Jesus after 2,000 Years: What He Really Said and Did, p. 755.

Free Inquiry, spring, 2000, Robert M. Price, "A Biblical Scholar Breaks Out," review of The Great Deception: And What Jesus Really Said and Did, p. 70; summer 2000, Robert M. Price, "Truth and Dogma," p. 20; fall, 2001, Terry Miosi, review of Jesus after 2000 Years, p. 64; summer, 2002, Rob Simbeck, "The Price of Inquiry," p. 59.

Harvard Theological Review, October, 2003, Joel S. Kaminsky, "Did Election Imply the Mistreatment of Non-Israelites?," p. 397.

Interpretation, October, 1997, Holly E. Hearon, "What Really Happened to Jesus?," p. 433.

Journal of Ecclesiastical History, July, 1998, James D. G. Dunn, review of Heretics, p. 503.

Publishers Weekly, August 17, 1998, Henry Carrigan, "Suppressed Prayers," p. S25.


Australian Broadcasting Corporation Web site, (February 23, 2005), Radio National: Rachel Kohn, "A Letter to Jesus" (interview with Lüdemann).

Gerd Lüdemann Home Page, (February 23, 2005)., (February 23, 2005), "Gerd Lüdemann."

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"Lüdemann, Gerd 1946–." Contemporary Authors. . 23 Jan. 2019 <>.

"Lüdemann, Gerd 1946–." Contemporary Authors. . (January 23, 2019).

"Lüdemann, Gerd 1946–." Contemporary Authors. . Retrieved January 23, 2019 from

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

The Chicago Manual of Style

American Psychological Association

  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.