What Jesus Didn’t Say

Biblical historians have long held that the New Testament abounds in sayings incorrectly attributed to Jesus. In order to assemble as complete a collection of authentic sayings as possible, they have, for the most part, been intent on seeing how the sayings deemed authentic are connected to one another, and attempting to picture their specific contexts. In What Jesus Didn’t Say, Gerd Ludemann flips the coin and focuses on the inauthentic words of Jesus not only those thought to be clear inventions, but also sayings that exhibit noteworthy alterations to their original form and intent. For his selection, he uses sayings that: are attributed to Jesus after his crucifixion; presuppose a pagan rather than a Jewish audience; involve situations in a post-Easter community; reflect the editorial influence of the author. According to Ludemann, the sheer abundance of inauthentic Jesus-sayings demonstrates that, soon after his sudden and dramatic death, he became the center of a new faith. From the very beginning, Christians imagined what answers Jesus would offer to the questions that arose among them. When the words they recalled no longer seemed adequate, they revised or invented new sayings to suit the existing situation.

Review & Commentary

  • Norm

    Ludemann’s latest book appears to be an attempt to show how so many inauthentic sayings found their way into the Gospel accounts of Jesus. Redaction criticism has taught us much about the early Christian communities. However, the modern critical distinction between authentic and inauthentic sayings is misleading and raises questions about the integrity of the early Christian redactors. The early Christian communities regarded all of the sayings as authentic because they were mediated to them from the risen Jesus through his spirit-filled apostles and prophets on a regular as needed basis. They made no distinction between the teachings of the Jesus of history and the revelations that came to them through their leaders from the Christ of faith. As one of these, Paul claimed to have seen the risen Jesus, and also that the exalted Christ Jesus was speaking authoritatively through him to his communities. Modern scholarship has shown there is very little about Jesus recorded in the Gospels that is “history remembered.” What is remembered and recorded in the Gospels is the spirit-taught, post-resurrection testimony and teaching of apostles and prophets, inspired by the spirit of Christ, many of whom, like Paul had never met the historical Jesus. The Gospel of John places a premium on the things revealed by the spirit of truth over the words of the historical Jesus. From its inception the Jesus Movement was mystical and charismatic.