Luedemann's Christmas: a mild defence
As everyone seems to know, Gerd Luedemann has officially ruined Christmas by telling us all it didn't happen as we were brought up. It's on the biblioblogs and it's also here.
Ok, some points. Firstly, let's get things straight Luedemann does make some bad arguments and many of them are countered by bloggers with ease. But personally I don't have too much problem with the general issue of not believing that a virgin woman gave birth because the holy spirit did something special. It seems like a pretty standard invention in the history of religions. My big problem is this: would the language being used by those studying Christian origins really be taken seriously by other departments in the humanities? How much time is wasted (and I include myself here) trying to prove/disprove stories of the variety that would so obviously be treated as fiction in other disciplines. And here's one question that I think must be answered (I keep asking it but rarely get a response): is it fair that the Christian miracles are taken seriously as actually happening whilst miracles from the Greco-Roman world (and by implication any other religion) are not? Are miracles done by rabbis to be given the same degree of respect? or are they so obviously made up?
And why shouldn't a secular historian turn around and say, 'I will take the virgin birth, resurrection, miracles etc. seriously once you take stories of the birth of Alexander, rabbinic, ANE and Greco-Roman miracles, and sightings of Elvis etc. seriously'?
I once had a big discussion with a sociology professor about the discipline of theology. He said it really was an illegitimate subject for a university because he thought it was all about God and miracles and all that. I defended theology as a discipline but sometimes how easy is it really to defend these kinds of debates? I'm not casting an opinion here but it is an issue worth seriously thinking about.
Unlike some bibliobloggers I have no problem with Luedemann's tone. Many from the 'other side' can be just as condescending and some far worse. NT Wright has his problems with the bullies of the Enlightenment. I know of several secularists in biblical studies who received disgraceful and far, far worse personal (verbal) attacks for their overt non-belief than these deliberately provocative comments of Luedemann. And Luedemann has had his fair share of abuse too let's not forget for his remarks on (among other things) the resurrection not happening (hardly a weird conclusion to arrive at).
And anyway hasn't Luedemann succeeded in provoking?