It is widely recognized by New Testament scholars that many of the sayings and actions attributed to Jesus in the gospels cannot be factually traced to him. To a considerable degree, these stories have been influenced, or even created, by the early church. Despite this gap between the “Jesus of history” and the “Christ of faith,” the contemporary church continues to represent the traditional New Testament canon as a generally accurate record of the life of Jesus.
The Great Deception exposes the dangers that accompany this disingenuous, unscientific approach and calls for a more rigorous treatment of the gospels. In a clear, straightforward narrative, Gerd Lüdemann establishes the criteria by which he believes it possible to distinguish inauthentic from authentic sayings and actions of Jesus, and then shows which quotes and deeds can be regarded as factual. His radical conclusion is that the Jesus of history, who emerges after the falsehoods attributed to him are pared away, cannot support the traditional Christian faith.
Lüdemann’s historical analysis reveals, nonetheless, a Jesus who remains a deeply sympathetic personality and one of the great religious figures of the world. But it also shows that Christian leaders who ignore the results of sound scholarship are selling the faithful a “great deception.”