As part of Gerd Luedemann’s paper at the recent conference on the Resurrection of the Dead in Belgium, he drew attention to psychological reports concerning people who had experienced the death of a loved one. Many people, he suggested, mistakenly think themselves to experience some sort of contact with their dead loved one – whether a sound in the night, a fading vision, a sense of connection… and this can grant some sort of relief or resolution for the traumatised person who has been left behind. This, Luedemann argued, helps explain the experience of Peter: He had denied knowing Jesus in the lead up to his execution – a shameful loss of confidence that was surely not invented by early Christians. Later, traumatised by this, Peter believed himself to have a restorative encounter with Jesus. This experience was later wrongly interpreted as bodily resurrection.
After the paper, Luedemann graciously agreed to spend time (about 3 hours all up!) talking to three of us who attended his paper. There were some things that he asked to remain private, but said that most of the things we talked about were okay to share publicly. One moment in the conversation has particularly stuck in my mind: Luedemann had shared that he was always psychologically needy as a child, and latched onto Jesus at a revival crusade when he was 16yo. He went through some highly unusual experiences – spiritual encounters, believing himself to be one of the ‘two witnesses’ of Revelation, etc… but eventually came to the conclusion that these things were simply “psychological”. At this point in the conversation, one of the others present, the ever-bold Frederik, asked a cheeky question along these lines: “Professor Luedemann – you recall that Deissman suggested that those who look for the historical Jesus simply find their own reflection… is that what has happened as you have looked for the historical Peter?”
Professor Luedemann’s response: “Maybe…”
Curiouser and curiouser… tomorrow: Luedemann and hermeneutics