This book is particularly important in my opinion because it critically dismantles Pope Benedict's so-called historical approach in his book Jesus of Nazareth. What is significant, is not the historical Jesus that Professor Luedemann reconstructs, but that he shows how the academic process and the critical portrait of Jesus is different from the doctrinal. These are separate quests, with separate sets of assumptions. Luedemann writes, "The historian is obliged to present objective evidence for his or her assertions. The rules of the game do not permit one to rely on uncorroborated testimony or claims of authority."
Why did Professor Luedemann feel that it is necessary to respond to the Pope's book? He says that there are two reasons. First, "the enthusiastic response it has received even among educated people reflects the fact that the very existence of biblical criticism is widely unknown." Second, he worries that many Catholic biblical scholars might be intimidated by writing an honest evaluation of the Pope's work. So he has undertaken the task of defending historical reason.
Luedemann hopes that his historical-critical approach to each passage that the Pope also discusses will help readers learn "how reasonable twenty-first century people" can read the Bible outside its normal doctrinal interpretation.
I think this book would be a valuable book to use in adult education church groups, read slowly alongside the Pope's book. When finished, I bet that the adult education classes would have a good idea how the historical method works in comparison with the theological.