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The Nativity: History and Legend
 
 

The Nativity: History and Legend [Kindle Edition]

Geza Vermes
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)

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Product Description

Product Description

In a similar format to the astonishingly successful The Passion Professor Geza Vermes now turns his attention to the other key festival in the Christian calendar - Christmas. Vermes articulately and controversially disentangles the Christmas story as we know it, relating it to prophecies in the Old Testament and also to later Christian folklore, putting the nativity into its true historical context. This will be required reading for anyone wanting to know the true story behind the Nativity.

About the Author

Geza Vermes was born in Hungary in 1924. From 1957 to 1991 he taught in at the Universities of Newcastle and Oxford. Professor Vermes is the editor of The Complete Dead Sea Scrolls in English (1997) and author of The Changing Faces of Jesus (2000), The Authentic Gospel of Jesus (2003) and The Passion (2005). He lives in Oxford.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 3587 KB
  • Print Length: 178 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (2 Nov 2006)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002RI9W4I
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #364,864 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Food for thought 12 Jun 2008
By Pieter Uys HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
In this book the respected scholar investigates the main events surrounding the nativity in an attempt to determine what really happened. He compares Christmas in Christian imagery with the gospel accounts of Matthew and Luke which are contradictory and confusing in many aspects. They agree on only a few basic points but there are many complications and discrepancies. Vermes looks at how various Christian scholars deal with this problem, for example John P Meier in A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, and Raymond Brown in Birth of the Messiah.

He analyses the evidence through a detailed textual interpretation, then compares the findings to all the relevant information from parallel Jewish documents, literary and historical sources, including the Dead Sea Scrolls. First the genealogies of Jesus in the aforementioned gospels are compared (including a side by side comparison) and Vermes succeeds in making even this subject absorbing in light of the strange discrepancies.

Next he examines the concept of miraculous births in Judaism and Paganism: virginal conception, extraordinary birth stories in the Old Testament and the strange account in Genesis 6 that talks of celestial beings interbreeding with mankind that gave rise to a race of giants. The Hellenistic Jewish birth stories of the writer Philo of Alexandria are also considered.

Chapter Five: Virgin and Holy Spirit, explores the gospel accounts with the prophecy of Isaiah concerning a young woman who would give birth to a son. The earliest extant text of Matthew is in Greek so it is perhaps not surprising that the quote of Isaiah 7:14 comes from the Greek Septuagint, not from the Hebrew Bible. This gospel was influenced by the Septuagint's rendering of "Almah" (young woman) as "Parthenos" (Virgin).
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding the Nativity 31 Dec 2012
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This has to be one of the most learned and informed books I have ever read on the topic and it is a great read at any time but certainly in the lead up to christmas.Although the author chooses to play down the supernatural aspects of this revelation by God, he has been careful to present a highly respectful account which simply gives the reader further food for thought. I went on to purchase and read Arthur Green's 'The Real Star' released this year.I would recommend these books to all who are genuinely interested in the nativity story and the infancy gospels.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Compelling reading 26 April 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Although I am a Christian I was fascinated to read this detailed and informative book. I found many things that I did not know. Obviously the conclusion and angle of the book is to show how none of the story is literally true. However, I am comfortable with that and it helped me understand the perspective of the gospel writers without changing my faith view. Very easy to read. Recommended.
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15 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What I wanted to read 27 April 2007
By R. P. Sedgwick VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
What I wanted to know was the truth about the birth of Christ free of religious dogma and this book does just that. I wanted to read facts not faith and that's just what we are given in a very accessible way for the lay reader. Vermes looks at issues such the conception of Jesus, the virgin birth, the stable story, the wise men and the star. Many of these familiar parts of the tale are found to be inconsistent and contradictory both within and between the different gospels and other sources, and a good few of them culled from earlier myths or parts of the Old Testament.

I have to disagree with the previous reviewer's comments. Vermes quite clearly in this book doesn't comment on the teachings of Christ in his adult part of his life at or make any conclusions on these teachings which form a large part of the Christian faith. However it's hard to see after reading this book how to take anyone seriously who takes large parts of the New Testament literally.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Food for thought 12 Jun 2008
By Pieter Uys - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
In this book the respected scholar investigates the main events surrounding the nativity in an attempt to determine what really happened. He compares Christmas in Christian imagery with the gospel accounts of Matthew and Luke which are contradictory and confusing in many aspects. They agree on only a few basic points but there are many complications and discrepancies. Vermes looks at how various Christian scholars deal with this problem, for example John P Meier in A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus, and Raymond Brown in Birth of the Messiah.

He analyses the evidence through a detailed textual interpretation, then compares the findings to all the relevant information from parallel Jewish documents, literary and historical sources, including the Dead Sea Scrolls. First the genealogies of Jesus in the aforementioned gospels are compared (including a side by side comparison) and Vermes succeeds in making even this subject absorbing in light of the strange discrepancies.

Next he examines the concept of miraculous births in Judaism and Paganism: virginal conception, extraordinary birth stories in the Old Testament and the strange account in Genesis 6 that talks of celestial beings interbreeding with mankind that gave rise to a race of giants. The Hellenistic Jewish birth stories of the writer Philo of Alexandria are also considered.

Chapter Five: Virgin and Holy Spirit, explores the gospel accounts with the prophecy of Isaiah concerning a young woman who would give birth to a son. The earliest extant text of Matthew is in Greek so it is perhaps not surprising that the quote of Isaiah 7:14 comes from the Greek Septuagint, not from the Hebrew Bible. This gospel was influenced by the Septuagint's rendering of "Almah" (young woman) as "Parthenos" (Virgin). There are many unexpected, surprising and confusing aspects to the version of Matthew.

The date and place of birth are discussed next. Needless to say, there are problems with the date between the gospel accounts and when measured against what we know about the history. The nearest safe conclusion is that Jesus was born before the spring of 4BC. And alas, even the place seems to in dispute, but here I don't fully follow Vermes when he questions the Bethlehem connection for lack of enough proof.

The Premonitory signs of the nativity are the announcement to the shepherds, the Magi from the East and the star. These are discussed in the light of history and the Old Testament. Next is the murder plot. Geza confirms that Herod had a murderous character. He compares the murder of the children with the murder of the Israelite boys in Egypt, looks at the infancy of Moses and discusses the parallels between the two occurrences.

Chapter 9: The Settlement of Jesus in Galilee, deals with among other issues the meaning of the word "Nazarene." The words Netser (Branch) and Nazoraios (from Nazareth) do not come from the same root and Samson who was called a Nazirite is not a suitable type for Jesus. The last chapter deals with the two supplements to the infancy gospel in Luke: the birth of John The Baptist, including the Magnificat and the Benedictus which are cleverly combined anthologies of poetic abstracts from various parts of the Hebrew Bible, and the account of the young Jesus in the temple.

The Epilogue looks at the infancy gospels in retrospect. There is a summary of differences and a discussion of the relation of the birth narratives to the main gospels. Vermes believes that these were a later addition for the benefit of a gentile audience. It is the prologue just as the resurrection narrative is the epilogue. The Greek narrative was placed over a Semitic original and represents the final stage of the Greek development, manifesting in the virgin conception, the idea of the Son of God as God with us (Emanuel) and the full development of the Messiah Redeemer.

There is a map of the Holy Land and 10 woodcuts by Albrecht Durer. The book concludes with notes, a bibliography and index.

This book raises many questions for the believer. Further research has revealed that according to church fathers like Irenaeus and Jerome there existed a Hebrew (or Aramaic written in Hebrew alphabet) version of Matthew that was used by at least two early groups of believers, the Ebionites and the Nazarenes. Called The Gospel of the Hebrews, it lacked the two chapters on the nativity. The book The Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew by Bart Ehrman is very informative in this regard.

Apparently the Ebionites rejected the pre-existence, virgin birth, divinity and resurrection. They emphasized the oneness of God and considered Jesus to be the biological son of Joseph and Mary. According to Jerome and Epiphanius, the Jewish believers called Nazarenes also used the Hebrew Gospel of Matthew and adhered to Torah but they did accept the virgin birth, the resurrection and the divinity of Yeshua.

I also recommend the work of David Bivin, like Understanding the Difficult Words of Jesus: New Insights From a Hebrew Perspective and that of Larry Hurtado, especially Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity. All of Vermes' books are worth reading but I found The Authentic Gospel of Jesus to be particularly valuable.
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting book, making a strong case for the nativity story belonging to the earlier layers of tradition 20 Mar 2014
By Inigo - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition
As always, Vermes is worth reading, if only for the scholarly connections in his work, but, as always his hermeneutic method has some limitations. He tends to attribute everything that accords with later, more formal, organised religion, to later editors. He is no doubt right to be somewhat suspicious of texts which fit too well with the layer of material that appears to belong to the more organised and hierarchical form of Christianity that began to emerge with the formalisation of leadership office (aka bishops) rather than with the more charismatic, distinctively counter-hierarchical layer that is generally regarded as more distinctively jeshua-authentic. However, he tends to use this filter somewhat relentlessly. He is very strong when he deals with the cultural and religious context of Judaism, but again, sometimes seems to take the view that if a text is in accord with Judaic tradition it is necessarily authentic. I would prefer to use both methodological filters more circumspectly, and tentatively.
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