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The Nativity: History and Legend Paperback – 2 Nov 2006

4.8 out of 5 stars 5 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin (2 Nov. 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141024461
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141024462
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 1.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 687,104 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

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.


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By Peter Uys HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWER on 12 Jun. 2008
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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Geza Vermes is rightly renowned for the brilliance with which he recreates Jesus' 1st century world.

In 'The Nativity: History and Legend' the author paints an affectionate portrait of personal Christmases past at the start.

In discussing Jesus' Nativity the author respectfully but dilligently unveils all the apparent anomalies in the development of the Birth Narratives. His analysis makes compelling reading and sent me back to William Barclay and Benedict XVI to find more faith enhancing answers to the painstaking questions he raises. However one needs to read Geza Vermes book to know what are the main questions.
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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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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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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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