What a book! This is actually 3 books I one; The Nativity, The Passion, The Resurrection having once been released as individual books. This issue brings all 3 under one title and the book is all the stronger for it. Each topic is looked at in the kind of detail they need to be fully explored, explained and concluded on.
This is a highly stimulating book that will get you to think about these familiar aspects of Christianity in a new way. Some of it supports existing Christian faith, some challenges it, but whatever the conclusions, the facts are fully brought to bear on the stories. Some of what emerges may well surprise you. Some may indeed offend you. But all will make you think again and reflect. Especially as it is written by a highly esteemed New Testament scholar who through his placing of Jesus in a Jewish setting in his ground breaking book Jesus the Jew (SCM Classics) has radically influenced (for the better) the study and understanding of Jesus. The contents of this book Jesus: Nativity - Passion -Resurrection is therefore grounded in reputable scholarship.
What we get with this book is a thorough examination of the gospel stories. Mr. Vermes looks at what each of the gospel says and explores whether what is said to have happened could have happened that way given what we know of the people, religious and legal processes at the time. Mr. Vermes does this in a highly readable and engrossing way. The book is easy to read and follow, is hugely insightful in its explanations and analysis, and I personally found it a riveting read.
So what of the 3 main topics? I learnt an awful lot from all them even though I had done a lot of other reading about Jesus prior to reading this book. I found the section on the naivety to be scintillating read that delivered a most complete and enthralling account and dissection of the events surrounding Jesus' birth. He's extremely thorough and looks at events from all angles. A couple of insights which I have not come across in any of the other many Jesus / New Testament books I have read are worth mentioning. First the bombshell. According to Mr. Vermes Mary would have been only 12 years old when she got betrothed to Joseph, as child marriage was the custom of the Jews at the time of Jesus. Was she a virgin? Well, surprising as it may seem, with Jewish ways of looking at things at the time, she could technically have been looked upon as a virgin even after conceiving Jesus. How so? Before her first menstruation a `women' was viewed a virgin. If Mary conceived after her first ovulation and before her first menstruation she could in Jewish eyes technically be a looked upon as a virgin. So Jesus in this scenario could have been a result of a virgin birth. But this book is not about sensationalist claims despite the impression I might be giving. It offers a serious examination of what each gospel says and looks at all aspects of the events it covers. The sections on the passion and resurrection mirror this very thorough and enlightening approach. The depth and breadth of coverage is superb and the analysis and insights into the gospel accounts are fascinating.
To conclude; This is an excellent, very readable book. The events surrounding the nativity, passion and resurrection are central to the Jesus story and Christianity. There are now many doubters as to whether these events happened or not. This book will definitely help make up your mind, and do so in a credible and balanced way. I would highly recommend this book.