For my sins, which are clearly far more substantial than I had realised, I agreed last week to read through and comment on Geza Vermes’ book The Nativity: History and Legend, which I should otherwise never have read. Since it is directed to the educated layman, this educated layman feels free to offer his opinion of it.
Anyway I’ve written the desired review, so I may as well make it available here:
I wasn’t very impressed. The sort of book that consists of debunking the bible never seems like more than a piece of spite to me, whatever it professes. Why write it otherwise?
Indeed Vermes even goes so far as to sneer at the popular celebrations of Christmas. That piece of cheek towards those who paid his salary would have brought down upon him the wrath of the tabloids, had any of them bothered to read it. I’ve never forgotten seeing one of them yell on the front page “This child taught Christmas joy is evil!”, attacking some poor humble little sect that didn’t celebrate Christmas.
It’s always best to write about your enthusiasms. I am deeply glad that I am not a book critic! It must be a profession that tends to make you sneery.
But writing all this did give me a chance to think about how to deal objectively with evidently legendary or miraculous passages in historical texts in general. I will try to write a post about this.