Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Same, Old Story

What could be better for the Christmas spirit than one of those books that tells us Jesus may or may not have been born in Bethlehem, Mary may or may not have been a virgin, the wise men from Babylon following a star is a real stretch, the dates are all wrong, those shepherds are only out in the fields between March and November, and Herod slaughtering the young children (admittedly, not one of our favorite episodes from the Christmas pageant) is not very probable? When the whole thing is written by Geza Vermes, our favorite Hungarian ex-Catholic-priest turned Jewish Oxford professor, you know that Paige Patterson won’t be sending any of these out for gifts this season.

Still, I’m a sucker for “historical Jesus” books like The Nativity: History & Legend (Doubleday, 172 pp., $17.95), even though the arguments are always the same:

1. Here’s what the gospels say.
2. They don’t agree with each other.
3. They don’t agree with other contemporary sources.
4. We don’t have much to go on, but here’s a little tiny bit from Philo and Josephus.
5. Each gospel writer was probably shaping his story for a particular audience.
6. The gospels aren’t history.{continue...}
[via The Wittenburg Door]

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