In sum, it becomes evident, from Vermes’s account, that Matthew and Luke manipulated quotations from earlier texts, invented episodes and elaborated upon earlier myths to provide compelling narratives of Christ’s birth. Few people will be surprised or offended by his conclusions.
The “facts”, as we may call them, are not new. German biblical scholarship of the 19th century effectively dismissed the scriptures as documents of unimpeachable accuracy. But they are the next best thing. They are works of genius. They have enshrined the mystery, and the majesty, of Incarnation. There may not have been a star, or a flock, or gold, or frankincense, or myrrh. But they constitute the power of a compelling narrative that remains, for many millions of people, the source of inspiration and of comfort. That, in itself, is perhaps worth celebrating in this period of the year.
Saturday, December 23, 2006
ANOTHER REVIEW of Geza Vermes's new book, The Nativity: History and Legend, has appeared in the London Times. Excerpt: