The Nativity

The Nativity

History and Legend

By Geza Vermes

Doubleday Religion, Hardcover, 9780385522410, 192pp.

Publication Date: November 6, 2007


The Nativity is the very heart of the Christian tradition. For more than 2,000 years, the story of Jesus’ birth has been told and retold, mythologized and sentimentalized. In The Nativity, Geza Vermes untangles centuries of storytelling and places the birth and the events surrounding it within their historical context.

Vermes examines every aspect of the Christmas story: the prophetic star, the journey of Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem, the miraculous birth in the stable, the arrival of the magi, and the murderous decree of Herod. Delving into all the available evidence—including the New Testament Infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke, Jewish documents of the period, and classical literary and historical sources—Vermes explains where actual history ends and legend begins.

A masterful work of biblical scholarship, The Nativity penetrates the deeper meaning of the New Testament. By clarifying what belongs to real history and what derives from man’s hopeful and creative religious imagination, it gives readers a new and more powerful understanding of the events celebrated every Christmas season.

About the Author

GEZA VERMES is one of the world’s leading authorities on Judaism in the age of Jesus. His pioneering work on the Dead Sea Scrolls and the historical Jesus led to his appointment as the first Professor of Jewish Studies at Oxford, where he is now Professor Emeritus. His Complete Dead Sea Scrolls—first published in 1962, since revised and edited, and now in its sixth printing—is widely considered a classic and foundational text. Since 1991, he has been the director of the Forum for Qumran Research at the Oxford Centre for Hebrew and Jewish Studies, and he was elected Fellow of the British Academy in 1985 and of the European Academy in 2001.

Praise For The Nativity

Praise for Geza Vermes and The Nativity

“The greatest Jesus scholar of his generation.” —Sunday Telegraph (UK)

“Vermes sets about painstaking literary and historical analysis with refreshing humor and enthusiasm and argues his case with clarity and skill as he uncovers how the events of the nativity were constructed by evangelists to fulfill Old Testament prophecies and Jewish traditions.” —The Guardian (UK)