It’s that Nativity time again!

It’s that Nativity time again! November 25, 2014

As I have said before,

Holidays are coming, holidays are coming…

It’s that  time of year, you know, the interminable run-up to Christmas when big corporations vie for your hard-earned cash in an attempt to exploit the seasonal goodwill brought on by the imaginary birth of a godmanspirit.

Well, have I told you recently that I wrote a book on that very topic?

I didn’t?

How very careless.

Anyway, I wrote a book on that topic. It’s called, fittingly, The Nativity: A Critical Examination. Anyway, you should part with your hard-earned cash to acquire it, because that would allow me to feed my children over the festive period (think Tiny Tim from Scrooge).

Hilarity aside… I had a debate a few years back concerning matters brought up in the book on the Reasonable Doubts radio programme and podcast with Randal Rauser. Check it out here. The book forms the foundation of some of what I say in that debate.

Essentially, I set out to write a concise analysis of all of the issues with the nativity accounts, doing so in a robust, yet economical way. I think it’s a great book, obviously, since it sets out to do in one book what you see in bits and pieces of other books and chapters and places online. Here is what one kindly reviewer wrote:

I’ve never written a book review before. Occasionally I’ve considered reviewing books and essays I found to be not only interesting, but enjoyable and enlightening.

So I’ve decided that once in a while, when I’ve read something I consider really well done, I would write about it here that I might convince a few of you to spend your money and time trusting that you would have a similar experience as I have.

I believe that Jonathan M.S. Pearce’s work, THE NATIVITY: A Critical Examination is one of those books you’ll find as I described above: both enjoyable and enlightening.

I don’t know much about Mr. Pearce other than from his blog and I didn’t just stumble on this work accidentally, but it was recommended to me by a friend. What I discovered in the opening pages was someone that was performing some serious scholarly work, but not in a pedantic fashion. Honestly, I found the book hard to put down, but on the other hand, I also didn’t want to complete the book too quickly.

What first comes to mind for me about this book is that it made me think. Most of us are aware of the story of the Nativity as described in the New Testament books of Matthew and Luke, and the inconsistencies between the two accounts. How many of us have taken the time to look at each account together, verse by verse, and deconstruct those stories? This is what Mr. Pearce does very well in this book. This is a scholarly work as I mentioned earlier but is written for the layman. He consistently quotes scholars in ancient history and biblical studies – on both sides mind you – to present what I consider a fair rendering of these two accounts of the birth of Jesus.

Without giving too much away, (because I would like you to read and judge for yourself) consider just these few areas that are discussed and analyzed:

Why it is that Christians will believe in the virgin birth of their god, and yet dismiss as mythology other virgin births in more ancient religions?

The genealogy of Jesus; why there are two different genealogies and what is each author trying to portray to the readers of Matthew and Luke.

What I refer to as the conundrum of the “census” that causes Joseph and Mary to travel to Bethlehem.

How the authors used Old Testament “prophecy” to justify the eminence of Jesus over all other gods.

These are just a few of the areas covered and what I found really enjoyable is how Mr. Pearce, throughout the book, weaves these stories to show the reader the incredulity of the entire event.

I truly believe that like me, you’ll have a better understanding of what has been heralded by Christianity for 2000 years as a “miraculous” event, as nothing more than two writers, trying to justify the supremacy of their god for their own readership. I actually came away from this book actually wondering why anyone, anyone, even 2000 years ago, could have taken either story as being a true account. It also left me with a larger question as well: How is it possible that early church fathers selected these works, having to know that there were significant differences in the accounts, as part of the Christian canon?

I highly recommend this book. You can buy it in paper or Kindle format here.

front cover 3

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • epicurus

    I just received my copy in the mail yesterday. I’m up to page 20. Enjoying it so far.

  • epicurus

    I’m looking forward to the Virgin birth section. As an ex evangelical/fundamentalist/conservative protestant, with the reformation view of using the original languages, I’ve always chafed (well not when I was a believer) under the burden of reading gospel writers who used the Septuagint rather than the original Hebrew to translate their out of context “prophecies.”

  • Travelman

    I’m two thirds of the way through Christianity is not Great so may have to leave this until after Christmas. Maybe in time to buy you a new year drink, Jonathan.

    • epicurus

      I ordered Jonathan’s book and Christianity is not Great together, but I’m reading Jonathan’s first since it seemed right as Christmas will be upon us soon along with all the nativity gobbledygook.

    • Ooh, you;re further ahead than me with CING! Let me know your favourite chapters.

      Is that drink a promise? Are you local?

      • Travelman

        I’m very impressed with CNG so far. I’m keeping brief notes as I go along so as to enable me to a proper review for Amazon. Favourite chapters so far…probably those that make me most angry. At the moment probably a tie between slavery and the evangelical culture wars. Still got your chapter to look forward to.

        The drink thing was in regard to your comment about buying the book in time for Christmas to feed the kids. Even so it’d be great if sometime one day I could buy you a drink to celebrate your excellent blog, though I live at the other end of the country, in the north east.

        PS i was the one who put the comment on Amazon yesterday in reply to your good friend from Nebraska who shall remain nameless.

        • Ah ha haaa – it all becomes apparent! Thanks for kind words and comments!

  • epicurus

    The link for the debate on the Reasonable doubts page is only a 1 minute into. Does anyone have another link? Or maybe Res doubts took the debate down? Maybe I just need more sleep. Appreciate any help, would like to listen to it.

      • epicurus

        Thanks, I got it working, but there must be some weird url code going on or something, it’s only every third attempt that gives the full debate, or maybe my old macbook is finally crapping out. Anyway, thanks.

        • epicurus

          Just to add to the weirdness, I tracked down the episode on RD’s podcast Itunes site. Downloaded the actual podcast right out of Itunes, and then opened it – 2 minutes long!.

      • epicurus

        I just tried again with a different laptop, It says it’s one hour and 42 minutes, but sadly it doesn’t play past the 1 minute 13 second mark.

        • epicurus

          I just sent an email to Reasonable Doubts explaining the glitch. Hopefully they fix it.

          • Thanks! Do you have an itunes account because they are all free on itunes.

          • epicurus

            Yes, I have an itunes account. unfortunately, it’s only 2 minutes long there as well, even the description notes this, here is a screen capture.

          • epicurus

            Thanks for the youtube link. I guess I’ll have to park my butt by the computer and listen, I was hoping to load it onto my ipod so I could listen while driving or walking, but I guess that’s not going to happen. Ahh the hardships of living in a 21st century first world country.

          • Mate

            You want to get yourself this:

            http://www.ytddownloader.com/

            This, or similar ones, can download the YT file as a video file and then convert it to audio. It’s a no-brainer on my software list!

          • epicurus

            Thanks, I’ll check it out.

          • epicurus

            Rats, ytddownloader installs spigot and all it’s wretched spyware. It installs it in both custom and express installations, seems like no way to load yt without it. I refuse to have that crap on my computer. If you use it you might want check you computer for all the spy junk YT puts on.
            Where’s Luke Breuer when you need him.

          • I think when i did it you could deselect it on custom.

            Either way, it is easy to get rid of in programs/features, and then a good sweep with spybot etc.

          • yeah, just ran it through and you can deselect it on custom.

          • epicurus

            ok, I see it now. Of course my missing that probably means you think I’m doing something wrong when I try to download the podcast or listen at the reasonable doubts site, and maybe I am, but I would encourage you to go there yourself and try to listen past the 2 minute or mark.

          • epicurus

            Ok, it’s download and converted. Thanks for the help and sorry for the bother. I’ll buy you a beer if I ever get across the pond. Hopefully Res doubts fixes the iTunes and website versions so others can listen.

  • epicurus

    I’m up to page 100 any enjoying it. Just noticed the curved staff being held by a Shepard or whomever on the book cover. it looks like a question mark. Is that on purpose, or am I just seeing what I want to see?

    • That is indeed the design! Good to see you are getting something from it.

      JP

  • epicurus

    Just finished the book and did it in time to watch the end of the Grey Cup (Canadian football championship). Great book, it’s plastered with stickies (I don’t like to underline and pencil mark books up until the second or third reading).
    It was great to see everything in one place after only reading about individual topics or aspects of the nativity over the years.

    It is my belief that Christians do not show the same charity to other religions that they apply to their own apologetics. No surprise there. Maybe we all do it. So reading the Christian attempts in Jonathan’s book to reconcile the problems with the nativity, and listening to the debate between Randal and Jonathan, only reinforce that belief. I cannot see any uses of multiple attestation or fanciful explanations by Mormons, for example, that would cause a Christian to concede Mormon “truths.” I can’t see a Christian accepting any amount of Mormon witnesses as an example of multiple attestation – because they are all Mormon, and will have a certain theological view to press. That would be obvious to a Christian.

    • epicurus

      Right then, on to the Christianity is not Great anthology. Might as well start with Jonathan’s essay/contribution.

    • Thanks for the comment. As ever, if you wanted to post a glowing review on amazon…. ;)

      I think the double standards of the Christian is indeed very telling.

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