Saturday, December 23, 2017

Those animals in the Nativity scene

'TIS THE SEASON: An ox, an ass … a dragon? Sorry, there were no animals in the Bible’s nativity scene (Meredith Warren, The Conversation).
From nativity plays to crèche sets to Christmas cards, animals are ubiquitous in our vision of the birth of Christ – but according to the Bible, not a single animal was there. Where did all these animals come from, and why are they now so central to the story?

Only two parts of the Bible talk about Jesus’ birth: the Gospels of Luke and Matthew. Mark and John skip over Jesus’ infancy and head straight to his adult life. So how similar are the narratives of Matthew and Luke to the version familiar to anyone who has attended a Christmas church service or children’s nativity play? Christmas carols such as Away In A Manger sing about the cattle lowing – and in Little Drummer Boy they keep time. There’s even a song called Little Donkey about the beast that carries Mary to Bethlehem in our vision of the Christmas story. But do these images appear in the actual Gospels?

They don't in the canonical Four Gospels. The Protevangelium of James (cf. here) and some other apocryphal gospels are another matter. And, yes, dragons are involved too. Cats are a more recent addition.

HT AJR. Cross-file under New Testament Apocrypha Watch.

Visit PaleoJudaica daily for the latest news on ancient Judaism and the biblical world.