“Dead” Christmas lamb & other relative objections

Posted 09 Jan 2024

Matthew 02 - The Nativity SET 02 - Scene 09 - Wise men giving gifts (Baby version) 980x706px col.jpg
Bible Cartoon: Matthew 02 - The Nativity SET 02 - Scene 09 - Wise men giving gifts (Baby version)

Above is my latest design for a Nativity scene from Matthew’s gospel, completed just before Christmas 2023. I turned the picture into a Christmas card & sent it to family. Today I heard a very interesting interpretation of my picture. One of my aunts disliked the scene for several reasons. The first was because she thought the lambs on the ewe’s back looked as if they were dead!

Below is a close up of the lambs, to see what she means.

Matthew 02 - The Nativity SET 02 - Scene 09 - Wise men giving gifts (Baby version) PARTIAL 300dpi col.jpg
Bible Cartoon: Matthew 02 - The Nativity SET 02 - Scene 09 - Wise men giving gifts (Baby version) - Close up

Having been involved in lambing for a few seasons myself, I can attest to seeing lambs standing on, jumping off, lying on & sleeping on their mother’s backs. I expect her body warmth is a great comfort to her offspring. Below is the photograph I used to illustrate my scene.

Ewe with her lambs.

So it was that I drew the lambs asleep on their mother’s back (just like I saw in the photo reference) in my scene. I fully expected my viewers to understand that I had in mind the creation of a scene of quiet nocturnal homely peace & joy. It seems I may have missed that mark a bit!

Some more of my aunt’s observations/objections were that 1) Mary was sitting on the floor, 2) that Joseph had his hands out, as if to greedily take the wise men’s gifts & 3) she thought that Christian’s would be offended if there wasn’t a wooden crib for the baby Jesus to be gently laid in.

All of this came as somewhat of a surprise to me. I thought I had been very careful to research 1st century Palestinian homes, & drew according to what I had discovered. Such homes often consisted of a single room, where both people & their animals sheltered at night. The single-room home often had a raised platform to keep the people up & away from the animals. This raised platform is what you can see behind Mary & Joseph in my scene.

Regarding Mary sitting on the straw-strewn floor, perhaps I was in error in that placement. If I have offended anyone, then I am most apologetic. When the holy couple arrived at their relative’s home, the guest room was full, probably because many people had gone back to Bethlehem for the census. So Mary & Joseph couldn’t use the guest room, they had to bed down with the animals in the lower part of the house. I suppose that wealthier homes had an additional, guest room, which the door behind Mary & Joseph (in my picture) leads to.
By the way, below is an extract from an article explaining the erroneous use of the word “inn” in the Nativity story. [1]

The figure of Joseph & his outstretched hands were intended to be a visual message of greeting towards the wise men. But again, if my viewers see Joseph as a money-grabbing character, then I do apologise, that was not my intention at all. I drew Joseph with an expression of surprise, which I thought was appropriate, since he probably didn’t expect strangers to turn up on his doorstep & offer his child gifts! I thought Joseph’s expression quite reasonable really, but perhaps I was wrong again?

I didn’t include the wooden crib/manger, since 1st century Palestinian homes usually had a simple indentation in the floor, which acted as a manger, or else they employed a stone cut & shaped for the purpose. Was my aunt correct in thinking that Christians would be offended if I didn’t include a wooden crib in my picture. You will have to tell me!

I am grateful to my aunt for her observations/criticisms, as it is very useful to get feedback from viewers of my work. I welcome such comments, & am not offended at all by such. I think it just goes to show that one person’s scene of “quiet nocturnal homely peace & joy” is not what other people necessarily see or perceive.

“No Room for an Inn

You probably recognize this scene:

Bethlehem (around 2,000 years ago): Joseph and Mary arrive at the sleepy town in the middle of the night. Mary, already in labor, remains on the donkey while Joseph frantically searches for a room at the local inns. Desperate, he begs one reluctant innkeeper for any place at all to have this baby. The innkeeper finally relents and makes room for them in a tumbledown stable with the cows.

There’s just one problem. This isn’t what the Bible teaches. The true history has gotten choked out by myth. Stories, plays, and movies have dramatized the event for the sake of entertainment, but the real birth account is a bit different. Here’s what Luke tells us:

Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was, that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in swaddling cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn [kataluma]. (Luke 2:4–7)

Perhaps most importantly, the Greek word most Bibles render “inn” (kataluma) doesn’t mean what we think in modern English. Tradition has obscured the true meaning here. Instead of “inn,” the word actually means “guest room.” In fact, you’ll find the same exact word used just that way in Luke 22:11 and Mark 14:14. Consistent with this, the 2011 update to the NIV now reads, “because there was no guest room available for them.”

So, rather than being turned away from hotels, Joseph found his relatives’ house filled with guests who were likely there for the census. The couple didn’t face closed doors. They just had to live in the lower level of the house—a place that often housed animals in ancient Israel.”
[Source: https://answersingenesis.org/christmas/christmas-no-room-for-an-inn/]


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