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Bah humbug! Pope debunks some myths about Christmas
While conceding that they will undoubtedly live on, the Pope has taken an axe to some of the most popular traditions of the Nativity.
- Martin Robinson
- Vatican City
- November 22, 2012
With just under 34 days until Christmas, the Pope has put a dampener on the festive period by rubbishing the idea that donkeys or any other animal have a place in the traditional nativity scene.
Benedict XVI also claims angels never sang to the shepherds to proclaim Christ birth's - trashing the much-loved carol 'Hark! The herald angels sing' in the process.
From this falsehood the tradition of singing carols was born, the Pope says.
His views are revealed in his latest and last installment of three volumes on the life of Jesus, released today, which is set to be a worldwide bestseller.
Almost every Christian church in the world will soon be blowing the dust off its traditional nativity set with its array of animals but the Pope is clear that it would not have included any beast whatsoever.
St Peter's Square itself regularly has a giant scene at Christmas and has displayed an array of animals at the heart of the Vatican, but the Pontiff is certain that is wrong.
'In the gospels there is no mention of animals,’ he writes, saying that they were probably a Hebrew invention of the seventh century BC, as outlined in the Book of Habakkuk.
Habakkuk was the eighth book of 12 minor prophets in the Old Testament.
In Christian tradition, he is regarded by some as a prophet who predicted the nativity.
Scenes relating to the birth of Jesus, as described in the Gospel, do not directly refer to the presence of an ox and donkey.
But in Habakkuk 3:2, it is written: 'In the midst of the two beasts wilt thou be known' - and this was one of the sources which inspired the presence of the creatures at the manger.
(It is worth noting that another Old Testament prophet, Isaiah, also inspired the manger scenery, with his words from 1:3: 'The ox knows its owner, and an ass, its master’s manger').
However, the Pope is convinced despite debunking the theory, the tradition is here to stay, saying: 'No nativity scene will give up its ox and donkey', he said.
'Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives,' hits bookshops in 50 countries on Wednesday, the third and final installment of a project the 85-year-old Benedict conceived a decade ago and began writing soon after he became pope in 2005.
The first two books, which topped the bestseller lists in Italy, dealt with Jesus' public ministry and his death, leaving just Jesus' birth to complete the series.
More than 1 million copies are planned for the initial print run, just in time for Christmas.
In the book, Benedict blends history, theology, linguistics and even astronomy to interpret the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, which describe the months just before and after Jesus' birth.
But there is one part of the nativity story he is firm on - that Mary was a virgin and Christ was conceived with the Holy Spirit alone.
In the section 'Virgin Birth - Myth or Historical Truth?' he says: 'The accounts of Matthew and Luke are not myths taken a stage further.
'They are firmly rooted, in terms of their basic conception, in the biblical tradition of God the Creator and Redeemer.'
Source: Daily Mail