The Mythical Interpretation of the Gospels: Critical Studies in the Historic Narratives

By Thomas James Thorburn | Go to book overview

CHAPTER III
THE NARRATIVES OF THE INFANCY AND CHILDHOOD

WE have now to consider a number of narratives dealing with the stories related about the birth and childhood of Jesus. The form in which these narratives have reached us suggests that, if they are to be regarded as historical in the true sense of the word, we must look upon them as popularised versions of the incidents in question, which have, in some degree, undergone a change of form in order to adapt them to the intelligence of the simple folk who formed the bulk of the earliest converts to Christianity.


The Shepherds

The episode of the shepherds' visit -- an event in itself natural enough but for its connexion with a supernatural apparition -- is either ignored or summarily dealt with by the mythicists.

Mr. J. M. Robertson, in particular, quickly rids himself of the whole story. He says: "The shepherds come from the same prehistoric sources as the rest. They belong to the myths of Cyrus and Kṛishṇa, and they are more or less implied in that of Hermes, who, on the day of his divine birth, stole the cloud cows1 of Apollo, himself a divine shepherd and god of shepherds"2 ( Christianity and Mythology, sec. "The Cow and Stable Birth," pp. 320ff.).

____________________
1
This idea is found in the Rig-Veda, where the clouds are called the "cows of Indra."
2
Strauss ( Life of Jesus, vol. I. p. 214) attempts to explain the story of the shepherds by the pagan idea that the gods frequently appeared to shepherds. But there is no suggestion of the kind in this story.

-43-

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