Friday, 18 December 2015

The #ChristmasMyths, #3: The Song of the Heavenly Host

Part of a continuing series* looking at the pagan origins of the Christmas Myths, one day at a time. Today: the story of lonely shepherds, and what a flock of angels does to them late at night …

So there you are, out abiding in your fields and minding your own sheep flock’s business –a  shepherd watching your flock by night—and  all of a sudden this old angel shows up, and then another, and then another—until out there in your back paddock you’ve pretty much got the whole Heavenly Host flying about just above the campfire.

And then they all start singing--and pretty bloody angelically by all accounts (well, by the one account).

And let’s be honest, over the years human beings have put some pretty damned heavenly music to the words they are supposed to have sung.

But if the story all sounds just a trifle far-fetched, perhaps that’s why only one of the Gospels’ authors chose to add it to their tall tales of Jesus’ great adventures. Only Luke. (Mark and John don’t even bother with any of this Nativity stuff. And Matthew couldn’t have shepherds cluttering up his story, could he: it was already full of Magi.)

And where did Luke get this part of his tall tale from?  Easy. Once again, he just lifted it from those old myths of the pagans and from the east, in which the the birth of every world-historic leader was marked by the sound of heavenly singing—or at least by a loud heavenly voice making a joyful noise.

They’re all nice stories, so why wouldn’t you borrow them?

It happened in India when the virgin Devaki bore Chrishna, when “the quarters of the horizon were irradiate with joy,” or so the legends tell us, “as if moonlight were over the whole earth.” Not to mention all the spirits and nymphs dancing and singing, and the very clouds emitting “low pleasing sounds” and “pouring down a rain of flowers.”

The Buddha’s birth—“born for the good of men, to dispel the darkness of their ignorance”--brought forth a similar celestial celebration: great light, flowers, music heard all over the land, all beings everywhere full of joy, all the gods of the thirty-three heavens singing ding-dong merrily on high.
Kind of makes a few angels in a field look just a little bit sad, don’t you think?

Crikey, even Confucius himself couldn’t get himself born without the reported appearance of celestial music.

Nor could the Egyptian Osiris, at whose birth a loud voice was heard proclaiming, “The Ruler of all the Earth is born.” (And so, if you were Egyptian, he was.)

The divine Apollo entered the world in Delos to the joy of all the gods in Olympus, it was said, “and the Earth itself laughed beneath the smile of Heaven.”

Hercules’s father Zeus yelled down from heaven to proclaim the birth of his son—by all accounts not very tunefully, but the trend at least is clear.

The “heavenly Apollonius” went one better than just having a tune at his birth: not only did music attend his birth, but a flock of swans appeared, surrounding his mother, clapping their wings in rhythm, singing in unison and fanning the air with a gentle breeze.

Lovely! Who needs angels when you’ve got the whole corps of Swan Lake up there in the sky.

So you can see there is nothing either unique or odd in stories with a heavenly host proclaiming a momentous birth.

What is unique or odd however is that only one of the Gospels bothers to make mention of this portentous event at all. Which, if it were more than just a good story to tell around a campfire, is passing strange don’t you think?

Tomorrow: “The Divine Child is Recognised & Presented With Gifts.”

* This and later posts in the series rely heavily on Thomas William Doane’s Bible Myths and Their Parallels in Other Religions. Unless otherwise attributed, all quotes are sourced from there.


  1. Same shit, different day. Again your ignorance of the gsopels and cultural aspects is apparent. The old myths which have some similarities have little in the way of adherents today yet 2000 years has not seen Christianity extinguished at all. There may be a reason for that - apart form mass delusion.


  2. Admittedly the 'Mythical Jesus' looks compelling on the surface if you've never encountered it before. Then you do a little research, which involves reading more than one 19th century book, and it collapses like a house of cards as one after another the alleged parallels turn out to be either non-existent or so vague that they're essentially meaningless.

    John Smith

  3. "Disproving" the Nativity of Christ by claiming there were a bunch of myths just like it is a bit like saying things aren't that bad in North Korea because 1984 is only a work of fiction. Or that 9/11 wasn't real because there was a movie called The Towering Inferno back in the '70s.

  4. ...or like saying that The Magnificent Seven isn't real because there was an earlier movie called The Seven Samurai with exactly the same plot of which the later director was a fan. Oh wait... my bad - both of these are works of fiction with absolutely no evidence to support their subject matter, unlike the nativity which is an unassailable historic fact backed up by a wealth of verifiable scientific evidence.


  5. There's no 'verifiable scientific evidence' for lots of old stuff but we deduce from what little we have that things probably occurred / did not occur in a certain fashion. That we tend to pick and agree with things that support our world view does not make the things that don't fit wrong or unfounded. One day we will all have the Oh well or Oh shit moment.



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