Fact Or Tradition?

Q. I have always thought that there was more to the story about the shepherds visiting the birth of Jesus than what Luke says. For example, I’ve been told that these were shepherds of the flock of sheep that were used in the temple sacrifices and therefore they were making sure that the lambs being born were without blemish. This is the reason they were sent to Bethlehem to witness the birth of Jesus, the Lamb of God, who was born without sin. Also, the plot of land they were using was the same plot that Boaz redeemed for Naomi in the book of Ruth. Is there any evidence of this or is it all a cute story like the little drummer boy?

A. I first heard these things in the 1980’s and they were already well established traditions. They could easily be true, because the Book of Ruth tells us Boaz and Naomi were from Bethlehem. Also, the priests did raise sheep that were specially bred for use as sacrifices during the second temple period. Since Bethlehem is only 5 miles from Jerusalem, it would have been a convenient place for the temple flocks to be kept. But the Bible does not offer any specific confirmation as to the validity of these traditions.

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