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The Shepherds (Nativity)
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Biblical Characters
    Appear in The Gospel of Luke 2:8 - 20
    Subject of the 'Anunciation to the shepherds' episode found in the Nativity Story of Jesus
    Were reportedly tending their flocks in the countryside near Bethlehem, when they were visited by The Angel Gabriel
    Were reportedly admonished to travel to Bethlehem and attend the birth of the Messiah; subsequently arrived at the site of Jesus' birth to accompany Joseph and Mary
    Subject of centuries-worth of artwork depicting the Birth of Christ and 'the Adoration of the Shepherds'
    Recipients of the famous Biblical verse: 'Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests,' or 'Peace on earth/Good will toward men'
    Their names were never determined, nor was their exact number (people usually settle on 3-4).
    They are often confused with The Magi, and are sometimes depicted following the 'Christmas Star,' although as locals they most likely knew how to get to Bethlehem.
    They are usually lumped into the 'Adoration of the Magi' scene although they never appear in the same Biblical account.
    Also unlike the Magi, they didn't bring any gifts for the infant whose birth they were celebrating (granted they weren't as financially well off and had only just decided to visit on the spur of the moment without planning ahead).
    The reasoning for this conflation varies from artists wanting contrast between the grand robes of the 'Three Kings' and the poor farm-hands to a desire for 'more animal diversity' in the frame.
    There has been strong debate as to whether or not the Angels' message was mistranslated from the original Greek.
    The scene of their being visited by the Angel Gabriel was a favorite art subject during the Byzantine period up through the Middle Ages, but has since fallen out of favor with 'bad Bible artists.'
    That they only appear in Luke's narrative (and not Matthew's for example) has made some theologians suspicious as to whether Luke wasn't trying to craft the message to appeal to a broader audience; as shepherds were looked down on by prominent Jews of the period but would have appealed to the pastoral instinct of Greco-Roman readers.
    They inspired artwork by Rembrandt and Georges de La Tour.
    They had a thankless job and were looked down on by upper-class Jewish citizens.
    They openly declared that Baby Jesus was the Messiah, but no one took them seriously other than Mary, who took their words to heart.
    They returned to tending their flocks after seeing the child, and it remains unclear as to what ever became of them.
    They were basically the ancient Middle East equivalent to garbage men (the message being that Christ's glory knows no social boundary).
    The 'Peace on earth, good will to men' line has become a universal one which is utilized in any number of contexts.
    The traditional 'Gloria in Excelsis,' or the 'Song of the Angels,' is directly based on their Biblical passage (as is a plethora of popular English Christmas Carols).
    Their story appears to have partially inspired the 'Little Drummer Boy' story (Aaron is a shepherd boy who plays his drum for Baby Jesus despite having 'no gift to bring' after which his hurt lamb is cured by divine providence).
    Their passage in Luke was specifically referenced by Linus Van Pelt in the 'Charlie Brown Christmas' special, the scene which is usually seen as the most identifiable one in the short.
    Their 'Adoration' was depicted beautifully at the beginning of Lew Wallace's 'Ben Hur' (and in the subsequent film adaptations, in 1925 and 1959).
    Scale-model lawn Nativity Scenes in America tend to leave them out in favor of the more exotic looking 'Three Kings' (which end up getting vandalized or stolen frequently anyway).

Credit: BoyWiththeGreenHair

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