Posted by Smokey Stover on January 16, 2004
In Reply to: Certain ones heard, certain others weren't invited posted by Bob on December 28, 2003
: : : At that time, although I think it was already archaic, it would have meant what we mean today if we said "some poor shepherds."
: : :
: : : : : : : This has always bothered me a bit...
: : : : : : : "The first Noel, The angels did say
: : : : : : : was to certain poor shepherds,
: : : : : : : in fields as they lay..."
: : : : : : : Does this mean 'certain shepherds' as opposed to certain *other* shepherds? Is is an archaic verb? Is is just the way lyrics are sometimes?
: : : : : : : This has been preying on my mind for decades. Some times I wake up and night and wonder. Many thanks in advance for any insights.
: : : : : : : Camelita
: : : : : : : Who clearly needs a new hobby
: : : : : : I do not know. I imagine the songwriter just threw in "certain" to make it sound right.
: : : : : Well we can be certain of some things: firstly the shepherds were not poor - these folks always had their sheep to fall back on. Secondly, if they were carrying crooks then they were certainly shepherds so we are left with the probability that these shepherds, above all other shepherds, were, for whatever reason, privileged to hear the very first 'Noel'. Contrary to what you might think I've been worried for years about the reaction of said shepherds to this 'Noel'. Did they think it a joke and roll around laughing, were they impressed at being chosen or had they been warned in advance and just took it in their stride. I favour the last option, I think they had an inkling that angels were on the lookout for three shepherds lying in a field and, just out of curiosity, they left their homes after tea, congregated in a nearby convenient field and, with their crooks for identification purposes, lay down and hoped for the best. The rest is history.
: : : :
: : : : Well, in that case, tipped off as they were, they were probably *certain* and maybe even smug. Which makes me wonder if there were uncertain shepherds filled with existential angst... Mind you, the shepherds then had less time to navel gaze than shepherds now, what with all the wolves in sheep's clothing and such.
: : :At that time, although I think it was already archaic, it would have meant what we mean today if we said "some poor shepherds."
: : I thought it might have been an archaic verb as in "let's certain the shepherds because they are uneasy" But "certain" used in the sense of "certain people" is still in current usage.
: Usually, the announcement of the birth of a royal person is broadcast widely, with a lot of pomp. That this particular Noel, "born is the king..." should be narrowcast to a handful of sleepy rustics signals a clear change of direction, if not a change of personality, for a God who showed no such self-effacement in the O.T. Surely it would have been more effective, if a little showy, to have platoons of angels announce the news to everybody on the planet. Such modesty (or economy, if angels are rented by the hour) seems odd. As a public relations effort, using angels, trumpets, wandering stars, etc., and reaching just a handful of sleepy locals looks like a botch. It does fit in with the "out to change mankind but going to keep it a secret for 30 or so years" motif, mysterious in its own way. Anyway, certain shepherds got the bulletin, certain others (say, the entire population of several continents) had to wait a millennium or two for the news to filter to them. Hey. You snooze, you lose. That's the way it is.
Knowing what we know now about King Herod and how he felt about Jewish children, perhaps it would have been prudent of God to have kept the whole show even more on the Q.T. As it is, he arranged to have the Magi avoid Herod on their way back home, and to broadcast the news primarily to a bunch of shepherds who could not leave their sheep to go spread tales. As for the financial status of shepherds: get real! And by the way, did you know that President Wilson, during WW I, decided to let the young lawn-mowing staff of the White House go off to war and replaced them with sheep. Sheep are very good, of course, at mowing a lawn closely--so good that they are a menace to the environment, at least in the U.S. Nonetheless, sheep ranching has been done on a grand scale, probably because Western land was so cheap for a while and sheep-ranching so easy on the owners. Some ranchers, needing experienced shepherds, imported Basque shepherds from Spain. Their descendants are part of the American mix. In order to secure the votes of sheep-ranchers, various Congresses have voted subsidies for this destructive industry, which produces nothing that other countries can't produce better. Now anyone, it seems, can own a few sheep and get not only a subsidy from the taxpayers, but also (in some states) a tax break. Sam Donaldson has publicly defended his owning a sheep ranch in New Mexico purely for the subsidy by saying, in essence, "Why not?" Former Governor of New Jersey Christine Whitman encountered a bit of criticism for "milking" her otherwise unproductive flock of sheep for a lower tax rate as well as the subsidy. -SS