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Christ ChildCultural Memories of a Young Jesus$
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Stephen J. Davis

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780300149456

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300149456.001.0001

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(p.47) 3 Bird-Watching
Christ Child

Stephen J. Davis

Yale University Press

The third chapter involves the first of three case studies of how ancient readers would have engaged with the stories of Jesus’ childhood vis-à-vis certain “sites of memory” in the Graeco-Roman world. The focus in this chapter is the story of Jesus’ act of turning clay birds into live ones as a demonstration of his miraculous power. Beyond simply the citation of biblical intertexts, the analysis examines a range of material objects, places, and practices that would have served as cultural touchstones for understanding Jesus’ interaction with birds. These include evidence for ancient children's use of clay birds as toys and live birds as pets, as well as the role that birds played in ancient cultic worship, magical practices, and augury. The final product of this interpretive approach is a textured reading of the young Jesus as both a typical, recognizable child and a divinely-endowed prodigy.

Keywords:   Birds, Toys, Pets, Magical practices, Augury

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