Lying naked in a manger in a Northern Hemisphere winter meant baby Jesus would have certainly suffered from hypothermia, say Australian researchers.
They analysed how Jesus appeared in nativity paintings, compared with what the temperature would have been on 25 December, publishing their research in this week’s Medical Journal of Australia.
Neonatologist Dr Tieh-Hee Koh from Townsville Hospital in Northern Queensland and his co-researcher Marion Koh, wife and mother, wrote:
"As we are experienced in looking after sick newborn babies, we have been impressed every year by the fact that, in depictions of the nativity scene on Christmas cards we receive, the newborn Jesus is almost always naked."
They said they were concerned as the temperature in Bethlehem was probably 7°C on 25 December, yet keeping babies warm was a basic principle of looking after newborn babies.
Their review of 20 paintings by Old Masters at London’s National Gallery showed Jesus was naked or only scantily clothed in 90% of them.
The baby Jesus looked large for a newborn in 55% of the paintings, but premature in 10%.
He had a halo in 40% of paintings and was placed on the floor in 60% of paintings.
So, they concluded Jesus was probably hypothermic at birth, and very much so if also premature.
"[One explanation] more symbolic than pragmatic, is that he was born into this world without any earthly possessions," the authors wrote.
"In a similar vein, to the unscientifically inclined the halo and the pedigree of Jesus’ birth might suggest a neutral thermal zone, making the ambient temperature irrelevant." [Source]
Usually we get some really dumb articles at this time of year, but this paper in a medical journal is beyond parody. Maybe next year they will analyze icons and Byzantine art and come to the conclusions that the majority of saints had strange birth defects because of their distorted physical proportions.
First of all somebody had too much time on their hands, second they have their heads so far up their recti they are looking at their tonsils, and literal-mindedness such as this is almost insane. How did they get to be doctors?
And then there are those funny rings behind people’s heads…
And here I was thinking the biggest literalists were the non-denominational Protestants …
Hmpf! It seems that the artists and the scientists never heard of swaddling clothes.
this rings behind their heads were an ancient form of space heater. they were abandoned because the rings became white hot and burned some people who were careless in daily life.
Yes. Swaddling clothes, indeed.
If the paintings are going to be the prime focus of scientific enquiry into the birth of Christ, perhaps the dress of the child isn’t necessarily the most fascinating aspect. I would have thought they’d like to go into the obvious breach in the space/time continuum (as the sci-fi writers would put it) which caused the presence in various paintings of Franciscans, Dominicans, knights in armour, 16th century Dutch merchants and Neuschwanstein-style castles on the outskirts of Bethlehem.
There are research grants a-plenty waiting for the creative scientist.
wow….. that’s all i can say…. wow…
Would anyone care to join me in a scientific inquiry into to whether a parody can actually be “beyond parody”?
I was wondering how many cm a woman had to dilate to give birth to a halo.
Ooogh, Jane, please!
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