A. Have you ever seen a representation of the Nativity with two ladies giving the Christ Child a bath? If you read your Bible, you will find that neither Matthew nor Luke report about the incident. The motif of the bath is quite well known in paintings of Jesus' birth, and it conveys the conviction that he is truly human. Where does it come from? Difficult to say. At least we know where the two ladies come from. We even know one of their names: Salome, the friend of the midwife.
When asking about sources or origins of the Nativity, we are well advised to look with one eye to the Bible (the Infancy Narrations in Luke and Matthew), and with the other eye, to the so-called apocryphal writings. Among them are four I would like to mention: the Proto-Gospel of James (150-2--), where the midwife and her friend are mentioned; the Arabic Infancy Gospel (500); the Book about the Infancy of the Savior (500-800); and the Proto-Gospel of Matthew (550-700). The Proto-Gospel of James being the oldest, we find traces of it in the other three apocryphal writings, and all four of them have roots in the canonical gospels of Luke and Matthew. These "hidden" (apocryphal) writings were not included in the Bible as we know it, but they had a lasting influence on the religious imagination of early Christian generations and subsequent expressions of devotion and art. Here are some examples on how some of these writings have influenced the nativity tradition.
Cave or Stable?
Ox and Ass
La tour, Caravaggio, and many other painters represented the baby Jesus as a child of light, frequently being the only source of light of their paintings. Here, again, the apocryphal Gospel of James explains: " And immediately the cloud disappeared from the cave, and a great light appeared (Isaiah 9.2), so that our eyes could not bear it.: (PGJ 19.2) The world of God illuminates the Word. Jesus Christ is compared to the rising sun.
Flight to Egypt
The baby shows great kindness to his mother, ordering the palm tree to bend down. The Pseudo-Gospel of Matthew said about the reaction of the palm tree: "And immediately at his command, the palm bent its head down to the feet of blessed Mary, and they gathered from its fruit with which they all refreshed themselves." (PGM, 20.2)
More episodes and motifs could be mentioned. Legendary as may be, they are
mostly popular illustrations of both Jesus' humanity and divinity, which are
pillars of the Christmas mystery.