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  #1  
Old Nov 15, '08, 4:39 pm
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Default Swaddling Clothes - common for birth or common for death?

swad·dle /--swɒdl/[swod-l] verb, -dled, -dling, noun
–verb (used with object) 1. to bind (an infant, esp. a newborn infant) with long, narrow strips of cloth to prevent free movement; wrap tightly with clothes.

I came across this definition while searching "swaddling" and was a little surprised at the definition. Was this definition "to bind as an infant" common back then? Or perhaps, its a definition that later evolved out of Luke's Gospel?

The reason I'm confused is that, while listening to Fr. Robert Altier talk on the birth of Jesus, he said something that really stood out.

These swaddling clothes - long narrow strips wrapped tightly - were commonly referred to for burial preparation.

Any thoughts?
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  #2  
Old Nov 15, '08, 4:46 pm
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Default Re: Swaddling Clothes - common for birth or common for death?

Yes, the swaddling clothes did prefigure Jesus' death.

There is a lot in the gospels which prefigure Jesus' hour of glory: Pontius Pilate and the Roman Emperor and King Herold being named in the beginning of Luke's gospel, and Jesus' baptism in the beginning of John's gospel, just to name a few of the signs of the Cross.

God, who is the author of the Sacred Scriptures, is the greatest storyteller in the world. He knows how to wove a good story, and what's more, He who is the Truth speaks to us of true things in the pages of the Bible - and what is a more fascinating story than a true story?
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  #3  
Old Nov 15, '08, 4:53 pm
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Default Re: Swaddling Clothes - common for birth or common for death?

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Originally Posted by NotWorthy View Post
swad·dle /--swɒdl/[swod-l] verb, -dled, -dling, noun
–verb (used with object) 1. to bind (an infant, esp. a newborn infant) with long, narrow strips of cloth to prevent free movement; wrap tightly with clothes.

I came across this definition while searching "swaddling" and was a little surprised at the definition. Was this definition "to bind as an infant" common back then? Or perhaps, its a definition that later evolved out of Luke's Gospel?

The reason I'm confused is that, while listening to Fr. Robert Altier talk on the birth of Jesus, he said something that really stood out.

These swaddling clothes - long narrow strips wrapped tightly - were commonly referred to for burial preparation.

Any thoughts?
Perhaps this is why the angel specified two particular things for the magi: 1) that the wisemen would find the baby wrapped in swaddling cloths, and 2) lying in a manger. If what you heard is true, then both of these things (not just the latter), would be unusual and would help distinguish the infant Jesus. In other words, if wrapping a baby in funeral cloths were as unusual as laying the baby in a place where animals feed, then the magi would be sure they found the One they were looking for.

Its an interesting thought.
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  #4  
Old Nov 15, '08, 5:03 pm
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Default Re: Swaddling Clothes - common for birth or common for death?

Rot. Swaddling a child (binding them in strips of cloth, which was thought to help the bones grow strong and straight) was VERY commonly practiced, among very much alive infants, at least up until the 1500s in Europe.

It was emphatically NOT reserved only for burials - tell me, what parent in their right mind would be so unspeakably ghoulish as to wrap a living, healthy baby in burial clothes? It would be like these days putting a wee babe in a coffin-shaped cradle!

As for it being a 'sign' - you really think there were any other newborns in stables in Bethlehem at the same time? Of course not, it just wasn't that big a place. The being in a stable was more than enough.

Same goes for the Magi's gift of myrrh - people say 'it prefigured Jesus' death, since it was used for burials'. No, it WAS used for that, but was used for a heck of a lot of other things besides. If you read Proverbs 7:17, for example, you'll see a harlot speaking of having scented her bedlinen with myrrh among other things. So it was a valuable gift, but not exclusively associated with burial.
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  #5  
Old Nov 15, '08, 5:12 pm
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Default Re: Swaddling Clothes - common for birth or common for death?

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Originally Posted by LilyM View Post
Rot. Swaddling a child (binding them in strips of cloth, which was thought to help the bones grow strong and straight) was VERY commonly practiced, among very much alive infants, at least up until the 1500s in Europe.

It was emphatically NOT reserved only for burials - tell me, what parent in their right mind would be so unspeakably ghoulish as to wrap a living, healthy baby in burial clothes? It would be like these days putting a wee babe in a coffin-shaped cradle!

As for it being a 'sign' - you really think there were any other newborns in stables in Bethlehem at the same time? Of course not, it just wasn't that big a place. The being in a stable was more than enough.

Same goes for the Magi's gift of myrrh - people say 'it prefigured Jesus' death, since it was used for burials'. No, it WAS used for that, but was used for a heck of a lot of other things besides. If you read Proverbs 7:17, for example, you'll see a harlot speaking of having scented her bedlinen with myrrh among other things. So it was a valuable gift, but not exclusively associated with burial.
Lily, you mustn't limit God. He told us Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes for a reason: to prefigure His death. Every little detail in the gospels is important: God wastes not a word in His Word.
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Old Nov 15, '08, 5:19 pm
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Default Re: Swaddling Clothes - common for birth or common for death?

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Lily, you mustn't limit God. He told us Jesus was wrapped in swaddling clothes for a reason: to prefigure His death. Every little detail in the gospels is important: God wastes not a word in His Word.
It signifies that Jesus was a baby - babies were swaddled! Painting a word picture, a bit like today you might say 'they went and saw the Baby Jesus sucking His little dummy'. That's part of scriptural storytelling too, and it's plenty enough significance and importance for that passage.

The fact that God came to earth as a helpless little baby - one of us - is in and of itself incredibly mportant, it needs no deeper significance added.

See, you mustn't overcomplicate God either, E - he's the one who hides things from the wise and reveals them to babes, remember? The one to whom the wisdom of this world is foolishness?

The Bible is written for the benefit of simple human beings, and for the most part it was written in a way that is simple and fairly immediately accessible. When it comes to scripture, as Freud said, sometimes a banana is just a banana.
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  #7  
Old Nov 15, '08, 5:26 pm
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Default Re: Swaddling Clothes - common for birth or common for death?

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Rot. Swaddling a child (binding them in strips of cloth, which was thought to help the bones grow strong and straight) was VERY commonly practiced, among very much alive infants, at least up until the 1500s in Europe.
Lily, that's irrelevant. What is relevant was that in the Greek speaking region during Jesus' time, was "swaddling" a baby common?
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Old Nov 15, '08, 5:26 pm
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Default Re: Swaddling Clothes - common for birth or common for death?

If being wrapped in swaddling cloths were so common it would hardly assist the shepherds in finding Christ. Note: I said magi in my earlier post
The angel was trying to guide them to a particular infant. I see no reason to add, 'wrapped in swaddling cloths' unless it helped in some way. Otherwise, those particular words of direction from the angel, each one precious and recorded by the gospel writers, are superfluous.
Its a small point after all, but interesting.
On the other side of the argument, Christ's burial shroud was not swaddling bands. It was, it seems, one piece along with a head linen.
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  #9  
Old Nov 15, '08, 5:31 pm
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Default Re: Swaddling Clothes - common for birth or common for death?

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If being wrapped in swaddling cloths were so common it would hardly assist the shepherds in finding Christ. Note: I said magi in my earlier post
The angel was trying to guide them to a particular infant. I see no reason to add, 'wrapped in swaddling cloths' unless it helped in some way. Otherwise, those particular words of direction from the angel, each one precious and recorded by the gospel writers, are superfluous.
Its a small point after all, but interesting.
On the other side of the argument, Christ's burial shroud was not in swaddling bands. It was, it seems, one piece along with a head linen.
The genealogies given by Matthew and Luke are superfluous - if they'd just said 'He was descended from David, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and ultimately Adam' that would've been enough.

It was similarly superflous that Matthew mentioned that the wise men found Jesus 'together with His mother' - of course a newborn baby is with its mother! Or that Joseph was told to take Mary AND the baby - as if he'd hve left either behind!

The Gospels didn't need to name all the towns Jesus visited (well, except Jerusalem of course, and Nazareth and Bethlehem, all the others don't really bear any significance in and of themselves and so are superfluous too).

For that matter there need not have been four COMPLETE Gospels, each repeating a good deal of content from the others.

Do I have to go on?
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Old Nov 15, '08, 5:33 pm
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Default Re: Swaddling Clothes - common for birth or common for death?

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It signifies that Jesus was a baby - babies were swaddled! That's plenty enough significance for it.

You mustn't overcomplicate God either, E - he's the one who hides things from the wise and reveals them to babes, remember?

The Bible is written for the benefit of simple human beings, and for the most part it was written in a way that is simple and fairly immediately accessible. When it comes to scripture, as Freud said, sometimes a banana is just a banana.
The swaddling clothes are a sign of the Cross in this way:

They fulfill the verse of Wisdom 7:4-6 ("In swaddling clothes and with constant care I was nurtured. For no king has any different origin or birth, but one is the entry into life for all; and in one same way they leave it"). These verses actually refer to Solomon, who, though a king, was wrapped in swaddling clothes like any other infant. In the same way, Jesus, the true King, was wrapped in swaddling clothes like any other infant. But He did not become King until His death, for He reigns upon the wood of the cross. Hence, the swaddling clothes prefigure Jesus' hour of glory.

In a certain sense, the swaddling clothes even symbolize Jesus' Hypostatic Union, i.e., God did not come in glory but wrapped Himself in our own humanity. He was like us in all ways save sin. And this is also why Jesus is often depicted in Icons as wearing a robe wrapped in a garment.
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Old Nov 15, '08, 5:33 pm
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Default Re: Swaddling Clothes - common for birth or common for death?

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Lily, that's irrelevant. What is relevant was that in the Greek speaking region during Jesus' time, was "swaddling" a baby common?
Yes - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Swaddling
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  #12  
Old Nov 15, '08, 5:53 pm
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Default Re: Swaddling Clothes - common for birth or common for death?

Lily,
In actual fact your point is well taken - the words concerning Jesus swaddling bands are not superfluous... and that is the point we are considering. What I think you are trying to show with your list is that not every phrase has a deeper meaning. No one will argue that point with you... but it is beside the point. What we are discussing is if the particular phrase, 'wrapped in swaddling cloths' has a deeper meaning. I, too, could produce a list of my own where some phrases do have a secondary, symbolic, or prophetic meaning - but I trust you are quite aware of that.
So we return to the question. Is this one of those cases where the additional information provided by the angel has a deeper significance?
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Old Nov 15, '08, 6:02 pm
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Default Re: Swaddling Clothes - common for birth or common for death?

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Lily,
In actual fact your point is well taken - the words concerning Jesus swaddling bands are not superfluous... and that is the point we are considering. What I think you are trying to show with your list is that not every phrase has a deeper meaning. No one will argue that point with you... but it is beside the point. What we are discussing is if the particular phrase, 'wrapped in swaddling cloths' has a deeper meaning. I, too, could produce a list of my own where some phrases do have a secondary, symbolic, or prophetic meaning - but I trust you are quite aware of that.
So we return to the question. Is this one of those cases where the additional information provided by the angel has a deeper significance?
Well both, really - I was trying to show that some phrases are neither strictly necessary (and superfluous in that sense) nor do they have any secondary significance. Of course plenty do, I'm not disputing that.

As to your question - possibly, of course.

Given that

a) swaddling does appear to have been a common practice

b) Matthew's infancy narrative seems to have a greater-than-average amount of bald (and dare I say superfluous) prose along the lines that I've already pointed out, and

c) if something is significant, Matthew tends to make the connection pretty obvious (eg by saying "in this manner was the prophecy fulfilled that ...' " ) rather than simply leave it to the reader to join the dots

I'd say the balance of probabilities is against it.

If it were in the more richly symbolic and complex Gospel of John instead, you'd have more of a point I think.
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Old Nov 15, '08, 6:10 pm
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Default Re: Swaddling Clothes - common for birth or common for death?

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Thanks Lily! As you well know, that's entirely more relevant than "the middle ages up til the 1500's"!!!

Seriously, thanks for the info!
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Old Nov 15, '08, 6:30 pm
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Default Re: Swaddling Clothes - common for birth or common for death?

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Thanks Lily! As you well know, that's entirely more relevant than "the middle ages up til the 1500's"!!!

Seriously, thanks for the info!
Not to say that I didn't know it was already common in Roman times, though I'm sorry I didn't explicitly say so.

Of course the middle ages got most of thier best ideas from antiquity.
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