Saturday 16 December 2017

Only Purely Biblical Carols

I have read, Brothers and Sisters, a fine piece today in Christian Today by David Baker about Christmas carols with unnecessary, un-Biblical allusions in them.

For instance, "Away in a Manger" is rightly rejected as "dross" because the baby Jesus does not cry in it. Whereas in the Bible record, there is no mention of whether the little Lord Jesus cried or not.

And We Three Kings. Yes, the word "Kings" is only used once - in the first line - but it is a total perversion of the Biblical record, which mentions only "Magi" - and not the number. We are told that the Magi are plural, and the gifts are three. So until the author changes it to "We three gifts of orient are" it will not work.

Inspired by this, I have undertaken a review of all the Christmas Carols we were planning to sing at the Carol Service at the Bogwulf Funambulist Baptist Chapel tomorrow. And made some decisions on what needs removal.

"O Little Town of Bethlehem", like "Away in a Manger", implies that childbirth is a silent, presumably pain free experience: "How Silently, How Silently". I am told by Marjory that this is not the case. Although on the occasions when she bore our children, I was not in earshot,  having urgent prayer meetings to attend, according to her mother, Marjory said some uncharitable things about me during the labour. I have since forgiven her.

"Once in Royal David's City" founders on the evidence that Bethlehem is not a city. And there is no mention of a cattle shed in the Biblical narrative.

"Little Donkey", "The Little Drummer Boy" are both ruled out as imaginary. Or, at the best, embellishments.

"Angels from the Realms of Glory": Where, pray, are we told that these are the same angels that sang creation's story? Indeed, since angels themselves are created beings, for them to have sung creation's story is a logical impossibility.

"As with Gladness, Men of Old": the soi-disant Archdruid objects to this on the grounds that the Bible does not say the Magi were male. My response is that if they were prophets, able to see God's message to them, and to go to the first-born Son, of course they were men. It is striking and important that all the visitors to the baby Jesus were men. Except for Mary, and to be fair she was needed. However, this song also reminds us that the Magi were astrologers and the word "magic" derives from their caste. So that rules out "We Three Kings" again, and any other carol that involves the Magi.

"Fairytale of New York": is not a fairytale. And there is no such group of musicians as the "NYPD Choir." Indeed, it is possible that the drunken Irishman and his drug-addled lover are not even real.

"The Holly and the Ivy" are at no point mentioned, either in Matthew or Luke.

"Christians Awake", "Hail Happy Morn" and "It came Upon the Midnight Clear": we have no information as to what time of the night or morning Jesus was born. It is best we do not speculate on these matters.

"In the Bleak Midwinter" - the weather conditions at the time of the Nativity are not reported.

"The Coventry Carol" - we do not know whether or not this massacre was carried out in Herod's sight.. He probably had some ruling to do, without gallivanting around Bethlehem.

"Do you hear what I hear" is ruled out on the grounds of astronomical speculation. We have no idea whether the Star of Bethlehem had a tail. And a talking sheep? The talking animals of Holy Writ are restricted to a donkey. Not that donkey. Not the donkey that is not in the Nativity narratives.

Brothers and Sisters. By the time I had completed my exclusion of unscriptural carols, I was left with two.

"Adam Lay Ybounden" and "Gaudete".  I am afraid the Carol Service is cancelled. 

It turns out Christmas is too Roman Catholic.

Want a good laugh? Want to laugh at the church? Want to be secretly suspicious that the author has been sitting in your church committee meetings taking notes? Then Writes of the Church: Gripes and grumbles of people in the pews is probably the book for you.

From Amazon, Sarum Bookshop, The Bible Readers Fellowship and other good Christian bookshops. An excellent book for your churchgoing friends, relatives or vicar. And don't forget it's nearly Christmas!


  1. Back in the good old days there were only 16 hymns other than the Psalms which the CofE allowed its churches to use. The sole carol in the list was While Shepherds Watched, being a literal retelling (ish - we don't know if they were seated on the ground or not....) of Luke 2. Ah those were the days.

    1. We also aren't told whether the first angel is a "seraph". Drayton regards this as shockingly unwarranted speculation.

  2. And While Shepherds Watched was sung to ‘Cranbrook’, better known as ‘Ilkley Moor’ (‘On Ilkla Moor baht ‘at’’).

  3. Reverend Sir,
    Wot about “O come all ye faithful”? I’ve just been casting a censorious eye over the seven verses (I hadn’t remembered it as being as long as that) as published in Wikipedia Ancient & Modern, and it seems to be suitably free from non-Biblical accretions. Some churchgoers, notably those afflicted by the recent snowflake epidemic, might quibble at the overly explicit word “viscera” in the original Latin text, but I haven’t spotted anything else that anyone could reasonably object to.,_All_Ye_Faithful

    1. Unbiblical precision of the time of birth. All we know is that it was earlier in the day than when the shepherds saw the angels.

  4. I don't see why angels as created beings are prevented from telling the story of creation? Unless you envisage them as sort of haloed Richard Dimblebys busily commentating on the event as it is taking place?

  5. "It turns out Christmas is too Roman Catholic."

    Christ's Mass - of course! Thank goodness you noticed!


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