BR 13:03, Jun 1997
The Christian Apocrypha
Preserved in art
Gazing in adoration at the newborn Jesus, three shepherds join Joseph and Mary in the manger in an early-15th-century painting of The Nativity, attributed to the Netherlandish artist Robert Campin. Outside the rustic shed appear two women, the midwives who attended Jesus birth.
Midwives! What are they doing in the picture? The Bible does not say that any women other than Mary were present at the birth.
Granted, Campin has taken some common liberties with the biblical story, transforming the Bethlehem countryside into a mountainous northern European landscape and depicting the baby in the nude, although the Gospel of Luke says he was wrapped in bands of cloth (Luke 2:12). Yet the artist has faithfully portrayed much of the story of the shepherds who went with haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the child lying in the manger (Luke 2:16).