Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Joseph of Augsburg

Just an idea I had about a toy "nativity scene" from Germany. 

A Playmobil (!) nativity scene, with the usual ingredients: Baby Jesus, Mary, Joseph (depicted as an old man), the donkey, the ox and the angel Gabriel. But who is the man at the left? He looks like a tramp, rather than an adoring shepherd. And why has he switched positions with Joseph in another picture of this product? I actually have a speculative theory about this. *Both* guys are Joseph. Playmobil is a German product, and Germany has two officially established churches: Catholic and Lutheran. Catholics claim that Mary was ever-virgin, so she never had any children after Jesus (who was supernaturally conceived). In some Catholic traditions, Joseph is depicted as an old man, presumably incapable of having children. Protestants, by contrast, claim that Joseph and Mary begat further children after the virgin birth of Jesus (James, etc). Thus, a Protestant Joseph would have to be younger than a Catholic Joseph. Playmobil offers two different versions of Joseph in order to appeal to both Christian communities in Germany. Mystery solved! Or am I out on a limb here...?

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