Thursday, January 13, 2022

Bible verses on Christmas cards, 2021 edition

A few years back I did a little analysis of the most popular Bible verses on Christmas cards. I revisited it this year as part of the ACCA.

Overall there were seven cards that included a Bible verse. The only one with a Bible verse on the front was this one.

The gold foil is hard to read, so here it is: "For our heart shall rejoice in him, because we have trusted in his holy name" - Psalm 33, verse 21.

I looked that Psalm up. It looks like a song of praise that would have been sung in the Jewish Temple long before Jesus came along. It's not particularly messianic or prophetic in tone. The verse is repeated inside the card and they give the version of the Bible - the KJV (King James Version).

This verse featured on another card too, and overall Psalms was the most represented book of the Bible on the Christmas cards we received, with three cards featuring a verse. The other reference was Psalm 46, verse 10. 

There were two different verses from Luke and two different verses from John as well. The verses from Luke were different bits of the nativity story - chapter 2, verse 7, and chapter 2, verse 11. John doesn't have a nativity story. One of the verses  quoted was from the opening mystical 'prologue' about the Word of God becoming a human being - chapter 1, verse 9. The other was from later in the gospel, when Jesus says he is the light of the world in chapter 8, verse 12. 

When I did my previous analysis, Luke chapter 2, verse 11 was the most quoted Bible verse by a considerable margin, appearing on 4 cards. John chapter 1, verse 9 was also on a card in the previous analysis. The other Bible references are all new.

So the combined totals, based on when they appear in the Bible would be as follows:

Psalm 33.21 x 2
Psalm 46.10
Psalm 139.11-12
Isaiah 9.6
Matthew 2.11
Luke 2.4-5
Luke 2.7
Luke 2.11 x 5 (sometimes with a bit of Luke 2.10 attached)
John 1.9 x 2
John 8.12
1 John 1.5

With my old theology hat on, I find it interesting how disproportionately popular quotes from Luke's nativity story are compared to quotes from the gospel of Matthew. This is especially true when comparing card designs. I categorise 'nativity' cards as any cards that centre on Mary, Jesus and Joseph, regardless whether they also feature shepherds and kings (or magi, or wise men, or whatever term is vogue - you know who I mean). I only count the shepherds and kings in their own right if they feature on a card on their own. 

Overall, the kings are much more popular characters in terms of getting their own cards than the shepherds. But the kings feature in Matthew's stories and aren't in Luke's stories at all, while the shepherds are mentioned in Luke's stories - after they see the choirs of angels in the heavens while watching their flocks by night - but don't get mentioned in Matthew's accounts. 

So it feels like Matthew has the more interesting characters to depict on a Christmas card, but Luke has the quotable chunks to sum up the story.

And then we have John's gospel, that doesn't have any nativity stories at all, but is three times more popular in terms of quotes than Matthew's gospel, across this sample. There is very little comparison between John and the other gospels in terms of which one is the better gospel to read, but considering John has nothing of the Christmas story in it, this is weird. 

A conclusion might be that people prefer a good turn of phrase and don't really mind where it comes from. 

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