Dissecting “While Shepherds Watched” Quiz

In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.  (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  And everyone went to their own town to register.

  • Luke 2:1-3

After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem.

  • Matthew 2:1

While shepherds watched their flocks by night
All seated on the ground
The angel of the Lord came down
And glory shone around
“Fear not”, said he, for mighty dread
Had seized their troubled mind
“Glad tidings of great joy I bring
To you and all mankind”
“To you, in David’s town this day
Is born of David’s line
The Savior who is Christ the Lord
And this shall be the sign”
“The heavenly Babe you there shall find
To human view displayed
All meanly wrapped in swathing bands
And in a manger laid”
Thus spake the seraph, and forthwith
Appeared a shining throng
Of angels praising God, who thus
Addressed their joyful song
“All glory be to God on high
And on the earth be peace
Goodwill henceforth from heaven to men
Begin and never cease”

  • Nahum Tate, While Shepherds Watched

I had a stern, harsh mother, who was a stickler for details.  She was also the church’s choir director, organist, etc.  She announced in my high school years that the only carol that was Biblically correct was “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.”  Read the words sometime.  The lyrics talk about the deity of Jesus, but they give no details.  Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche once wrote, in German, “The devil is in the details.”  But when we apply this saying to my mother’s favorite carol, there are none.  Yet, While Shepherds Watched has so many details, are they Biblical?

I hope you liked last two week’s quizzes.  This one concludes the Carol dissection for this year.  I had fun doing it, so they may return next year.  There are so many to choose from.

Consider the columns to be “buckets.”  Place the “details” of the carol into one of three buckets.  I will be lenient in my assessment, but to be technically correct, I will use an asterisk(*) if not precise.  All answers will be based on the NIV.  The three buckets are: 1) This detail is in at least one of the Christmas stories, Matthew or Luke or in Old Testament prophecy. 2) This detail, or word, is in the Bible, but not related to the Christmas story. And 3) This detail is not in the Bible at all.

There will be no Bible Reference Section.  The Bible Verses will be placed in the correct “bucket” in the answer section, unless the word is not in the Bible at all

The Questions:

?Word from the LyricsChristmasSomewhere ElseNowhere
1Shepherds watched their flocks by night   
2Seated on the ground   
4“Fear not”   
5Dread had seized their troubled mind   
6“to you”   
7“In David’s city (town)”   
8Wrapped in “swathing bands” in a manger   

I could have added “seraph”.  Seraph, in the NIV, only appears twice in the Bible, both in Isaiah 6 in the form of seraphim.  It is the seraphim who shout “Holy, Holy, Holy …”  By inference, we could assume that these angels were indeed seraphim with a similar proclamation, but the specific angel that talks to the shepherds, encouraging them to not be afraid, could have been an archangel and the Heavenly host were seraphim.  Then again, this is all conjecture.  Luke’s story does not even state “a whole bunch of angels.”  In the NIV it says, “a great company of the heavenly host.”  It may be safe to assume these to be angels, but nothing more.




The Answers:

?Word from the LyricsChristmasSomewhere ElseNowhere
1Shepherds watched their flocks by nightLuke 2:8  
2Seated on the ground 29 times seated is mentioned in the NIV 
3AngelLuke 2:9  
4“Fear not”Luke 2:10  
5Dread had seized their troubled mindLuke 2:9  
6“to you”Luke 2:11  
7“In David’s city (town)”Luke 2:11  
8Wrapped in “swathing bands” in a mangerLuke 2:12  

Might I simply say, “Winner, winner, chicken dinner.”  Attributed to “Ben Campbell” in the movie 21.  The saying may have been around long before then.  Other than getting specific with “seraph” and “seated”, this Carol is quite accurate, biblically. The NIV does not state “swathing bands” but some other translations say similar words.

I would like to highlight question 6 “to you” because the angel told the shepherds that the child was born specifically for them, the shepherds.  In this proclamation, Jesus was not born for the world, which He was.  Jesus was not born to save sinners, which He was.  The angel said, “Jesus was born for you.”  The old preacher in the pulpit said, “And it brings me to my knees each morning to know that if I were the only sinner, Christ would have died just for me.”

Yes, Jesus came to earth in the form of a baby boy, just for me and just for you.

In dissecting an old Carol, we find a gem of theology that most people might miss, a tiny prepositional phrase that is highly significant.

While Shepherds Watched has been put to a variety of tunes.  Here is one. This is the tune I grew up with.

And here is another.

And another. This Yorkshire tune “On Ilkley Moor Baht at” is my favorite due to the various parts echoing the message.

And this next song is by Boney M Mary’s Boy Child.  Thank you, Rev, David Robertson, the Wee Flea, for reminding me of it. There are a number of Biblical inaccuracies, but the idea that sin is conquered (sadly as the video is fading) and in the chorus throughout that “Man will live forever more, because of Christmas Day” …  Besides, a Christmas Carol with steel drums?  Why not?

If you like these Saturday morning Bible quizzes, but you think you missed a few, you can use this LINK. I have set up a page off the home page for links to these Saturday morning posts. I will continue to modify the page as I add more.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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