Jesus in the Temple. Romanino. 1529.

Today’s scripture includes two stories of a young Jesus in the temple. The first story is of his presentation as a baby. They also brought two turtle doves to offer as a sacrifice “according to what is stated in the law of the Lord” (Luke 2:24).

Why a turtledove? We can find the answer to that in Leviticus 12. If a woman gives birth to a male child she is “unclean” for seven days, after which her blood must be purified for 33 days (if the child is female it takes longer to purify afterwards). Once she is “clean” she is to present the child to the temple with “a lamb a year old for a burnt offering, and a pigeon or turtledove for a SIN OFFERING, and [the priest] shall offer it before the Lord and MAKE ATONEMENT FOR HER. Then she shall be clean from the flow of her blood.” (emphasis mine).

Why two turtle doves? According to Leviticus, this means they were too poor to afford a lamb.

Anyway, here is a painting of the scene by Romanino from 1529. It is oil on panel. I like how baby Jesus is looking at the turtle doves like….whatcha doin with those? And look at Joseph’s face! So proud. Joseph is much older than Mary in this painting, reflecting the tendency of the time for artists to paint Joseph as an old man, to further emphasize Mary’s virginity.

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