Mythical Analogies

Teaching and preaching often use analogies. The Mishnah and New Testament use them extensively to help communicate a concept. One of my pastors has said, “no analogy is completely analogous”, meaning that some examples are more limited than others in applying a concept or principle.

In today’s world of the internet and false news, it’s easy to have an example which makes a great sound bite but is completely incorrect.

The New Testament warns of such things in Colossians 2:8 (NKJV)
“Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” and specifically prefaces this passage in verse 4 with avoiding being deceived with “fine-sounding arguments”.

One such examples of incorrect analogies you may have hears is the shepherd breaking the legs of the sheep (and carrying it).

In short, both of these examples are completely incorrect and false, at least according to nature.

Breaking Baaaad

To break an animals legs, even in the world of modern medicine, is a serious and traumatic event. The first example mentioned is from a book in 1955, “What Jesus Said” by Robert Boyd Munger.

There is no Scriptural precedent for this action – nowhere in the Old or New Testament do we find the breaking of bones applicable to ANY spiritual circumstance that should be applied or embraced.

Dustin Germain’s article in June 2014’s Pulpit & Pen* goes on to say that there are no supporting references, citations, or articles in that story. While the lack of reference isn’t an automatic reason to discredit, it is concerning that there are NO other examples pointing to its credibility.

Shepherds themselves have pointed out the fallacy of the statement but one response is worth considering in this. A curious Christian inquired to Sheep Magazine in 2006** (yes, there apparently is a need for a magazine) about this practice:

This is their reply:

Hello John,

You asked in an August 2, 2006 message to Sheep Magazine if it was true whether shepherds sometimes break a lamb's leg to prevent it from wandering off.

It is not true that any shepherds break a lamb's leg on purpose.

What they sometimes do in certain sheep-raising nations is to "brake" a leg. This means they attach a clog or weight to the animal's leg, which keeps certain "rogue" sheep from getting too far from the shepherd until they learn their names, and not to be afraid of the shepherd.

Rogue sheep are those that won't stay with the flock--important to their safety. A single sheep that constantly moves out and away from the others is the certain target of predators, and often is at risk of wandering out of sight (over a hill, into the brush, etc.) in terrain where the shepherd is unable to count the sheep properly. Then the sheep would be surely lost.

Each shepherd looks after from about 1200 to 3000 sheep. When they're constantly moving, such large numbers are impossible to count with precision.

To keep track of such large numbers of sheep, they must be corralled, and then "passed under the rod," which means the shepherd has them in a narrow chute that enables each sheep to be counted one by one, and even marked with paint, charcoal, etc., for further work if necessary.

The leg brake is a temporary measure; a lamb with a braked leg (it's not a "broken" leg!) is still easy pickings for predators at night, because it can't run as fast as the flock when under attack, and shepherd usually can't see predators in the dark.

Nathan Griffith, editor
Sheep! Magazine



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