Animal Products in the Gospels: Wearing Animals & Animal Containers

When not using shepherds purely metaphorically to refer to Jesus and sheep to his disciples, there are actual shepherds in the Gospel of Luke.  Luke’s narrative famously includes shepherds watching their flocks by night and an angel of the Lord appearing to them to instruct them to go visit baby Jesus (Luke 2:8-20).  Shepherds are tending flocks of sheep, to be sure!  It is something that is obvious, but it is important to think about the economy here.  They are watching their sheep to make a living.  Some will be eaten (so belonging to food posts), while they will also be used for wool, and, therefore, cloth.  

The most famous clothing made from animals occurs in the John the Baptist story.  Matthew and Mark report – and Luke and John do not take notice – that John the Baptist wore a shirt made out of camel hair (Matthew 3:4; Mark 1:6).  Supposedly it is to strengthen the connection to Elijah, though Elijah is simply hairy – he does not necessarily wear a hair shirt (2 Kings 1:8).  Elijah does wear a leather belt, so also wears items that are animal products. 

One last animal product found in the gospels is wineskins – as Jesus says, you don’t put new wine in old wineskins, because, if you do, it will burst the skins and you will lose both the wine and the skins (Mark 2:22; Matthew 9:16-17). 


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