Huh, well, I guess “Josh uses his dumb blog about comic strips to talk about the infancy narratives in the Bible” year had to come around eventually, and it looks like 2023 is the year! Anyway, a fun fact about the infancy narratives, plural, is that there are two of them, one in the Gospel of Matthew and the other the Gospel of Luke (John and Mark just jump right into Jesus’s baptism and ministry), and they are almost completely different from one another, beyond the basics of the virgin birth happening in Bethlehem. Matthew (and only Matthew) has the killing of the innocents, and the flight into Egypt; there’s no indication in that story that Mary and Joseph aren’t already living in Bethlehem, and it’s explicitly stated that they end up in Nazareth to get away from King Herod’s son and successor. Only Luke has the stuff about Mary and John the Baptist’s mother being cousins, and only Luke has the story about the census bringing the family to Bethlehem and Mary giving birth; afterwards they go home (to Nazareth, in this version) and there’s no mention of Egypt at all.
But because both these stories were canonized, most people have an idea of the infancy narrative that basically just mashes all these incidents together into one sequence. Even the colorful characters that appear together in manger scenes are actually from two completely different stories: the wise men, guided by a star, are in Matthew, while the shepherds, summoned by an angel, are in Luke. This is a long way to get to my point, which is: A GPS joke would’ve worked better with wise men rather than shepherds, right? Like, I guess technically they’re coming in from the fields, but Bethlehem was a pretty small city back then, and the wise men are coming from a completely different country. Frankly, I think whoever wrote this joke is kind of mixing the shepherds and the wise men up, so — and here’s a sentence that I’m frankly proud could be found nowhere else but on Josh reads dot com, your source for newspaper comics and musings on the textual history of Christianity — I firmly believe that today’s Blondie really demonstrates the complex ways that these two contradictory narratives have become a single story in our collective mindset.
Beetle Bailey, 12/21/23
Beetle Bailey is frankly almost as old as the Bible, and its devoted readers have internalized its logic as dogma, so I guess it can get away with doing a strip where Beetle’s like “What if it’s not sunny tomorrow” and then Sarge says “Then I’m going to beat you into unconsciousness.” Doesn’t make it right, though! Doesn’t make it right.
Hi and Lois, 12/21/23
This year, Hi and Lois is letting us know about the real meaning of Christmas: being stiffed by retailers and your boss, and then forcing yourself to attend social obligations with people you hate. I do think that Hi and Thirsty genuinely like each other, or at least have trauma bonded at their job, but you have to admit it’d be pretty funny if the whole gang were saying all this while heading over to the Thurstons, their neighbors and also two of the few people we ever see them interacting with socially.
If a plugger slips and falls on the ice, and no one is around to hear, because he’s alienated his family with his unhinged Facebook posts and his neighbors with his extremely bad vibes, and then he slowly freezes to death out there, taking his final breath on Christmas morning, vaguely hearing happier people laughing and enjoying each other’s company … wait, what was the question again? Anyway, pluggers, please salt your front walk, I’m begging you.