The Annunciation to the shepherds is an episode in the Nativity of Jesus described in the Bible in Luke 2, in which angels tell a group of shepherds about the birth of Jesus. It is a subject of Christian art and of Christmas carols. The angel explains that he has a message of good news for all people, namely that Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you, he is the Messiah, the Lord. This will be a sign to you, You will find a baby wrapped in cloths, after this, a great many more angels appear, praising God with the words Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests. Deciding to do as the angel had said, the travel to Bethlehem, and find Mary and Joseph. The Adoration of the shepherds follows, the King James Version of the Bible translates the words of the angels differently from modern versions, using the words Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men. Most Christmas carols reflect this older translation, with It Came Upon the Midnight Clear, for example, using the words Peace on the earth, good will to men, the disparity reflects a dispute about the Greek text of the New Testament involving a single letter. Most ancient manuscripts of the Greek New Testament have this reading, expressed in correct English, this gives the familiar Peace on earth, good will to men of many ancient Christmas carols. The Douay-Rheims Bible, translated from the Latin Vulgate, derives from the same Greek text as the original Codex Sinaiticus, in the New American Bible, this is updated to on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests. It is generally considered significant that this message was given to shepherds and this is also very common in the West, though the Magi are very often omitted. Similarly, in the Nativity at Night of Geertgen tot Sint Jans, scenes showing the shepherds at the side of the crib are a different subject, formally known as the Adoration of the shepherds. This combination is first found in the 6th-century Monza ampullae made in Palestine, the landscape varies, though scenes in the background of a Nativity very often show the shepherds on a steep hill, making visual sense of their placement above the main Nativity scene. The number of shepherds shown varies also, though three is typical in the West, one or more dogs may be included, as in the Taddeo Gaddi. The Annunciation to the shepherds became less common as an independent subject in the late Middle Ages, famous depictions by Abraham Hondius and Rembrandt exist. In Renaissance art, drawing on stories of Orpheus, the shepherds are sometimes depicted with musical instruments. A charming but atypical miniature in the La Flora Hours in Naples shows the shepherds playing to the Infant Jesus, many Christmas carols mention the Annunciation to the shepherds, with the Gloria in Excelsis Deo being the most ancient. Phillips Brooks O Little Town of Bethlehem has the lines O morning stars together, proclaim the birth, / And praises sing to God the King. The originally German carol Silent Night has Shepherds quake at the sight, / Glories stream from heaven afar, the episode plays a much greater role in Charles Wesleys Hark
This late 15th-century Flemishminiature shows the Annunciation to the shepherds.
Rembrandt The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds, 1634