According to Jewish law, a first-born son must be circumcised after eight days and later presented in the Temple and redeemed by an offering to God. This commemorated the occasion when, in the time of Moses, the first born of the Egyptians were slain while the Jews were spared. In addition, the mother of a son had, after forty days, to be ritually purified and a sacrifice offered. The three events – Circumcision, Presentation and Purification – are here conflated into one scene.
Christ’s Circumcision and the Presentation in the Temple are described at Luke 2, 21–40:
And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called Jesus, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord; (as it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord) and to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.
And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.
And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.
And he came by the Spirit into the Temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:
For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;
a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.
And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.
And Simeon blessed them and said unto Mary his mother, Behold this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (yea, a sword shall pierce thy own soul also) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.
And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of great age, and had lived with a husband seven years from her virginity;
And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the Temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.
And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.
And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.
And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.
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