Sparrows were considered to be among the least of God's creatures. In Jesus' time, Jewish children caught these small birds, plucked them, and tied a few together to sell in the marketplace for a bit of change. Jesus referred to this practice when He used the sparrow to illustrate the love of God for the persecuted, saying, "And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father's will...Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows" (Mt 10:28-31; see also Lk 12:4-7).
The psalmist proclaimed the luck of the sparrow and the generosity of God by writing that even the lowly sparrow was invited to make her home in the Lord's temple (Psa 84:3). However, it is unlikely that there were birds actually flitting about the temple in Jerusalem. The writer of Proverbs taught that an unjust curse could do its object no more harm than a flitting sparrow (Prov 26:2).
In ancient times, the sparrow was an attribute of Aphrodite. The long battle at Troy was forecast when nine sparrows representing nine years of war were eaten by a snake. Early Greeks and Romans kept these small birds in fancy cages much as pet lovers do today. To many ancient peoples, birds represented human souls. Early Christians sometimes decorated their tombs with pictures of sparrows escaping from cages to illustrate the Christian soul escaping the prison of this life and flying to heaven.
Twelve sparrows represent the Apostles. Some of the apocryphal "Infancy Gospels" relate the story of the child Jesus forming twelve sparrows out of the clay of a riverbank and giving them life. In "The First Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ," the seven year old was declared a sorcerer for this deed and parents forbade their children to play with Him. However, in "Thomas's Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ," Jesus was five years old when He was caught making clay sparrows on the Sabbath. When Joseph came to rebuke Him for profaning this holy day, He clapped His little hands and ordered the birds to fly away and remember Him as long as they lived. In this version, the strange actions of the child were considered a miracle.
The image of a lone sparrow upon a roof is a representation of Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane when He is emotionally abandoned by His sleeping disciples (Psa 102:7). A herald of spring, the returning sparrow is a symbol of mother goddesses, rebirth, and the Resurrection.
Since ancient times, the sparrow has had a reputation for lasciviousness. The lady or youth used to symbolize lewdness personified often carries a sparrow as she/he rides upon a lusty goat.
Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotes are from the NKJV Bible.
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© 1998 by Suzetta Tucker
To cite this page:
Tucker, Suzetta. "ChristStory Sparrow Page." ChristStory Christian Bestiary. 1998. http://ww2.netnitco.net/users/legend01/sparrow.htm ().