“And when the time came for her purification according to the Law of Moses, they brought him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord, (as it is written in the law of the Lord, ‘Every male that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord’) and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, ‘a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons’.” —Luke 2:22-24
|Ruins of a dovecote in a cave.|
|Rows of nest sites in ruins of Masada|
The Torah required every Jewish mother to make an offering following the birth of a child at the time of her purification — 40 days after for a boy, 80 days for a girl. She could offer either a lamb or the two pigeons mentioned above. So how many pigeons did it take? Here is an unscientific attempt to arrive at an estimate of the number of pigeons required for those Temple sacrifices. Keep in mind pigeons were also used for other offerings and eaten, so this does not begin to represent the total number of pigeons fledged.
|Week old pigeons|
B) Estimate the number of children born. Average life expectancy at that time was about 35 years. [Let’s be clear, I’m not suggesting that a person was considered “old” at 35. This average is skewed because one of every two children died before the age of five.] In order to sustain a population of 1,000,000 with an average life expectancy of 35 years you need 1,000,000/35, or 28,571 new individuals a year. With the high infant mortality rates this means about 60,000 births annually.