The Physiologus says of the owl that it loves the darkness more than the light. The interpretation says Christ loved those who were in darkness and under the shadow of death and said to them "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's pleasure to give you the kingdom" (Luke 12:32). These were the Gentiles and the Jews, who were adopted as sons and received the promise of the patriarchs. The Epiphanius version here says that Christ loved the Gentiles more than the Jews. The owl is said to be an unclean bird, but the Apostle said "For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin" (II Corinthians 5:21) and "He became all things to all men, that he might provide all profit" (I Corinthians 9:22).

The owl in the van der Borcht copperplate engraving below is perched in the shade. The prominent hooked beak of the owl was compared to the hooked nose of the Jews, a feature which was often grossly exaggerated in medieval manuscript illustrations; the Jews were said to have rejected Christ because they prefer darkness to light.

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The woodcut below (from the Rome, 1577 edition) also shows the hooked-nosed owl in the shade of a tree.


Properties of the Owl