Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Myths of the Magi, Truth or Tradition

Few Biblical stories are as well known, yet so clouded by myth and tradition, as that of the magi, or wise men, mentioned by Matthew. Enjoy this classic video from the Claymation Christmas then see if you're as wise as you think by answering the following true or false statements about the wise men.

1. There were three Wise Men

False. It’s a legend that came out of middle ages in which it was assumed that since there were three gifts, gold, frankincense and myrrh, there must have been three wise men. Truth is it was probably more of an entourage of wise men and their servants. Some scholars suggest there may have been as many as 14.

2. They were Kings.

False. This is another myth that came out of the middle ages. They were not kings but more likely an order of priests and philosophers which came originally from Persia or present day countries of Iran and Afghanistan.

3. They were from the East (ie Far East)

False. The “east” was that region just beyond the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. This would be the area of ancient Persia- today, the countries of Iran and Afghanistan.

4. Their names were Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar.

False. This is purely traditional.

5. They were astrologers who followed an astronomical comet or nova to Bethlehem.

False. Arnold Fruchtenbaum comes to the conclusion that the star was no regular astral body; “That this is no ordinary star is evident by the actions that this satr too. For one thing, the star led them from the east to the west; secondly it led them from the north to the south; thirdly, the star stood over the very house where Jesus was; and fourthly, it was “his” star in a sense that is not true of any other star” (the footsteps of the Messiah, 422) One other thing is to note that it appeared and disappeared, and then appeared again, hardly characteristic of a star. Thus “his star” is probably a reference not to a literal star but something more like the Glory of God, which appeared. . .

•to Abraham in Genesis 14:12-18, sealing the covenant.
•Later it appeared to Moses at the burning bush (Ex. 3:1-5).
•It led the Israelites in the form of a pillar of a cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.
•It appeared to Moses at Mount Sinai (Exodus 34:5-9, descended on the tabernacle (Ex. 29) and
•later filled the Solomon’s temple (1 Kings 8:10-13).

6. They visited the baby in the stable

False. These magi did not arrive until possibly almost two years after Christ's birth, certainly sometime after his presentation in the Temple Luke 2:22-39. Matthew says instead that they came not to a stable but to a house and saw not a newborn babe but a child Matthew 2:10 (Immediately after the visit of the magi, Mary and Joseph fled with Jesus to Egypt, where they probably stayed till after Herod’s death in 4 B.C.)

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