Free Republic
Browse · Search
Religion
Topics · Post Article

Skip to comments.

Straight Answers: Who Were the Magi?
CatholicHerald.com ^ | 11/97 | Fr. William Saunders

Posted on 01/02/2011 1:56:17 PM PST by Salvation

Straight Answers: Who Were the Magi?
 
By Fr. William Saunders HERALD Columnist

Who were the Magi? — A reader in Springfield

The Gospel of Matthew mentions the Magi who came from the East to worship the newborn Christ child (cf. Matthew 2:1-12). Exactly who the magi were though remains somewhat of a mystery.

Oftentimes, the English translations of the Bible use the word astrologers for magi. In Greek, the original language of the Gospel' the word magos (magoi, plural) has four meanings: (1) a member of the priestly class of ancient Persia, where astrology and astronomy were prominent in Biblical times; (2) one who had occult knowledge and power, and was adept at dream interpretation' astrology, fortune-telling, divination, and spiritual mediation; (3) a magician; or (4) a charlatan, who preyed upon people using the before mentioned practices. From these possible definitions and the description provided in the gospel, the magi were probably Persian priest-astrologers who could interpret the stars, particularly the significance of the star that proclaimed the birth of the Messiah. (Even the ancient historian Herodotus (d. 5 century BC) would attest to the astrological prowess of the priestly class of Persia.)

More importantly, the visit of the magi fulfill the prophecies of the Old Testament: Balaam prophesied about the coming Messiah marked by a star: "I see him, though not now; I behold him, though not near: A star shall advance from Jacob and a staff shall rise from Israel..." Psalm 72 speaks of how the Gentiles will come to worship the Messiah: "The kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts, the kings of Arabia and Seba shall bring tribute. All kings shall pay Him homage, all nations shall serve Him" (72:10-11). Isaiah also prophesied the gifts: "Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the Lord" (Isaiah 60:6).

St. Matthew recorded that the Magi brought three gifts, each also having a prophetic meaning: gold, the gift for a king; frankincense the gift for a priest; and myrrh -- a burial ointment, a gift for one who would die. St. Irenaeus (d. 202) in his Adversus haereses offered the following interpretation for the gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh respectively King, God, and Suffering Redeemer as well as virtue, prayer, and suffering.

Traditionally, we think of the three magi as the three kings. We usually have the three kings in our nativity sets' We even sing, "We three kings of orient are...." Here the three gifts, Psalm 72, and the rising star in the East converge to render the Magi as three kings travelling from the East.

Actually, the earliest tradition is inconsistent as to the number of the Magi. The Eastern tradition favored 12. In the West, several of the early Church fathers eluding Ongen, St. Leo the Great, and St. Maximus of Turin — accepted three. Early Christian painting in Rome found at the cemetery of Sts. Peter and Marcellinus depicts two magi and at the cemetery of St. Domitilla, four.

Since the seventh century in the Western Church, the magi have been identified as Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. A work called the Excerpta et Collectanea attributed to St. Bede (d. 735) wrote, "The magi were the ones who gave gifts to tile Lord. The first is said to have been Melchior, an old man with white hair "d a long beard... who offered gold to the Lord as to a king. The second, Gaspar by name, young and beardless and ruddy complexioned. . . honored Him as God by his gift of incense, an oblation worthy of divinity. The third, black-skinned and heavily bearded, named Balthasar. .. by his gift of myrrh testified to the Son of Man who was to die." An excerpt from a Medieval saints calendar printed in Cologne read, "Having undergone many trials and fatigues for the Gospel, the three wise men met at Sewa (Sebaste in Armenia) in AD 54 to celebrate the feast of Christmas. Thereupon, after the celebration of Mass, they died: St. Melchior on January 1, aged 116; St. Balthasar on January 6th, aged 112; and St. Gaspar on January 11th, aged 109." The Roman Martyrology also lists these dates as the Magi's respective feast days.

Emperor Zeno brought the relics of the magi from Persia to Constantinople in 490. Relics (whether the same or others) appeared in Milan much later and were kept at the Basilica of St. Eustorgius. Emperor Frederick Barbarossa of Germany, who plundered Italy, took the lics to Cologne in 1162, where they remain secure to this day in a beautiful reliquary housed in the Cathedral.

Even though some mystery remains to the identity of the magi, the Church respects their act of worship: The Council of Trent, when underscoring the reverence that must be given to e Holy Eucharist, decreed, "The faithful of Christ venerate this most holy sacrament with the worship of latria which is due to the true God.... For in this sacrament we believe that the same God is present whom the eternal Father brought into the world, saying of Him, 'Let all God's angels worship Him.' It is the same God whom the Magi fell down and worshipped, and finally, the same God whom the apostles adored in Galilee as Scripture says" (Decree on the Most Holy Eucharist, 5).

As we celebrate Christmas and the Feast of the Epiphany, we too must be mindful of our duty to adore our Lord through prayer, worship, and self-sacrificing good work. St. Gregory Nazianzen (d. 389) preached, "Let us remain on in adoration, and to Him, who' in order to save us, humbled Himself to such a degree of poverty as to receive our body, let us offer not only incense, gold and myrrh..., but also spiritual gifts, more sublime than those which can be seen with the eyes" (Oratorio, 19).

Fr. Saunders is pastor of Queen of Apostles Church in Alexandria


TOPICS: Apologetics; Catholic; History; Theology
KEYWORDS: archaeoastronomy; catholic; catholiclist; epiphany; godsgravesglyphs; johanneskepler; saints; starofbethlehem; staroftheeast
**The first is said to have been Melchior, an old man with white hair "d a long beard... who offered gold to the Lord as to a king. The second, Gaspar by name, young and beardless and ruddy complexioned. . . honored Him as God by his gift of incense, an oblation worthy of divinity. The third, black-skinned and heavily bearded, named Balthasar. .. by his gift of myrrh testified to the Son of Man who was to die."**

And if their were twelve Magi, what did they bring?

1 posted on 01/02/2011 1:56:22 PM PST by Salvation
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

To: All
Straight Answers: Who Were the Magi?

OU Professor Says Ancient Text Reveals Startling Information About Magi, Star of Bethlehem
The Gift of the Magi
Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh On the Feast of the Epiphany
FEAST OF THE EPIPHANY (THEOPHANY) OF OUR LORD - January 6, 2010
New security as pope leads Mass for Epiphany
The Magi and the Star -- Epiphany Explored
Three Kings festivities in full swing around [Puerto Rico]
"A strange mingling of light and shadow..." On the Feast of Epiphany
Wise Men from the East -- Epiphany

The Feast of the Epiphany
The Magi and the Star
The Secret Life of the Magi Kings [Epiphany]
Wise Men from the East [Ecumenical - with a question]
Feast of the Epiphany (2)
Feast of the Epiphany (1)
Epiphany (when the Gentile visitors brought gifts) [Ecumenical]
Twelfth Night [Eve of the Feast of the Epiphany]
A Christmas Pilgrimage (maintaining Christmas until Epiphany)
Christmastide and Epiphany

Epiphany Revealed (Did the Wise Men Really Have Names?)
For the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord 'Three Kings' Seek, Find, and Worship the Lord
The Universal King
Helena's (Mother of Constantine) Epiphany Meditation
EPIPHANY - THREE KINGS - January 6 (Holy Day of Obligation)
The Epiphany of the Roman Primacy
Thousands watch teens dive for the cross in Tarpon Springs
The Season of Epiphany
Tarpon Springs Celebrates Epiphany
100th Epiphany Day Event Will Be Global Celebration

Patriarch Adds To Epiphany Pomp
Ready for "Little Christmas"?
The Magi and the Host
Another Christian Holiday Celebrated
Christmas and Epiphany
India's Zoroastrians and the Three Kings for Jesus
Journeying with the Magi
Who Were The Magi?
Were the Magi who visited Jesus -- Persian?
The Journey of the Magi

2 posted on 01/02/2011 1:58:29 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: nickcarraway; NYer; ELS; Pyro7480; livius; ArrogantBustard; Catholicguy; RobbyS; markomalley; ...

 Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord

Ephany Ping!

3 posted on 01/02/2011 2:00:54 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 2 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

casseroles.


4 posted on 01/02/2011 2:09:58 PM PST by married21 (As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: married21

Sounds good to me! LOL!


5 posted on 01/02/2011 2:16:15 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 4 | View Replies]

To: Salvation
Interesting!

Marco Polo claimed that he was shown the three tombs of the Magi at Saveh south of Tehran in the 1270s:

"In Persia is the city of Saba, from which the Three Magi set out and in this city they are buried, in three very large and beautiful monuments, side by side. And above them there is a square building, beautifully kept. The bodies are still entire, with hair and beard remaining." (Marco Polo, Book One)

6 posted on 01/02/2011 2:34:03 PM PST by Mrs. Don-o (Do not ask the LORD to guide your steps if you are not willing to move your feet.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Salvation
And if their were twelve Magi, what did they bring?

We've just finished listening to the 12 Days of Christmas by Bob and Doug McKenzie, so I don't think I oughta contribute...

7 posted on 01/02/2011 2:46:50 PM PST by MarkBsnr (I would not believe in the Gospel if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so..)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

Merry Christmas 2009



8 posted on 01/02/2011 3:14:13 PM PST by Tanniker Smith (I didn't know she was a liberal when I married her.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

A must read for 2011...The Dear and Glorious Physician, a novel about St. Luke (author Taylor Caldwell). St. Luke has a rare encounter with the Maji as a young boy, before he is even aware of who Jesus is.


9 posted on 01/02/2011 3:17:42 PM PST by sipwine
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Tanniker Smith

LOL! My brain won’t do that right now.


10 posted on 01/02/2011 3:29:46 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 8 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

We don’t know how many there really were but there were three gifts. That does not mean there were only three magi.

They probably were Jews from the dispersion still living in Persia who had worked their ways into the Persian courts, but still read the Prophetic scriptures each Sabbath.


11 posted on 01/02/2011 3:31:02 PM PST by Ruy Dias de Bivar (I visited GEN TOMMY FRANKS Military Museum in HOBART, OKLAHOMA! Well worth it!)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: sipwine

Is that fiction or for real? Wow!

If you like reading about medical things, pick up the book by Jeffrey Long

Evidence of the Afterlife: The Science of Near Death Experiences by Jeffrey Long, MD.


12 posted on 01/02/2011 3:34:13 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: sipwine

Who is the book about St. Luke by?

If it tells about the First book of Luke it would be worth the read!


13 posted on 01/02/2011 3:39:50 PM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

Ancient Jedis


14 posted on 01/02/2011 4:01:26 PM PST by ak267
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

The author, Taylor Caldwell wrote this book back in the 1950’s and yet the relevance to the world today is astounding. Hard to say whether fiction vs. real...she states in her forward that it is quite authentic to the best of her research. Go to the reviews on Amazon for more information.

I will check into the book by Dr. Long...thank you for the recommendation.


15 posted on 01/02/2011 4:11:30 PM PST by sipwine
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 12 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

The author was Taylor Caldwell...please check out the reviews on Amazon for more info. I truly marvelous read...:)


16 posted on 01/02/2011 4:12:50 PM PST by sipwine
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 13 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

Gold, frankincense and myrrh.

There’s no reason to assume that one wiseman = one gift.

It was likely a collective gift from a group of ancient Persian astronomers who knew scripture and realized that the sky was pointing toward prophesied events. It would have been a brutal trip from the east, not likely something for a group of only three scholars. There is safety in numbers, and it was likely a much larger entourage.

The richness of the gift most likely later financed a long trip by the poor carpenter, wife, and son when they fled to Egypt.

There are those who theorize that the Magi may have been Jews from the Babylonian school, who were descended from those Israelites who remained in the East when captives returned to rebuild Jerusalem after their 70-year exile.


17 posted on 01/02/2011 4:20:43 PM PST by Jedidah
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

You forgot to mention that there were zero magi at the birth as depicted in so many manger scenes. They did not show up until 2-3 years laters.


18 posted on 01/02/2011 4:38:12 PM PST by sigzero
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: sipwine

One of my favorite books! Taylor Caldwell teaches so much history in her books. Have you ever read “Great Lion of God”?


19 posted on 01/02/2011 4:53:53 PM PST by Melian ( See Matt 7: 21 and 1 John 2: 3-6)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 9 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

Glad you enjoyed it. My former Math coach at school found it clever and wanted to figure it out. She’s Orthodox Jewish, btw. The only guy on my blog that answered it said that he couldn’t figure it out, so he just Googled it (which gave everything except the random order I used).


20 posted on 01/02/2011 4:54:13 PM PST by Tanniker Smith (I didn't know she was a liberal when I married her.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 10 | View Replies]

To: Jedidah

The Joseph family were direct descendants of royalty. They were not poor. They just did not get reservations in time.


21 posted on 01/02/2011 4:57:00 PM PST by Vermont Lt (Don't taze my junk bro.)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 17 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

for later, interesting!


22 posted on 01/02/2011 5:00:27 PM PST by holly go-rightly
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 1 | View Replies]

To: Vermont Lt

Yes, Joseph’s family was descended from David and the kings of Judah. So was Mary’s.

For that matter, my genealogy leads back to the Kings of England, but it surely isn’t reflected in my bank account.

Luke, chapter 2, records Joseph and Mary’s visit to the Temple in Jerusalem when Jesus was almost six weeks old, to consecrate their firstborn son as required by the Law of Moses “and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: ‘a pair of doves or two young pigeons.’ ” (verse 24)

After the birth, Mary was required to wait for almost six weeks until her “purification” was over as described in the Law of Moses. Then she was to take to the priest “a year-old lamb for a burnt offering and a young pigeon or a dove for a sin offering.” The priest was to sacrifice them “before the LORD to make atonement for her, and then she will be ceremonially clean from her flow of blood.” (Lev. 12:6-7)

As good Jews, Joseph and Mary did as the Law required and took their offering to the temple at the appointed time. However, they did not bring a year-old lamb.

Why?

As outlined in Leviticus 12:8, “But if she cannot afford a lamb, she is to bring two doves or two young pigeons, one for a burnt offering and the other for a sin offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for her, and she will be clean.’”

Joseph and Mary brought birds. They could not afford a lamb. They were demonstrably poor, unless you want to argue that they lied to the priest.

Our Lord, the King of Heaven and Earth, was born into modest circumstances and experienced life as an ordinary human like us. He understands our struggles. Hebrews 8.

Not my opinion, straight from scripture.

(One might argue that, if the magi brought riches, why didn’t Joseph and Mary use that to buy a lamb? The answer is that the nativity scenes we see so often at Christmas have it wrong.

The wise men didn’t show up until well after the birth. Matthew 2:11 records that they family had moved into a house by the time the magi arrived. Jesus may well have been a toddler by then. That timeline also explains Herod’s order to kill all male babies “two years and under.”

By that time, prompted by the divine dream, Joseph had enough loot to escape to Egypt.)


23 posted on 01/02/2011 5:34:57 PM PST by Jedidah
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 21 | View Replies]

To: Melian

...my next book, but The Dear and Glorious Physician was a re-release and the book was brand new. I have found a new favorite author:)


24 posted on 01/02/2011 7:49:09 PM PST by sipwine
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 19 | View Replies]

To: Melian

...my next book, but The Dear and Glorious Physician was a re-release and the book was brand new. I have found a new favorite author:)


25 posted on 01/02/2011 7:49:17 PM PST by sipwine
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 19 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

The three wise men were not at the stable where Jesus was born...


26 posted on 01/03/2011 8:48:16 AM PST by Iscool (I don't understand all that I know...)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: Iscool

You are correct. The Scripture says “house” so Mary and Joseph and the baby, Christ Jesus had moved from the stable or cave to a house.

I have no argument whatsoever with you there.

And we need to remember that they were led by a star.


27 posted on 01/03/2011 9:52:20 AM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 26 | View Replies]

To: Jedidah

**As good Jews, Joseph and Mary did as the Law required and took their offering to the temple at the appointed time. However, they did not bring a year-old lamb.

Why?**

Because they were poor. And the presentation in the temple was at eight days, wasn’t it? Jesus was eight days old? The normal time for circumcision?


28 posted on 01/03/2011 9:55:05 AM PST by Salvation ("With God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 23 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

Yes, because they were poor — which was the point of my post.

(I was replying to an earlier poster who claimed that because the family was descended from royalty, they weren’t poor. Perhaps his comment was in jest?)

The circumcision would have been at eight days, but the appearance at the Temple for sacrifice was later. Two different events. Luke 2: 21-24 lays out the timeline:

“On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived. When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, ‘Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord’, and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: ‘a pair of doves or two young pigeons.’ “


29 posted on 01/03/2011 12:00:24 PM PST by Jedidah
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 28 | View Replies]

To: Salvation

I still like to celebrate the Epiphany on January 6. That is the day I start to take down my Christmas tree and decorations. I pack up my dining room Nativity last.


30 posted on 01/03/2011 2:17:01 PM PST by Bigg Red (Palin/Hunter 2012 -- Bolton their Secretary of State)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 3 | View Replies]

To: sipwine

And if you like to read about the old time Catholic priests, the role of the Church in England and Ireland and Wales, all told in yarns full of ghosts, visions, and mysterious strangers, you will like reading Caldwell’s “Grandmother and the Priests.”

I read it to my daughters on a long family car trip when they were teenagers and they love it to this day.

I read Dear and Glorious Physician when I was 20 and loved it... so much that I eventually named one of my daughters Taylor! The best thing about Caldwell is that she writes with faith as she teaches you history in a wonderful tale.


31 posted on 01/03/2011 9:33:55 PM PST by Melian ( See Matt 7: 21 and 1 John 2: 3-6)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | To 25 | View Replies]


 GGG managers are SunkenCiv, StayAt HomeMother & Ernest_at_the_Beach
Thanks Salvation.

Note: this topic is from 1/02/2011.

Blast from the Past.

Just adding to the catalog, not sending a general distribution.

To all -- please ping me to other topics which are appropriate for the GGG list.


32 posted on 12/10/2011 3:02:31 PM PST by SunkenCiv (It's never a bad time to FReep this link -- https://secure.freerepublic.com/donate/)
[ Post Reply | Private Reply | View Replies]

Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.

Free Republic
Browse · Search
Religion
Topics · Post Article

FreeRepublic, LLC, PO BOX 9771, FRESNO, CA 93794
FreeRepublic.com is powered by software copyright 2000-2008 John Robinson