Skip to comments.History of the Magi: Who were the Wise Men?
Posted on 12/16/2013 3:25:09 PM PST by NYer
HISTORY OF THE WISE MEN
You’re familiar with the song that begins “We Three Kings of Orient Are…” but it is inaccurate in at least three ways. We don’t know how many there were, but we know they weren’t kings. They did not originate in the Orient, meaning the Far East.
So how could they have seen the star “in the East” and arrived in Jerusalem unless they they had begun their journey somewhere in the middle of the Mediterranean Sea? It says in the Gospel of Matthew 2:2 “We saw his star in the east, and have come to worship him.” One easy explanation is to see it in the sense of “We saw his star when we were in the east and have come from the east to worship him.”
A number of traditions places their number at three, with the presumption of three gifts for three givers: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But some earlier traditions make quite a caravan of their visit, setting their number as high as twelve.
The term Magi — from the plural of the Greek word magos — is usually translated wise men, astrologers, or magicians (the word “magic” comes from magi). “The East,” has been variously identified as any country from Arabia to Media and Persia, but usually no further east than Persia.
What we know about their origin suggests either Mesopotamian or Persian origins for the magi, who were known to be an old and powerful priestly caste among both the Medes and Persians. These priest-sages who were extremely well educated for their day, were specialists in a variety of disciplines, including medicine, religion, astronomy, astrology, divination, and magic, and their caste eventually spread across much of the East. As in any profession, there were both good and bad magi, depending on whether they did research in the sciences or practiced the dark arts of augury, necromancy, and magic. The Persian magi at least were credited with higher religious and intellectual attainments, while the Babylonian magi were sometimes deemed impostors. The safest conclusion is that the Magi of Christmas were Persian, for the term originated among the Medo-Persians, and early Syriac traditions give them Persian names.
Primitive Christian art in the second-century Roman Catacombs of Pricilla which I have visited outside of Rome, dresses them in Persian garments, and a majority of early church fathers interpret them as Persians.
The Church of the Nativity was built in the 4th century by Emperor Constantine‘s mother St. Helena upon the traditional site in Bethlehem where Jesus was born, and indeed it is the only major church in the Holy Land that survives intact from the early Christian period. In 614, the church had a narrow escape. A Sassanian army from Persia had invaded the Holy Land and proceeded to destroy all the churches. However, they desisted at Bethlehem because they recognized the images of their ancestors, the Magi, above the entrance to the Church of the Nativity in Persian headdress. This account makes sense by virtue of the fact that the Magi were traditionally represented in early Christian art as Zoroastrian priests.
No Obamaslime voters there, for sure.
This will explain a lot on that subject ,,,
Who Were the Magi?
A quote from it ...
The Entourage to Jerusalem
In Jerusalem, the sudden appearance of the Magi, probably traveling in force with all imaginable oriental pomp and accompanied by an adequate cavalry escort to insure their safe penetration of Roman territory, certainly alarmed Herod and the populace of Jerusalem.
It would seem as if these Magi were attempting to perpetrate a border incident which could bring swift reprisal from Parthian armies. Their request of Herod regarding the one who “has been born King of the Jews” (7) was a calculated insult to him, a non—Jew (8) who had contrived and bribed his way into that office.
Consulting his scribes, Herod discovered from the prophecies in the Tanach (the Old Testament) that the Promised One, the Messiah, would be born in Bethlehem. (9) Hiding his concern and expressing sincere interest, Herod requested them to keep him informed.
After finding the babe and presenting their prophetic gifts, the Magi “being warned in a dream” (a form of communication most acceptable to them) departed to their own country, ignoring Herod’s request. (Within two years Phraataces, the parricide son of Phraates IV, was duly installed by the Magi as the new ruler of Parthia.)
The only renditions I’ve seen of the wise men have shown them wearing turbans.........Were they muslims?
LOL ... there were no Muslims at that time ... :-) ...
If they were, they were about 6 centuries too early.
Every time I have seen them in the last 20 years, at least one is a Negro.
On second thought, one of them, would not had made it to Jerusalem. Since Reggie wasn't there, he would be taking care of his camel in the desert.
Yeah, I'm crude. It is a direct reaction to Obama. For every action there is ....
Wait until the Wise Latina suddenly appears.
There was Larry, Moe and Curly.
Everyone knows this. It is in the Book of Stooge....nyuck nyuck nyuck
Since they were called wise men, we know for sure they were not nor would they ever be democrats.
I read this account recently:
“No shepherds nor any other mortal creatures came to pay homage to the babe of Bethlehem until the day of the arrival of certain priests from Ur, who were sent down from Jerusalem by Zacharias.”
“These priests from Mesopotamia had been told sometime before by a strange religious teacher of their country that he had had a dream in which he was informed that the light of life was about to appear on earth as a babe and among the Jews. And thither went these three teachers looking for this light of life. After many weeks of futile search in Jerusalem, they were about to return to Ur when Zacharias met them and disclosed his belief that Jesus was the object of their quest and sent them on to Bethlehem, where they found the babe and left their gifts with Mary, his earth mother. The babe was almost three weeks old at the time of their visit.”
“...But the watchers for Herod were not inactive. When they reported to him the visit of the priests of Ur to Bethlehem, Herod summoned these Chaldeans to appear before him. He inquired diligently of these wise men about the new king of the Jews, but they gave him little satisfaction, explaining that the babe had been born of a woman who had come down to Bethlehem with her husband for the census enrollment. Herod, not being satisfied with this answer, sent them forth with a purse and directed that they should find the child so that he too might come and worship him, since they had declared that his kingdom was to be spiritual, not temporal. But when the wise men did not return, Herod grew suspicious.”
I’ve heard that these guys were the heirs/descendants/students of the guys who were taught by the prophet Daniel during the time of the captivity and they knew what was up.
An interesting read but it unfairly nitpicks at the song “We Three Kings”, which was published in 1863, at a time when just about anywhere in the middle east could be considered the “Orient” Take for instance, the Orient Express, a train that ran from Paris to Istanbul via Vienna 1883-1961. While “Orient” does mean East, it’s all relative, isn’t it? To the Reverend John Henry Hopkins, Jr., who living in New York City, would find even Bethlehem a bit easterly.
It’s a nice song, not scripture.
It looks at the issue from Scriptural, historical and astronomical perspectives and reaches some very interesting conclusions. First and foremost is that the Magi weren't exactly "following" a star in the sky for navigation -- and the Gospels contain some obvious evidence for that.* Instead, they were witnessing a series of celestial events that unfolded in the night sky over the course of many months.
* -- The primary evidence for this is two-fold: (1) Scripture says that the Magi "followed" the star to Bethlehem after visiting Herod's court in Jerusalem, but Bethlehem is only a few miles from Jerusalem and they surely wouldn't have needed any directions to get there; and (2) the star couldn't have been an something in plain sight in the sky like a comet or supernova, because Herod had to ask the scholars in his court to explain it to him -- which means it wasn't something obvious that he could have looked up and seen.
Here is an interesting side note to the magi. How did they know to associate an astronomical event in the near east skies to a Judean king being or having recently been born?
The only recorded event in the Bible that comes to my mind is that about 500 years before this astronomical event was Daniel, a Judean captive taken to Babylon during the first siege of Jerusalem. With God’s help in interpretation of dreams Daniel so impresses Nebu’ that Nebu’ puts Daniel in charge of all the magi in the Babylonian province. (Daniel 2: 48) KJV.
Approximately 500 years later Persian/Parthian magi show up in Judea and say “Where is he who was born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the rising and have come to pay homage to him. (Mat.2:2) REV
How would they know?
I think Daniel gave them what to look for and where to look, passed from magi-to-magi till that day.
God is Great.
Jesus Christ is THE MAN.
Yes, in the Hellenistic world, Persians were considered Orientals. Once the Byzantine Empire fell, most Europeans considered the Middle East “Oriental.” “Orient” is derived from the Latin word for “East.”
Larry Moe and Curly or Manny Moe and Jack.
Most likely Hebrews from the Dispersion still living in Persia, or, “Beyond the river.”
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A letter written by the Synod of Jerusalem in A.D. 836 contains a story about an incident that occurred in A.D. 614 when the Persian army invaded the Holy Land destroying Christian Churches. When they came to the Basilica in Bethlehem, they refused to destroy it because of a mosaic depicting the Magi, which were dressed like them Persians. In Persian writings in the Arabic Gospel of the Infancy, 7:1, there is a reference to the Magi (Wise Men), coming to Jerusalem to worship an infant born to a virgin, the son having power to raise the dead, and defeat the forces of evil.
Did the Wise Men come from Arabia? The Wise Men mentioned by Matthew are also mentioned in Isaiah 60:6 and Psalm 72:15, mentioning people coming from Sheba, a country of southwest Arabia bearing gold and incense and proclaiming the praise of the Lord.
Did the Wise Men come from Babylon? The Babylonians were noted astronomers, well ahead of their time, and studied the night sky intensely, and would have almost immediately noticed the appearance of the Christmas Star. There was a strong Jewish influence in Babylon due to their capture, and the fact that a number of Jews stayed in Babylon after the Exile in the 6th Century, B.C.
We don’t really know. We don’t even know if there were just three of them.
That’s my take too.
That is because there is a very old tradition that one of them was black.
Probably the one from India.
Asimov’s Guide to the New Testament states that the Persian priests of the ancient Zoroastrian religion were called “magu”, which in Latin becomes “magi”. Sages and Holy men, it was at one time recorded that the first group of Magi attempted first to undermine Herod’s relationship with the Romans to topple him from his throne (to make way for the Christ) and that this backfired and proved to be the cause of the slaughter of the Innocents as recorded in the Good Book. Additional sources indicate that between the first group and second that there were Chaldean, Persian, Egyptian and Oriental sages represented. Some of the more ancient written papyrus documents that cover this material may be made available from the Vatican archives at the behest of scholars in the not too distant future, showing a link between the magi and the wife of Herod and the tragedy of the Slaughter of the Innocents more fully detailed.
Shemp and Curly Joe always get left out ...
I’ve seen that explanation as well. Daniel had been chosen to head the Magi order, and so they preserved his writings. His 70 Weeks prophecy told them when to look for the Messiah.
Israel sat on the border of the Roman and the Parthian Empires and Chuck Missler thinks that the Magi would have arrived as a large semi-military expedition from the Parthia.
Manny Moe and Jack are the Pep Boys
This is the "east" from which Abraham came, per Jewish tradition.
It is worthy of note that the Magi probably did not require translators and did not require another alphabet (as might have the Persians speaking the Parsi of that day); whereas those of upper Aram (from the northern Syria/Haran/Urfa table-land, center of Syria/Turkey border) would have spoken the Semitic Aramaic, and at least knew the Hebrew alphabet of the day.
Take a look at the area around Sanliurfa (Note the emphasis on "Ur"):
I don't think so, because Hebrews of the Babylonian Shul would not have needed the Micah 5:2 reference. They would certainly have anticipated the Bethlehem location. But if they were Syran, they would not need a transltor, either; and id they were of the pre-Noah-origin wisdom, they might well be of the Padan-Aram location.
According to the Bible, in Luke 1, Zacharias was the father of John the Baptist. No where in the New Testament does Zacharias send anyone to see Jesus.
In Matthew 2, it only says that when Jesus was born, there came three wise men from the East into Jerusalem.
Where did you get that information that Zacharias sent the wise men?
Personally, I would not consider the Urantia Book an authoritative source of Biblical information.
Thanks, I appreciate your intentions though I must confess that your comments regarding an authoritative source of Biblical information prompted a chuckle on my part because of their appearance on a thread that includes citations to various unnamed sources, a song, unattributed Greek etymology, an anonymous artist, and a variety of unsourced traditions; to say nothing of numerous references to the three stooges.
As for the Urantia Book, I have read much of it with a critical eye and at the end of the day I remain impressed by it’s scope, it’s detail, and it’s inspirational value. The Bible stands on its own, external sources can neither add to it nor detract from it. Our understanding and appreciation of the Bible’s contents can however, be enhanced by other works, be they scholarly, analytical, or anecdotal, and it is up to each of us to decide whether our understanding has, in fact, been enlarged by other sources or if we have been distracted and misled.
Enlightenment comes in many guises, often unpredictably. Gamaliel spoke wisely to his associates regarding the Apostles, “ ... if this counsel or this work be of men, it will come to nought, but if it be of God, ye cannot overthrow it; lest haply ye be found even to fight against God.”
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