Skip to comments.Identity of the Magi
Posted on 01/13/2018 7:46:55 AM PST by Salvation
Question: Who were the Magi? What does the term mean? — Carol Clarke, Towson, Maryland
Answer: Exactly what “Magi” are is debated. The Greeks of antiquity (c. 450 B.C.) used the term to refer to a priestly class of men among the Medes and later the Persians, but in later centuries it was used in a wider sense; it came to be applied to men skilled in hidden knowledge and magic. By 200 B.C., its meaning would include men skilled in astronomy and those given to visions and the interpretation of dreams. This expanded definition continued into New Testament times.
What is interesting is that Matthew presents these Magi as men of great dignity while other references to magi (magicians) in the New Testament are generally negative. Given that the Magi are following a star, in using the term “Magi,” Matthew likely has in mind their role as astronomers. He may not have intended significant references to magic, dream interpretation or fortune-telling. So it is likely that they are wise men, ancient astronomers in particular.
But their key identity is that they are Gentiles and have been called. Up to their entry in the Christmas story, Jesus was manifest only to Jews in Bethlehem — but now the Gentiles come. This detail cannot be overlooked; it is clear that the Gospel will be going out to all the world, and the seeds of this teaching are here, even in the infancy narratives.
Rejoice, fellow Christians, especially if you are of Gentile origin. The truest identity of the Magi is you. You are among the magi who seek him.
Yes, wise men still seek the Lord.
Monsignor Pope OSV column Ping!
It’s possible they were Chinese, given that they took two years to get there; which is the length of time it took to travel along the silk road.
I find it interesting that they were wise men from Persia, thus would probably be aware of the prophesies of Daniel. And, since they could assuredly count to 70, would have been aware that it was time for the long awaited King. Thus, they were seeking Him.
It is always encouraging that God reveals Himself to those who seek Him - and always in a way they can understand. They were looking at the stars - so that is how He was revealed to them.
I’ve read that the Magi were most likely Jews of the dispersion from Persia who knew the time for the Messiah was to be then. Whey would gentiles be interested in Hebrew prophecies.
“Its possible they were Chinese, given that they took two years to get there;”
Baloney.. it doesn’t say two years anywhere. They were there that same night. And if they were Chinamen, they woulda taken the good news back home.
Yes it does, they appeared before the family when Christ was living elsewhere with his parents nd was approximately 2 years old.
Best theory. Rabbis were considered learned men, and many were definitely mystics..since Jesus was Jewish, it makes since.
Let the Bible speak for itself:
New American Standard Bible
“After coming into the house they saw the Child with Mary His mother; and they fell to the ground and worshiped Him. Then, opening their treasures, they presented to Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”
Note the words “house” not manger, and “Child”, not new born babe.
The two years comes from here:
“Then when Herod saw that he had been tricked by the magi, he became very enraged, and sent and slew all the male children who were in Bethlehem and all its vicinity, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the magi.”
Herod slew all the male children two years and younger in Bethlehem and the surrounding area, because the magi had told Herod they were traveling that long.
Further background is found in these two verses:
“After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem,”
“Then Herod called the Magi secretly and learned from them the exact time the star had appeared.”
So, all the Nativity displays aside, the Magi did not get to Bethlehem until Jesus was about 2 years old and living in a house with his family.
They were not present when Jesus was in the manger at birth, or when he was newly born.
I don't think scriture is as clear as you believe.
Mat 2:16 implies that the age of Jesus at the time of the magi's appearance was sometime after the actual birth.
I've heard recently through a few Christian astronomers that started studying the Astrological events back then that more likely and highly Jesus was born Sept 11, 4 B.C. and the day they caught up with Jesus parents was Dec 25th, 2 B.C., another astrological event that happen that led the wise men to Jesus. Two complete different God ordain astrological events that the wise men saw. I'm pretty sure I got the day part right, but I may be off on the year part wrong, but basically Jesus was about 14-15 months old when the Magi caught up with Jesus parents by following the unusual star and planet arrangements. Do an Internet search "The Star of Bethlehem" by Rick Larson
Very good. Thanks, Sal.
I personally agree that Scripture isn’t as clear as some people believe. The Magi could have been studying the star or the signs of the heavens for two years and gotten on the road anytime after that, closer to the birth. I will never buy into the theory that Jesus was two years old or sixteen months or whatever when the Magi arrived.
If Herod believed Jesus to be as old as 2, he would have ordered the killing of every male under age 4, maybe even every male under 6 to make sure he got him.
As it was, Herod murdered all the kids under the age of three, so he was covered if the Child was over two but noyt yet three, by almost one year.
Matthew 2:7 and Matthew 2:16 gave Herod the timeframe, according to the testimony of the Magi themselves.
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