The Visit of the Magi.

img002This cartoon appeared in The Herald [formerly Glasgow Herald] of 14th December 2015 and gives a modern take on the Bible story. Much debate has taken place over the centuries as to who the Magi, or wise men, actually were. Whether they were pagan priests, magicians, or astrologers on the one hand or Jewish exiles left over from the Babylonian captivity. In favour of the pagan view is the fact that they were unaware of the prophecy of Micah which stated that the birthplace of the Messiah was to be Bethlehem. On the other hand many of the prophecies about the coming Messiah had been given to Jewish exiles like Daniel and Ezekiel. In particular the prophecy of Daniel chapter 9 of the seventy weeks or sevens. This prophecy correctly predicted the date of the triumphal entry into Jerusalem of Jesus according to Sir Robert Anderson in his book “The Coming Prince,” the suggestion is that there were a group of exiles who had also worked this out and then calculated that any Messiah would have to have been born some 33 1/2 years before. The logic behind this being that a Jewish rabbi could only begin his ministry at 30 and therefore expect the Messiah to be born at least before that. The account of the Magi appears in Matthew’s Gospel at the beginning of chapter 2 and I wondered was there a significance in this. I vaguely remembered that Matthew had ministered as an apostle in the areas where magi might have come from. However, when I checked up it appeared most likely that Matthew died in Egypt and that any references to him being were probably a reference to Matthias (Judas’ replacement in Acts 1) being confused with Matthew. (Isn’t it irritating when facts get in the way of a good theory.) A question arises if you believe the Jewish origin of the Magi as to why if they believed in the seventy sevens then why is there no biblical reference to them returning (or their successors) and witnessing the triumphal entry. Though this time if they would no doubt be more discreet. Coincidentally Acts chapter 2 lists as first amongst the foreign witnesses to Pentecost, as being “Parthians, Medes and Elamites; residents of Mesopotamia” the very areas were most scholars expect the Magi to have come from. Presumably they were listed in that order to reflect the numbers from those countries who became Christians. Parthia was not part of the Roman Empire, and the fact that the Magi had an audience the Herod suggests that they may have had the official blessing from a head of state. A letter of introduction from the King of Parthia would certainly have caused Herod to be disturbed along with the rest of Jerusalem. How did Matthew know that they had been advised to change their route home. It might have been a logical deduction, of course, they could have had their vision while still in Bethlehem and told Mary and Joseph, but then there would have warned them to leave as well instead of them having a vision for themselves. So there must be the intriguing possibility that there was contact between the Magi, or their successors, and the early church. Though it would have been unwise for the individuals who came at Jesus’ birth to ever return to Jerusalem itself it would be quite easy for others to visit the Holy Land, ostensibly as individuals.

David Rose, 2015.

About davidgrose

I am a Bible believing Christian, brought up in the Brethren Movement, and now find myself associating with charismatics even though I do not always agree with them. I am in full-time employment. I have interests in history and photography amongst others.
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