The Wise Men: More than Magi

The adoration of the Magi, after they followed that ‘star in the east’ to Jesus. Fr Lawrence Lew, O.P., CC BY-NC-ND

The Wise Men (not just three wise men and not just three gifts) came from “afar” between 40 days and 2 years after the birth of Christ to visit the holy child and bear gifts unto Him. Scripture gives us information that there were three gifts presented (which is because at the time the Scripture witness was there, he only saw three gifts presented most notable). These gifts stated in Scripture were gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Why were these three most notable? They carry extraordinary significance. Gold is a measurable money, frankincense is a perfume and healing agent, and myrrh is a burial spice and healing agent. God equipped His Son just as He now equips us for everything.

Why were they wise men? They were philosophers, priests, astronomers, medical practitioners/apothecaries, religious leaders, scribes, etc. Many of them dwelt in Persia or Arabia, and were held in high esteem. The Star they followed at night to guide them to the Newborn King was a significant one as the usual odd star appearances signified the birth or death of a very important figure (good or evil). In this case, it was very good! Someone remarkable just appeared and the Jews were sore amazed and avidly looking for the Messiah.

What does the Prophet Daniel speak in this moment? Daniel 9:25-27 says, “Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.”

Such prophecy meant the Jews would be anxious at such remarkable event, as I said, the appearing of a new star or comet meant an omen that some remarkable or notorious person was born or had died. For example, a comet appeared for seven days at the death of Julius Caesar. People knew this situation was no anecdote.

He was to be honored as King of the Jews, or the Coming King. What about Son of God? Many did not know this child to be as the Son of God. However, some were sent because they were to “spy” for Herod and report their findings. Herod had an evil plan in mind, which we will discuss in the next part of our series.

Let us read then in Matthew 2:1-11, “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet,

And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”

Archaeologically speaking, we do not see enough reference points to reveal the data; however, there has been a significant surfacing research that there is a grotto beneath the Nativity Church that could have been the birthplace of Christ, and that the grotto was built over top of to protect it from any harm as it is a holy site.

Astronomers Michael Mornar and David Weintraub from Vanderbilt University attempt to investigate:

“The portent began on April 17 of 6 BC (with the heliacal rising of Jupiter that morning, followed, at noon, by its lunar occultation in the constellation Aries) and lasted until December 19 of 6 BC (when Jupiter stopped moving to the west, stood still briefly, and began moving to the east, as compared with the fixed background stars). By the earliest time the men could have arrived in Bethlehem, the baby Jesus would likely have been at least a toddler.”

Historical research shows that the Herodian Lineage was quite an evil lineage (which we will discuss in further depth next episode). Nonetheless, what we see overall is that The Temple was where Herod would conduct ruling business, and that is where several decisions were made to spy on Jesus, conduct investigations, and attempt an evil deed against Jesus.

North and west of The Temple was Herod’s Palace near the Upper City in Jerusalem, and then Herod also had his own outer defense wall built along with an aqueduct. This is significantly pagan in nature due to the entropic of closing the city tight near his palace to prevent any spying on his evil activities. Traditional scholars warrant a further investigation into his functions, which we will be getting to very soon.

We wish for more evidence to be brought into this situation; however, there is still limited evidence for the appearance of an odd star, many note as “Star of David” – nonetheless, we do have the assurance a King was born in the City of David and that the remarkable event staged an immediate action by King Herod. Such action would influence the very being of the course of the world, lest a Savior were to come. The Spirit of God is upon us, and we have to be aware of His Provision as He makes way in just the right moment.We will explore more next week as we Discover Research that Leverages Faith.

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