31 Dec Tuesday
The biblical account of the magi became the fertile material for many legends about the event that grew up especially during the middle ages.
The account only appears in Matthew’s gospel chapter 2
No number of them is mentioned in the narrative; the number three arose in consistency with the three visitors to Abraham and Sarah to announce the birth of Isaac
They were magi, not kings; magi were a priestly caste in the religion of ancient Persia who worked in astrology and oneirology
They are not named; the name are a medieval addition
Two of the lands of origin in the prophecy are very obscure, and only one of them was “east” from Micah
The gospel states that they came from one country, not three
The phrase “in the east” is Anatolia, which is modern day Turkey, far to the northwest
They certainly did not come on camels, it’s not in the text, and camels are not indigenous to Israel’s geography because their padded feet, not hooved, are suited for the desert sands, not the rocky land of Israel, Jerusalem, or Bethlehem
Scientists are still debating over which possible star/comet they could have seen, and the closest one chronologically would have been 5 or 6 years before the year AD 1 (there’s no such thing as the year 0); the text has “star” not “comet”
The star is called “rising” in the text, in other words not straight up overhead, but rather likely meaning on the eastern horizon
The third gift, myrrh, is not mentioned in the prophecies; two of the gifts, frankincense and myrrh, come from the Arabian south, not Persia or Babylon
That’s just the first two verses! Obviously the story is constructed on a fulfillment narrative built up from far older texts and times in Israel’s history, and reflects a style of Biblical interpretation known as midrash. The contemporary reception of the text gets all lost in the fascination with the magi, and not the main point of worship and awe at Jesus! προσκυνησις here literally means the full prostration of the body face down on the floor prone in the presence of the king; the word appears three times in the text, all referencing Jesus; the magi did not prostrate themselves to Herod the King.