Three Kings—No, Forty—No, SIXTY? Rethinking the Magi

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?  For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him.”

–Matthew 2:1-2

Q:  What do you know about the Magi?

If you answered that they were three wise men from the East named Balthazar, Gaspar, and Melchior, think again:  All that may be about to change!

That’s because an ancient document from the Vatican Archives, uncovered just a few years ago and recently translated from the original Syriac, casts new light on the Nativity story and on the Three Wise Men.

Brent Landau, professor of religious studies at the University of Oklahoma, spent two years translating the document from the Syriac language.  He has just published The Revelation of the Magi, which Professor Landau believes to be a firsthand account of their journey to pay homage to the Christ Child.

The fragile manuscript is actually an eighth-century copy of a story which was written down hundreds of years earlier, less than 100 years after the Gospel of Matthew was written.  Matthew, in his Gospel, gives a very brief account of the Magi’s visit; but the newly released document goes into much greater detail, even differing on some major points.

IMPORTANT DIFFERENCES

 

Who Were The Magi? – According to the recently translated The Revelation of the Magi, they were descendants of Seth, Adam and Eve’s third son who was born after Cain slew Abel.  They belonged to a religious sect which engaged in rituals and silent prayer.

Origin – It’s long been believed that the Magi originated from Persia; but according to The Revelation, they traveled a much greater distance—originating in the ancient kingdom of Shir, now associated with ancient China.  The manuscript describes in detail a sacred mountain, and a sacred spring where a ceremony of purification was conducted.

Number – Although Matthew’s Gospel doesn’t say how many Magi made the trip to worship the newborn Child Jesus, tradition has held that there were three wise men—most likely because Matthew names three gifts (gold, frankincense and myrrh).  According to Landau’s The Revelation of the Magi, however, there were many more—perhaps scores of Magi who made the trip.

What They Saw in the Star – But the biggest news of all is the manner by which the Magi actually saw the Child.  Matthew talks about the visitors but stops short of explaining just how they came to worship Him.  A beloved tradition emerged, showing the Wise Men bowing, entering the humble stable where the Christ Child was laid; but many scholars believed that the Holy Family had already fled to Egypt to escape Herod, and that it was in Egypt that the meeting actually occurred.

According to Professor Landau, though, what the Magi saw was the Star itself.  “It transformed into a small luminous human being,” he said, “who was Christ Himself in a pre-existent, celestial form.

“It is saying that Jesus Christ and the Star of Bethlehem are the same thing, and Jesus Christ can transform himself into anything. 

“The star guides them to Bethlehem and into a cave where it transforms into a human infant who tells them to go back and be preachers of the Gospel.”

Well, now.  Professor Landau is right, of course—Jesus can do anything.  This story, though, is so far afield from anything we’ve heard in the Scriptures these last 2,000 years.

Could it be true?  I suppose.

Do I believe it?  I don’t know.

Salvation history is replete with encounters and anecdotes, familiar stories we’ve come to know and love.  This one is different in that it presents facts and details that have never before been expressed.  As far as I can tell, there is nothing in the story that negates any part of Scripture.  Instead, it would seem to enhance the Nativity scene with new and rich details.

But it will not be you or I who make the decision whether to accept the document as legitimate.  The archeologists will continue to study and confirm the authenticity of the parchment itself; and Vatican theologians will eventually confirm whether there is anything in The Revelation of the Magi which specifically contradicts the Scriptures, thereby rendering it not to be believed.

Let us take our cue from Mary, the Mother of God.  Let us wait, pondering these things in our hearts.

  • TheRani

    It sounds kind of suspicious. An infant who tells them to go back and be preachers of the Gospel? Which Gospel would that be? Most of the events of the Gospels we’re familiar with had not even happened yet during the infancy of Jesus, much less been preached by anybody, or written down anywhere. What in the world would the infant Christ be expecting these guys to preach?

    • http://brandy-miller.blogspot.com Brandy Miller

      You’re assuming that Gospel is a book. Gospel means good news – the good news would be that the savior was born and people who had been waiting centuries for the promised savior could now celebrate his arrival.

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  • Kelso

    Commenter TheRani easily refutes the tale. There is also a contradiction. In Matthew’s Gospel the Magi came to a “house” to worship the Christ. The Holy Family had by then moved out of the cave.

    • Doug

      Not a contradiction, from my reading of the accounts. (Matthew is Magi; Luke is lambs.)
      In both Chapter Two’s the first verse records the birth of Jesus. From then on Matthew is talking about a different time period. How so? First, Luke records a series of events that had to have occurred in short order, within a Law-mandated period of forty days after the birth of a Jewish male. Second, Luke and the shepherds say “infant”; Matthew says “child”. Third, the prophesied flight to Egypt is directly connected with the visit of the Magi to Bethlehem after the near-fatal stopover in Jerusalem. No doubt the family came to Jerusalem at least once a year thereafter, and could have stayed in Bethlehem each time. (As noted, it was Joseph’s city, and it’s about five miles from Jerusalem.) (Luke 2:39-41) At one of those times (v.39) the Magi came to see the “child”. Note also that the uneducated Jewish shepherds got an announcement from their God about the birth of the Messiah (not a king), at the right time, accurately given, and putting the Family in no danger.
      Q. Just who put that murderous star in the sky?

  • seraphim

    Don’t be disappointed – this is not new. It is based on a heresy, so small that it ‘slipped in’ at the time of the great heresies and can be overlooked very easily and yet it is a major foundation block for Satanism and especially Luciferianism. Those who list the great heresies usually just skip over this snake lurking like a small viper hidden in the grasses of history yet its teachings have also been passed on through occult secret societies for millennia and continue to poison many. This heresy is known as Sethian and sprang out of Gnosticism. The Sethites drew their origins from the Gnostic Ophites (Ophites: Greek meaning ‘snake’). The Ophites had a connection with the Nicolaitans mentioned in Revelation 2 in regard to the Church in Ephesus and the Church in Smyrna. The Nicolatitans at the time of the Apostles and St Paul would not allow people into their assembly until they had cursed Jesus. Hence Paul urges discernment as to what has the Holy Spirit behind it in 1 Corinthians 12:3 “Therefore I want you to know that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, ‘Jesus be cursed.’ And no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord.’ Except by the Holy Spirit.” The Sethites venerated the biblical Seth, third son of Adam and Eve. Seth is depicted in their creation myth as an incarnation of the divine. Hence the offspring or ‘posterity’ of Seth believed themselves to compromise a superior elect within human society in exactly the same way (possibly due to the same origin of the Aryan myth) that those who claim to be directly descended from the Divine Aryan race of gods and goddesses believe themselves to be superior to other humans. The Sethians based their belief on the ‘Apocalypse of Adam’. This teaches that there were two gods: one was a demiurge and he created Adam and Eve from the seed stars and wanted them kept in bondage to him and not let them discover what he knew. Hence he forbade them to eat of the Tree of Good and Evil, or, as it is also known, the Tree of Knowledge. The other god was the distant one, true, most high god who wanted to set Adam and Eve free and give them the true hidden knowledge to be gods like himself and he being the one good ‘true’ God was unselfish and not jealous but wanted them to share his knowledge and be like him. To this end, the Sethians claimed, he disguised himself as a snake and entered Eden to bring them the true knowledge that the other lesser demiurge creator god did not want them to have lest they be like him and usurp his power. The source of the ‘Apocalypse of Adam’ going back centuries before Christ can be conjecturally said to have arisen from the Kabbala which compromised with the myth that already existed. While predominantly Judaic it is also seen by scholars to be influenced by Platonism. Certainly Kabalists teach that Adam Kadmon was in the stars as a great giant spirit and androgynous whose separation into male and female happened when they sinned and were cast to earth as two persons and ‘clothed’ with garments of flesh. This being born ‘in the stars’ from spirits is clearly both gnostic (spirits born from the stars they called aeons or archons) and in Asian teachings those spirits who dwelt in places on earth or in the stars were called avatars who resided on star constellations or planets and who occasionally reincarnated by possessing or overshadowing various people in history – that is, the well known religious leaders of many faiths in history.

    • Mariusz

      That’s exactly what I thought right away after reading in the article that the Magi were “the descendants of Seth”. Of course, Sethian Gnostics. And the text was written c. 170 AD which places it perfectly within the Gnostic epoch. A good parallel to such writings in our time is the “Da Vinci Code”. Do not be deceived by it, these are not orthodox Christian teachings.

  • Carlos

    Sounds like a gnostic work on par with other NON-CANONICAL gospels. Let’s not forget that the canonical Gospels are inspired by the Holy Spirit.

  • Doug

    Has the ring of … counterfeit, as with most such tales. 2 Tim 4:3.

  • Faustina

    Sounds very New Age to me.

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