The Magi Myth

The Magi Myth December 21, 2011

I have no real problem with believing that actual Magi saw a funky astrological phenomenon and found a Jewish baby a few years later. I don’t deny that supernatural things like that can happen.

I also don’t have a problem with the story in Matthew 2 being midrashic.

I spent most of my life wanting the story to be historical. For some reason this year I want it to be mythic. We are hungry for myth. History is great for telling us who we were and why we are the way we are. Myth is better for telling us who we will be and why we aren’t yet who we can be.

This is why Luke Skywalker and Gandalf mean more to me than Christopher Columbus and George Washington. (Interesting note that numerous myths about Washington exist already, a relatively short time after his death. He didn’t actually chop down a cherry tree, but he did in our collective heart. And perhaps we are tell our fathers a few less lies because of it.)

Regardless of what really went down, we know one thing for certain:

The long-awaited hope of Isaiah 60 had incarnated in the early Christians.

1 “Arise, shine, for your light has come,
and the glory of the LORD rises upon you.
2 See, darkness covers the earth
and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the LORD rises upon you
and his glory appears over you.
3Nations will come to your light,
and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

4 “Lift up your eyes and look about you:
All assemble and come to you;
your sons come from afar,
and your daughters are carried on the hip.
5 Then you will look and be radiant,
your heart will throb and swell with joy;
the wealth on the seas will be brought to you,
to you the riches of the nations will come
6 Herds of camels will cover your land,
young camels of Midian and Ephah.
And all from Sheba will come,
bearing gold and incense

and proclaiming the praise of the LORD.

The point of the Magi is that, through Jesus, the promise of Zion was and is realized. And realized so fully that even alien astrologers can’t help but seek to worship him.

That’s what matters. Shalom has come through Messiah.

Joe Boyd  blogs at

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Whether it’s a historical even or not doesn’t really matter to me. I’m more interested in what the meaning of this story is, which you illustrate quite well.

  • Brad

    it’s not about it being a myth but it being actual and truthful, which it is. There is no myth to it, it’s the inspired Word of God which completely true and never wrong.

  • Brad,
    We don’t need to be afraid of the word myth. It doesn’t negate the truth of Scripture. It is just a genre of literature like narrative, history and apocalypse. Christians can embrace myth as a story that communicates a truth with a spiritual message without weakening the importance of the whole. It’s just honest to acknowledge that the Bible is a library which contains works from a variety of sources, styles and genres. Handling Scripture in this way makes us see God more clearly as we consider the author’s intentions in addition to the Divine message. Scripture is a collaborative process. Without this admission Christian Scripture becomes a dictated text, which is an inadequate perspective that is logically implausible.

    • Keith


      We don’t need to be afraid of absolute, stand alone, objective truth either. The Word, the second member of the Trinity, became flesh and dwelt among men before He died in our place for our sin, the perfect atoning sacrifice. Genre’s aside, that’s pretty exciting.

      • Keith

        And that “Word” was God incarnate!

        • The use of the term “myth” refers to the magi in this piece – not to Christ. So I’m not sure about your semantics.