Thursday, December 21, 2006

Who are These "Wisemen"?

Last December, my blog was in its infancy. Now, a year later, I have had a blast writing about all sorts of things and even having a few people read some of what I write. This article was one of the first I posted on here, and since it is time that people are thinking about Christmas again (duh), I thought I would pull the old "re-post". Have a Merry Christmas everyone!

Of course you have seen them. They are the three tall old guys towards the back of the nativity scene that sits on your shelf. There is always one with dark skin, there are always three, and they are always present beside the crib...rather, manger of Jesus. But who are these wise men really? Scholars suggest that the biblical connection of these men dates back to the Exile, when Daniel is placed in charge of Babylon and "all its wise men" (Daniel 2:10, 48). These men were astrologers and great thinkers of their day and were perhaps instructed by Daniel about the God of Israel and the Prophesied Messiah that was coming, as he was their superior. There is a good chance that Daniel's influence and faithfulness to God in a pagan and foreign nation is the reason that we see these wise men, also called "kings" or "Magi", worshiping Jesus.

Nonetheless, grandma's old nativity set certainly has some inaccuracies it must work out. For one, they followed the star to Jerusalem from the east, and then to Bethlehem, a journey which probably took them years to complete. Thus, we would never see Wise Men and shepherds worshiping side by side as is so commonly seen (note: Matthew records Magi, Luke records shepherds, so there is no biblical claim that they worshiped the Savior together). Actually, the Greek word (I am not an expert in Greek, but I have friends who are) used to describe Jesus in Luke with the shepherds present denotes "baby", whereas the word describing Jesus in Matthew with the Wise Men is closer to "child". Thus, there is a good chance Jesus was several years old when the wise men dropped in. In addition, we have no way of knowing how many Magi were present. There could have been three or a dozen. We often assume there were three because three gifts are mentioned, though the true number is anybody's guess. As far as ethnicity, they would have most certainly been Persian, thus having olive colored skin and middle eastern features. In the end, we know for certain that men of wealth called "Wise men" visited Jesus and worshiped him and brought him gifts (which is also probably where the custom of gift giving at Christmas originally comes from). Pretty amazing that such men would worship a baby in this way. They must have known there was something special about this kid. He certainly was one extraordinary baby.

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