Who are the Magi?

C_M_C_M_ Posts: 2,580
edited November 25 in Bible Questions
  1. Magi in Matt 2, who is this people group?
    • Were they believers in the Messiah, Jews, rulers or "foreigners"?
    • What was their reputation or was known for?
    • Of what nationalities were they?
  2. Where did they come from and approximately how far did they travel?
  3. What was the purpose of coming?
  4. What guided them?
    • Was it real or supernatural?
  5. What gifts were brought by the Magi to Jesus?
    • What were the gifts the value and meaning of each?
  6. Where was Jesus when the Magi arrived, in a stable or in a house?
  7. Do they have any relationships or connections to the "Wise Men" in the OT?

This story, or some portion of it, is told every year in December what is your understanding of the characters and the biblical meaning? Is the story true, a parable or a fable? Please, let me hear from you. CM

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  • reformedreformed Posts: 1,983

    We don't really know who they were. I'm not going to deal in hypotheticals or speculation on them or their purpose. So I will answer what we know then post a blip from a study Bible about the magi.

    We know a star guided them. We know they brought Gold frankincense and myrrh and these are extravagant gifts. They did not go to the stable, they went to a house. This was no the night Christ was born. It is a true story, no reason to believe otherwise.


    The wise men were magi. Eastern magi mixed Zoroastrianism with astrology and black magic. They are described in Dn 2:2, 4–5, 10, where they are associated with diviner-priests, mediums, and sorcerers. The term magos (sg of magi) appears only once in the NT. It describes the sorcerer whom Paul portrayed as “full of all kinds of deceit and trickery” and a “son of the devil and enemy of all that is right” (Ac 13:6–10). The magus of whom Paul spoke would have held beliefs that were similar to those of the wise men. Thus, the summons of the magi to visit Jesus demonstrates God’s intention to save Gentiles from their futile religions. As an adult, Jesus cast out demons and broke Satan’s grip on beleaguered people. Here we see that even in his infancy, Christ plundered Satan’s kingdom and set captives free. The east may refer to Babylonia or Persia. King Herod was actually a client king ruling under Roman authority. Though he was Idumean and not a Jew, the Roman Senate named him king of Judea in 40 BC. He was an able ruler but brutal and suspicious.

    Charles L. Quarles, “Matthew,” in CSB Study Bible: Notes, ed. Edwin A. Blum and Trevin Wax (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2017), 1498.

  • C_M_C_M_ Posts: 2,580

    Thanks for your contribution, Reformed. A little more can be said for greater enlightenment.

    According to the New Testament, Jesus is the one, in whom the Name of God resides (Phil 2:9; Heb 1:4), and his manifestation of the Father elicits worship. And now the prophets, one by one, fill in the picture, each adding a fresh, vivid touch:

    • The prophet Micah sees the little town where Jesus was to be born and tells us it is Bethlehem (Mic 5:2; Mat 2:6).
    • Isaiah sees the adoration of the Magi (Isa 60:3; Mat 2:1).
    • Jeremiah pictures the death of the innocents (Jer 31:15; Mat 2:17,18).
    • Hosea foreshadows the flight into Egypt (Hos 11:1; Mat 2:15).
    • Isaiah portrays His meekness and gentleness (Isa 42:2; Mat 11:29), and the wisdom and knowledge which Jesus manifested all through His life from the time of His talking with the doctors in the Temple.

    Matthew alone recounts the visit of the Magi [ch. 2]. The whole world at this time was expecting the advent of some Great One. ''Where is He that is born King of the Jews?'' Their adoration foreshadowed His universal dominion. Matthew alone tells us how Herod, the usurper of David's sovereignty, sought to slay the heir.

    The term magi (gk: uayoi) is plural of “uayos” which does not necessarily denote men who were in a position of political authority, although their apparent boldness and ease of access to King Herod certainly indicate a high status.

    Experts believed the Magi were skilled in arts and learning:

    • The term originally referred to priests and experts in mysteries in Persia and Babylon.
    • By the time of Jesus, it referred to “a wide range of people whose practices included astrology, dream interpretation, the study of sacred writings, the pursuit of wisdom and magic” (Wilkins, Michael J. 2008. Matthew: ESV Study Bible Notes. In ESV Study Bible, 1815- 1888. Wheaton IL: Crossway Bibles, 1822).

    Either these men had chosen to focus their studies on the Jewish Scriptures or they had an independent tradition through which the birth of the king of the Jews had been foretold. If they are from Babylon, it is most likely that they have been studying the Scriptures, since a number of Jews chose to remain there after the Exile during the time of increased copying and availability of Scripture.

    The magi in Matthew, whether or not they have political authority, are representative of their nations in a fashion similar to the kings in Rev 21:24. Therefore, in the very least this is the honor of those nations being brought to Jesus. But if the gifts are emblematic, then it is also a symbol of the glory of those nations being brought to him. CM

    PS. Do you see any connection of the Magi with Revelation 21?

  • WolfgangWolfgang Posts: 1,260

    Some thoughts about the magi ....

    As for these magi from the east, I would not regard them to have been "magicians" in today's sense of the word or "magicians" practicing "magic". Rather, I would understand them to have been members of the ancient caste of "magi" who were occupied already in ancient days in Babylon and Persia with astronomy (by the way, this not the same as astrology!).

    I would consider it a good possibility that perhaps a knowledge about the God of Israel and the promised Messiah (which also is contained in the message of God proclaimed in the stars and signs of the stars (compare Psa 19) was spoken by the prophet Daniel also to the magi (well, the then living ancestors of the magi) while he was in Babylon, and that the magi then maintained this knowledge about the birth of a coming Messiah - a "king of the house of Judah" - as announced by the stars through the following centuries. Then, when extraordinary events in the starry skies occurred, it caused them to become aware of the birth of that promised Messiah and take upon themselves the long journey to Jerusalem to honor and pay homage to this recently born king.

    I also find it rather remarkable in this context, that there were "gentiles far away" who believed the message of God as revealed in the stars and came all the way to worship and pay homage to him, while "his people on location" who had the message of God in the Scriptures for the most part did not even notice or realize that the Messiah had been born and later on as a whole rejected him.

  • C_M_C_M_ Posts: 2,580

    @Wolfgang said:
    "Some thoughts about the magi ...."

    Thanks, Wolfgang!

    Consider this for the conversation. The land of the East is most likely Babylon, where many Jews still lived at the time of Christ’s birth. Only a remnant of the Jews returned from the Babylonian exile to Palestine during the Persian period. The wise men, most likely, were rabbis known in Hebrew as "chakamin", which means wise men.

    We are told that the wise men made their journey from the East to Bethlehem because they had seen "the star in the East" (Matt 2:1). Watching the stars was associated especially with the Feast of Tabernacles. In fact, the roof of the booth was built with leafy branches carefully spaced so that they would screen out the sunlight without blocking the visibility of the stars. The people watched for the stars at night during the feast because of the prophecy "a star shall come out of Jacob" (Num 24:17). It is possible that it was during the Feast of Tabernacles, the special season of star watching, that the wise men saw the Messianic star and "rejoiced exceedingly with great joy" (Matt 2:10).

    Truth found truth shared. CM

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