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Big Bad Voodoo

Biblical Magi-How many?

8 posts in this topic

No where in Bible it is not written that there were three wise men. Jesus got 3 presents so we think "okay there were three of them." Which is wrong. Maybe 20 Magi gave Jesus gold. So how do we know that there were three of them ?

In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage." When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 'And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.'" Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage." When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another path.Matthew 2:1–12

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Posted (edited)

The Magi were the priestly caste of the Medes (of which the Chaldeans - from whence came Abraham - were a group of). The Magi were said to be of a single family, and this might be where the ancient Hebrew tradition of the Levites (who are the priestly family in biblical lore) sprang from. It is more likely the term 'magi' meant 'priest', as some scholarship suggests the same of 'levi'.

Anyway, the Medean empire was destroyed/crumbled/etc and, over the intervening centuries a part of what used to be Medea, Assyria and such lands, became the Parthian empire. This was "the east" from whence the biblical Magi came.

Parthia was an enemy of Rome and at least once (during the first century BCE) was able to capture the Levant from the Romans. I'm not sure if Herod was the King of Judea at the time, but when the Romans retook the province (around 37BCE, I think?), Herod was installed as their vassal King. Naturally, there was still some antipathy between Rome and Parthia, and probably a few scuffles over territory. It is also worth noting that the native inhabitants of the Levant had a close kinship with Parthia, and likely looked on that empire more favourably than they did Rome, which made Herod's rule all the more precarious.

One of the roles of the Magi in Medean/Parthian society, was to be 'kingmakers'. Essentially, if someone wanted to be king, the Magi would have to read the signs (they were astrologers) in their favour. In was in this capacity that they declared a 'king' in Judea. The tradition of the Magi being kingmakers would be why Herod was particularly troubled by that declaration.

So, the Magi are not to be confused with the 'wise men' of Herod's court. The bible states there were only 3 Magi, and this seems to be the case - although they probably travelled with a fair-sized retinue of others.

This is from memory, and some aspects of my recollection might not be entirely accurate, but it is roughly the situation regards the Magi.

Edited by Leonardo

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Posted (edited)

The bible states there were only 3 Magi.

Where? :blink:

Edited by the L

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The Magi were the priestly caste of the Medes (of which the Chaldeans - from whence came Abraham - were a group of). The Magi were said to be of a single family, and this might be where the ancient Hebrew tradition of the Levites (who are the priestly family in biblical lore) sprang from. It is more likely the term 'magi' meant 'priest', as some scholarship suggests the same of 'levi'.

Anyway, the Medean empire was destroyed/crumbled/etc and, over the intervening centuries a part of what used to be Medea, Assyria and such lands, became the Parthian empire. This was "the east" from whence the biblical Magi came.

Parthia was an enemy of Rome and at least once (during the first century BCE) was able to capture the Levant from the Romans. I'm not sure if Herod was the King of Judea at the time, but when the Romans retook the province (around 37BCE, I think?), Herod was installed as their vassal King. Naturally, there was still some antipathy between Rome and Parthia, and probably a few scuffles over territory. It is also worth noting that the native inhabitants of the Levant had a close kinship with Parthia, and likely looked on that empire more favourably than they did Rome, which made Herod's rule all the more precarious.

One of the roles of the Magi in Medean/Parthian society, was to be 'kingmakers'. Essentially, if someone wanted to be king, the Magi would have to read the signs (they were astrologers) in their favour. In was in this capacity that they declared a 'king' in Judea. The tradition of the Magi being kingmakers would be why Herod was particularly troubled by that declaration.

So, the Magi are not to be confused with the 'wise men' of Herod's court. The bible states there were only 3 Magi, and this seems to be the case - although they probably travelled with a fair-sized retinue of others.

This is from memory, and some aspects of my recollection might not be entirely accurate, but it is roughly the situation regards the Magi.

Yes I must also ask. Where does it say there were 3 magi?

From THE NEW SMITHS BIBLE DICTIONARY[/i]

MAGI: Jeremiah 39:3 and Acts 8:9 come as close to this word as is found in scripture. The Magi were a priestly caste, according to Herodotus, one of the six tribes of Media, retaining influence AFTER PERSIA CONQUERED MEDIA, and into succeeding kingdoms.

Anyway it was customary for them to travel in threes as per Persian customs. However I don't recall a place in the BIble that says there were only 3 magi that showed up to see baby Jesus. If there were 3, it shows that they were influenced greatly by the earlier Persian Magi customs it would seem.

SINcerely,

:devil:

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My apologies on the "the bible states there were only 3 Magi" statement by me. It was late and I was considering that 3 gifts were given, therefore there were 3 Magi. Obviously, this is not supported and I stand corrected.

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My apologies on the "the bible states there were only 3 Magi" statement by me. It was late and I was considering that 3 gifts were given, therefore there were 3 Magi. Obviously, this is not supported and I stand corrected.

Dont apologie. I just hoped that someone know better.

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Dont apologie. I just hoped that someone know better.

It's no problem, L. I'm not embarrassed by being wrong, and don't have such an ego that it prevents me from having the simple manners to apologise when an apology is warranted.

I wasn't treating the enquiry by you and Seraph as questioning my integrity at all, so please don't be concerned.

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My apologies on the "the bible states there were only 3 Magi" statement by me. It was late and I was considering that 3 gifts were given, therefore there were 3 Magi. Obviously, this is not supported and I stand corrected.

No worries. :) I inquired though because while the Bible does not present anything concrete as to the number of Magi present, tradition has held that there were three. And I was hoping maybe there was other info yu might have had to be taken into account aside from the Bible such as customs of the Persians more specifically the Magi.

Who's Who in the Bible presents info I'd seen elsewhere but cannot at present time cannot recall what book or text it was in. So I'll resort to using Who's Who in the Bible

The Wise Men:

Although the Gospel of Matthew does not specify their number, tradition holds that there were three wise men-one for each gift. And, as early as the sixth century, names were given to them, with physical attributes coming somewhat later. Thus, the bearer of gold was said to be Melchior, an elderly Persian with a small beard; a young and beardless Indian named Casper offered fragrant frankincense; a black Arabian named Balthasar brought Myrhh, the bitter gum resin valued for its medical properties.

SINcerely,

:devil:

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