biblical scholars tend to dismiss the Christmas story of the “wise
men from the East” as pious legend. Matthew’s gospel offers few
details, but imaginative Christians filled out the story early on,
giving us the three kings guided by a magical star who join the
adoring shepherds in every Christmas crèche.
many scholars, then, there is no reason to take the gospel story
are they right? Are the wise men no more than a poetic fancy?
an astonishing feat of detective work, Dwight Longenecker makes a
powerful case that the visit of the Magi to Bethlehem really
happened. Piecing together the evidence from biblical studies,
history, archeology, and astronomy, he goes further, uncovering where
they came from, why they came, and what might have happened to them
after eluding the murderous King Herod.
the process, he provides a new and fascinating view of the time and
place in which Jesus Christ chose to enter the world.
evidence is clear and compelling. The mysterious Magi from the East
were in all likelihood astrologers and counselors from the court of
the Nabatean king at Petra, where the Hebrew messianic prophecies
were well known. The “star” that inspired their journey was a
particular planetary alignment―confirmed by computer models―that
in the astrological lore of the time portended the birth of a Jewish
visitors whose arrival troubled Herod “and all Jerusalem with him”
may not have been the turbaned oriental kings of the Christmas carol,
but they were real, and by demonstrating that the wise men were no
fairy tale, Mystery
of the Magi
a new level of respect for the historical claims of the gospel.