The Weekend Word

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47 Responses

  1. Em - again says:

    well… interesting extrapolations (mine are no better) i think that they came from the east, but had their roots over there in Babylon… the further east, the longer their journey… i think that they knew where they were going and that they were VIPs and would have gone directly to the King to present their bona fides…
    what i don’t understand is why Mary and Joseph didn’t return to Nazareth soon after the birth…did the angel warn them prior to the wise men arriving? i can see why they’d wait to head clear down into Egypt until mother and child were in condition to travel… seems like God doesn’t think we need that information

    the picture of Mary, drumming her fingers, and saying, “I wish those wise men would hurry up and get here” wouldn’t make a very picturesque Christmas image, would it? 🙂

  2. These are fascinating guys – like every person / character in scripture, old and new testament alike, they come on the scene, do their part and exit stage left and only Jesus remains center stage.

  3. JoelG says:

    Interesting, these “wise men”. Astrologers? Why do we think there were 3 of them Hallmark?

    I’m fascinated by the the contrast of these guys with the shepherds just doing their and boom, angels appear to them.

  4. JoelG says:

    *just doing their job

  5. Joel, I think there was a whole posse, perhaps 20 – that is why I think they were noticed and word got to Herod before they did.

  6. JoelG says:

    Better add 17 more wise men to the nativity set. In Lukes account he writes that the shepherds spread the word after what they had heard and seen. It seems like that kind of story would have got more people’s, including Herods, attention. But as far as we know it took this posse of King makers to really stir things up.

  7. Jean says:

    Between pagan magicians (magi in the NASB, from which we get the word magician) and dirty shepherds (in Luke’s account), Jesus started his humiliation right off the bat associating with the wrong crowd.

    I don’t see a prosperity message yet. I wonder how brother Osteen preaches these visits.

  8. Jesus didn’t have enough faith to be prosperous.

  9. JoelG says:

    God seems to have any affinity for outsiders….

    “He is despised and rejected among men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with weakness; and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”

  10. Jean says:

    JoelG,

    I’m counting on your observation.

  11. Michael says:

    Scholars have laboured to discover what Matthew’s ‘star’ might have been. Halley’s Comet appeared in 12–11 BC, but that would be very early for this story. Or it could have been some kind of supernova. More likely is the fact that the planets Jupiter and Saturn were in conjunction with each other three times in 7 BC. Since Jupiter was the ‘royal’ or kingly planet, and Saturn was sometimes thought to represent the Jews, the conclusion was obvious: a new king of the Jews was about to be born. We cannot be certain if this was why the ‘wise and learned men’ came from the East. But, even if it wasn’t, nothing is more likely than that thoughtful astronomers or astrologers (the two went together in the ancient world), noticing strange events in the heavens, would search out their earthly counterparts. If, as it appears, they were also wealthy, they would have no major difficulty in making the journey.

    Matthew is not telling us all this simply to satisfy astronomical curiosity. Nor is he offering us the kind of cosy, picture-book story we have created for ourselves out of it, with strange but gentle oriental kings bringing gifts to a child in a stable. (Matthew says nothing about a stable; as far as we know from his gospel, Mary and Joseph were simply living in Bethlehem at the time, only moving to Nazareth later (2:23). Nor does he say the visitors were themselves royal.) The overtones of his story are quite different.

    What he tells us is political dynamite. Jesus, Matthew is saying, is the true king of the Jews, and old Herod is the false one, a usurper, an impostor. As we shall see, this Herod died soon after Jesus’ birth; but his sons ruled on, and one of them, Herod Antipas, plays a significant role in the developing story of Jesus himself. The house of Herod did not take kindly to the idea of anyone else claiming to be ‘king of the Jews’.

    The arrival of the ‘Magi’ (that’s the word Matthew uses for them; it can refer to ‘magicians’, or ‘astrologers’, or experts in interpreting dreams, portents and other strange happenings) introduces us to something which Matthew wants us to be clear about from the start. If Jesus is in some sense king of the Jews, that doesn’t mean that his rule is limited to the Jewish people. At the heart of many prophecies about the coming king, the Messiah, there were predictions that his rule would bring God’s justice and peace to the whole world (e.g. Psalm 72; Isaiah 11:1–10). Matthew will end his gospel with Jesus commissioning his followers to go out and make disciples from every nation; this, it seems, is the way that the prophecies of the Messiah’s worldwide rule are going to come true. There are hints of the same thing at various points in the gospel (e.g. 8:11), though Jesus himself did not deliberately seek out Gentiles during his ministry (see 10:5–6). But here, even when Jesus is an apparently unknown baby, there is a sign of what is to come. The gifts that the Magi brought were the sort of things that people in the ancient world would think of as appropriate presents to bring to kings, or even gods.

    There is another way as well in which this story points ahead to the climax of the gospel. Jesus will finally come face to face with the representative of the world’s greatest king—Pilate, Caesar’s subordinate. Pilate will have rather different gifts to give him, though he, too, is warned by a dream not to do anything to him (27:19). His soldiers are the first Gentiles since the Magi to call Jesus ‘king of the Jews’ (27:29), but the crown they give him is made of thorns, and his throne is a cross. At that moment, instead of a bright star, there will be an unearthly darkness (27:45), out of which we shall hear a single Gentile voice: yes, he really was God’s son (27:54).
    Listen to the whole story, Matthew is saying. Think about what it meant for Jesus to be the true king of the Jews. And then—come to him, by whatever route you can, and with the best gifts you can find.

    Wright, T. (2004). Matthew for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1-15 (pp. 10–12). London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge.

  12. Probably getting ahead of myself, but I don’t think the “star” was an actual star or any other space object. It appears to me the “star” came as a sign of an event and it does not seem like anyone else saw it or was aware of it. When the wise men get to Israel it does not seem that the “star” is giving direction and when they are asking where, they don’t point it out to the folks they encounter.

    Then it seems later the “star” returns to direct them to Casa Jesus. I think we see throughout scriptures that “stars” are angels / messengers. Think of Tinkerbell flying ahead to point out where Jesus lives.

    That’s my guess – but like most writers of commentaries, I too get my information from the white spaces on the page. 🙂

  13. Em - again says:

    #12 … ah yes, i seem to remember hearing something about the legend of Tinkerbell having it’s beginning 2,000 years ago in a tale told by shepherds in the holy land 🙂

    but it well could have been that the heavens really lit up that night – probably the wise men and the shepherds were the only ones looking skyward? … but you’d think everybody in Bethlehem would have heard the music….

  14. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Many if not most biblical references to stars are about angelic beings or God sent messengers.
    Since our Sun is a small star I just don’t see how it hovered over Jesus’s house.

  15. Josh the Baptist says:

    The word being translated to “wise men” is the same word Luke uses in Acts 13:6 in reference to Bar-jesus. There, it translated “sorcerer” in the Holman.

  16. JoelG says:

    So God used “sorcerers” to glorify Jesus. The Bible was clearly not written by conservative evangelicals who would never allow such worldly heathens to be part of the Story.

  17. Jean says:

    We’re all worldly in one way or another. I’m thankful the Gospel isn’t for the righteous, or I’d be in real trouble.

  18. Josh the Baptist says:

    Yeah. It was apparently a big controversy in the early church as well. Tertullian theorized that God only used astrology up through the time of the Gospel, but not after.

    So, I know we hate evangelicals, but this one has been around a lot longer than that.

  19. Jean says:

    “So, I know we hate evangelicals, but this one has been around a lot longer than that.”

    Who hates evangelicals? They’re a great mission field.

  20. Josh the Baptist says:

    I just find it ironic, always. In # 15, a conservative evangelical makes a certain point. in #16 someone says “Well, a conservative evangelical would never say that.”
    I guess I should just roll my eyes and let it go, but it gets on my nerves.

  21. JoelG says:

    Sorry Josh. No hate. Resentment? Yes. Not you. The ” us vs. them” thinking is alive and well in the conservative evangelical circle I’m in. I don’t think my observation is too far off based on what I hear on a regular basis.

  22. Josh the Baptist says:

    My point, JoelG, is that the same conversation was going on in the early church, before 200 AD. It’s not just evangelicals who have problems with sorcerers.

  23. JoelG says:

    Interesting. I guess we shouldn’t limit who or what God will use for His purposes even if we have a problem with it.

  24. Josh the Baptist says:

    Absolutely. And God using someone is not the same as God endorsing someone. Jeremiah tells us that God used Babylon as a hammer against His people.

  25. Josh the Baptist says:

    Most of the scoundrels that have been exposed on this site, God has used in mighty ways.

  26. Jean says:

    Do you remember the woman who anointed Jesus feet with her tears and dried them with her hair? There seems to be a theme in the NT that the good and moral people aren’t very good, in fact they’re terrible, at recognizing their Savior. Conversely, the “unclean” and immoral folks seem to recognize and cling to their Savior. Pride in oneself appears to be a very dangerous disposition.

  27. Josh the Baptist says:

    And sorry for snapping back at you there, Joel. What you said was not egregious, or even incorrect. It’s juts that often on this site evangelicals are painted as the cause of all the world’s ills. I guess I’ve developed an itchy trigger finger.

  28. Josh the Baptist says:

    Good word @ 26, Jean.

  29. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I don’t know that these guys are the bad kind of magicians or astrologers. I don’t have time to look it up but wasn’t Daniel the department head of these guys back in the day?

    I don’t want to do it now, but I think these guys were among the very first believers and definitely the first gentile believers – which I think dispels the case for Jesus being the messiah to the Jews – but to the whole world.

  30. Jean says:

    MLD at #29, I like the way Simeon put it (in his Nunc Dimittis):

    “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace,
    according to your word;
    for my eyes have seen your salvation
    that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
    a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and for glory to your people Israel.” (Luke 2:29-32)

  31. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Jean – you just like to say Nunc Dimittis 😉

  32. JoelG says:

    No worries Josh. I’m just venting before I go to small group tonight and learn to “Desire God” more like John Piper. *sigh*

  33. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Joel,
    “Desire God” more like John Piper. *sigh*

    Doesn’t the Bible tell you it is better to cut off your hand or poke out your eyes than to go to such studies? 🙂

  34. JoelG says:

    MLD it’s my wife’s brothers family and some friends. As much as I’d love to not go, and don’t go frequently, I have no excuse tonight. I will grit my teeth and try to convey some of the things I’m learning from the Lutheran tradition about the Gospel.

  35. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Going back to the star being an angelic, or angelic type being sent by God I think we see God’s election in progress as He draws the wise men to Christ.

  36. Michael says:

    Matthew is not interested in the journey of the magi; his interest is in the confrontation with Herod. Only a single bit of information is given about the magi: they come from “the East”—a place not further defined—the origin of magic, astrology, and religious wisdom. The readers know that magi are Gentiles; the evangelist underscores this by having them ask in v. 2* about the birthplace not of the king of Israel but of the “king of the Jews.”83
    Μάγος initially means a member of the Persian priestly class, but the meaning expands, and beginning with the Hellenistic period it also includes other representatives of Eastern theology, philosophy, and natural science. The boundary between magicians, astrologists, and theurgists becomes fluid. According to ancient traditions magicians also predict major events Beginning with Sophocles and Euripides, μάγος is also used in a negative sense: magicians/ magi are sorcerers and charlatans.
    In the Hellenistic age, however, magi are more likely to be regarded positively, understandably so in view of the esteem that Eastern wisdom enjoyed in that day. Judaism, which under the influence of the OT was allergic to any form of sorcery, has a generally negative view, but it is not completely able to resist the influence either of astrology or of the Hellenistic high regard of magi.Christianity takes over the Jewish negative view. We may therefore assume that Matthew’s readers also come to the text with a negative attitude toward “magicians.” The surprise that the story brings for them is then all the greater. Socially their prestige is high; one meets them often at royal courts. Their prestige corresponds to the gifts they bring to the infant Jesus.
    ■ 2* In our text the magi are not described negatively. The story will show what the readers are to think of them. Initially they are probably ambivalent. In the context of Matthew 1–2 they suspect that the magi are looking for the child Jesus in order to pay homage to him but that they are doing it at the wrong place. Because of the star we cannot completely exclude the possibility that there were associations with astrology, but Matthew if anything represses them by refusing even to intimate how the magi recognized what the star meant. God’s guidance alone is decisive.
    A great deal of ink has flowed about the star. The formulation “his star” (αὐτοῦ τὸν ἀστέρα) suggests that Matthew is thinking of the popular idea that every person has his or her own star or that he is thinking of the king’s star.91 However, this star is a miraculous star that shows the magi the way and goes before them to Bethlehem.

    Luz, U. (2007). Matthew 1–7: a commentary on Matthew 1–7. (H. Koester, Ed.) (Rev. ed., pp. 112–113). Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press.

  37. Jean says:

    Joel, is young and restless. 🙂

  38. Michael says:

    The Magi were not kings but a combination of wise men and priests probably from Persia. They combined astronomical observation with astrological speculation. They played both political and religious roles and were figures of some prominence in their land.23
    The Magi’s question to Herod emphasizes the word “born.” The grammatical construction makes it clear that they ask about who the child is who has legitimate claim to Israel’s throne by virtue of his birth. Herod is thus viewed as a usurper to the throne. A new star in the sky was often believed to herald the birth of a significant person in the land over which the star shone. So the Magi’s question is a natural inference from their observation. If “in the east” is the correct translation in v. 2, then this phrase modifies “we saw” not “his star.” Otherwise the geography would be confused. But the NIV margin “when it rose” is perhaps a more likely translation and would explain how the Magi’s attention was called to this new celestial feature. The statement that these pagans “have come to worship” the Christ child is both remarkable and significant for what lies ahead.

    Blomberg, C. (1992). Matthew (Vol. 22, pp. 62–63). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

  39. Michael says:

    The Magi were not kings but a combination of wise men and priests probably from Persia. They combined astronomical observation with astrological speculation. They played both political and religious roles and were figures of some prominence in their land.

    The Magi’s question to Herod emphasizes the word “born.” The grammatical construction makes it clear that they ask about who the child is who has legitimate claim to Israel’s throne by virtue of his birth. Herod is thus viewed as a usurper to the throne. A new star in the sky was often believed to herald the birth of a significant person in the land over which the star shone. So the Magi’s question is a natural inference from their observation. If “in the east” is the correct translation in v. 2, then this phrase modifies “we saw” not “his star.” Otherwise the geography would be confused. But the NIV margin “when it rose” is perhaps a more likely translation and would explain how the Magi’s attention was called to this new celestial feature. The statement that these pagans “have come to worship” the Christ child is both remarkable and significant for what lies ahead.

    Blomberg, C. (1992). Matthew (Vol. 22, pp. 62–63). Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

  40. Em - again says:

    i’m commenting before reading Michael’s above, but could not those Magi have been Jews? so few returned from Babylonian captivity… mixed race? and therefore, i have to wonder if they couldn’t have come from almost anyplace to the east – dunno 🙂

  41. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Michael – you are getting ahead on the study.

    I had almost 5,000 words for all of Ch2 and had to cut it down. I looked at John MacArthur and he had close to 50,000 words.(yes I ran a word count on his stuff 🙂

    Mine was either 2 or 3 classes – some people just have too much to say.

  42. JoelG says:

    #37 – I’m trouble Jean. 🙂

  43. Josh the Baptist says:

    Em – everything I’m reading says they had to have been Gentiles. Now, if they were like the Chaldeans of Daniel, like MLD mentioned, they would have probably been well-aware of the prophesied King of the Jews.

  44. Em - again says:

    thank you, Josh
    as i read this thread with regard to sorcery i am reminded that, when i was young, to be intellectual was to scorn the supernatural, so it has been surprising to see modern intellectuals, including those involved in scientific disciplines, exploring the supernatural – actually looking for evidence – even for “martians” among us – or flying overhead 🙂

  45. Michael says:

    MLD,

    Sorry…was just trying to help explain the Magi.

  46. JoelG says:

    Thank you Michael good stuff. Regarding the Magi:

    “Socially their prestige is high; one meets them often at royal courts. Their prestige corresponds to the gifts they bring to the infant Jesus.”

    So we’ve got prestigious Gentiles seeking out a Savior following the glorious announcement of a Savior to lowly shepherds of Israel. Seems to coincide with Simeon’s words pretty well.

  47. Xenia says:

    I believe the Magi were a priestly class in Babylon just as the Druids were a priestly class in the Celtic world.

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