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The purpose of the gold is clear; the Child was poor. It is said that after their return home, the Magi were baptized by St.
Thomas and wrought much for the spread of the Faith in Christ. This author admits that he is drawing upon the apocryphal Book of Seth, and writes much about the Magi that is clearly legendary.
Cyril of Alexandria (In Is., xlix, 12); Aribia, according to St. We prefer to interpret Luke's words as indicating a return to Galilee immediately after the presentation. Thereafter the Holy Family probably returned to abide in Bethlehem. It was "in the days of King Herod " ( Matthew 2:1 ), i.e. This latter date of the Nativity was introduced into the Church of Antioch during St. G., XLIX, 351), and still later into the Churches of Jerusalem and Alexandria.
That the Magi thought a star led them on, is clear from the words ( eidomen gar autou ton astera ) which Matthew uses in 2:2. Rationalists and rationalistic Protestants, in their efforts to escape the supernatural, have elaborated a number of hypotheses: These theories all fail to explain how "the star which they had seen in the east, went before them, until it came and stood over where the child was" ( Matthew 2:9 ).
But there must have been some special Divine revelation whereby they knew that "his star" meant the birth of a king, that this new-born king was very God , and that they should be led by "his star" to the place of the God-King's birth ( St. It is a striking fact that the priests showed the Magi the way, but would not go that way themselves.
The Magi now followed the star some six miles southward to Bethlehem, "and entering into the house [ eis ten oikian ], they found the child" (v. There is no reason to suppose, with some of the Fathers (St. cc, "In Epiphan.", I, 2), that the Child was still in the stable.
But this use of the text in reference to them no more proves that they were kings than it traces their journey from Tharsis, Arabia, and Saba.
Admitting only internal evidence, they say, this evidence does not stand the test of criticism. To the head of this caste, Nergal Sharezar, Jeremias gives the title Rab-Mag , "Chief Magus" ( Jeremiah 39:3 , , in Hebrew original — Septuagint and Vulgate translations are erroneous here).
The Magi adored ( prosekynesan ) the Child as God, and offered Him gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
The giving of gifts was in keeping with Oriental custom. The Fathers have found manifold and multiform symbolic meanings in the three gifts; it is not clear that any of these meanings are inspired (cf. We are certain that the Magi were told in sleep not to return to Herod and that "they went back another way into their country" (v. This other way may have been a way to the Jordan such as to avoid Jerusalem and Jericho ; or a roundabout way south through Beersheba, then east to the great highway (now the Mecca route) in the land of Moab and beyond the Dead Sea.
Among the Latins, from the seventh century, we find slight variants of the names, Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar; the Martyrology mentions St. The Syrians have Larvandad, Hormisdas, Gushnasaph, etc.; the Armenians, Kagba, Badadilma, etc. East of Palestine, only ancient Media, Persia, Assyria, and Babylonia had a Magian priesthood at the time of the birth of Christ. The visit of the Magi took place after the Presentation of the Child in the Temple ( Luke ). 750), the probable date of Herod's death at Jericho. Lastly, it was probably a year, or a little more than a year, after the birth of Christ. Such a distance may have taken any time between three and twelve months by camel.
From some such part of the Parthian Empire the Magi came. No sooner were the Magi departed than the angel bade Joseph take the Child and its Mother into Egypt ( Matthew ). For we know that Archelaus, Herod's son, succeeded as ethnarch to a part of his father's realm, and was deposed either in his ninth (Josephus, Bel. Moreover, the Magi came while King Herod was in Jerusalem (vv. Herod had found out from the Magi the time of the star's appearance. Their conclusion has some degree of probability; yet the slaying of children two years old may possibly have been due to some other reason — for instance, a fear on Herod's part that the Magi had deceived him in the matter of the star's appearance or that the Magi had been deceived as to the conjunction of that appearance with the birth of the Child. Only one early monument represents the Child in the crib while the Magi adore ; in others Jesus rests upon Mary's knees and is at times fairly well grown (see Cornely, "Introd. Besides the time of travel, there were probably many weeks of preparation.