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Re: The wise men

That's one of the more amusing and interesting features of this list:
almost anything can lead to a lengthy discussion.

>But keep in mind, the names of the wise men (never called kings in the
>Bible) were never given.  This is just later tradition.

That's why I said "traditionally".

>  The Bible says they
>saw the star when they were "in the east".  So you couldn't have them coming
>from Europe, Asia and Africa.   Nonsense.

Actually, if you view it as allegory, it makes perfect sense:
representatives of all three known continents, i.e., the whole world,
converging at its allegorical center to see the incarnated deity.
That's so medieval European it almost hurts.

(Though for that matter the wording of the passage in Matthew reads
like an allegorical Sufi teaching story, with its reference to
returning "by another road" to "their own country".)

Even in a literal sense it could easily make sense.  They could have
joined up in, e.g., Petra, which is east of Bethlehem, and made the
last leg of their journey from there.  Maybe they were all in Babylon
at a magi convention and headed on in from there to ask Herod directions.

Of course, there's another interpretation that says that all three were
from Iran, due to the use of the word magoi in the Greek text of Matthew.
This is the Persian word we know as "magi", which is plural.  A magus,
singular, was a priest of Zarathustra, or Zoroaster.  Matthew does say
they came from the east, which would seem to support this theory.

>Three gifts are mentioned but that doesn't mean that one guy might have had
>two gifts or that there were others that didn't bring anything or their
>gifts were just not listed.

The traditional story is that the gifts were gold for royalty
(presumably that needs no explanation), frankincense for divinity (it
was used in priestly ceremonies), and myrrh for eternity (it was used
to anoint a dead body).  Matthew names all three gifts.  The number of
wise men in tradition may have developed from the number of the gifts.

There is also Psalms 72:10-11: "The kings of Tarshish and of the
islands will pay him tribute, the kings of Sheba and Seba will offer
gifts; all kings will do him homage..."

Sheba probably everyone recognizes from the Queen of Sheba, and is often
supposed to be present-day Ethiopia or thereabouts; Tarshish is usually
supposed to be in India, and Seba was, according to Marco Polo, in Persia.
Marco also reported hearing the location of the tomb of the three magi.

Here are some alternate names: `A sixth-century Syrian source, cited by
Zoroastrian scholar Dariush Jahanian, names the Three Kings as
"Hormizdah king of Persia, Yazdegerd King of Saba, and Perozadh King of
Sheba,"' http://www.pyracantha.com/Z/3magi.html

Here are three more: Hor, Basanater, Karsudan.

Some lists have had as many as twelve kings.

As to where the names Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar came from, it doesn't
seem that anyone knows, but they date at least to the eighth century, since
they were known to the Venerable Bede, who died in 735.  Bede supposedly wrote:

      The magi were the ones who gave gifts to the Lord. The first is
      said to have been Melchior, an old man with white hair and a long
      beard. . . who offered gold to the Lord as to a king. The second,
      Gaspar by name, young and beardless and ruddy complexioned. . .
      honored him by his gift of incense, an oblation worthy of
      divinity. The third, black-skinned and heavily bearded named
      Balthasar. . . by his gift of myrrh testified to the Son of Man
      who was to die. (Excepta et Collectanea [PL 94:541CD] quoted in
      Brown, p. 109.)

The Bal in Balthazar is Baal, the well-known Babylonian moon god,
so yet another interpretation is that the moon (Balthazar), the Sun
(Gaspar), and Venus (Melchior) were in an unusual alignment at the time.
The name Melchior is Hebrew for King of Light, which was a name often
applied to Venus.

>  All we know is that there were at least two
>wise men who came close to two years after the birth of Christ.

I could change the date to 2 B.C.  The day and month are of course
also speculative, Christmas having been set at 25 Dec due to pre-existing
festivities at that time of year.

>  (I put 4
>wise men in our Christmas pagaent this year)  By that time his family was
>living in a house in Bethlehem.  Joseph was not exceptionally poor.  He had
>an occupation, carpenter.   He had expected to stay in an inn, so had the
>anticipated inflated payment to offer, but it says "there was no room" not
>that he couldn't afford to pay.
>I would guess that since Mary's condition was causing a stir in Nazareth,
>Joseph had brought along his carpenter equipment and expected to continue
>his occupation in his native Bethlethem.  Perhaps he had realized a profit
>when he sold his place of residence in Nazareth.  So as soon as he could, he
>would have moved the family into a house, or else built one in Bethlehem.

Could be.

Also note that Twelfth Night (the evening) and Epiphany (the following day)
were part of one day in Hebrew reckoning, in which the day starts at sunset.

Finally, Twelfth Night is of course a comedy of identity
by William Shakespeare:

 	But that's all one, our play is done,
 	And we'll strive to please you every day.

>Portland, OR

John S. Quarterman <jsq@mids.org>

>>    Sinclair Dates:  January 6. In 3 B.C.: Twelfth Night. The Three Wise
>>    Men, Kings, or Magi, traditionally named Gaspar, Melchior and
>>    Balthazar, and representing Europe, Asia and Africa, bring gifts to
>>    the baby Jesus, twelve nights after the birth. Traditionally the night
>>    is called Twelfth Night and the day is Epiphany.
>>    In 2000: Laura Zola sails. Laura Zola, the renowned Italian
>>    yachtswoman, leaves Venice on her attempt to re-enact the voyage of
>>    the [1]Zeno Brothers to Orkney; she is escorted to open sea by the
>>    Italian Navy.
>> References
>>    1. http://www.mids.org/sinclair/600/zeno.html
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