The Coming of the Magi

Salaam and Greetings of Peace:

In the days before Christmas, I confess that one of my favorite parts of the story of the birth of Jesus, or Isa ibn Mariyam, is the coming of the Magi, and the legends that have grown up around them.

In Christian tradition, the Magi, also referred to as the Three Wise Men, Three Kings, or Kings from the East, are said to have visited the baby Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense.

The word Magi is a Latinization of the plural of the Greek word magos, itself from Old Persian maguŝ from the religious/priestly caste into which Zoroaster was born. As part of their religion, these priests paid particular attention to the stars, and gained an international reputation for astrology, which was at that time highly regarded as a science. Their religious practices and use of astrology caused derivatives of the term Magi to be applied to the occult in general and led to the English term magic.

The Gospel of Matthew (2:1-16), the only one of the four Gospels to mention the Magi, states that they came “from the east” to worship the Christ, “born King of the Jews”. Although the account does not tell how many they were, the three gifts led to a widespread assumption that they were three as well. Their identification as kings in later Christian writings is linked to Old Testament prophesies such as that in Isaiah 60:3, which describe the Messiah being worshipped by kings.

The Syrian King Seleucus II Callinicusis recorded to have offered gold, frankincense and myrrh to Apollo in his temple at Miletus in 243 BC, and this may have been the precedent for the mention of these three gifts in the Gospel of Matthew (2:11). It was these three gifts, it is thought, which were the chief cause for the number of the Magi becoming fixed eventually at three.

A model for the homage of the Magi might have been provided, it has been suggested, by the journey to Rome of King Tiridates I of Armenia, with his magi, to pay homage to the Emperor Nero, which took place in 66 AD, a few years before the date assigned to the composition of the Gospel of Matthew.

And finally, this account by Lewis Williams expands the story in a lovely spiritual way:

While oftentimes conflicting lore muddles the story of the Magi, those bearing gifts for the Christ child are most often named Caspar of Tarsus, Melchior of Persia and Balthasar of Sabia, which was the ancient name of Yemen/Ethiopia (as in the Queen of Sheba/Sabia). Weary from desert travel, the Magi humbly offer their gifts. Caspar is young, European, and offers gold. Gold finances the Holy Family’s coming flight to Egypt and also symbolizes Christ’s immortality and purity. For his generosity, Caspar receives the gifts of charity and spiritual wealth. Melchior is middle-aged, Persian and offers myrrh. Myrrh is a fragrant gum, which the ancient Israelites believed to strengthen children. This symbol of Christ’s mortality was blended with wine and offered to him on the cross, and also mixed with aloes to wrap his body for the tomb. Melchior receives the gifts of humility and truth. Balthasar is elderly, Ethiopian and offers frankincense. Frankincense is a resin used in incense for worship and also symbolizes prayer and sacrifice. Balthasar receives the gift of Faith. And Christ, humbling himself to become man, offers us the greatest gift of all, the light that forever burns in the darkness.

Merry Christmas to all :)

Ya Haqq!

Note: Above painting is Adoration of the Magi by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo (1617-1682).

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9 Responses to The Coming of the Magi

  1. Lat says:

    It’s truly wonderful to read about the Magi.Thanks for explaining the meaning of the term and a bit on the history lesson! Enjoyed it!

  2. susanne430 says:

    Very nice post. I enjoyed this! Merry Christmas to you as well! :)

  3. Ruth says:

    Hello Darvish – long time no hear! Christmas and Solstice greetings to everyone in your family. We have just been watching a fantastic full eclipse of the moon just before sunrise x

  4. Mignon says:

    This is Masterly and noble, as befits a true Master of the Jinn! Thank you, Melchior.
    (I have a pound of myrhh powder for cleansing. It can also be added to incense crystals.)

  5. Irving says:

    Thank you all for your kind words, and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to you all :)

    Ya Haqq!

  6. Jay Kamble says:

    The companions of Isa ibn Mariyam (AS) said to him:
    “Look at this temple, is it not beautiful?”
    Isa (AS) replied: “My people,
    by al Haqq I tell you, Allah does not leave this temple standing
    except to destroy it by the sins of it’s inhabitants.
    Surely, Allah does not care about gold and silver,
    He does not care about this building that you admire so.
    What Allah, the Most High loves are good hearts.
    Allah inhabits the heart that remembers Him and He desolates
    the heart that does not.
    The Virgin bear a son and his called Emmanuel Means God with us.
    Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands, as the prophet says,
    ”This is what the LORD says: “Heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool. Where is the house you will build for me? Where will my resting place be? [ Acts 7:48,49] -[Isaiah 66:1]
    Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? [1 Corinthians 3:16]
    and God Said : What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said,
    “I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them,
    and I will be their God,
    and they shall be my people.[2 Corinthian 6:14-18]

  7. Sei ermutigt says:

    Thank you Darvish, for a good article. I hope that these references from the holy Bible are illuminating for you!

    Gold is figurative of Christ’s doctrine.
    See Revelation 3:18

    Frankincense is figurative of worship.
    See Psalm 141:2

    Myrrh is used in embalming.
    See John 19:39

    The holy Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is Our teacher, our object of worship and our atoning sacrifice! May God continue to bless you all!

  8. Sei ermutigt says:

    No subject is more important than learning about the true identity of Jesus!

    In Luke 4 we read:
    18The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach
    deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised,
    19To preach the acceptable year of the Lord.
    20And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him.
    21And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.

    22And all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth. And they said, Is not this Joseph’s son?

    The holy Bible teaches very uniquely about the identity of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus says that God’s holy Spirit was upom Him and that He was
    anointed by God to preach the gospel! Truly He came from heaven to preach the gospel to the poor and heal the brokenhearted among those He preaches His gospel to.

    When we are bruised His heart’s desire is to set us at liberty! Jesus is God’s deliverer who longs to set Satan’s captives free and help the spiritually
    blind recover their sight. When He said this scripture, see Isaiah 61, was fulfilled He bore witness that He fulfills scripture.

    This could only be possible if He was the holy healing compassionate living word. In John 1 the holy Bible teaches that Jesus of Nazareth is the eternal word of God.

  9. Josef Sefton says:

    The risen Jesus says in Revelation 3:18
    I counsel thee to buy of me gold (God’s holy teaching)tried in the fire, that thou mayest be rich; and white raiment, that thou mayest be clothed, and that the shame of thy nakedness do not appear; and anoint thine eyes with eyesalve, that thou mayest see.

    19As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten: be zealous therefore, and repent.

    20Behold, I stand at the door (of your heart), and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.

    What a glorious opportunity we have to welcome Jesus, the righteous One to dwell with us!
    To our aewsome compassionate God be the glory!

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