Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Revelation of the Magi: The Lost Tale of the Wise Men's Journey to Bethlehem

Revelation of the Magi: The Lost Tale of the Wise Men's Journey to Bethlehem
Translated by Brent Landau, with introduction, conclusion, and notes
HarperCollins, 2011. 149 pgs. Nonfiction.

We don't know much about the wise men beyond what is recorded in Matthew 2:1-12. We don't even really know that there were only three of them; three gifts doesn't necessarily mean three people as it turns out. In fact, there were probably many more wise men and we learn more about them from Landau's translation of an ancient Syriac text written as a first-person account of the magi from the land of Shir, by the ocean. According to this text, the wise men are called "magi" not because they are wizards or magicians, but because they pray silently. The star of Bethlehem is a manifestation of the Christ Child himself. The "star" appears to the magi as "a pillar of light" from which the child materializes and speaks to them. They are also conveyed quickly, almost effortlessly to and from Bethlehem by supernatural means. An apparent addenda to the Revelation, written in third person, tells of the apostle Thomas' journey to Shir to enjoin the wise men to spread the gospel. The slim text is supplemented by a wealth of notes which would be more helpful at footnotes but which are well worth reading as endnotes. Of particular local interest is the fact that the Revelation of the Magi places the wise men in Bethlehem in the time of flowers, i.e., April.


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