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Recently I have a doubt related to the Three Magi Kings. Although, we all know that there are "denominations"that celebrate a special day in honor of them, there are others that do not.

In Matthew 2: 1-8 it says:

And, having gathered together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, He began to inquire of them where the Christ was to be born. They said to him: "In Bethlehem of Judea; because thus it has been written through the prophet:

'And you, O Bethlehem from the land of Judah, you are by no means the most insignificant [city] among the governors of Judah; for out of you will come one who rules, who will shepherd my people, Israel. '" Then Herod secretly summoned the magicians and carefully ascertained from them the time when the star had appeared;and, when he sent them to Bethlehem, he said: "Go and make a careful search of the little boy, and when you have found him, come back and inform me, so that I may also go and pay him homage".

Also in Matthew 2:11 he mentions:

And when they entered the house they saw the little child with Mary his mother, and, falling down, they paid him homage. They also opened their reasures and presented gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh.

From what I understand, what Matthew 2:11 says is the reason why some "denominations" celebrate a special day of "Magi Kings", giving gifts to children.

However, if I do not misunderstand the scriptures, they clearly condemn any kind of magic, as well as the Babylonian practice of trying to obtain information from the stars.

Deuteronomy 18: 10-12 says:

No one should be found in you to let your son or daughter pass through the fire, no one who uses divination, a magic practitioner or anyone looking for omens or a sorcerer, nor one who binds others with curses or anyone who consults a spiritualist medium or a professional event forecaster or anyone who asks the dead. For everyone who does these things is something detestable to God, and because of these detestable things your God is going to drive them out from before you.

Isaiah 47:13 mentions:

You have grown weary with the multitude of your counselors. Let them stand, now, and save you, the worshipers of heaven, the contemplators of the stars, those who spread knowledge in the new moons about the things that will come upon you.

The revelation that those men received did not have good consequences. Aroused the jealous anger of the evil King Herod, which, in turn, led to the flight of Joseph, Mary and Jesus to Egypt and resulted in the murder of all male children of Bethlehem "from two years of age to below"

Is this the reason why some "denominations" do not celebrate the day of the "Three Magi Kings"?

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  • Related: christianity.stackexchange.com/q/60869/32540 – 4castle Jun 12 '19 at 13:27
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    If you are asking about Epiphany, that is a tradition that appeared in Christianity about 200 years after Jesus and grew up in a variety of ways. – user43409 Jun 12 '19 at 21:22
  • I just want to know if the reason why some denominations do not celebrate this day is because of what I quote in Deuteronomy and Isaiah. I am not asking for the reason that some denominations celebrate this day. – YemisiSCG Jun 12 '19 at 23:05
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    Thanks, I think I totally understand now and you're right this is a pretty basic and understandable question sorry for badgering you. You want to know if Christians who do not celebrate the El Dia de Los Tres Reyes or the Epiphany (which would be many Protestants (but not Lutherans and Anglicans at least) , Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons ) don't do so because the Bible tells them to stay away from magicians elsewhere? – Peter Turner Jun 13 '19 at 16:03
  • Yes, I wanna know if that is the reason or if there another reasons – YemisiSCG Jun 13 '19 at 17:45
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People sometimes make the assumption that the Bible divides everybody - or even every thing - into either 'good' or 'bad'. However that is not the case. The Bible realistically understands that everybody (excepting God himself) is neither perfectly good nor unutterably evil. People can do a mixture of good or bad things. Because some people did some good things (went to worship Jesus at his birth) that does not imply that everything else they did was also good.

Some examples:

  • Rahab was a prostitute (Joshua 6), but in the book of Hebrews she is commended for her faith, and in the book of James she is "listed among the righteous". That doesn't mean the Bible approves of prostitution, it just means she did some bad things as well as the good.
  • King David committed adultery and murder, yet was called "a man after God's own heart". That's not to condone adultery and murder, it just means he did some bad things.
  • Abraham lied about his wife on at least two occasions, saying she was his sister. Again that does not imply that lying is approved of.

On the celebration of the feast of the Magi, the denominations I have been associated with that do not celebrate it have done so simply because it is a lesser festival, and they tend not to celebrate many. They can and do use the story of the Magi for teaching, and there is no thought that their visit was evilly inspired.

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  • I very much agree with the examples you mention. But moving on to my question, you say " the denominations I have been associated with that do not celebrate it have done so simply because it is a lesser festival, and they tend not to celebrate many. ". So if it was a bigger festival, would you celebrate it? Would they do it just because everyone does it? – YemisiSCG Jun 14 '19 at 18:41
  • No, I didn't mean a 'lesser festival' in the sense of fewer people celebrating it, but in its significance. The arrival of the Magi is of less importance to Christianity than the birth, death or resurrection of Jesus, the giving of the Holy Spirit, or a number of other festivals. Other denominations may take a different view of course. – DJClayworth Jun 14 '19 at 19:00
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Magi Kings: Good or bad?

We have all heard about the three Magi King! But in reality are they in fact kings, magicians, astrologers, astronomers or something else?

The reason some denominations may or may not liturgically celebrate their memory, will vary according to their specific way of holding church services. Some denominations are more liturgically structured than others. Less liturgically structured denominations will place less importance to holding a special day to their memory (Feast of the Epiphany).

Some may hold that the Magi were in fact pagan magicians or something similar , but most will agree that they simply the Wise from the East.

For Catholic, they were the ”Wise Men from Orient. We do not even know their true number. Here in the West there were three, but in the East the prevailing number is twelve (12) Magi.

We should not associate the word Magi with magicians, but rather with Wise Men.

The "wise men from the East" who came to adore Jesus in Bethlehem (Matthew 2).

Rationalists regard the Gospel account as fiction; Catholics insist that it is a narrative of fact, supporting their interpretation with the evidence of all manuscripts and versions, and patristic citations. All this evidence rationalists pronounce irrelevant; they class the story of the Magi with the so-called "legends of the childhood of Jesus", later apocryphal additions to the Gospels. Admitting only internal evidence, they say, this evidence does not stand the test of criticism.

  • John and Mark are silent. This is because they begin their Gospels with the public life of Jesus. That John knew the story of the Magi may be gathered from the fact that Irenaeus (Adv. Haer., III, ix, 2) is witness to it; for Irenaeus gives us the Johannine tradition.

  • Luke is silent. Naturally, as the fact is told well enough by the other synoptics. Luke tells the Annunciation, details of the Nativity, the Circumcision, and the Presentation of Christ in the Temple, facts of the childhood of Jesus which the silence of the other three Evangelists does not render legendary.

  • Luke contradicts Matthew and returns the Child Jesus to Nazereth immediately after the Presentation (Luke 2:39). This return to Nazareth may have been either before the Magi came to Bethlehem or after the exile in Egypt. No contradiction is involved.

*Who the magi were

Non-Biblical evidence

We may form a conjecture by non-Biblical evidence of a probable meaning to the word magoi. Herodotus (I, ci) is our authority for supposing that the Magi were the sacred caste of the Medes. They provided priests for Persia, and, regardless of dynastic vicissitudes, ever kept up their dominating religious influence. To the head of this caste, Nergal Sharezar, Jeremias gives the title Rab-Mag, "Chief Magus" (Jeremiah 39:3, 39:13, in Hebrew original — Septuagint and Vulgate translations are erroneous here). After the downfall of Assyrian and Babylonian power, the religion of the Magi held sway in Persia. Cyrus completely conquered the sacred caste; his son Cambyses severely repressed it. The Magians revolted and set up Gaumata, their chief, as King of Persia under the name of Smerdis. He was, however, murdered (521 B.C.), and Darius became king. This downfall of the Magi was celebrated by a national Persian holiday called magophonia (Her., III, lxiii, lxxiii, lxxix). Still the religious influence of this priestly caste continued throughout the rule of the Achaemenian dynasty in Persia (Ctesias, "Persica", X-XV); and is not unlikely that at the time of the birth of Christ it was still flourishing under the Parthian dominion. Strabo (XI, ix, 3) says that the Magian priests formed one of the two councils of the Parthian Empire.

Biblical evidence

The word magoi often has the meaning of "magician", in both Old and New Testaments (see Acts 8:9; 13:6, 8; also the Septuagint of Daniel 1:20; 2:2, 2:10, 2:27; 4:4; 5:7, 5:11, 5:15). St. Justin (Tryph., lxxviii), Origen (Cels., I, lx), St. Augustine (Serm. xx, De epiphania) and St. Jerome (In Isa., xix, 1) find the same meaning in the second chapter of Matthew, though this is not the common interpretation.

Patristic evidence

No Father of the Church holds the Magi to have been kings. Tertullian ("Adv. Marcion.", III, xiii) says that they were wellnigh kings (fere reges), and so agrees with what we have concluded from non-Biblical evidence. The Church, indeed, in her liturgy, applies to the Magi the words: "The kings of Tharsis and the islands shall offer presents; the kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring him gifts: and all the kings of the earth shall adore him" (Psalm 72:10). 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. As sometimes happens, a liturgical accommodation of a text has in time come to be looked upon by some as an authentic interpretation thereof. Neither were they magicians: the good meaning of magoi, though found nowhere else in the Bible, is demanded by the context of the second chapter of St. Matthew. These Magians can have been none other than members of the priestly caste already referred to. The religion of the Magi was fundamentally that of Zoroaster and forbade sorcery; their astrology and skill in interpreting dreams were occasions of their finding Christ. (See: THEOLOGICAL ASPECTS OF THE AVESTA.)

The Gospel narrative omits to mention the number of the Magi, and there is no certain tradition in this matter. Some Fathers speak of three Magi; they are very likely influenced by the number of gifts. In the Orient, tradition favours twelve. Early Christian art is no consistent witness:

  • a painting in the cemetery of Sts. Peter and Marcellinus shows two;

  • one in the Lateran Museum, three;

  • one in the cemetery of Domitilla, four;

  • a vase in the Kircher Museum, eight (Marucchi, "Eléments d'archéologie chrétienne", Paris, 1899, I 197).

The names of the Magi are as uncertain as is their number. Among the Latins, from the seventh century, we find slight variants of the names, Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar; the Martyrology mentions St. Gaspar, on the first, St. Melchior, on the sixth, and St. Balthasar, on the eleventh of January (Acta SS., I, 8, 323, 664). The Syrians have Larvandad, Hormisdas, Gushnasaph, etc.; the Armenians, Kagba, Badadilma, etc. (Cf. Acta Sanctorum, May, I, 1780). Passing over the purely legendary notion that they represented the three families which are descended from Noah, it appears they all came from "the east" (Matthew 2:1, 2, 9). East of Palestine, only ancient Media, Persia, Assyria, and Babylonia had a Magian priesthood at the time of the birth of Christ. From some such part of the Parthian Empire the Magi came. They probably crossed the Syrian Desert, lying between the Euphrates and Syria, reached either Haleb (Aleppo) or Tudmor (Palmyra), and journeyed on to Damascus and southward, by what is now the great Mecca route (darb elhaj, "the pilgrim's way"), keeping the Sea of Galilee and the Jordan to their west till they crossed the ford near Jericho. We have no tradition of the precise land meant by "the east". It is Babylon, according to St. Maximus (Homil. xviii in Epiphan.); and Theodotus of Ancyra (Homil. de Nativitate, I, x); Persia, according to Clement of Alexandria (Stromata I.15) and St. Cyril of Alexandria (In Is., xlix, 12); Aribia, according to St. Justin (Cont. Tryphon., lxxvii), Tertullian (Adv. Jud., ix), and St. Epiphanius (Expos. fidei, viii). - Magi

Thus all taken into consideration, the Magi must be good souls who saw the reality that of adoring the Child Jesus as a good thing!

Herod on the other hand, was one very bad dude and wanted the Newborn King’s death! His very plans were fouled up by these same Magi from Orient!

Again some denominations hold that after the resurrection, they were converted to Christianity by the Apostles.

Catholics for example hold them as saints and their remains are in the Cologne Cathedral in the Tomb of the Three Kings

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Chapel of the Magi, Cologne Cathedral, where the Shrine of the Three Kings was kept from 1322 till 1948.

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Actually, the answer is not related at all to the question of whether they were good or bad. But first, we need to back up and clarify.

Most of the denominations that have a special day for the Magi, are High Church or Liturgical denominations, which are much more formal like the Catholic church, and they have a clear distinction between clergy/pastors and laity (common people/parishners) and this is seen in the collar, and or the robes worn by some priests. The point here is that these denominations are closer to the Catholic church in many ways, from the clergy-members distinction, to use of candles and written prayers. Most Protestant churches are very clear about not praying to, or venerating saints.

But I should also point out that there is not a single part of a verse anywhere that says there were three Magi - it's totally a myth or tradition. This entire myth of 3 wise men comes from the passage in the Nativity story where they brought 3 gifts- "Gold, Frankincense and Myrrh. In Biblical times, they traveled across the desert in caravans, so there were likely more than 3. It's interesting to note that these "Wise Men" were Astronomers, not astrologers - which was forbidden. The Jewish calendar is a lunar calendar, and the 7 feasts/ holidays which the Lord commanded were all based on the the Lunar calendar. All the members of the Jewish Sanhedrin were experts in Astronomy, and every Jewish person was taught to watch the sky and the moon, because God wanted his people to be different. There is even a special star which is referred to as the Jewish star, and there is strong historical and astronomical evidence which supports the notion that there was a very rare conjunction of planets, and it's even called the Bethlehem star, and that the Magi were watching this special conjunction.

So it's nothing to do with these kings/ astronomers being good or bad. The simple fact that they were seeking the Messiah and came and worshiped him, tells us they were the good guys - but it's really about not wanting to idolize or worship saints above Christ.

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