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The Adoration of the Magi, c.1444 – Konrad Witz
I recently shared an article about the Magi, the wise men who visited Jesus shortly after His birth. (That article can be found here.) Shortly after posting it I came across an interesting article by Fr. Dwight Longenecker which sheds some light on the Magi, particularly the question of where they came from. I’ll summarize that information here but, if you wish to read the entire article, it can be found here.
As i mentioned in my other article, we don’t know much about the Magi. The Gospel of Matthew does not tell us how many magi there were, where they came from or even whether they traveled a long distance to get there. Matthew also mentions the gifts but doesn’t give them any significance, spiritual or otherwise. It turns out that the gifts give us quite a good clue to their origin.
The gifts indicate that the magi were Nabateans from the court of Aretas IV. The Nabateans lived in a region in northwest Arabia which is also known as Hejaz, an area was well-known for its gold mines in ancient times. Archaeologists have uncovered a huge gold mine in the region known as Mahd adh Dhahab, or “Cradle of Gold.” There they uncovered a huge quantity of waste rock with traces of gold in it and thousands of tool used in the mining of gold.
The frankincense and myrhh also provides a clue, possibly one more important than the gold. Frankincense comes from trees which grow only in southern Arabia and limited parts of East Africa. The myrrh also came from southern Arabia.
The evidence is not completely conclusive. While the combination of three gifts which come from Arabia make that a likely origin for the Magi, it could also mean that they came from an area that carried on trade Arabia.
Longenecker, Fr. Dwight. 2017. The Imaginative Conservative: Why Gold, Frankincense, and Myrrh Matter. 16 Dec 2017. http://www.theimaginativeconservative.org/2017/12/gold-frankincense-myrrh-mystery-of-the-magi-dwight-longenecker.html
Text © 2018 Gary J. Sibio. All rights reserved.
Image courtesy of wikipaintings.org.