Consider helping today!
Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament
MAGI (μάγοι, Authorized Version and Revised Version NT 1881, OT 1885 ‘wise men’).—The only reference to Magi in the Gospels occurs in Matthew 2, where we have the well-known story of the visit of the Oriental Magi to the infant Jesus. The following article will deal with (1) certain difficulties in the narrative, (2) the historical value of the narrative, (3) the legendary additions to the narrative.
1. The difficulties are occasioned chiefly by the vague and indefinite character of the record. The first question that suggests itself is, What class of people had the Evangelist in his mind when he used the term μάγοι? Now, according to Herodotus (i. 101), the Magi were a Median tribe which in the time of Gaumata, the pseudo-Smerdis, made a determined attempt to substitute Median for Persian rule (ib. iii. 61 ff.; Ctesias, Pers. [Note: Persian.] 41 (10) ff.; Justin, i. 9, 10; Agathias, ii. 26). Through the failure of this revolt the Magi lost all political importance, but they were influential as the priestly caste (Herod. i. 132; Amm. Marc. xxiii. 6; cf. the Levites among the Hebrews, SBE [Note: BE Sacred Books of the East.] iv. pp. lxii, lxiii), and as religious instructors of the Persian kings (Cic. de Divin. i. 41; Philo, de Special. Leg. 18; Pliny, HN xxx. 1). The introduction of this Magian priesthood is ascribed to Cyrns (Xen. Cyr. viii. 1. 23); and classical writers conversant with Persian affairs use the word magus as synonymous with ‘priest’ (Apul. Apol. i. 25, 26; cf. Strabo, pp. 732, 733; Philo, Quod omn. prob. lib. 11; Dio Chrysost. Or. 36, p. 449, 49, p. 538; Diog. Laert. proœm. 6; Porphyr. de Abstinent, iv. 16; and the lexicons of Hesych. and Suidas). Darius Hystaspis made Mazdaism the religion of the Empire (Behistun inser., and Sayce, Ancient Empires of the East), and from his time, at any rate,—for how long before, if at all, is disputed,—the Magi are identified with the Zoroastrian worship, and are represented as the disciples of Zoroaster (Plato, Alcib. i. 122; Plutarch, de Is. et Os. 46, 47; Pliny, HN xxx. 1; Apul. Apol. 26; Diog. Laert. proœm. 2; Amm. Marc. 23:6; Agathias, ii. 24; Aug. de Civ. Dei, xxi. 14). In the Avesta, however, the priests are called, not magi, but âthravans; though even in the sacred texts the word ‘magi’ is found in a few instances. Finally, it may be noted that these Median magi are credited with skill in philosophy (Strabo, pp. 23, 24; Nicol. Damasc. fr. 66; Diog. Laert. proœm. 1), natural science (Philo, Quod omn. prob. lib. 11; Dio Chrysost. Or. 49, p. 538), and medicine (Pliny, HN xxx. 1, cf. xxiv. 17). They are also described as interpreters of dreams (Herod. i. 107, 120, vii. 19), astrologers (ib. vii. 37; Pliny, HN xxxvii. 9; Amm. Marc. xxiii. 6), soothsayers and diviners (Cic. de Divin. i. 41; Strabo, p. 762; Pliny, HN xxx. 2; Diog. Laert. proœm. 7; Aelian, Var. Hist. ii. 17; Amm. Marc. xxiii. 6).
In a technical sense, then, magi denoted the members of the sacerdotal class in the Persian Empire. But in the LXX Septuagint Daniel the word is used to render the Heb. ‘ashshâphim Authorized Version ‘astrologers,’ of Babylonia (Daniel 1:20; Daniel 2:2; Daniel 2:10; Daniel 2:27; Daniel 4:7; Daniel 5:7; Daniel 5:11; Daniel 5:15. Some would explain the title Rab-mag in Jeremiah 39:3; Jeremiah 39:13 as = ‘chief magian,’ but without probability). Moreover, classical writers sometimes confuse the words magi and Chaldœi (Ctes. Pers. [Note: Persian.] 46 (15); Justin, xii. 13). The latter term, however, is properly used in Daniel (Daniel 1:4; Daniel 2:2; Daniel 2:4-5; Daniel 2:10; Daniel 4:7; Daniel 5:7; Daniel 5:11) and by classical authorities (Herod. i. 181, 183; Diod. Sic. ii. 29–31) to represent a class, or the class, of Babylonian priests or learned men (Driver, Daniel, pp. 12–16), renowned for their skill in astronomy, astrology, and sorcery (Cic. de Divin. i. 41, de Fato, 8, 9; Diod. Sic. ii. 29–31; Strabo, p. 762; Curtius, v. 1; Apul. Flor. 15; Porph. Vit. Pyth. 6; Diog. Laert. proœm. 6; cf. Lenormant, La magie chez les Chaldéens; R. C. Thompson, Reports of the Magicians and Astrologers of Nineveh and Babylon; W. L. King, Babylonian Magic and Sorcery; Chantepie de la Saussaye, Lehrbuch der Religionsgeschichte; Jastrow, Religion of Babylonia and Assyria).
Lastly, the words magi and Chaldœi came to be applied not only to the members of a sacerdotal caste, but in a secondary sense to all those who cultivated magic arts (Soph. Œd. Tyr. 387; Tac. Ann. ii. 27, xii. 22, 59; Juv. Sat. x. 94, with Mayor’s note; Dio Chrysost. Or. 36, p. 449). In Rabbinical writers this bad sense is predominant (Edersheim, Life and Times, i. p. 210), and the same may be said of the passages in the NT (other than Matthew 2) in which magi are referred to (Acts 8:9; Acts 8:11 Simon Magus, Acts 13:6; Acts 13:8 Elymas). In the LXX Septuagint the Egyptian conjuring is described as μαγικὴ τέχνη (Wisdom of Solomon 17:7). And Jerome says: ‘Consuetudo et sermo communis magos pro maleficis accepit’ (Hieron. Com. in Daniel 2, cf. Isid. Ety. viii. 9).
In what sense, then, did the author of Matthew 2 understand the term? The majority of the Fathers affix the worst interpretation, and lay stress on the idea that magic was overthrown by the advent of Christ (Ign. Ephes. 19; Justin M. Dial. 78; Tertull. de Idol. 9; Origen, c. Ccls. i. 60; Max. Taur. Hom. 21; Hilar. de Trin. iv. 38, Com. in Matthew 1; Aug. Serm. 200, § 3; Theophylact, in loc.); and this was the common opinion even in the Middle Ages (Abelard, in Epiph. serm. 4; Aquinas, Summa, III. xxxvi. 3). But the consensus of later commentators rejects this view. There is no hint or suggestion of reprobation in the Gospel narrative. On the other hand, there is no indication that the Evangelist is alluding to any particular class of magi. He appears, on the contrary, to use the term in the general sense of sages from the East, who busied themselves with astronomy (Matthew 2:2; Matthew 2:7; Matthew 2:9-10) and perhaps with the interpretation of dreams (Matthew 2:12). There is certainly no attempt in the narrative to contrast Christianity with Zoroastrian or Babylonian worship.
Closely connected with the above is the further question of the region whence the Magi are supposed to have come. Mt. calls them simply μάγοι ἀπὸ ἀνατολῶν, i.e. ‘Oriental magi.’ The expression is quite indefinite (cf. Matthew 8:11; Matthew 24:27, Luke 13:29, Revelation 21:13). Various attempts have been made, however, to identify the particular part of the East whence the Magi may have come (Patritius, de Evang. iii. p. 315 ff.; Spanheim, Dub. Evang. ii. p. 291 ff.). The oldest opinion inclines to Arabia (Justin M. Dial. 77, 78; Tertull. Judges 1:9; Epiphan. Exp Fid. 8, and most Roman commentators, e.g. Corn. a Lapide, in loc.), partly on account of references such as Psalms 72:10, Isaiah 60:5, partly on account of the character of the gifts, partly by reason of the close intercourse that subsisted between Arabia and Palestine (Edersheim, i. p. 203). On the other hand, Arabia is to the south rather than the east of Judaea (cf. Matthew 12:42 βασίλισσα νότου), and in the NT it is usually specified by its geographical name. Other places suggested are Persia (Clem. Alex. [Note: Alexandrian.] Strom. i. 15; Chrysost. in Mt. Hom. 6. § 1, 2, 3, 4; 7. § 5; Op. Imp. in Matthew 2 ap. Chrysost. vi.; Diodorus Tars. ap. Phot. cod. 223; Theophylact, in loc.; Juvencus, Evang. Hist. i. 276), Chaldaea (Max. Taur. Hom. 21; Origen, C. [Note: circa, about.] Cels. i. 58), Parthia (Wetstein, in loc.; Hyde, Rel. Vet. Pers. [Note: Persian.] c. 31), and Egypt (Möller, Neue Ansichten). But the language of the Evangelist is ‘too indefinite, and perhaps intentionally too indefinite, to justify any decision’ (Trench, Star of the Wise Men, p. 4), and it is unsafe to draw any inference from the nature of the presents (Weiss, Life of Christ, i. p. 266). One thing alone seems clear—the Magi were heathen and not Jews (see references in Meyer, Com. in loc.). The form of their question (Matthew 2:2) would be sufficient to establish this, apart from the ecclesiastical tradition which represents their homage as the first-fruits of the Gentile world (Aquinas, Summa, III. xxxvi. 8).
The cause of the coming of the Magi is roughly indicated in the words, ‘we have seen his star in the rising’ (ἐν τῇ ἀνατολῇ). It seems clear that they were induced to make the journey by some sidereal appearance; but what exactly this appearance was is not conclusively determined (see art. Star). From this phenomenon, however, whatever it may have been, the Magi inferred the birth of a Messiah-king of the Jews. We cannot say precisely by what means they arrived at this inference. It is unlikely, for chronological and other reasons, that their expectations had been excited by the Zoroastrian prediction of the coming of Soshyos (SBE [Note: BE Sacred Books of the East.] iv. p. xxxvii); nor is it probable that an independent tradition of Balaam’s prophecy (Numbers 24:17) had been preserved by their ancestors and handed down to them (Origen, c. [Note: circa, about.] Cels. i. 60, Hom. in Numbers 13:7; Op. Imp. in Matthew 2 ap. Chrysost. vi.); nor is there any historical evidence that there was at this time among the nations any widespread expectation of the advent of a Messiah in Palestine (Tac. Hist. v. 13 and Suet. Vesp. 4 are derived from Josephus BJ VI. v. 4, and refer to the Flavian dynasty). On the other hand, the Jews themselves were undoubtedly expecting the Messiah (Charles, Eschatology, p. 304; Toy, Judaism and Christianity, p. 330), and a Rabbinical tradition, which may be previous to Christ’s birth, declared that a star in the East was to appear two years before the Messiah’s advent (Edersheim, i. pp. 211, 212; Strauss, Life of Jesus, English translation p. 174 and references; cf. the name Bar-Cochba). Hence the source whence the Magi derived their inference that a king of the Jews was born may well have been the Jews of the Diaspora, whose tenets would doubtless be known to the wise men of the lands in which they sojourned.
The time of the visit of the Magi is quite uncertain. By ancient writers it was usually supposed that they arrived at Bethlehem on the 13th day inclusive after the birth of Christ, i.e. Jan. 6 (Aug. Serm. 203. 1). Most commentators, however, place their coming after Christ’s presentation in the Temple; and some, as an inference from Matthew 2:16, delay it till Jesus had reached or nearly reached His second year (see Patritius, iii. 326 ff.; Spanheim, ii. p. 299 ff.; Trench, p. 109 ff.; Ramsay, Was Christ born at Bethlehem? pp. 215–220). Here also the evidence is insufficient to warrant a definite conclusion.
2. The historical value of the narrative has been frequently impugned, the principal objections being as follows. The account of the Magi is found in the First Gospel only, and is not corroborated by either Lk. or Josephus or any pagan historian. (The references in Macrobius, Sat. ii. 4. 11, and Chalcidius, Tim. 7. 126, cannot be regarded as independent evidence). Moreover, it is not easy to see how Mt.’s narrative can be harmonized with that of Luke. Many of the details, again, are suspicious; the conduct of Herod, as here represented, seems inexplicable (Meyer, in loc.). Finally, the story in general is vague, and on a priori grounds may even be held to be improbable. These objections are not without force. Doubtless too much stress has been laid on the absence of confirmatory evidence, and the argument from the silence of Josephus can scarcely be sustained (Edersheim, i. pp. 214, 215; Trench, p. 102 ff.). The difficulties in connexion with Herod’s attitude have also been overestimated (Weiss, i. p. 269). Yet the divergence between Mt. and Lk., though certainly not incapable of explanation (Ellicott, Huls. Lect. p. 70), is sufficiently serious; and the positive evidence for the truth of the narrative is slender. It may be urged, however, that there is no reason for denying the existence in the narrative of at least a substratum of historical fact, though possibly the facts have been treated with a certain amount of freedom. Such a view, at any rate, appears to account for the story better than any rationalistic explanation hitherto put forward.
Of these attempted explanations the most important may briefly be summarized. (a) The older school of critics sought for the basis of the history mainly in the prophecies of the OT. Thus Strauss laid great stress on Numbers 24:17, while Keim emphasized Is 60. From these and other prophetical passages (e.g. Isaiah 9:2; Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 49:6-7, Psalms 68:29; Psalms 68:31; Psalms 72:10), supplemented possibly by Jewish or pagan tradition, the Evangelist is supposed to have built up his story. But it is incredible that the history could have been constructed from such material, or that such a fulfilment could have been deliberately devised for prophecies which at the time were understood to have so different a significance (Edersheim, i. p. 209). Moreover, it should be noted that ‘the Evangelist who at other times searches zealously for the fulfilment of OT predictions, nowhere refers in this narrative to one of these prophetical passages, from which it is said to have arisen (Weiss, i. p. 267). (b) A different, and very fanciful explanation has been offered by W. Soltau, Usener, and others (Soltau, Birth of Jesus Christ; Usener in Encyc. Bibl. art. ‘Nativity,’ cf. his Religionsgeschichtliche Untersuchungen, i. ‘Das Weihnachtsfest’). According to this, Mt.’s account is the outcome partly of the operation of heathen superstitious ideas, partly of the transformation of a story recorded by Dio Cassius and Pliny. Thus, for the incident of the star, Soltau appeals to the widespread belief that such portents were manifested in connexion with the birth and death of kings and heroes (for instances see Wetstein, in loc.; Winer, Biblisches Realwörterbuch, vol. ii. p. 613); and, for the Massacre of the innocents, Usener refers to the story of Marathus concerning the birth of Augustus (Suet. Aug. 94). The visit of the Magi is represented as a Christian transformation of the story related by Dio and Pliny about the visit of Tiridates and his Magians to Nero (see the passages quoted by Soltau, op. cit. pp. 73, 74). In the year a.d. 66 the Parthian king Tiridates, the Magus, bringing other Magi with him, journeyed to Rome, worshipped Nero as the sun-god Mithra, and afterwards travelled home by another way through the cities of Asia. Now to the Christians of the East Nero was Antichrist: hence it is argued that just as, in the early legends, the miraculous events of Christ’s life were transferred to Antichrist, so the story of being worshipped by Magi may have been transferred from the Antichrist Nero to the Christ. The whole narration of the Magi, then, Soltau dismisses as an insertion ‘of Hellenistic origin’ (op. cit. p. 49). But he does not explain how this insertion received so characteristic a Jewish form, or why such alien elements should have ‘crystallized themselves in just the most markedly Jewish part of the New Testament, while they are passed over in silence elsewhere’ (Interpreter, Jan. 1906, pp. 195–207). On the whole it is easier to suppose that the events recorded actually took place, than to believe the far-fetched explanations of them offered by Soltau and Usener. (c) Other critics, again, resort to a mythological solution, and regard the adoration of the Magi and the attendant events as ‘not history, but pious transformations of current mythic stories.’ Réville believes that it was suggested by the Mithraic legend, though he admits that the supposition is incapable of proof (Études publiées en hommage à la faculté de théologie de Montauban, 1901, p. 339 ff.). Pfleiderer and Cheyne maintain that the star, the worship of the wise men, and the persecution of the Holy Child have many prototypes in tales concerning heroes of old, and belong to a pre-Christian international myth of the Redeemer (Pfleiderer, Early Christian Conception of Christ; Cheyne, Bible Problems); on which it may be remarked that although striking parallels can undoubtedly be produced, yet resemblances do not necessarily presuppose an imitation. (d) Another suggestion is that the narrative exhibits the characteristic features of Jewish Midrash or Haggâdâ, and is governed by an apologetic purpose. The writer’s object is to show that the prophecy of Deuteronomy 18:15 was fulfilled in Jesus, and he endeavours to do this by drawing a parallel between the early career of Moses and that of the Christian Messiah (see the Midrash Rabbâ to Exodus in the section which deals with the birth of Moses, and cf. Josephus Ant. ii. ix. 2). Jesus is throughout represented as the antitype of Moses. This is the underlying motive of the narrative, to which may be added another influential idea, viz. the desire to suggest the homage of the Gentile world (G. H. Box in Interpreter, loc. cit.). The simplicity of the Gospel story, however, seems to be at variance with this hypothesis.
Allusion may here be made to the theory that the history of the Magi was added to the Gospel as late as the year a.d. 119. The evidence for this is a Syriac document, ascribed to Eusebius of Caesarea, which was published with an English translation by W. Wright in the Journal of Sacred Literature, vols. ix., x., 1866, from a 6th cent. British Museum codex, Add. 17, 142. The title is, ‘Concerning the star; showing how and through what the Magi recognized the star, and that Joseph did not take Mary as his wife.’ This tractate relates that the prophecy of Balaam about the star was recorded in a letter written by Balak to the king of Assyria, and preserved in the Assyrian archives. At last, in the reign of king Pir Shabour, the star appeared, and the Magi were sent with great pomp to do homage to the Messiah. The colophon at the end states: ‘And in the year 430 (= a.d. 119), in the reign of Hadrianus Caesar.… this concern arose in (the minds of) men acquainted with the Holy Books; and through the pains of the great men in various places this history was sought for and found and written in the tongue of those who took this care.’ As to the meaning of this statement, however, critics are not agreed (see F. C. Conybeare, Guardian, April 29, 1903; and, on the other side, Church Quarterly Review, July 1904, p. 389). The more probable explanation seems to be that ‘the Holy Books’ refers, not to the OT but to the narrative in Matthew 2, already, therefore, incorporated in the Gospel in a.d. 119; and that the ‘history’ is not Matthew 2, but the legend about the preservation of Balak’s letter and the coming of the Magi in the reign of Pir Shabour.
To conclude this part of the subject, it may be pointed out that the story of the Magi must stand or fall with the other Matthaean narratives of the Infancy. All were probably drawn from some written source, Jewish-Christian in character, and perhaps originally Aramaic in language. The value of this source cannot here be determined (see artt. Birth of Christ, Matthew). It is sufficient to point out that if a Palestinian or semi-Palestinian origin of the narratives can be sustained, the hypothesis of direct pagan influence in their formation must be rejected.
3. Of the legendary accretions to the story of the Magi, the following deserve notice. From the 6th cent., if not before (Tert. Marc. iii. 13, Judges 1:9 are not decisive), the opinion prevailed that the Magi were kings. This belief is first unambiguously stated in a sermon ascribed to Caesarius of Arles (Aug. Opp. v. Append. Serm. 139. 3); and it prevailed universally during the Middle Ages (cf. Paschasius, Exp. in Mt. ii. 2). Hence the festival of Epiphany received the name Festum Trium Regum. The idea would, of course, find support in such passages as Psalms 68:29; Psalms 68:31; Psalms 72:10, Isaiah 49:7; Isaiah 49:23; Isaiah 60:3; Isaiah 60:10; Isaiah 60:16; but there is no suggestion of it in the Evangelic narrative. (For discussions see Patritius, iii. p. 320 ff.; Spanheim, ii. p. 273 ff.; Barradius, Com. ix. c. 8).
The number of the Magi is not specified in the Gospel. Eastern tradition fixed it at twelve (Op. Imp. in Matthew 2 ap. Chrysost. vi.; cf. the curious MS fragment quoted in Classical studies in honour of Henry Drisler, p. 31—‘Twelve kings set out from Persia to go to Jerusalem,’ etc.), or thirteen (Bar Bahlul in Hyde, Rcl. Vet. Pers. [Note: Persian.] c. 31). But in the West the number of the Magi was reckoned at three (Max. Taur. Hom. 17, 20; Leo M. Serm. 31. § 1, 2; 34. § 2), probably on account of their threefold gift (Abelard, Serm. 4: ‘Quot vero isti magi fuerint, ex numero trinae oblationis tres eos fuisse multi suspicantur’), though allegorical reasons were also found (Patritius, iii. 318 ff.).
The familiar names of the Magi—Melchior, Gaspar, and Balthasar—first occur in Bede, where also is given a remarkable description of their persons, derived most probably from some early work of art. ‘Primus fuisse dicitur Melchior, senex et canus, barba prolixa et capillis.… aurum obtulit regi Domino. Secundus nomine Gaspar, iuvenis imberbis, rubicundus.… thure, quasi Deo oblatione digna, Deum honorabat. Tertius fuscus, integre barbatus, Balthasar nomine.… per myrrham filium hominis moriturum professus est’ (Collect. v. 541. For the association of the gifts with the several Magi, contrast the familiar verse, ‘Gaspar fert myrrham, thus Melchior, Balthasar aurum’). Other names are found, e.g. Appellius, Amerius, Damascus: Magalath, Pangalath, Saracen: Ator, Sator, Peratoras, etc. (Patritius, iii. p. 326; Spanheim, ii. pp. 288, 289; Hebenstreit, de Magorum nomine, patria et statu dissert., Jenae, 1709). Hyde quotes thirteen names, among which the three familiar to Western tradition do not occur (Rel. Vet. Pers. [Note: Persian.] c. 31).
Symbolical meanings were early attached to the gifts. Thus Irenaeus says: ‘Matthaeus autem Magos ab Oriente venientes ait.… per ea quae obtulerunt munera ostendisse quis erat qui adorabatur: myrrham quidem quod ipse erat qui pro mortali humano genere moreretur et sepeliretur: aurum vero quoniam rex, cuius regni finis non est: thus vero, quoniam Deus, qui et notus in Judaea factus est, et manifestus eis qui non quaerebant eum’ (Hœr. iii. 9. 2, cf. Max. Taur. Hom. 21; Leo, Serm. 34. 3; Origen, c. Cels. i. 60; Ambros. in Lk. ii. 44; [Aug.] Serm. 139. 2; Hilar. Com. in Matthew 1; and Christian poets, Juvencus, Ev. Hist. i. 285; Prudent. Cath. xii. 69 ff.; Sedulius, Carm. Pasch. ii. 96; [Claudian] Carm. Append. 21). Mediaeval tradition invented histories for these gifts. The gold consisted of thirty pennies, which had once been paid by Abraham for the cave of Machpelah, and which were afterwards given to Judas. Some of the myrrh is said to have been administered to Jesus on the cross (Quarterly Review, vol. lxxviii. p. 433 ff.).
Miraculous elements were increasingly introduced into the narrative, and the whole history was gradually amplified. Thus the star is alleged to have shone with surpassing brilliance (Ignat. Ephes. 19; Leo, Serm. 31. 1; Protevang. Jacob. 21; and pass. quoted in Barradius, Com. ix. 9), having the sun, moon, and other stars as ‘chorus’ to it (Ignat. loc. cit.). According to Eastern tradition, there was in the star an appearance of the Virgin and Child (Lightfoot, ap. Fath. ii. 81), or of a young child bearing a cross (Op. Imp. in Matthew 2 ap. Chrysost. vi.). The star was alleged to be an angel (Suicer, Thes. s.v. ἀστήρ); and according to Greg. of Tours it was still, in his time, to be seen in a well at Bethlehem (Mirac. i. 1). Similarly a mass of details were invented about the Magi themselves, their journey, and their later life and death. Here it need only be noticed that they are reported to have been baptized by St. Thomas. (A full account of the Magi-legends will be found in Crombach’s monumental monograph, Primitiœ gentium sive historia et encomium SS. Trium Magorum. See also the epitome in the Quarterly Review, vol. lxxviii. p. 433 ff., of the mediaeval stories collected by John of Hildesheim; and the Boll. AA. SS. Jan. d. i. vi, and xi.).
The bodies of the Magi are said to have been discovered in the East in the 4th cent. (according to one tradition, by St. Helena herself), and to have been brought to Constantinople and deposited in the Church of St. Sofia. When Eustorgius became bishop of Milan, they were transferred to that city, whence, in the year 1162, they were again removed by Frederic Barbarossa to Cologne (Boll. AA. SS. Jan. d. vi.). The festival of Epiphany (the celebration of which in the West is mentioned first by Amm. Marc. xxi. 2) commemorated originally Christ’s manifestation to the Magi, together with His baptism, His miracle at Cana (Max. Taur. Hom. 29; Isid. de Off. Eccl. i. 27; Abelard, Serm. 4), and the miracle of feeding the 5000 ([Aug.] Append. Serm. 36. 1). But soon the manifestation to the Magi became in the West, if not exclusively, yet principally, dwelt upon (see, e.g., Leo’s Epiphany Sermons); and the common Western synonym for Epiphany was Festum Trium Regum (Bingham, Ant. xx. 4; DCA [Note: CA Dictionary of Christian Antiquities.] i. p. 617 ff.; Boll. AA. SS. Jan. d. vi.). In the Middle Ages the Magi were considered the patron saints of travellers, and inns were called after them. Their names were also used as charms to cure epilepsy and snake-bite (Spanheim, ii. pp. 289, 290). See also art. Star.
Literature.—Besides the books referred to above, see Hasting's Dictionary of the Bible , art. ‘Magi’; PRE [Note: RE Real-Encyklopädie fur protest. Theologic und Kirche.] 3 [Note: designates the particular edition of the work referred] , vol. viii. art. ‘Magier’; Encyc. Bibl. art. ‘Nativity’; Kraus, RE, vol. ii. art. ‘Magier’; Moroni’s Dizionario, vol. xli. art. ‘Magi’; Hamburger’s RE, art. ‘Zauberei’; Smith’s DB [Note: Dictionary of the Bible.] , artt. ‘Magi,’ ‘Star’; Suicer, Thesaurus, artt. λίβανος, μάγος; Winer, Biblisches Realwörterbuch, vol. ii. artt. ‘Magier,’ ‘Stem der Weisen’; Hone, Everyday Book, Jan. 6; and the various Comm. on Matthew. An English monograph by F. W. Upham, The Wise Men, is of little value. The discussions of Spanheim and Patritius should be consulted, while Crombach’s elaborate study is a treasury of curious information.
F. Homes Dudden.
These files are public domain.
Text Courtesy of BibleSupport.com. Used by Permission.
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Magi'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. https://www.studylight.org/dictionaries/eng/hdn/m/magi.html. 1906-1918.