The Mysterious Magi – Mystery Solved!

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Looking for a good history book on an obscure topic in Church History? I can’t think of a better book to suit that bill than Mystery of the Magi: The Quest to Identify the Three Wise Men by Father Dwight Longenecker. You may be asking yourself why I am writing about this book now? The Epiphany is not here yet. We have not celebrated the birth of the Messiah yet. To be honest, this was intentional. As you will discover upon reading this book, it is not limited to a Christmas time read. Part history and part Indiana Jones adventure, if you have any interest in a book that digs into history, you are going to love this one.

We are familiar with the biblical story in Matthew about the three men who traveled from afar to see the Christ child. Their appearance in scripture is brief, but though limited to a few verses, it successfully landed them in the creche of people through the centuries. They are known as Magi, the three kings, the three wise men, men from the Orient. But who were these three figures and were they even real?

Father Dwight takes a deep look at their stories and comes away with some solid theories as to who the three Magi were. I will not spoil those theories in this review. To get the full picture of the puzzle Father Dwight has assembled, you will have to get the book to read it for yourself. However, I will tell you that the book itself is well researched and a delightful read. Anyone with a nose for history will love this book.

The first step on the path of discovery that Father takes readers on is to determine if the entire infancy narratives themselves are a historical reality. The short answer to that question is yes. They may not be presented in the way we are used to seeing the news today, but the scriptural accounts of the birth of the Messiah are accurate and deeply rooted in human history. Once this is established then the real fun begins.

Father Dwight attempts to separate fact from fiction and myth from truth in discerning the real history of the Magi. Did they ride on camels? Where exactly did they come from? What route did they take? And most importantly, what was the real reason for their quest?  You will walk away with these answers and more that piece together snippets of historical fact which once assembled create a complete picture.

I’ve talked a lot about how history lovers will enjoy this book. Do not allow that to scare you away. Realizing that some history books are dense tomes, rest assured that this book is a very approachable read for the general reader. Take the opportunity that Father Dwight Longenecker has given us to clear off the dust and re-examine the very real story or shall we say mystery – of the Magi.

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3 thoughts on “The Mysterious Magi – Mystery Solved!”

  1. To un-nitpick, a couple of points. Three gifts was chosen for a reason, one from each dignitary. Camels, drivers, and other travelers make up the convoy (caravan) of the day. It was a safety and security measure in a rough neighborhood. Roman power in the outer empire was more influence than authority. A popular moral says it best: The road is long and the emperor is far away. Finally, an event like this is important. The scientific method was in its infancy in those days. People looked for signs and portents wherever they could find them and a noticeable star was certainly one of them. Luke would not have recorded it were it not so. Remember, he was citing events and framing a story. He was not a modern day investigative reporter.

  2. Thank you, looking forward to the book! Just to nitpick on the phrase “We are familiar with the biblical story in Matthew about the three men…”: I have yet to find a bible or translation that gives the number three for these visitors to the Holy Family. There are three gifts mentioned in Matthew, but no number is given for the Magi (nor for their camel drivers or whoever less prominent was traveling with them). Yes, most pictures and Nativity scenes in Western Christianity show three, out of a tradition that goes back to at least the 4th century A.D., but the Eastern churches usually show many more.

  3. Pingback: FRIDAY EDITION – Big Pulpit

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