United Conservatory of Music
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INSIDE THIS ISSUE Memories of Snow PAGE 1 Teach Your Kids About Winter Holidays PAGE 2 What Do My Symptoms Mean? PAGE 2 Everything You’ll Need for an Ugly Sweater Christmas PAGE 3 Take a Break PAGE 3 Holiday Roast Prime Rib PAGE 3 The History of the 3 Wise Men PAGE 4
The History of the Magi
Wise Men or Sorcerers?
The story of the three wise men visiting Jesus is a focal point in the Judeo- Christian telling of the birth of the Christ. Their gifts of gold, frankincense, andmyrrh demonstrate reverence for the child through symbolism: Gold symbolized kingship; frankincense was commonly burned in temples and represented the spiritual stature that Jesus would hold; andmyrrh was used in preparing bodies for burial, foreshadowing his eventual crucifixion. While the Magi’s role in the birth of Jesus is well-known, not much is understood about the men themselves and their connection to the baby in the manger. Historically known as Magi, the three“wise men”are known for their study of the stars. The Magi were some of the earliest astrologers. Until the 17th century, astrology and astronomy weren’t separate fields of study. Astrology included both the study of how the stars and planets affect human life and the position and motion of the cosmic bodies. In the Persian Empire, Magi were known as astrologer-priests, delineating the fate of men they saw written in the stars. But while they are known
for interpreting the significance of planetary movements for human life, many historians suggest there could have been more to their jobs than astrology. “Magi”comes from the Greek word“magos,”which means magic. Early interpretations of magos included alchemy and sorcery along with astronomy. Speculations swirl among many biblical scholars about the true nature of the Magi, as some tellings portray them as illusionists or fortune-tellers. In a cultural context, the Magi were revered across the Middle East. Along with their knowledge, they had stature and wealth that allowed them to bestow gifts upon those they deemed important. The act of giving presents to a child wasn’t a regular practice for the Magi, and thus the event was significant for the time. While only three Magi are portrayed in the familiar nativity story, the real event would have included many servants. As a matter of fact, the Bible never mentions the number of Magi who visited Jesus, leaving interpretations open as to howmany Magi traveled to Bethlehem. In the early seventh century, the Magi were pushed to the outer rims of Africa and India due to the rising popularity of Islam. Since someone could only be considered Magi by birth, it is widely accepted that the line of succession eventually ended, and the Magi faded into history.
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