The Wise Men
There is a spirit that believes, and yet inquires. In this spirit let us inquire, Who were those Pilgrims, who, when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of Herod the King, came to Jerusalem, saying, Where is He that is born King of the Jews, for we have seen his Star in the East? And how were they moved by a Star to undertake their long pilgrimage?—a pilgrimage no less instructive, if its causes were better understood.St. Matthew calls them Magi. The English translation of the Bible, by substituting for this title Wise Men, leaves their secret untold. For by their title St. Matthew tells who those strangers were.If, in some historical memoir, we find it written, that in the reign of George III. there came to London, Brahmins,—we know their country and their character; we know they were natives of India, and of its sacred caste; know their complexion, dress, and manners, their religious opinions and customs. Of such effect is St. Matthew’s note of the pilgrims to the Holy City.He opens their story with a brief introduction, where one great fact—even the birth of Jesus—is stated in fewest words, where some historical and geographical knowledge is taken for granted; and it is in keeping that in this, his description of the strangers is by their title, only. This, too, is brief; but portraiture in the flowing style of romance, or with the minuteness of a child’s history book, would be out of place in a gospel. A title is, more or less, a description. To call men Mandarins, is to describe them; and thus the title Magi here stands for pages, in more diffuse and less suggestive writers; for when St. Matthew calls these foreigners Magi, he tells their nation, and their character. Their title introduces them as Persians of the sacred or priestly order of Persia.
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