This blog started out as a companion piece to my book, Musings from the Christian Left (excerpts of which can be found in the July 2004 link) and to support a planned radio show. Now, its simply a long term writing project from a Christian Left Libertarian perspective (meaning I often argue for liberty within the (Catholic) Church, rather than liberty because the church takes care of a conservative view of morality.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Revelation of the Magi

Brent Landau has translated The Revelation of the Magi from Syriac from a manuscript found in the Vatican Library. In it, the Magi are said to have come in response to visions, rather than simply the promptings of astrology. They are said to come from the land of Shir, which the author speculates to be China. This manuscript is in the tradition of other non-canonical works on the early life of Jesus which seem to be based largely on speculation rather than reportage, although they may still reflect underlying truths. The link to purchase the book is at This work was recently reviewed in the Arlington Catholic Herald at

Whether the manuscript is true or not is lost to the ages, although the story it lays out seems more like pious wondering than a statement of what actually happened - although the Shir concept is interesting.

I would suspect that instead of China, the site of Shir is India, which like China had a developed system of astrology and also may have had a thriving exile community of Israelites. Recent analysis of the Romany lead to the belief that these people, who were in India at the time, were members of the lost tribes of Israel - the inhabitants of the northern kingdom who were taken in exile by the Assyrians. Might the Magi have been Romany astrologers? If so, it would upset the current understanding that they were Gentiles, but it would be consistent with prophesies of the return to Zion on dromedaries bearing gifts to the Christ child that are used on the Feast of the Epiphany.

What is even more interesting is relating this possiblity with the legend that Thomas the Apostle evangelized India and reached the Romany community there, who when they returned from India went to Europe rather than what was then Muslim Palestine. It adds a whole new meaning to the words of the song O Come, O Come Emmanuel if captive Israel refers to the lost tribes who were soon evangelized and are not lost at all but right in front of us all, especially in Europe. As I have written previously, this definitely has interesting implications for relations with Israel and the apocolyptic hopes of Evangelicals as part of that.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am a christian and I am constantly amazed at how christians are so threatened when someone poses a new idea. The book I believe is written by a historians who are held to certain standards. I know because I have my masters in history. God is not threatened. Historians don't just make up ideas. Their ideas are based on evidence from original manuscripts. Remember the canons were decided upon by men as were the interpretation and writing of original scriptures. The Bible is very important but it is not God. What is it that you are basing your opinion that it was India rather than China?

7:18 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

The wise men most probably were astrologers, similar to modern day astonomers, in the court of the King of Persia. They saw a conjunction of three stars which appeared as one bright star. This signified the birth of a King, which they took as a threat to the Persian King's dynasty.Frankincense and myrrh are acquired along the west coast of modern day Saudi Arabia. These items were also used in incense for Temple worship. Myrrh stanches the flow of blood. The Persian King would have had intellectuals in his court from all over the known world. Janissaries they were called.

8:59 PM

Blogger Michael Bindner said...

I suspect that they were in Persia as well, although India also has a developed theory of astrology and in both nations there would be some familiarity with the Messianic prophesies in Israel.

I favor India because according to a comparison of Romani religious practice and Jewish practice, one can conclude that the Romani were descendents of the lost northern kingdom, then residing in India - although I have read this week that some Romani also migrated to China as well, so the China expalation cannot be rejected out of hand.

A reason to favor an Indian over a Persian magi is that the exiles in Persia had returned to Israel, while the Romani exiles had not - and indeed have not - returned as of yet.

Placing the Magi among the exile community rather than the Gentile community actually play into the readings for the Feast of the Epiphany, which is why I favor India. Additionally, the Magi may just have prepared the community on their return so that they were expectant when St. Thomas arrived there and coverted them to Christ.

For those who are not aware, the Romani have an ancient Christian faith, untouched by the Hellenism of the Orthodox and Roman Churches.

10:52 AM


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