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The "wise men from the East" who came to adore Jesus in Bethlehem ( Matthew 2 ). Non-Biblical Evidence We may form a conjecture by non-Biblical evidence of a probable meaning to the word magoi .
Rationalists regard the Gospel account as fiction; Catholics insist that it is a narrative of fact, supporting their interpretation with the evidence of all manuscripts and versions, and patristic citations. Herodotus (I, ci) is our authority for supposing that the Magi were the sacred caste of the Medes.
All this evidence rationalists pronounce irrelevant; they class the story of the Magi with the so-called "legends of the childhood of Jesus ", later apocryphal additions to the Gospels. They provided priests for Persia, and, regardless of dynastic vicissitudes, ever kept up their dominating religious influence.
The lower degrees of the hierarchy are designated by the name of minor orders, in opposition to the "major" or "sacred" orders.
But this use of the text in reference to them no more proves that they were kings than it traces their journey from Tharsis, Arabia, and Saba.
As sometimes happens, a liturgical accommodation of a text has in time come to be looked upon by some as an authentic interpretation thereof.
They came to adore him — i.e., to acknowledge the Divinity of this newborn King (vv. Moreover, Virgil, Horace, Tacitus (Hist., V, xiii), and Suetonius (Vespas., iv) bear witness that, at the time of the birth of Christ, there was throughout the Roman Empire a general unrest and expectation of a Golden Age and a great deliverer.
We may readily admit that the Magi were led by such hebraistic and gentile influences to look forward to a Messias who should soon come. The advent of the Magi caused a great stir in Jerusalem ; everybody, even King Herod, heard their quest (v. Herod and his priests should have been gladdened at the news; they were saddened.
Only a miraculous phenomenon could have been the Star of Bethlehem.