Introduction: Who were the Bible’s Wise Men (or Magi)?
Before we delve into the question of "how old was Jesus when the wise men came," it's essential to establish who these Wise Men, or Magi, were. The Magi are often depicted as "kings" in nativity scenes and Christmas carols, but the Bible doesn’t describe them. The term "Magi" comes from the Greek word "magos," which was used for a member of a priestly caste in Persia. The Magi were likely astrologers or dream interpreters, possibly from Persia or Arabia, who studied the stars for signs and prophecies.
The Bible doesn't specify the number of Magi who visited Jesus. The number three is often assumed because they brought three gifts: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. These gifts are significant and symbolic: gold for a king, frankincense for a deity, and myrrh, a burial ointment, foreshadowing Jesus's death.
So, why is it important to understand who the Magi were? Knowing their background and purpose for visiting Jesus provides context for the narrative and helps us better understand the biblical accounts.
The Significance of the Wise Men's Visit
The visit of the Wise Men is a significant event in the New Testament, celebrated as the Epiphany in many Christian traditions. Their journey from afar to pay homage to Jesus signifies the recognition of Jesus as the Messiah, not just by the Jews but also by Gentiles. It underscores the universal scope of Jesus's mission and the inclusivity of his message.
The Wise Men's gifts also bear symbolic significance. The gold represents Jesus's kingship, his frankincense divinity, and the myrrh his mortality—prophetic indicators of who Jesus was and what his mission would entail.
The Magi's visit also sets the stage for one of the most tragic events in the New Testament: Herod's massacre of the innocents. Warned in a dream not to return to Herod, who planned to kill the child, the Magi returned home by another route, leaving Herod to enact his brutal response.
When did the Wise Men visit Jesus?
The exact timing of the Magi's visit is debated among scholars and theologians. The Gospel of Matthew doesn't provide a specific timeline but states that the Wise Men visited Jesus and his mother at a house in Bethlehem, not the stable where Jesus was born. This detail suggests that their visit was not on the night of Jesus's birth, as traditionally depicted in nativity scenes, but at some later point.
Most scholars agree that the visit likely occurred within two years after Jesus's birth. This is inferred from Herod's order to kill all boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, "according to the time that he had ascertained from the wise men." This indicates that the star the Magi saw rose around the time of Jesus's birth.
Analyzing Biblical Accounts: How Old was Jesus When the Wise Men Came?
As we delve deeper into the question, "how old was Jesus when the wise men came," we find that the Bible doesn't provide a clear answer. However, we can make an educated guess based on various clues.
Given that the Wise Men found Jesus and Mary in a house, not the stable, it's apparent that some time had passed since Jesus's birth. The fact that Herod ordered the massacre of all boys two years old and under, based on his conversation with the Wise Men, implies that Jesus could have been up to two years old at their visit.
However, this doesn't necessarily mean Jesus was two years old when the Wise Men arrived. Herod, known for his paranoia and brutality, may have ordered the death of boys up to two years old to ensure he eliminated this perceived threat to his throne.
The Gospels of Luke and Matthew provide accounts of the Nativity story but are not identical. Scholars have identified key differences between the two accounts that offer interpretations of Jesus' birth.
For example, Luke 2:7 states that Jesus was born in a manger because there was no room in the inn, while Matthew 2:11 states that the magi found Jesus living in a house. This difference suggests that Jesus' parents had moved from the manger to the house when the magi visited Him.
Similarly, Luke 2:21 states that Jesus was circumcised and dedicated in the temple eight days after his birth, while Matthew 2:1-11 does not mention these events. This suggests that Jesus was at least eight days old when the magi visited Him.
The Timeline: How Long After Jesus' Birth did the Magi Come?
While the Bible does not give a precise timeline, it is generally believed that the Magi visited Jesus sometime within the first two years of his life. The timeline "how long after Jesus's birth did the Magi come?" can be inferred from Herod's order to kill all boys two years old and under. This is not an exact measure but gives us a rough timeline estimate.
In the Eastern Orthodox Church, it is traditionally believed that the visit occurred on January 6th, twelve days after Christmas, a feast day known as Epiphany or Theophany. However, this date is more symbolic than historical, marking the manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles, as represented by the Magi.
Different Perspectives on the Age of Jesus during the Wise Men's Visit
Different traditions have various perspectives on "how old was Jesus when the wise men visited." Western Christian traditions, influenced by nativity scenes and Christmas carols, often depict the Magi visiting the newborn Jesus in the stable, suggesting they arrived shortly after his birth.
In contrast, the Eastern Orthodox Church holds that the Wise Men visited Jesus when he was two. This belief aligns with the biblical account in Matthew, where Herod, after learning from the Wise Men when the star had appeared, orders the killing of all boys in Bethlehem two years old and under.
In conclusion, while the Bible does not definitively answer the question, "how old was Jesus when the wise men came," it provides clues that suggest the visit happened within the first two years of Jesus's life. Despite the uncertainty, the importance of the Wise Men's visit remains undiminished, underscoring the recognition of Jesus as the Messiah by Jews and Gentiles. It's a story of faith, journey, and divine revelation, central to the Christmas narrative and the understanding of Jesus's mission.
Theological Implications of Jesus' Age
You may find it remarkable that Jesus was already two years old when the magi arrived. From a theological perspective, this fact has profound implications.
For starters, the symbolism of Jesus being two years old at the time of the magi's visit is significant. It's a reminder of the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:15, which states that children shall die at the time of Christ's birth.
The debate over the significance of Jesus' age at the time of the magi's visit is complex. It has sparked theological perspectives from all sides of the debate.
Moreover, the account of Jesus' age at the time of the magi's visit is found in multiple books of the Bible. This gives credence to the idea that Jesus was indeed two years old. This account is a reminder of the importance of Jesus' identity, as it was important for Him to be identified as the King of the Jews. The significance of this can't be overstated, as it's a reminder of the divine nature of Christ.
The implications of Jesus' age at the time of the magi's visit are varied and complex. It has sparked many debates about the meaning and symbolism of Jesus' age and has deepened many theological perspectives.
Scholarly Conclusions Regarding Jesus' Age
It's incredible that two years have passed since the birth of the King of the Jews, yet scholarly conclusions about Jesus' age remain highly contested. The historical accuracy of the age of Jesus, when the wise men arrived, is difficult to determine due to the lack of evidence. This has led to various interpretations and opinions on the matter, making it difficult to conclude.
The cultural significance of Jesus Christ's age is also a factor to consider. Jesus was likely considered fully grown once he reached 12, which would have been a milestone in his life. Thus, determining the age of Jesus when the wise men arrived would have significant implications for his cultural development.
The chronological timeline of events in the Bible provides a starting point for understanding Jesus' age when the wise men arrived. However, scholars have debated the symbolism of Jesus' infancy, which has led to various interpretations of the age of Jesus when the wise men arrived. This has further complicated scholarly conclusions on the matter, making it difficult to determine an exact age with certainty. Despite this, the importance of Jesus' age can still be understood and appreciated, regardless of the exact age.
Frequently asked questions
How many wise men came to visit Jesus?
The Magi located Jesus by following a light in the sky to Bethlehem, and upon arriving, they presented gifts. Despite Jesus' family history, Herod reacted by ordering the murder of all male children two years old and younger. The journey of the Wise Men is an important part of Jesus' story, but the exact number of visitors remains unknown.
What did the wise men bring as gifts to Jesus?
The Wise Men brought gifts to Jesus of gold, frankincense, and myrrh, symbolizing His royalty, divinity, and mortality. They had come from the East, guided by a star to Bethlehem, where Herod had ordered the killing of children. Jesus' family had moved from the manger to a home, where the Wise Men found Him.
What did the magi ask the Jewish chief priests and scribes about the birth of the king of the Jews?
The Magi asked the Jewish chief priests and scribes about the Star of Bethlehem, Herod's edict, and Jewish prophecy concerning the birth of the King of the Jews. They sought to understand the Resurrection symbolism within the Middle East map and its connection to the Savior of the world.
What happened when Herod found out about the birth of Jesus?
As the wise men followed the light in the sky, Herod's reaction to the Magi's questions about the birth of the King of the Jews was to order to kill all male children two years old and younger. Knowing of Jesus' age, Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt with Him, thus saving His life.
Where did Jesus' parents move to after His birth?
After Jesus' birth, Mary and Joseph moved from the manger to a house in Bethlehem, a significant town since it was foretold as the birthplace of the Messiah. Joseph was guided in his decision by angels and a dream. Angels’ appearances marked Mary’s journey, Joseph's choice, and Bethlehem's significance.
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