Theological Mistakes #1: “The Wise Men”

ImageWelcome to my new blog, the “Krause Korner.” I will be mainly exploring current theological issues and their impact on the church in this venue. I have done a lot of writing for publication over the years. This has never been with the purpose (or result) of making big bucks, so I am glad to share my ideas with you. To begin, I would like to explore what I call “Little Heresies.” These are small items of doctrine where we find the popular doctrine of the church is off-track. These are not issues of salvation, but misunderstandings. Some of these are very old and persistent. Some are actually quite humorous.

Let me give you a silly example: The Wise Men following the star. Our Christmas legends have been built on the accounts of Jesus’ birth in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. In Matthew only, we find the account of “Wise Men” (magi) who come to visit the young Jesus.Many things in popular imagination are not found in this text. For example, there is no evidence the Wise Men visited Jesus in a stable (a detail drawn from Luke, where the shepherds visit the newborn Messiah). The wise men see an astral phenomenon they describe as a “star” and this is “in the east.” This probably means they see a new “star” while they are in the east (east of Jerusalem), perhaps in Babylon. For them, the categories you learned in astronomy don’t apply. This might have been a star, a planet, or a comet. But they take this as a sign that the Jewish Messiah has been born, something they seem to be expecting. We can only speculate how they make this connection, but it probably stems from their connection with the Jewish community in a place like Babylon, or through their own reading of Jewish scriptures.

Despite our depictions in art and video, the Wise Men don’t follow the star for miles across a wasteland of a desert. They come to Jerusalem to inquire about the newborn Messiah. They seem to reason that if the Jewish Messiah had been born, someone in the center of Judaism might know something about it. It is from Jerusalem that they follow the star to the place where the young child was in Bethlehem, a distance of less than 10 miles. How this worked, I have no idea, but it was an obvious miracle that worked as intended.

So, just smile a little when you see a Christmas video showing three guys on camels plodding through a trackless wasteland. Nice legend. Not biblical.

MK

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One thought on “Theological Mistakes #1: “The Wise Men”

  1. Nice. I enjoyed reading it. You may have to remind me to revisit it again. Have a good week after you get home. My grandson, who lives in Boise, is rejoicing for the snow. He may have gotten more than he wanted, though.

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