Saturday, July 19, 2008

The Three Wise Men

I’ve been thinking about last Sunday’s Gospel lesson, Matthew’s pericope about the “wise men” traveling to find baby Jesus. (Matthew 2:1-12) Maybe if I write it down I can then put it aside.

Parts of the story don’t fit an accurate news report of facts. The magi, with no reference at all to them being “three kings” travel, following a “star” to Jerusalem. In opposition to our popular myth, they are not lead directly by the star to the stable where Jesus was lying in a manager. Instead, the story relates that they visit King Herod and ask him where the infant king of the Jews was located. King Herod consults with chief priests and scribes to find out where the tradition said that the Messiah was to be born. They tell the king that it is in Bethlehem.

Then the wise men leave Herod and follow the star, again, to Bethlehem, to the place where Jesus lay. Then it states that they went into the house where Jesus was.

The star gets them to Jerusalem and then they don’t follow the star but stop and ask the king for directions. After the meeting they see the star again and travel on to Bethlehem, now that they know that is where they are to go. And, Jesus is in a house, not in a stable.

Are these true parts of a historical narrative, told by the reporter on the scene? Or, are they part of the metaphor of the story about Jesus’ life and effect on people?

Can I doubt the accuracy of the reporting of the events as historical and still keep my faith in Christ’s birth? How does this portion of Scripture inform my faith in God, in Jesus as the Christ, the Anointed One of God?

So far I am comfortable with the wise men story being less than historically accurate while still keeping my faith that Jesus was truly human and truly God, at the same time, in the same “package.”

The story of the wise men give me more to chew on about how to handle the narrative of Scripture and what it tells me about the historical accuracy of some events while it reinforces my faith in God.

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