2

The Gospel of Matthew highlights and mentions Magi coming from the east to visit the Christ. Why was this narrative highlighted and emphasized in Matthew and not mentioned in the other synoptic Gospels of Luke and Mark?

Is there a connection with the story of the birth of Abraham within the book of Jasher?

Scriptural references, commentaries, articles, and personal insights are welcomed. Thank you.

6
  • See Genesis 27:29; Isaiah 41:2, 49:7, 49:23.
    – Lucian
    Commented Oct 4, 2021 at 19:55
  • @Lucian Peace, how does that answer the question?
    – יהודה
    Commented Oct 4, 2021 at 21:15
  • Fulfilled prophecies ?
    – Lucian
    Commented Oct 4, 2021 at 21:16
  • @Lucian Pardon me but I don't follow. May you please elaborate?
    – יהודה
    Commented Oct 4, 2021 at 21:27
  • 1
    The matter in question is to ask why each evangelist selected the incidents they did? The broad answer is that they selected incidents that suited their particular purpose which is unstated. In this case I agree with @NigelJ that it was Matthew's rebuke to unprepared Jews that even foreigners were better prepared.
    – Dottard
    Commented Oct 4, 2021 at 22:07

5 Answers 5

3

Perhaps a part of the answer is in what the accounts of the life of Jesus seek to emphasize. Mark and John do not mention the birth of Jesus at all, so their absence is sensible there.

But it might seem that Luke is making a particular focus on Jesus as a man (as seen in the lineage through Mary) while Matthew is making a particular emphasis on Jesus as the "King of the Jews" (also seen in the kingship lineage of Joseph used)

If that is accurate, it may be that the event of the coming of the Magi represents a kingly proclamation, which they make to Herod in chapter 2.

Matthew 2:2 "Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him."

2

Here are some of my rough ideas to add to what has been brought up.

Some scholars believe that Luke composed his Gospel in a truncated manner because he was not aware of the wise men story & flight to Egypt.

However, it is difficult to tell Luke’s intent as εὐθεωσ (eutheōs, immediately) is not used. Luke uses the same words to transition from Luke 23:25 to 26 as he did in the transition from Luke 2:38 to 39 (Matthew 27:26-32 fills in more details than Luke 23 records). For example, the Greek καὶ ὡς (kai hōs) is translated as “So when” in Luke 2:39) and “Now as” in Luke 23:26.

Greek scholar, Willam Arndt (editor of the famous lexicon) in his 1926 book, “Does the Bible Contradict Itself: A Discussion of Alleged Contradictions in the Bible” wrote a section entitled: “Does St. Luke Deny that the Flight into Egypt Took Place?”
 He writes about the use of use of ὡς in Luke 23:26:

Luke's use of the phrase is 'indefinite & broad' and covers all the events related Matthew 2.

Luke wishes to emphasize that all the commandments of the Law were adhered to by Joseph and Mary; the parents of Jesus (this is his meaning) returned home, not before, but only after they had performed everything that Law prescribed in the case of a first-born son. If Luke’s statement is viewed thus, one will find it very natural that other events which happened in the mean time are passed over in silence.

However, prior to that statement Arndt suggests: 


It is possible that the events of Matthew 2 occurred after the return to Nazareth spoken of Luke 2:39. In that case, Joseph and his family, after they had come back to Nazareth, removed to Bethlehem to take up their abode in the ancestral city and received there the visit of the Magi, but could not make Bethlehem their permanent home on account of the enmity of Herod faint the Christ-child. (p. 56)

It’s interesting how the Catholic Encyclopedia appears to take the same viewpoint. It’s almost a “now and not yet” view of residing in Nazareth.

We prefer to interpret Luke's words as indicating a return to Galilee immediately after the presentation. The stay at Nazareth was very brief. Thereafter the Holy Family probably returned to abide in Bethlehem. Then the Magi came.

From a form critical point of view there are a number of reasons why Mathew might have included the wise men account while others did not. A big reason could have been that Matthew was interested in reaching out to the Persian community. It is significant that early tradition (Hippolytus) records that he is buried in modern day Iran.

A reason to not include Persian wisemen in the other Gospel narratives is that it might have trigged prejudice as the Parthians were at war with Rome at certain times. As such, this would be a major reason for a deliberate omission by Luke about the wise men and also Mary & Joseph taking a break to flee to Egypt. The Hebrew oracles of Jesus (proto Matthew) might have contained the story, but it was left out of Luke’s narrative for political reasons.

Luke skipping the narrative would be analogous to how one does not put on a job resume things that would trigger prejudice.

Considering the wise men from Persia are prominent in Matthew’s account, I would put the dating either after 63 AD or prior to 58 A.D. For example, from Wikipedia:

...King Artabanus III to place his son on the vacant Armenian throne triggered a war with Rome in 36 AD, which ended when Artabanus III abandoned claims to a Parthian sphere of influence in Armenia. War erupted in 58 AD, after the Parthian King Vologases I forcibly installed his brother Tiridates on the Armenian throne. Roman forces overthrew Tiridates and replaced him with a Cappadocian prince, triggering an inconclusive war. This came to an end in 63 AD after the Romans agreed to allow Tiridates and his descendants to rule Armenia on condition that they receive the kingship from the Roman emperor.

The background of what motivated Luke to write his Gospel is that it was meant as a legal brief. As such, there were rhetorical reasons for not including stories that could detract from its main persuasive intent.

For example, the early second century rhetorician, Lucian of Samosata, drew up a set of rules for the budding historian. In his book "How to Write History" he writes the following:

...Rapidity is always useful, especially if there is a lot of material. It is secured not so much by words and phrases as by the treatment of the subject. That is, you should pass quickly over the trivial and unnecessary, and develop the significant points at adequate length. Much must be omitted. After all, if you are giving a dinner to your friends and everything is ready, you don't put salt fish and porridge on the table in the midst of the cakes, poultry, entrees, wild boar, hare, and choice cuts of fish, simply because they are ready too! You forget the cheaper articles altogether. (56)

In short, it is doubtful that Luke would not have been told about the wise men story. That's because it would have been a hot topic of conversation in the early faith community, especially during the Roman Persian conflicts.

If Mary kept this to herself than she did a great disservice to early community of faith. They should have been informed about high level Persian leaders worshiping Jesus at his birth. 



1
  • 1
    This is a beautiful breakdown and good research. Never thought to think about the political aspects/implications of what was placed into the gospel (or any other book for that matter) and what was not. Everything placed into the scriptures as a whole was done intentionally. Even the books chosen for particular canons. +1 indeed.
    – יהודה
    Commented Oct 9, 2021 at 15:28
0

Matthew 2:

1 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem

These were gentile people.

Why were the Magi made mentioned of in the gospel of Mathew compared to Luke and Mark?

Matthew might have deliberately included gentiles in his narrative, Matthew 1:

5 Salmon the father of Boaz, whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed, whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of Jesse,

Ruth was a gentile Moabitess.

One would think that Luke the gentile doctor should have written these verses instead of Matthew the Jewish tax collector :)

0

I wonder if Luke didn't consider them worthy of inclusion because he saw them as prideful? They don't come over that well when one compares the magi to the shepherds. In the bible travelling from East to West symbolises coming to God. The magi came from the East to the west and they took a couple of years to get there, hence why Herod had boys under 2 killed. The magi saw a child, not a baby. Also they took gifts of gold, frankinscence etc. Why? They didn't come bearing these gifts when they got to Jerusalem, but they did have them when they arrived at the child Jesus. Did Herod give them these gifts as a way to persuade them of his ernestness to go and praise this child? Did the magi have a love of money so that they saw these gifts as important and were able to be deceived by Herod. Afterall it wasn't until they had a dream that they realised they ought to not go back to Herod. And if Herod gave them these gifts it would explain why Herod was furious. He thought he'd outwitted the magi, but his pride had him believe they'd outwitted him (actually it was a warning in the magi's dream that outwitted Herod). Do the wise men give us the symbol of people who take ages to come to God. Maybe their intellectualism (wise) is stoked by pride and this explains their inability to belief. Compare the magi to the shepherds. The shepherds were already there. All they took to God was themselves. Aren't they the salt of the earth that Jesus refers to in the Beatitudes. Maybe that is why Luke includes the shepherds but not the Magi, he didn't rate them. Maybe the reason Matthew includes them is a warning but also a message of hope to intellectuals and lovers of money. Afterall the magi do have a message of hope in them because even though they took years to come to God, even though they had to be directed to Bethlehem by Herod and even though they thought that giving gifts was relevant for God, they are still protected by God through their dreams. Perhaps that is a rather out there view on the topic. But when I read the text I don't read of Magi bearing gifts from the East and I don't read them as being filled with the excitement of the holy spirit that the shepherds end up with. The shepherds were terrified when the presence of the Lord came upon them, but this terror turned into excitement then utter joy - much like the experience that people talk of when being born again.

1
  • 1
    @ johnsixtwentynine - Thanks for contributing, but it is much easier to read and study if paragraphs are used! Also, speculation does not adequately answer any question. Stick to scholarly research so all can profit. Keep studying the Bible; it's great for the soul!
    – ray grant
    Commented Feb 1 at 22:48
-2

Matthew was writing to Hebrews, Jewish People. Luke wrote to Romans or Gentiles. I forget whom Mark wrote to.

2
  • So if Matthew was written to Jewish people, then what does that mean for this question? Most consider the Magi to be foreign astrologers.
    – curiousdannii
    Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 11:49
  • I think it's Matthew→Jews, Mark→Romans, Luke→Greeks, John→all Christians. Commented Oct 5, 2021 at 14:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.