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.

  • See Genesis 27:29; Isaiah 41:2, 49:7, 49:23.
    – Lucian
    Oct 4 at 19:55
  • @Lucian Peace, how does that answer the question?
    – יהודה
    Oct 4 at 21:15
  • Fulfilled prophecies ?
    – Lucian
    Oct 4 at 21:16
  • @Lucian Pardon me but I don't follow. May you please elaborate?
    – יהודה
    Oct 4 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
    Oct 4 at 22:07

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."


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
    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
    Oct 9 at 15:28

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 :)


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

  • 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
    Oct 5 at 11:49
  • I think it's Matthew→Jews, Mark→Romans, Luke→Greeks, John→all Christians. Oct 5 at 14:25

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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