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Michael Quang Nguyen, SVD
The Function of The Magi Episode
In the Gospel of Matthew (Matt 2:1-12)


One of the most famous stories during the Christmas season is the visit of the magi. According to Matt 2:1-12, in the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem, μáγoi, magi from the East came to Jerusalem, asking: “Where is the newborn king of the Jews?” (Matt 2:2). After they received information about the location of the infant Jesus from King Herod and the religious leaders, the star appeared in the sky, leading the magi to the house of the infant king in Bethlehem. In remembrance of the journey from the East, the Christmas crib is displayed with the statues of the three magi-kings holding gifts in their hands, along with the statues of the infant Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds with their sheep. Also, a star is placed at the top of the Christmas tree or in the front of the Nativity house to remind the faithful of the star that initiated the journey of the magi-kings. The three kings and the star are significant figures that cannot be ignored during the Christmas season.

The Function of the Magi Episode deals with the account of the magi (Matt 2:1-12) and its relationship with Matthew’s infancy narrative and his entire gospel. My speculation is that the magi episode in Matt 2:1-12 gives an outline of the Gospel in miniature and introduces themes that are more fully developed in the rest of the Gospel. The faith of the magi foreshadows that of believers in the remainder of the Gospel and serves as an invitation to the reader to do likewise. go top


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