Friday, December 7, 2007

Wise Men trivia

For you lovers of the Christmas carol "We Three Kings..." I am about to burst your bubble with some facts that will ensure that you never see that song in the same light again. This is the proverbial "Santa Claus doesn't really exist talk" and you're certainly old enough to hear it now.


The story of these "three kings" is taken from Matthews account of the birth of Jesus in the Bible. The Bible never tells us that they were kings. It calls them Magi (a Median preistly caste in ancient Persia or what is now modern day Iran).

The Bible does not tell us how many Magi there were. We have assumed the number three simply because three kinds of gifts were presented.

The names Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar first appeared in Christian literature in the 8th century when Saint Bede the Venerable, described them this way: "The first was called Melchior; he was an old man with white hair and long beard; he offered gold to the Lord as his king. The second, Gaspar by name, young, beardless, of ruddy hue, offered to Jesus his gift of incense, the homage due to Divinity. The third, of black complexion, with heavy beard, was called Balthasar; the myrrh he held in his hands prefigured the death of the Son of man."

The Bible never gives us any information about their mode of transportation. Camels are assumed simply because they are the most popular mode of desert transportation, and also because they would fit a kingly mold much better than a donkey or a foot caravan.

Contrary to the popular nativity scene depictions, Matthew's Gospel tells us that they did not arrive at the manger when Jesus was a baby, but arrived when He was a "young child" living in "the house."

I know, I know, I'm a party pooper. I just couldn't bear to have you continue living with the deluded notion that your nativity scene, all nicely laid out on your mantlepiece, was an accurate depiction of the events sorrounding our Savior's birth. So now that we've burst that bubble, what other "facts" do you know about Christmas that are urban legend and not actual facts?

4 comments:

Valerie said...

I am still bummed about this from Sunday! LOL! My nativity scene is very ornate...with 3 kings and 2 camels! I had actually forgotten they are supposed to be wise men. Baby Jesus doesn't exactly look Jewish either...but his parents do! I think I am safer with my Veggie Tales one! Thanks for the insight. =)

Joseph said...

Valerie,
I'm sorry to have burst your bubble but it is part of my responsibility to wean you off "fairy tales" Now the Veggie Tales kings, those guys are the real deal:)

Ms Harkins said...

Santa Claus is a urban legend that drives parents nuts during this time of the year. But I still like to believe Santa exists as an image of HOPE.
My father always told me that December 25 was a date chosen by people to declare as Jesus´ birthday, because it was impossible to precise the date on those days. Can you enlight us on that??

Joseph said...

Like you, I have heard that the likelihood of Jesus having been born on December 25 is pretty slim. I have no empirical data one way or another so I just enjoy the fact that a day has been set aside demonstrating the importance of Jesus's birth into our world.