were the three wise men from china?

Since it's Christmas... here's an interesting little wrinkle in the Nativity story. According one short passage in the New Testament, a group of mysterious travelers from the East -- popularly known as the Three Wise Men, or the Magi -- traveled to Bethlehem to pay their respects at the birth of Jesus Christ, bringing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

But when we say "the East," just how far East? A religious scholar's new analysis of a little-known eighth century manuscript, "the Revelation of the Magi," uncovers a new version of the Three Wise Men story with some intriguing possibilities. Like: Were the Three Wise Men from China?
As part of his doctoral dissertation at Harvard Divinity School, Landau spent seven years translating and analyzing the text, written in Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic used by early Christians throughout the Middle East and Asia — and which he happened to be studying. He worked from both a 1927 published text in Syriac and the original document at the Vatican.

Landau's book, Revelation of the Magi: The Lost Tale of the Wise Men's Journey to Bethlehem (HarperOne) describes the Magi as an ancient mystical sect descended from Seth, the pious and virtuous third son of Adam and Eve. From Seth they inherited a prophecy of "a star of indescribable brightness" someday appearing and "heralding the birth of God in human form." This same star had initially hovered over the Tree of Life in the Garden of Eden.

Among the book's other revelations:

- The Magi are described as coming from a land called Shir, "located in the extreme east of the world, at the shore of the Great Ocean." In other ancient texts, Shir is referred to "as a place where silk comes from," says Landau, suggesting that the references were to China.
Interesting. I mean, it doesn't really change whatever details or meaning you ascribe to the story, believer or not. Just one of those things that make you go huh. A bit of trivia to file away in your brain. Perhaps a group of Wise Chinese dudes were the original Baby Jesus fans.

angry archive