Ancient text suggests more than three wise men

A reputedly first-hand account of the Three Wise Men, who came to bring gifts to the child Jesus, has been found in the Vatican archives.

According to a Times article in The Australian, the new account suggests there were “scores” of Magi, rather than just the three wise men bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

The account, which has been in the Vatican archives for 250 years, is translated from ancient Syriac and gives a detailed account of the Magi prayers and rituals.

“Somebody was really fascinated by the wise men to have created this big, long story and tell it from their perspective,” said Brent Landau, professor of religious studies at the University of Oklahoma, who spent two years deciphering the fragile manuscript.

“A great deal of thought and imagination has gone into it.

“There are many details of strange rituals, praying and silence. There is a description of a sacred mountain and purification at a sacred spring.

“The detail is so great I wonder if it is the community’s actual practices that are being described.”

“Nobody knows where Matthew got the story from, so along with Matthew’s Gospel this is as close as you can get to the Magi.”

The story relates that Seth passed down a prophecy that a star would appear that would signal the birth of God in human form. The Magi waited thousands of years until the day the star appeared.

Professor Landau said: “It transformed into a small luminous human being who was Christ himself in a pre-existent, celestial form.

“It is saying that Jesus Christ and the Star of Bethlehem are the same thing and Jesus Christ can transform himself into anything.

“The star guides them to Bethlehem and into a cave where it transforms into a human infant who tells them to go back and be preachers of the Gospel.”

The manuscript is an 8th Century copy of a story first written down nearly half a millennium earlier, less than 100 years after the Gospel of Matthew, the original source of the Bible account.

Matthew’s Gospel does not specify the number of Magi.

The manuscript has been in the Vatican library for more than 250 years. Nothing else is known about it.


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