Moses by John August Swanson. Image from Art in the Christian Tradition, a project of the Vanderbilt Divinity Library, Nashville, Tenn. Original source © 1983 by John August Swanson.
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Matthew 2:1-12 Commentary
by Shelly Matthews
The story of the visit of the Magi has the ring of a folk tale, as is obvious by how the narrative threads begin to unravel when subject to the questions one might ask about a “real life” situation.
There is the matter of the encounter between the Magi and Herod, and the larger questions this encounter provokes concerning human agency and knowing, the brutality of political tyrants, and the workings of divine providence. How could the magi be so naïve as to press the king of a country for details about a future king of a different lineage coming to power, without any thought to the jealousy and violence such an inquiry might unleash? Remember that the inquiry of the magi is the prompt that eventually results in Herod’s decree to slaughter the innocent children of Bethlehem. After the magi visit the Holy Family, they are warned “in a dream” not to return to Herod. But why couldn’t they have received information about how to find the child through such a dream in the first place, which would have enabled them to avoid Herod altogether, thus giving him no cause to issue his murderous decree?
There is the matter of how the story lumps “all Jerusalem” ...
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2020-21 Readings (Year 3)
2020-21 Worship Resources
The narrative lectionary is a four-year cycle of readings. Read more.
NL157: Magi Visit
December 28, 2014
Narrative Lectionary podcast on readings for Dec. 28, 2014: Matthew 2:1-12 (Accompanying text: Psalm 96:10-13).