Sunday, January 6, 2013

Epiphany: The Visit of the Magi - Matthew Chapter 2

Glorious Epiphany, when the Kingship of our Lord was first recognized by the Gentiles!

Let us explore this chapter, on an adult level and see what riches it reveals...

Scripture copied from

First read, the whole thing in your own Bible - read it thoroughly first; then read it again, with each of the corresponding footnotes. My notes and thoughts are here in blue. What are your thoughts?

The style here would be a very preliminary introduction for adults and for older children. We would take turns reading the verses either one at a time or in paragraphs as the child/adult felt comfortable. Then we would review the narrative itself; define unfamiliar words; discuss questions that arise; and look for the message contained.

Within the atrium we would focus on the Visit of the Magi in level 1 (but not with the notes I provide here); build on it in level 2 (still not entirely with the notes I provide here) and at level 2 add the Flight into Egypt and why (the Innocents). At level 3, repeat all, and go more in-depth as the children's maturity and experience takes us.

The Visit of the Magi.*1When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod,* behold, magi from the east arrived in Jerusalem,
The use of the word "when" does not denote that it happened the same day, but it could. It would be best to go back to the original words used here before drawing any conclusions. 
2saying, “Where is the newborn king of the Jews? We saw his star* at its rising and have come to do him homage.”a
The children always recognize the prophecy (see footnotes). 

3When King Herod heard this, he was greatly troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.
4Assembling all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born.*5b They said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it has been written through the prophet:
6‘And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
since from you shall come a ruler,
who is to shepherd my people Israel.’”
The fact he had to ascertain the time of the star's appearance, despite the use of the word "newborn" indicates that we need to go back to the original language used; and that some time has passed. Clearly the star appeared before the Magi left their own home; but did it appear at the Incarnation (Annunciation), or did it appear at his actual birth? If "newborn" still fits based on the original language, is it possible that the term means something different in that culture than it does today? Perhaps newborn means any child under age 3 (i.e. still nursing, since at that time most children nursed until age 3)... that is my conjecture. I would love to study the original language here. 8He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search diligently for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.”
A newborn; now a child. How long were the Magi in Jerusalem? 
Or: what are the original terms used here? 10They were overjoyed at seeing the star,
Could the star not be seen in Jerusalem? What could this mean? 11* c and on entering the house they saw the child with Mary his mother. They prostrated themselves and did him homage. Then they opened their treasures and offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
The house. The child. With Mary. But Joseph would not have left the stable the night Jesus was born - there were visitors! The shepherds! Would he have left Mary to fend for herself? Miraculous birth or not, she'd just ridden a donkey how many days, arrived late at night and now was nursing a newborn baby? 
It would seem that some time has passed; they have been moved to a home. Jewish culture suggests that the next day, when the baby was born, and people found out about the baby, some room would have been found. Remembered, they arrived late at night - no room at the time, but perhaps now with people awake, and perhaps some people had put in their information to the census and left already.... just my own thoughts. 
Another thought - if we want to consider the Circumcision, the Purification of Mary, the Presentation in the Temple. Perhaps they stayed in Bethlehem intentionally long enough to take care of these things. Hence, there would have been at least 40 days, and potentially more. 12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed for their country by another way.
The Flight to Egypt.13* When they had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt,* and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.”
Again the word "when" - if it means immediately, then perhaps Joseph came in while they Magi were still there; maybe he was in a back room and they just didn't "see" him. Perhaps he was working. In any case, it would seem that at least a few hours actually passed before he had his dream. 
14Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.15* He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophetd might be fulfilled, “Out of Egypt I called my son.”
We can see that this passage very likely occurred before verse 15. We could really start this verse, "In the meantime..."
Some people suggest it was mental illness and vengeance that caused him to choose "2 years old and under" - and I don't deny those issues! But consider the next words: "in accordance with the time had had ascertained from the magi." Jesus was definitely under 2 years old, probably not quite close to to 2 years old for Herod to "round up" like that. 
Is it possible Joseph found work in Bethlehem and they stayed on a few months? Could Jesus have been closer to a year old? 
After reading through the infancy narratives in Luke as well, another thought: Could they have intentionally been looking to move to Bethlehem? Joseph was of the house of David; Mary was originally from Nazareth; but Joseph actual domicile at the time is not listed. If they were looking to move there, it would explain "house" and "child" and "two years old and under."17Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet:
18* e “A voice was heard in Ramah,
sobbing and loud lamentation;
Rachel weeping for her children,
and she would not be consoled,
since they were no more.”
The Return from Egypt.19When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt20and said,f “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.”*21He rose, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel.22But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod,* he was afraid to go back there. And because he had been warned in a dream, he departed for the region of Galilee.23* g He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, “He shall be called a Nazorean.”
Mary's home-town. The question, "What good comes from Nazareth?" becomes a proclamation: "What Good comes from Nazareth!"

* [2:112] The future rejection of Jesus by Israel and his acceptance by the Gentiles are retrojected into this scene of the narrative.
* [2:1In the days of King Herod: Herod reigned from 37 to 4 B.C. Magi: originally a designation of the Persian priestly caste, the word became used of those who were regarded as having more than human knowledge. Matthew’s magi are astrologers.
* [2:2We saw his star: it was a common ancient belief that a new star appeared at the time of a ruler’s birth. Matthew also draws upon the Old Testament story of Balaam, who had prophesied that “A star shall advance from Jacob” (Nm 24:17), though there the star means not an astral phenomenon but the king himself.
* [2:4] Herod’s consultation with the chief priests and scribes has some similarity to a Jewish legend about the child Moses in which the “sacred scribes” warn Pharaoh about the imminent birth of one who will deliver Israel from Egypt and the king makes plans to destroy him.
* [2:11] Cf. Ps 72:1015Is 60:6. These Old Testament texts led to the interpretation of the magi as kings.
* [2:1323] Biblical and nonbiblical traditions about Moses are here applied to the child Jesus, though the dominant Old Testament type is not Moses but Israel (Mt 2:15).
* [2:13Flee to Egypt: Egypt was a traditional place of refuge for those fleeing from danger in Palestine (see 1 Kgs 11:40Jer 26:21), but the main reason why the child is to be taken to Egypt is that he may relive the Exodus experience of Israel.
* [2:15] The fulfillment citation is taken from Hos 11:1. Israel, God’s son, was called out of Egypt at the time of the Exodus; Jesus, the Son of God, will similarly be called out of that land in a new exodus. The father-son relationship between God and the nation is set in a higher key. Here the son is not a group adopted as “son of God,” but the child who, as conceived by the holy Spirit, stands in unique relation to God. He is son of David and of Abraham, of Mary and of Joseph, but, above all, of God.
* [2:18Jer 31:15 portrays Rachel, wife of the patriarch Jacob, weeping for her children taken into exile at the time of the Assyrian invasion of the northern kingdom (722–21 B.C.). Bethlehem was traditionally identified with Ephrath, the place near which Rachel was buried (see Gn 35:1948:7), and the mourning of Rachel is here applied to her lost children of a later age. Ramah: about six miles north of Jerusalem. The lamentation of Rachel is so great as to be heard at a far distance.
* [2:20For those who sought the child’s life are dead: Moses, who had fled from Egypt because the Pharaoh sought to kill him (see Ex 2:15), was told to return there, “for all the men who sought your life are dead” (Ex 4:19).
* [2:22] With the agreement of the emperor Augustus, Archelaus received half of his father’s kingdom, including Judea, after Herod’s death. He had the title “ethnarch” (i.e., “ruler of a nation”) and reigned from 4 B.C. to A.D. 6.
* [2:23Nazareth…he shall be called a Nazorean: the tradition of Jesus’ residence in Nazareth was firmly established, and Matthew sees it as being in accordance with the foreannounced plan of God. The town of Nazareth is not mentioned in the Old Testament, and no such prophecy can be found there. The vague expression “through the prophets” may be due to Matthew’s seeing a connection between Nazareth and certain texts in which there are words with a remote similarity to the name of that town. Some such Old Testament texts are Is 11:1 where the Davidic king of the future is called “a bud” (nēser) that shall blossom from the roots of Jesse, and Jgs 13:57where Samson, the future deliverer of Israel from the Philistines, is called one who shall be consecrated (a nāzîr) to God.
a. [2:2Nm 24:17.
b. [2:56Mi 5:1 / 2 Sm 5:2.
c. [2:11Ps 72:101115Is 60:6.
d. [2:15Hos 11:1.
e. [2:18Jer 31:15.
f. [2:20Ex 4:19.

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