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(VI.) HISTORY - The Coming of Christianity

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Author Topic: (VI.) HISTORY - The Coming of Christianity  (Read 280 times)
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« on: August 17, 2007, 06:40:50 pm »


The presence in St Matthew's Gospel of the 'three wise men', or kings, or Magi, or astrologers, was to be rather an embarrassment to some of the fathers of the Church; later generations were simply to deny that they were astrologers at all, although that was clearly what the author of the gospel intended.

The earliest commentator to seize the nettle and attack the myth was St John Chrysostom (c 347-407), who made heavy weather of his criticism, not so much attacking the notion of astrology itself as berating the three astrologers for calling Jesus the King of the Jews when 'his kingdom was not of this world', and suggesting that they were unwise to the point of foolishness in coming to Bethlehem, stirring things up with the king, and instantly leaving. He also pointed out (quite rightly) that the appearance of a single star was not in accordance with astrological tradition, although he agreed that its appearance was a sign that God favoured the wise men. Tacitly, he admitted that he not only believed in the appearance of the star, but that it was shown to the astrologers for a purpose, so demolishing his own argument.

Speculation about the wise men was to continue for centuries, with various embroideries. There were not always three, for instance; Chrysostom suggested that there may have been a dozen, and in the earliest Christian art other numbers are given.
The Magi do not seem to have been promoted to royal status until as late as the 6th century, and the Venerable Bede, the English historian of the 7th century, seems to be the first man to give their names. Their original home was in Arabia, or Persia, or Chaldea, or India, according to which early authority one reads, and anyone interested in visiting their tomb should look in Cologne, for after their deaths the Empress Helena brought their bodies from India to Constantinople, whence they travelled to Milan and on to Germany.

Some Christian commentators invested them with various magical powers, perhaps to denigrate them, and thereby astrology in general; a 10th-century dramatist tells how they flew miraculously to Bethlehem after the birth, causing considerable surprise to the citizens of the cities over which they passed. But some sects seized on the story as proof of astrology as God's means of regulating affairs on earth.

A heretical sect, the Priscillianists, did so, prompting a 10th-century writer to put forward all the traditional anti-astrological arguments, and to present the 'wise men' simply as the first Gentiles to seek Christ.
« Last Edit: August 20, 2007, 07:53:11 pm by Bianca2001 » Report Spam   Logged

Your mind understands what you have been taught; your heart what is true.

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