One of the most famous events in the first chapters of Matthew’s Gospel is the arrival of the wise men (magi). Even though they didn’t spend Christmas gathered around Jesus in a manger with the holy family, shepherds, and some barnyard creatures, their visit to Jesus was still very significant. The age of Jesus at the time of His visitors’ arrival is a topic of much interest.
Experts say that Jesus was about 13 to 24 months old when wise men came to visit him. This rough estimate stems from Herod’s murderous order to wipe out all male youngsters under the age of two. Herod’s estimation of time is based on what the magi informed him regarding the star’s appearance.
When exactly did the visit take place, according to Matthew? Exactly how did Herod find out when Jesus was born? What data determines the 13 to 24-month estimate? Read on for explanations to these and other questions.
Who Were The Three Wise Men?
The Greek word μαγoι (mάgoi) either means “wise men” or “magi” in English. This term was originally for describing a group of priestly or astrologer-like individuals who lived in ancient Persia.
The term eventually evolves for anybody with access to mystical or otherwise esoteric information or talent. Similar terminology is used to identify the false prophet Bar-Jesus in Acts 13:6. The New International Version translates the term used to describe Bar-Jesus as “sorcerer.” However, it might also imply a dishonest person.
The first interpretation of Mάgoi seems to fit the use when referring to the sages. The magi, like these Persian sages, had interests in astronomy (they did, after all, follow a star). Even though they are kings, the magi were never referred to as kings in the Bible.
The magi only recognize Jesus as “the king of the Jews,” whose arrival was seen through a strong celestial sign. They proclaimed their desire to adore Him (Matthew 2:2). In the end, people traveled great distances to bring Jesus presents because they felt He was a king deserving of respect.
The Magi gave Jesus gold, frankincense, and myrrh as presents. These three gifts were extremely expensive, hence the finest — appropriate for a king. These were also typically imported from the Arabian Peninsula or Africa, indicating that the enlightened men brought the finest of their lands.
Christians today refer to reasons that may or may not have been the original intent of the magi.
Gold is a divine emblem that points to Christ’s divine nature as the Son of God. Burned Frankincense was a popular tribute to God. This might represent Jesus’ willingness to offer Himself as a sacrifice. Myrrh, on the other hand, is an embalming spice. It represents aversion and misery. This might represent how Jesus would suffer and die as an adult.
Gauging The Date Of The Magi’s Visit To Jesus
Due to Matthew’s omission of a date for the magi’s visit to Jesus, scholars have been unable to pinpoint an exact period for the event.
In this article, the terms “wise men” and “magi” will be used synonymously. First, he writes, “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod, the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem.” (2:1).
Based on what we know about history, we can infer that this tale took place before 4 B.C. when King Herod was killed.
However, the date of Herod’s death does not aid in pinpointing how old Jesus was when the wise men visited him.
|Passage||Estimated Timeline||What Happened?|
|Matthew 1:24-25||5 to 6 B.C.||Jesus, our Lord and Savior, was born.|
|Matthew 2:1-12||3 to 4 B.C.||The Magi visit Jesus Christ|
|Luke 2:46-47||7 to 8 A.D.||The adolescent Jesus is found teaching in the temple|
Since they hailed in Persia, the magi’s journey to Jesus involved heading west. Upon reaching the holy city of Jerusalem, they enquired, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.”
Several scholars speculate that it might have taken them four months to get there, albeit this depends on the starting point of their voyage in Persia. It’s also unclear if the star indicated Mary’s pregnancy or Jesus’ birth or whether they traveled promptly after its appearance.
Without this information, pinpointing Jesus’ exact age when the wise men came to give him a visit is challenging. Some academics choose a six-to-twenty-month timeframe. Others choose 13 months or more, on the theory that an infant of that age may have been deemed to be in their second year.
Herod Learns Of The Star’s First Appearance From The Magi
Herod secretly convened the magi to find out when they first saw the star. In particular, he was interested in the hour of Jesus’ birth. However, what the magi may have told him is not documented in the Bible.
When translating the Greek term ekribosen used to describe Herod’s interrogation of the magi, remember that it means “to know exactly.” Considering the precision of the term, other versions read that Herod discovered “the precise moment” when the star emerged.
When Herod ordered all male youngsters aged two and younger to be killed, he wasn’t acting arbitrarily. As per Matthew, “the time that he had ascertained (ekribosen) from the wise men” determined the ages of the lads he recruited. Herod may have been aware that Jesus wasn’t yet two years old, but he probably chose to allow some wiggle room in his order by making the age two nonetheless.
Matthew’s account does not prove that two years had passed from the magi’s initial sighting of the star, or almost three if the star was considered to mark the moment of conception. Herod’s age requirement was likely only a ballpark figure that let his soldiers cover all of their bases and not overlook any possible threats.
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