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"How utterly refreshing and encouraging to read Fr. Longenecker's extraordinary ruminations on something we all thought we understood, and obviously hardly begin to understand, until now. That he has dug so deep—so we can see things we have never seen before—is a testament both to his archaeological implacability and genius and to the happy fact that God has hidden endless treasures in the Scriptures for our benefit. —Eric Metaxas, New York Times bestselling author of Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy and Martin Luther
Modern biblical scholars tend to dismiss the Christmas story of the “wise men from the East” as pious legend. Matthew’s gospel offers few details, but imaginative Christians filled out the story early on, giving us the three kings guided by a magical star who join the adoring shepherds in every Christmas crèche.
For many scholars, then, there is no reason to take the gospel story seriously.
But are they right? Are the wise men no more than a poetic fancy?
In an astonishing feat of detective work, Dwight Longenecker makes a powerful case that the visit of the Magi to Bethlehem really happened. Piecing together the evidence from biblical studies, history, archeology, and astronomy, he goes further, uncovering where they came from, why they came, and what might have happened to them after eluding the murderous King Herod.
In the process, he provides a new and fascinating view of the time and place in which Jesus Christ chose to enter the world.
The evidence is clear and compelling. The mysterious Magi from the East were in all likelihood astrologers and counselors from the court of the Nabatean king at Petra, where the Hebrew messianic prophecies were well known. The “star” that inspired their journey was a particular planetary alignment—confirmed by computer models—that in the astrological lore of the time portended the birth of a Jewish king.
The visitors whose arrival troubled Herod “and all Jerusalem with him” may not have been the turbaned oriental kings of the Christmas carol, but they were real, and by demonstrating that the wise men were no fairy tale, Mystery of the Magi demands a new level of respect for the historical claims of the gospel.
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About the Author
Dwight Longenecker is a Catholic priest, award winning blogger, and freelance writer. A graduate of Oxford and Bob Jones University, he has written sixteen books on different aspects of religion. Longenecker is a highly sought-after speaker for scholarly and Men’s Conference events, and often leads parish missions, retreats, and diocesan events. He and his wife, Allison, have four children.
Longenecker serves as pastor of Our Lady of the Rosary Church in Greenville, South Carolina.
Table of Contents
Introduction The Three Wise Men: Facts or Fairy Tale? xv
Chapter 1 Is the Bible True? 1
Chapter 2 Matthew: Man of History 11
Chapter 3 Fantastic Flights of Fantasy 23
Chapter 4 Sages and Stargazers 37
Chapter 5 The Riddle of the Nabateans 47
Chapter 6 The Middle Eastern Melting Pot 61
Chapter 7 Prophecies or Predictions? 73
Chapter 8 The Herod Connection 87
Chapter 9 The Three Treasures 97
Chapter 10 The Star of Bethlehem 111
Chapter 11 Wise Men from the East 129
Chapter 12 What Happened to the Wise Men? 139
Conclusion Why Does It Matter? 157