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The Wise Men from the East
 
The popular image of the Three Wise Men associated with the Christmas story has obscured a little of the significance of the event reflected in Matthew 2:1-15.
 
In the time of Herod the Great (the Herod in the story) the famed Magi, or astrologers of the East, consisted of two groups:
the idolatrous astrologers of Babylon; and, 
the monotheistic Zoroastrian astrologers of ancient Persia. 
 
Early
Christian illustrations of this event, painted in the underground catacombs of Rome, show these visitors to the Christ child dressed in the ancient Persian style. For these two reasons then (religious and cultural) it is most probable that these long-distance visitors came from the mountains of ancient Persia.
 
 
Before one begins to speculate over the special  'star', careful attention to the biblical evidences is important.
 
These
are:
  1. The Magi found Jesus in a Bethlehem "house" and not where the shepherds had found Him (Mat.2:11).
  2. Herod had asked the Magi "secretly" as to when the star appeared (because of his evil motive), on the time of which he then had all boy-children in Bethlehem killed – 
  3. "from two years and under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the magi" (Mat.2:16). (The same ruler that had murdered his own sons on suspicion of treachery less than two years before this).
  4. Immediately after the Magi's visit with their expensive gifts, Joseph is warned by God to flee to Egypt.
  5. This long journey for a young child and mother through the southern desert was greatly helped by the value of the "gold, frankincense and myrrh" (Mat.2:11-15).
  6. The Magi's final sighting of the star is ahead of them, over the house where the Child was found and caused them "great joy" (Mat.2:10); implying that they had not seen it for some time.
 
The
Bible's own description –
 "the star which they had seen in the east, went before them, until it came and stood over where the Child was" 
– probably indicates a supernatural phenomenon that had led these God-fearing eastern star-gazers.
Matthew 2:9.

But
if we assume that these Magi saw a natural phenomenon in the night sky one must look to something that fits the time-lapse between the first sighting of the star by the Magi in their home country and their last sighting of it on the way to Bethlehem, which is certainly more than a year. 
 
 
Astronomy can give us no definite answer but a probability is a conjunction of planets – most likely then of Jupiter, Venus and Saturn. But, if this is so, then the validity of astrology also becomes an issue.
 

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