Friday, December 12, 2014

When did the Wise Men go to Bethlehem?

Contrary to popular belief, the wise men (magi) didn't go to the manger in Bethlehem to worship Jesus. The Scriptures don’t tell us the exact time of their visit but it was sometime after the shepherds found Him in a manger. By the time the wise men arrived, Joseph and Mary had moved into a house (Matt. 2:11). 

We know that Joseph and Mary took Jesus to the Temple on the 8th day after birth to be dedicated. The Law told them to sacrifice a lamb as an offering for the first-born, but if they could not afford a lamb they could offer two turtledoves (Lev. 12:6-8). Because Joseph and Mary offered two turtledoves (Luke 2:24), we know they were poor at this time—which means that the magi had not yet come and given them the gift of gold. If they had received the gold by this time they would have been rich enough to buy a lamb.

After they made the sacrifice, they returned to Bethlehem. Luke says they went to Nazareth after this but he does not mean immediately. Luke’s account omits the visit of the magi and the fact that Joseph and Mary fled to Egypt because Herod ordered the male babies in Bethlehem to be killed (Matt. 2:13-14). It’s likely that the gift of gold funded their stay in Egypt which could have been two or more years.

Joseph kept his family in Egypt until the death of Herod, which was in the 37th year of his reign, when Jesus was between two and four years old. The exact date cannot be determined.

The Bible does not tell us how many wise men came to worship Jesus. Tradition says there were three magi because three gifts were presented but this is only an assumption. So now you know that the Bible does not say there were three Wise Men and they didn’t visit Him at the manger. However, don’t get upset when you see them depicted in a manger scene display. It’s not a theological problem and the manger scene reminds us that Jesus is the reason for the season.
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