Monday, December 27, 2010

The Revelation of the Magi

Brent Landau has translated the Revelation of the Magi from Syriac from a manuscript found in the Vatican Library. In it, the Magi are said to have come in response to visions, rather than simply the promptings of astrology. They are said to come from the land of Shir, which the author speculates to be China.

This manuscript is in the tradition of other non-canonical works on the early life of Jesus which seem to be based largely on speculation rather than reportage, although they may still reflect underlying truths. The link to purchase the book is at This work was recently reviewed in the Arlington Catholic Herald at

Whether the manuscript is true or not is lost to the ages, although the story it lays out seems more like pious wondering than a statement of what actually happened - although the Shir concept is interesting.

I would suspect that instead of China, the site of Shir is India, which like China had a developed system of astrology and also may have had a thriving exile community of Israelites. Recent analysis of the Romany lead to the belief that these people, who were in India at the time, were members of the lost tribes of Israel - the inhabitants of the northern kingdom who were taken in exile by the Assyrians. Might the Magi have been Romany astrologers? If so, it would upset the current understanding that they were Gentiles, but it would be consistent with prophesies of the return to Zion on dromedaries bearing gifts to the Christ child that are used on the Feast of the Epiphany.

What is even more interesting is relating this possiblity with the legend that Thomas the Apostle evangelized India and reached the Romany community there, who when they returned from India went to Europe rather than what was then Muslim Palestine. It adds a whole new meaning to the words of the song O Come, O Come Emmanuel if captive Israel refers to the lost tribes who were soon evangelized and are not lost at all but right in front of us all, especially in Europe. As I have written previously, this definitely has interesting implications for relations with Israel and the apocolyptic hopes of Evangelicals as part of that.