Today as I was reading Matthew chapter 2 in the New Testament, I got side-tracked looking up the word 'anatole.' Which, basically, can mean either 'rising' or 'east' or even 'morning.' Why? Well, I'm no expert, but my guess would be that the word was used originally to refer to the rising of the sun, and then also the direction the sun rose from, and occasionally, the time when the sun rises. See the connection?
Anyway, if you have a modern English translation, Matthew 2:2 has a footnote on it. If you have NIV, the main text says 'saw His star in the east' and footnotes: or when it rose and the NLT main text reverses that, putting 'saw his star as it rose' and footnoting 'saw his star in the east.'
I'm not going to criticize either translation, because, on my own, I think either one could be right. What I want to focus on is what I consider the alternate, "saw his star when it rose." Why would I call that alternate? It's not the King James, which means it's not what most of us have heard our whole lives...
So, what about it? Well, we've all probably heard the Christmas story that the Wise Men, or Magi, came, after seeing the Christmas Star in the East. Well, the tradition has the Magi in the East, and moving west to see the Christ. Not an invalid thought. After all, Persia had a class of scholar/astronomers called 'Magi' so they fit the idea of ones who would watch and respond to the star. However, let's imagine the 'Magi' as a less specific application. For example, think of the modern word 'GEEK.' Now, if you don't know how to set up your computer, you could use the help of a computer geek. While Best Buy does have technicians labeled 'The Geek Squad,' that's not the only geeks available. There are people with all of the qualifications, but not official Geek Squad people (please note, Geek Squad is trademarked or copyrighted or something). So, you could be a geek, without being a 'Geek Squad.'
So it could be with 'Magi.' This label would definitely apply to a group of Persian scholars, but could have been used by the Greeks to refer to scholars from any non-Greek part of the world. (Everyone that wasn't Greek was a barbarian, but perhaps the Greeks respected a few barbarian scholars, and group-labeled them 'Magi').
Okay, now, this is not a major-league history effort. But I see in the translation of 'star when it rose' the idea that Magi, scholars/religious leaders, from all of the non-Jewish parts of the world coming to worship Christ. Not just from Persia, but from Europe, Asia, Africa. I see here a hint of the gathering of nations to worship Christ, of the time when 'Every knee will bow, every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the Glory of God the Father!' (Phil 2:10-11) And how did they know to come? They all saw the star when it rose and came. I imagine Magi running into other Magi, asking "Why are you here?" "Why am I here? Did you not see that star? Why are you here?" "Um, same star...."
I see a hint of the ingathering of those who follow Christ. I see the Gospel, even at the beginning, going out to all the world. Do I see all the world following Christ? No, because not all will. But I see His glory going forth!
May we never think of ourselves as the sole owners of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, or as the gatekeepers that will decide who may come in and who may not. The Gospel belongs to the Lord, who commands we preach it! And the decision belongs to the empowering of the Holy Spirit, that God unblinds the eyes of people that they may see His truth, and believe in Jesus.
The occasional thoughts of an ordinary man serving an extraordinary God. Come with me as we learn, teach, and laugh along the way.
Saturday, January 3, 2009
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