Saturday, October 3, 2009
The Magi and the Temple
Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:1-2)
In her book, Whatever Happened to the Twelve Apostles?, Elva Schroeder writes:
Among those who heard Thomas (the Apostle - Bridge) preach in Babylon were apparently the Wise Men or Magi who had visited the baby Jesus many years before.
A Souvenir of India, states, "The Church of the East traces its origin directly back to the original apostles. One of its chapels founded by the Three Wise Men on their return from Bethlehem, is still in use today in the town of Resaieh, in Northern Iran. The (present) Patriarch attended that chapel as a boy."
Dorman Newman, writing in 1685, says, "In Persia he (Thomas) met with the Wise Men whom he baptised and took along with him."
The Magi, or Wise Men who visited the baby Jesus, are considered to have been learned astrologers/astronomers from the university city of Sippar, 48 kilometres north-west of Babylon.
One of the greatest observatories of the ancient world was situated at Sippar, enabling astronomers to read and interpret the stars with great accuracy for their times.
Built by Nimrod, Sippar was one of the places where Hammurabi's laws were set up. It is also the city where, tradition says, the Sacred Writings were buried before the Flood and afterward dug up.
In its vast libraries were the writings of Daniel, one of its earlier Chief Magi, in which the coming of the Messiah was foretold. Another scroll contained the prophecy of Balaam regarding a Star arising in Jacob. From these and other writings the Wise Men are thought to have interpreted a new star in the heavens as heralding the birth of a special and important Messiah-King in Israel.
If the above accounts are correct, it would seem that the Wise Men heard Thomas preaching in Babylon, responded to the message they had been waiting more than thirty years to hear and were baptised by the apostle. They then added their testimony to that of Thomas as he preached throughout the country. They may even have taken him to the town of Reseigh on the west bank of Lake Urmia and shown him the chapel they had built so many years before.
The Souvenir of India states, "The holy apostle St Thomas, after establishing the first Christian church among his own people in ancient Babylon, turned to India, led by the Holy Spirit, and with an evangelical zeal traversed this subcontinent preaching the good news and baptising those who believed in Him."
McBirnie writes, "It is evident that Thomas visited Babylon. Because the tradition of the western churches revolved around Constantinople and Rome, it is astonishing how little is known, even by many church historians, about the many other vital Christian movements which began during Apostolic times.
"These movements quickly spread eastward, and therefore owed nothing to western Christianity. But the traditions are clear, there was an Apostolic movement eastward and Thomas was a central figure" (Schroeder, Elva. 2003. Whatever Happened to the Twelve Apostles?. Peacock Publications: Norwood, SA. pp.57-58).
This push into places beyond Samaria, in fact to the uttermost places of the earth, by the Apostles, was so effective, Paul was able to write, before AD 70: "First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world." This was in fulfilment of Jesus prophecy that: "this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (Matthew 24:14). Then end that Jesus was talking about was not the end of the world, but the end of the Old Covenant order with the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple in AD 70.