Did You Know?
Who were the Magi who came to visit the infant Jesus?
▪ According to the account of Jesus’ birth in the Gospel of Matthew, visitors from “eastern parts” who had seen the star of a new king presented gifts to young Jesus. The Greek text of the Gospel calls these visitors maʹgoi, that is, “magi.” (Matthew 2:1, footnote) What do we know about them?
The earliest substantial source of information about the Magi is the Greek historian Herodotus. Living in the fifth century B.C.E., Herodotus recorded that the Magi belonged to a Persian priestly class who specialized in astrology, interpretation of dreams, and casting of spells. In Herodotus’ time, the religion of Persia was Zoroastrianism. Hence, the Magi he spoke about were likely Zoroastrian priests. “In a more general sense,” says The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “a mágos in the Hellenistic world had supernatural knowledge and ability and was sometimes a practitioner of magic.”
A number of early “Christian” commentators, such as Justin Martyr, Origen, and Tertullian, described the Magi who visited Jesus as astrologers. For example, Tertullian wrote in his book On Idolatry: “We know the mutual alliance of magic and astrology. The interpreters of the stars, then, were the first . . . to present Him [Jesus] ‘gifts.’” In harmony with this understanding, many Bible translations render maʹgoi “astrologers.”
Why did Matthew attribute words from the book of Zechariah to the prophet Jeremiah?
▪ The passage in question is found at Matthew 27:9, 10, where the Gospel writer commented on the money given to Judas Iscariot for the betrayal of Jesus. The verses read: “Then what was spoken through Jeremiah the prophet was fulfilled, saying: ‘And they took the thirty silver pieces, the price upon the man that was priced, . . . and they gave them for the potter’s field.’” The source of the prophecy concerning the 30 pieces of silver is Zechariah, not Jeremiah.—Zechariah 11:12, 13.
It appears that Jeremiah, rather than Isaiah, was sometimes placed first in the collection of books called “the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:40) Hence, when Matthew here spoke of “Jeremiah,” he was referring to an entire section of Scripture called by the name of its first book. This section of Scripture included Zechariah.
In a similar way, Jesus designated as “Psalms” several Bible books also known as the Writings. Thus, when he said that all things written about him “in the law of Moses and in the Prophets and Psalms” had to be fulfilled, he was referring to the prophecies contained in the entire Hebrew Scriptures.—Luke 24:44.