Thursday, December 10, 2009

The Church Fathers On the Magi As Kings

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None of the Church Fathers call the Magi kings
Update 10/2/2016: Can anyone help with translations of Hugo Kehrer†, Die Heiligen drei Könige in Literatur und Kunst (Leipzig: Verlag von E. A. Seamann, 1908) <>?
Update 10/22/2016, feast of Pope St. John Paul II: Stay tuned for updates based on Lapide, Maldonado (, Baronius, etc.

When Jesus therefore was born in Bethlehem of Juda, in the days of King Herod, behold, there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem, saying: Where is He that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East, and are come to adore Him. And King Herod hearing this, was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And assembling together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where Christ should be born. But they said to him: In Bethlehem of Judah. For so it is written by the prophet: And thou Bethlehem the land of Judah art not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come forth the Captain that shall rule My people Israel. Then Herod, privately calling the wise men learned diligently of them the time of the star which appeared to them; and sending them into Bethlehem, said: Go and diligently inquire after the child, and when you have found Him, bring me word again, that I also may come and adore Him. Who having heard the king, went their way; and behold the star which they had seen in the East, went before them, until it came and stood over where the child was. And seeing the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary His mother, and falling down they adored Him: and opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having received an answer in sleep that they should not return to Herod, they went back another way into their country. And after they were departed, behold an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph, saying: Arise, and take the child and His mother, and fly into Egypt: and be there until I shall tell thee. For it will come to pass that Herod will seek the child to destroy Him. Who arose, and took the child and His mother by night, and retired into Egypt: and he was there until the death of Herod: That it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet, saying: Out of Egypt have I called My Son. Then Herod perceiving that he was deluded by the wise men, was exceeding angry: and sending killed all the menchildren that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.
Obj. 1: The Scripture does not say the Magi are kings.
Ans. 1: Old Testament: We gather that the Magi were kings because the tradition of the Church applies these prophecies to the visit of the Magi:
Ps 68:30: "Because of thy temple in Jerusalem, kings shall offer presents to thee."
Ps 72:10: "The kings of Tharsis and the islands shall offer presents: the kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring gifts."
Isaiah 60:3: "Nations shall walk in the light, and kings in the brightness of thy rising."
I insist: New Testament: Why then, are they not called kings by St. Matthew?

Obj. 2: "No Father of the Church holds the Magi to have been kings;"{1} "Nor did any Father of the Church hold the opinion that the Magi were kings."{2}
Ans. 2: On the contrary stands the authority of the ecclesiastical writers Tertullian (d. 240) and Bishop Hydatius of Aquae Flaviae (†469) and the following Church Fathers: Bishop St. Cyprian the Martyr of Carthage (†258){3}, Bishop St. Basil the Great of Constantinople (†379; Doctor) Archbishop St. John Chrysostom of Constantinople (†407; Doctor); Hieromonk St. Jerome the Great of Strido (†420; Doctor); Bishop St. Hilary of Arles (†449; Doctor), Bishop St. Maximus of Turin (†465){4}, Bishop St. Caesarius of Arles (†543){5}, St. Isidore of Seville (†636; Doctor), and Monk Walafrid Strabo (†849).{6}

Notes & References
{1} Drum, Walter. "Magi." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1910. 10 Dec. 2009 <>.
{2} Duchesne-Guillemin, J., E. J. Joyce, and M. Stevenson "Magi." New Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 9. 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale, 2003. 34. 15 vols. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Gale. Fordham University Libraries. 9 July 2009.
{3} Sermon On the Baptism of Christ and the Manifestation of the Trinity in PL 189:1628B.
{4} Treatise 5 Against the Jews in PL 57:801C qtd. in Hugo Kehrer,
{5} Sermon 139 on Epiphany in PL 39:2018 qtd. in Hugo Kehrer,
{6} Juan Maldonado, S.J., A Commentary on the Holy Gospels, trans. George M. Davie, M.A., 2nd ed. (London: John Hodges, 1888), 49-50 <>. Some of these authors are quoted in The Golden Legend of Bl. Jacobus de Voragine, O.P.

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