Jesus: Expert discusses ‘missing years’ found in ‘lost gospels’
The religious text tells the story of Jesus Christ’s birth through the gospels of Luke and Matthew. Almost 2,000 years ago an angel named Gabriel is said to have appeared to Mary and told her she would have a son, Jesus, who would be the Son of God. Mary and her husband-to-be, Joseph, made the journey to Bethlehem, where Jesus was born in a stable after the pair struggled to find a place to stay.
Some time later, three ‘Wise Men’, or magi, from eastern countries saw a star in the sky that signalled the birth of a new king.
They are said to have travelled to Judea, the region around Jerusalem and Bethlehem, to worship Jesus, the new king, but little detail is provided on who they actually were.
Catholic priest and author Dwight Longenecker has long sought to learn more about the mysterious visit and whether he could unravel their true identity.
He said: “To determine who the Wise Men really were, we first have to unpack the story as most people understand it.
The True identity of the Three Wise Men may have been unravelled
The Bible tells the story of the birth of Jesus
“The story Matthew tells has few details, but the details we have come to accept were added in the first three centuries of the Church.
“Gnostic writers of the day were similar to New Age believers today. They were enchanted by magic, esoteric theories and the occult.
“The Gnostics wrote expanded accounts of the birth of Jesus that highlighted the miraculous element and the exotic origins of the Wise Men.”
Mr Longenecker went on to lay out the obstacles he faced in tracing the story.
He added: “As the centre of Christianity shifted north and west to Asia Minor, Greece, and Rome, Matthew’s indication that the Wise Men came ‘from the East’ suggested that they came from Persia.
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Many follow the Star of Bethlehem to visit the new king
“Before long, the full-blown version of the story was circulating. Soothsayers and stargazers — kings from Persia, India, and Africa — followed a magical star across the desert sands on camels, finally arriving after a long and perilous journey to worship the infant Christ.
“The problem is that very little of that version of the story is in Matthew’s Gospel.
“Matthew doesn’t say they are kings. He doesn’t number them as three. He doesn’t say they rode camels. He doesn’t say they followed a magical star, and he doesn’t say they went on a long journey.
“He simply writes, ‘Wise men came from the East’.
“They saw his star. They came to the court of Herod the Great. They brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”
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A passage in the Bible could help identify the Three Wise Men
The author explained how he searched the Bible looking for “clues about the identity of the Wise Men”.
And he found a passage in Isaiah 60 that would become critical to his theory.
It reads: “For the riches of the sea shall be poured out before you, the wealth of nations shall come to you.
“Caravans of camels shall cover you, dromedaries of Midian and Ephah, all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and heralding the praises of the Lord.
“All the flocks of Kedar shall be gathered for you, the rams of Nebaioth shall serve your needs.”
Sacred spot where Jesus is said to have been born
Mr Longenecker detailed how he made a breakthrough.
He added: “With a bit of digging I discovered that Midian, Ephah, Kedar, and Nebaioth were all locations or the names of tribes from northwestern Arabia.
“Starting there I discovered that during the time of Jesus’ birth that territory was occupied by the kingdom of Nabatea.
“The Nabateans had close links with Herod the Great. Furthermore, their religion was rooted in astrology, and like many peoples from the time, they were looking for a messiah.
“Details fell together in an amazing way to unlock the secret that the Wise Men were indeed historical figures.”
The author then put forward his case for the real identity of the Three Wise Men.
He continued in January: “Just at the time of Jesus’ birth the Nabatean king, Aretas IV, had a strong motivation to send diplomats to the court of Herod with rich gifts.
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“Learning of the birth of a new king of the Jews by studying the stars, they set out on their historic journey.
“Coming from the neighbouring kingdom, it was not very far, but it was significant because they were not only diplomats bearing peace offerings.
“They were Wise Men on a spiritual quest to find their true king and the source of true wisdom.”
But there have been a number of theories over the real identity of the Three Wise Men over the year thanks to lack of description given in the Gospel of Matthew.
The phrase “from the east,” translates to “from the rising [of the Sun],” and is the only information Matthew provides about the region from which they came.
The Parthian Empire, centred in Persia, stretched from eastern Syria to the fringes of India, so tracking down the three men becomes near impossible