Gifts of the Magi—Linguistically Speaking

By Maeve Maddox

A common sign of the Christmas season is the image of the Magi, the “smart guys from the east” pointed out in Matthew 2.
Matthew doesnt say how many magi made the journey, however due to the fact that they brought 3 gifts– gold, myrrh, and frankincense– custom has actually chosen three.
Whereas Matthew calls them merely “smart men,” they have happened called “kings” and “magi.”.
Magi is the plural of magus, a word connected with the ancient Persian priestly cast that included mathematicians and astronomers. Nowadays most folks probably have warm sensations for the 3 magi of the Christmas story, early Christians tended to associate the word magus with illegal magic. Among the villains in the Book of Acts is a Samaritan transform called Simon Magus, i.e., Simon the Magician. In time, magus in English came to be connected to numerous non-Christian priests. Nineteenth-century writers referred to Druid priests as magi.
The magis three presents have gotten different symbolic interpretations.
Gold, a word inherited from Germanic, signifies earthly wealth and splendor, a suitable gift for a king due to the fact that it is the most precious of metals. On the spiritual aircraft, gold represents the sum of human excellence.
Frankincense, “an aromatic gum resin, yielded by trees of the genus Boswellia,” is not inexpensive today. In the very first century, both frankincense and myrrh were most likely worth more than their weight in the 3rd gift.
In the context of the Nativity story, frankincense symbolizes divinity, whereas myrrh, from a Semitic root significance “bitter,” foreshadows suffering and sorrow. Frankincense is said to have an enjoyable woody, lemony aroma, whereas myrrh is said to have a less enjoyable, medical smell.
Artists depictions of the Magi usually reveal them carrying their presents in elaborate boxes, however for use, incense is burned in a perforated container suspended from chains. This device is called a censer or a thurible, from the Latin word for censer: turibulum.
I was pleased to discover the word thurible in a non-liturgical context, a drama evaluation in The Economist, of the West End production of Schillers Don Carlos:.
At the start of this production, a thurible breathing incense swings across the phase, which is lit by shafts of light from high windows.
No post about the Magi would be total without mentioning the “star” they are stated to have followed. I put star in quotation marks since the ancients described many of the celestial bodies as “stars,” despite the fact that they acknowledged the distinction in between the repaired stars and the moving planets. The Greek word for planet suggests “wanderer” and both the Greeks and Romans referred to the worlds as “roaming stars.”.
The gospel relates how “the star, which they saw in the east, preceded them, till it came and stood over where the young kid was.”.
Anybody who has ever sung “We Three Kings” can be forgiven for thinking of that the Magi followed the star like a tail light on the road ahead, visible every night as they traversed field and mountain, moor and water fountain, till they got to Bethlehem, where it stopped.
According to a post by David Weintraub, Professor of Astronomy, Vanderbilt University (on a science website called The Conversation) the “star” was most likely not a star, but a world. The English phrases “in the east” and “dominated” represent specific astronomical terms in the Greek original.
Weintraub says theres no requirement to think of the wise men actually following the celestial body. They would have had the ability to calculate its position and trajectory by means of mathematics.
As Lear stated, “Reason not the requirement.” I like the image of the star leading the way.

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Magi is the plural of magus, a word associated with the ancient Persian priestly cast that included mathematicians and astronomers. Nowadays most folks most likely have warm feelings for the 3 magi of the Christmas story, early Christians tended to associate the word magus with illicit magic. No post about the Magi would be total without discussing the “star” they are stated to have followed. I put star in quotation marks since the ancients referred to most of the heavenly bodies as “stars,” even though they recognized the difference between the repaired stars and the moving planets. The Greek word for planet suggests “wanderer” and both the Greeks and Romans referred to the planets as “roaming stars.”.

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