|Editorial||Lessons from Joseph|
|Current Events||This Week in the News|
|Q&A||Who were the magi or wise men in Matthew 2? How many were there?|
|The Work||Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock|
On December 26, 2009, Eric Rank will give the sermon, titled, respectively, “Glorification.”
The services can be heard at www.cognetservices.org (12:30 pm Pacific Time; 1:30 pm Mountain Time; 2:30 pm Central Time; 3:30 pm Eastern Time). Just click on Connect to Live Stream.
Lessons from Joseph
by Rene Messier (Canada)
One of the most moving and emotionally charged accounts in the Bible is the story of Joseph in chapters 37 to 50 of the book of Genesis–especially those Scriptures which describe his reconciliation with his brothers and the settlement of his father Jacob and his whole family in the land of Goshen in Egypt.
The record covers the jealousy of Joseph’s brothers because of his special relationship with God and Jacob; their original intent to murder him; and, due to Reuben’s intervention, their decision to sell him into slavery. It reports that the brothers deceived their father by presenting to him Joseph’s tunic of many colors which they had covered in animal blood; and relates how Joseph became a servant in the house of Potiphar in Egypt.
We can read about the famous episode of Potiphar’s wife trying to seduce Joseph; his rejection of her advances since he did not want to sin against God or betray his employer; and his imprisonment as a consequence. Because of his correct interpretation of two dreams, he came to the attention of Pharaoh. He was released from prison; rose to prominence in Egypt; and set aside grain to provide for food, as God had warned that a famine would come over the whole world. This famine caused Jacob to send his brothers to Egypt to buy food there. After several incidents, Joseph revealed himself to them and obtained the consent of Pharaoh to bring his whole family to Egypt in order to settle there.
Joseph set an inspiring example for us in the way he directed his life, and how he coped with the trials which he faced.
He was betrayed by his brothers; and while he was testing them later to see whether they had repented, there is no account of him seeking revenge for their misdeeds. While in Potiphar’s household, he was faithful in his responsibilities and resisted the easy temptation and continued insistence of Potiphar’s wife to commit adultery with her. He set a fine example for young men in this day and age who may encounter similar temptations, and he showed a solid foundation in not wanting to sin against God.
Due to the lies and false accusations of Potiphar’s wife, he went to jail, but while waiting patiently for God’s intervention, he found favor with the keeper of the prison. He eventually was released and rose in power and authority within the Egyptian ruling class, and he finally understood that God had planned from the outset to bring him to Egypt and give him great power in order to be able to save millions of people from famine. Ultimately, he was able to reconcile with his brothers and present himself to his father Jacob, who had thought him dead for many years. All of this shows that with endurance and continued trust in God and His plan for us, things will eventually work out for good.
For those of us who are called in this day and age and who will be given eternal life at Christ’s coming, we will ultimately experience the great joy of an emotional reunion with our families who were not called to salvation in this life, but who will be raised in the Second Resurrection. As Joseph’s brothers realized what they had done and bitterly repented, so we will be able to assist our relatives in their choice to accept Christ as their Savior and walk in God’s way which will lead to eternal life for them. Imagine their surprise when they see they have been raised from the dead as physical beings and see us alive–as glorified beings. And as Joseph was able to satisfy the physical needs of his family members, so we will be able, on a much greater level, to take care of our relatives in physical and spiritual ways.
Joseph’s inspiring example contains the abiding lesson for all of us that patient endurance of our trials and unwavering faith in God will bring a positive, joyful and successful outcome–not just for us, but also for others.
We begin with reports on the health care “reform.” On December 21, the Senate conducted the first of several procedural votes needed before a vote on the bill could take place on December 24. While Republicans were unanimously opposed, Democrats managed to muster the necessary 60 votes. Politics went into high gear when Democratic votes were only secured after granting special concessions–a procedure which was criticized as “corrupt” and “bribery.”
The Wall Street Journal wrote on December 21: “Change Nobody Believes In. A bill so reckless that it has to be rammed through on a partisan vote on Christmas eve. And tidings of comfort and joy from Harry Reid too… Mr. Obama promised a new era of transparent good government, yet on Saturday morning Mr. Reid threw out the 2,100-page bill that the world’s greatest deliberative body spent just 17 days debating and replaced it with a new ‘manager’s amendment’ that was stapled together in covert partisan negotiations. Democrats are barely even bothering to pretend to care what’s in it, not that any Senator had the chance to digest it in the 38 hours before the first cloture vote at 1 a.m. this morning… Even in World War I there was a Christmas truce.
“The rushed, secretive way that a bill this destructive and unpopular is being forced on the country shows that ‘reform’ has devolved into the raw exercise of political power for the single purpose of permanently expanding the American entitlement state. An increasing roll of leaders in health care and business are looking on aghast at a bill that is so large and convoluted that no one can truly understand it, as Finance Chairman Max Baucus admitted on the floor last week. The only goal is to ram it into law while the political window is still open, and clean up the mess later.”
On December 24, the Senate adopted the new health care bill. As USA Today reported, “It was the first time since 1963 that the Senate met on the day before Christmas and the first time since 1895 that senators cast a roll call vote on this day… The bill would require most individuals to purchase health insurance and offer subsidies for those who cannot afford the coverage. It also makes companies with more than 50 employees subject to penalties if they do not provide health care and their workers require subsidies…
“The Senate vote now sends the legislation to a conference committee, where Democratic leaders will try to reconcile differences between House and Senate bills on such things as how to pay for health care; how to help low- and middle-income-earners pay for the insurance they will be required to buy; and what restrictions to place on insurance coverage for abortions. The committee cannot formally meet or take action until Jan. 19… Republicans are vowing to wage a public relations campaign to derail the legislation before the next round of votes…”
Turning our attention to the climate summit in Copenhagen, President Obama announced an “unprecedented breakthrough.” However, what was achieved was a non-binding “agreement” between just five nations. It has been described as a trick; and the Copenhagen summit was labeled as an “utter failure”; and the Obama Administration and China are being blamed for it. The summit has received so much negative coverage in the European press that it was coined “Flopenhagen.” While most news reports regret that no results were obtained, the German conservative paper, Die Welt, warns that our approach toward perceived man-made global warming might be totally off track.
We also tell you about continued bank failures in the USA–with no end of the recession in sight; the incredible appointment of President Obama’s “safe schools czar”; another example why our legal system does NOT work, reporting on the conviction of an innocent person; strained relations between the Vatican and Israel; and conclude with an article about ambitions of the Habsburg family to run for the Austrian presidency.
This Week in the News
How Votes Are “Bought”…
Fox News reported on December 21:
“Sen. Ben Nelson [is] hardly the only lawmaker extracting sweetheart deals out of the health care reform bill. While the Nebraska Democrat got a particularly juicy concession in exchange for a ‘yes’ vote on the 10-year, $871 billion package — permanent and full federal aid for his state’s expanded Medicaid population — support from a slew of other senators likewise came with a price…
“Senate Democrats said the payoffs are nothing unusual, and in fact typical. ‘People fight for their own states. That’s the nature of a democracy,’ Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said… ‘This is just part of the normal legislative process,’ said Jim Manley, spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
“As a measure of just how typical they are, a slew of payoffs and concessions have been struck over the past several months.
“Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., won between $100 million and $300 million in additional federal aid for her state’s Medicaid population. The deal, secured before she cast her critical vote in favor of bringing the health bill to the floor, was immediately dubbed the ‘Louisiana Purchase,’ though the actual Louisiana Purchase was considerably cheaper.
“Vermont and Massachusetts got $1.2 billion in Medicaid money… Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders also boasted Saturday that he requested and won an investment worth between $10 and $14 billion for community health centers.
“Western states secured higher federal reimbursement rates for doctors and hospitals that serve Medicare patients. The provision covers the low-population ‘frontier’ states and applies to Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah and Wyoming — the latter two states are both represented by two Republicans, but ended up as beneficiaries anyway since they qualify…
“Florida, New York and Pennsylvania — where five of six senators are Democrats — will have their seniors’ Medicare Advantage benefits protected, even as the program sees massive cuts elsewhere. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., reportedly secured expanded Medicare coverage for victims of asbestos exposure in a mine in Libby, Mont.
“One unknown state is receiving $100 million for a ‘health care facility’ affiliated with an academic health center at a university that contains the state’s only ‘public academic medical and dental school.’ It’s unclear for which state that language was written.
“Nebraska’s Nelson won permanent federal aid for his state’s expanded Medicaid population, a benefit worth up to $100 million over 10 years. Other states get the federal aid for three years, but Nebraska’s benefit is indefinite. His state also got an exemption for nonprofit insurance companies from a health insurance company tax. Many believe this was targeted at Mutual of Omaha, but senior Democratic aides would not confirm that…”
Whatever will come out of this, the methods and means used do not “sanctify” the outcome. God hates corruption, bribery, payoffs and political maneuvering for personal gains. “Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it” (Psalm 127:1).
President Obama Blamed for “Copenhagen Debacle”
The Associated Press reported on December 18:
“President Barack Obama said the United States, China and several other countries reached an ‘unprecedented breakthrough’ Friday to curb greenhouse gas emissions – including a mechanism to verify compliance – after a frenzied day of diplomacy at the U.N. climate talks. The agreement, which also includes the developing nations of India, South Africa and Brazil, requires each country to list the actions they will take to cut global warming pollution by specific amounts, a senior Obama administration official said…
“The U.S. got its share of blame… Obama may eventually become known as ‘the man who killed Copenhagen,’ said Greenpeace U.S. Executive Director Phil Radford… Swedish Environment Minister Andreas Carlgren, negotiating on behalf of the 27-nation European Union, blamed the impasse on the Chinese for ‘blocking again and again,’ and on the U.S. for coming too late with an improved offer…”
Der Spiegel Online wrote on December 19 that President Obama did not appear in Copenhagen as the “Messiah,” but as the “Debunked” or “Disenchanted.” The magazine also wrote that one participant at the summit said that President Obama offered developing nations “30 pieces of silver” for their future.
Deutsche Welle reported on December 19:
“For US President Barack Obama, Copenhagen offers no good news. His last trip in Copenhagen was his failed attempt to bring the 2016 Olympics to Chicago. Now with the stakes much higher, he has failed again. His speech was good – but others like Brazil’s Lula da Silva were better. His effort was good, but simply not good enough. In terms of his leadership, there was little to be seen.”
Der Spiegel Online wrote on December 19:
“What a disaster. The climate summit in Copenhagen has failed because of the hardball politicking of the United States, China and several other countries — and because people just can’t seem to fathom how catastrophic climate change will be… The debacle of Copenhagen is also Barack Obama’s debacle…
“When it comes to immediate assistance for impoverished countries, the United States intends to contribute a total of $3.6 billion between 2010 and 2012. But, if you compare that with what other regions contribute, this figure appears rather miserly. The European Union plans to contribute about $10.6 billion, or about three times as much. And even Japan is chipping in $11 billion. In poor countries, people are presumably confused about whether they should laugh or cry about the US contribution.”
The world is turning away from confidence in American leadership. As the next selection of articles shows, some strongly implore Europe to take a leading role in the world. Bible prophecy reveals that while the USA will drift further and further into political oblivion, Europe will emerge as the most powerful entity on the planet.
Now What After “Flopenhagen”?
Deutsche Welle reported on December 21:
“After the widely disappointing UN Climate Conference in Copenhagen – aka ‘Flopenhagen’ – European editorialists let the bitter comments flow… Britain’s Guardian newspaper saw positives alongside negatives in the outcome of the conference… ‘while the Copenhagen product is every inch the sham that campaigners say it is, the Copenhagen process has set important precedents,’ the Guardian wrote. ‘Most obviously …the sheer fact that it took place – and at such a high political level – means it will probably do so again.’…
“Taking a harsher line, left-leaning French newspaper La Libération oozed disappointment in the ‘large countries which, in a delirium of diplomatic ineptitude and the blindness of superiority, torpedoed the binding worldwide accord’ they had hoped for. The paper pitched for the EU to take immediate, unilateral action: ‘Eco-reformers need to focus on the US and China,’ it wrote… ‘If the EU took the necessary actions from its side, it would jump to the head of the movement. Then the fiasco of Copenhagen could be overcome step by step’…
“German editorialists were less inclined to focus on positive signals from the conference. The Sueddeutsche Zeitung called the Copenhagen summit an ‘insult to the world community,’ noting that ‘never were expectations for a climate conference higher, and never before were so many heads of state and government officials in one place, meeting to solve one single problem. But they didn’t solve it – they made it worse’…
“Finally, the Stuttgarter Zeitung expressed the disappointment felt by many in Europe when they compared US President Barack Obama’s focus on China and other developing countries with his relative lack of interest in the European negotiators… ‘The trans-Atlantic relationship is coming up on hard times. Barack Obama showed one thing for certain in Copenhagen: His focus will be on the trans-Pacific axis with China,’ [the paper wrote].”
Der Spiegel Online added on December 21:
“German papers on Monday are scathing in their criticism of the climate conference and most are resoundingly pessimistic about the prospects for ever reaching an agreement in the future… The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes: ‘Above all national selfishness stood in the way of an agreement… That can only change if such a refusal has consequences. There are already methods of imposing sanctions…’
“The Financial Times Deutschland writes: ‘Forget Copenhagen, now we are making a climate treaty in 2010 in Bonn and Mexico. That is the message from those who are talking up the conference, and trying to sell the result as some kind of progress. But after the fiasco there is no sensible reason for assuming that things will be any better next year. From the very beginning it was an illusion to believe that the two biggest climate sinners — China and the US — would allow themselves to be roped into a binding agreement with clear emissions targets and international monitoring’…
“The conservative Die Welt writes: ‘Even if Chancellor Merkel is warning people not to bad mouth the climate summit, the result is still deplorable. Over 40,000 politicians, diplomats, scientists, journalists, lobbyists and NGO activists traveled there to save the world. One hundred and forty private jets landed, 1,200 limousines ferried delegates around. The feverish summit, which gave a new name to gigantism, offered a soapbox for alarmists and the self-important. But now it is time to consider whether smaller, more matter-of-fact conferences would make more sense. It would also mean allowing those scientists to speak who have expressed well-founded doubts about the scenarios presented by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). They have many facts on their side.
“‘Evaluation would be more appropriate than roaring that the world is about to end. The question of whether binding and dramatic limits of CO2 emissions are the only correct way to protect the climate must also be revisited. This is not only dogmatic but would also cost a fortune and have little effect. The plan to limit the average rise in the global temperature to 2 degrees Celsius is the most expensive task of all time. … Besides, it is a figure that has been set arbitrarily. The one-sided fixation on CO2 limits could be a greater detriment to the global economy than climate change itself. A global competition for the cleanest energy production and investments in saving and replanting forests would be more useful than the rabid caps in emissions at the cost of economic growth.’
“The center-right Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes: ‘The climate summit in Copenhagen was no success — not even a small one. That’s why one can’t bad mouth the results, which Merkel has warned them not to do. No one can make them sound better than they are: Copenhagen was an all-out failure. … How this (process) is to be brought to an end in the next year remains a mystery. The format of the consultations at the UN level, in which every member state can exercise veto power, holds no promise for any success…'”
More U.S. Banks Fail…
The Associated Press reported on December 18:
“Regulators on Friday shut down two big California banks, as well as banks in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Illinois, bringing to 140 the number of U.S. banks brought down this year by the weak economy and mounting loan defaults. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. took over all seven. Regulators shuttered First Federal Bank of California…[and] Imperial Capital Bank… [bringing] to 17 the number of California banks to fail this year…
“As the economy has slumped, with unemployment rising, home prices tumbling and loan defaults soaring, bank failures have accelerated around the country. The 140 bank failures are the most in a year since 1992 at the height of the savings-and-loan crisis. They have cost the government-backed deposit insurance fund – which has fallen into the red – more than $30 billion so far this year. The failures compare with 25 last year and three in 2007. The FDIC expects the cost of bank failures to grow to about $100 billion over the next four years…
“If the economic recovery falters, defaults on the high-risk loans could spike. Nearly $500 billion in commercial real estate loans are expected to come due annually over the next few years. Last week, the Obama administration extended until next October the $700 billion financial bailout program, saying the fund was still needed to prevent further turmoil in the banking system.”
Reality is sinking in that the recession is by no means ending–expressions of political correctness notwithstanding. The Bible shows that in these last days, the political, economic and even military downfall of the USA will be accelerating.
Obama Czar “Promotes Sex Between Children and Adults”
On December 9, the Washington Times reported the following:
“The Obama administration is stonewalling serious inquiries about sexual filth propagated by a senior presidential appointee who is responsible for promoting and implementing federal education policy. Democrats clearly are terrified of ruffling the feathers of their activist homosexual supporters, who are an influential part of the Democratic party’s base. This scandal, however, is not merely about homosexual behavior; it is about promoting sex between children and adults – and it’s time for President Obama to make clear that abetting such illegal perversion has no place in his administration.
“It is curious why White House officials and Education Secretary Arne Duncan believe it’s worth… politically to continue taking arrows for defending Kevin Jennings, who is Mr. Obama’s controversial ‘safe schools czar.’ The evidence suggesting he is unfit to serve as a senior presidential appointee is startling and plentiful. It was revealed this week that Mr. Jennings was involved in promoting a reading list for children 13 years old or older that made the most explicit sex between children and adults seem normal and acceptable…
“But there is more. There are shocking new revelations this week of tape recordings from a youth conference involving 14-year-old students. The conference, billed as a forum to encourage tolerance of homosexuality, was sponsored by Mr. Jennings’ organization and was held at Tufts University in March 2000. Mr. Jennings was executive director of the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) from its founding in 1995 until August 2008. The conference sessions appear to have had less to do with promoting tolerance and more to do with teaching children how to engage in sex.
“Andrew Breitbart’s Biggovernment.com provides tapes of some of the sessions. Describing the subject matter as smut would be putting it lightly. The conference discussions were very graphic… Teaching children sexual techniques is simply not appropriate. Unfortunately, it is part of a consistent pattern by some homosexual activists to promote underage homosexuality while pretending that their mission is simply to promote tolerance for so-called alternative lifestyles. It is outrageous that someone involved in this scandal is being paid by the taxpayers to serve in a high-powered position at the Education Department, of all places.”
This is awful. The agenda of homosexual activists destroys the very fabric of our nation. When innocent children become victims in the hands of these kinds of influences, which are not restricted by our leadership, then we should know that the end of this God-defying civilization is drawing near (compare 2 Peter 2:4-9; 3:1-13; Jude 5-7).
But “Our Legal System Works…”???
CNN reported on December 17:
“After more than three decades in prison, a man in Florida was set free Thursday after a DNA test showed he did not kidnap and rape a 9-year-old boy in 1974. James Bain, 54, was 19 when he was convicted on charges of kidnapping, burglary and strong-arm rape… Bain was serving a life sentence… Of the 245 people in the United States who have been exonerated by DNA testing, none has spent more time behind bars than Bain…
“Bain was convicted in 1974 of taking a 9-year-old Lake Wales, Florida, boy from his bed and raping him. According to police records, the victim told police that he fell asleep with his brothers and sisters, but when he woke up a man was dragging him by a baseball field. The boy said he was forced to the ground and raped. The Lake Wales police report says that the boy told police that his attacker had bushy sideburns and a mustache. After being shown five photographs of potential suspects, the report says, the victim picked out the photo of Bain…
“Florida in 2001 passed a statute allowing cases to be reopened for DNA testing. Four times Bain submitted handwritten motions seeking such testing, only to be denied. His fifth try was successful only after an appeals court ruled that he was entitled to a hearing… His twin sister, Jannie Jones, told police that James was home with her, watching a popular television medical drama called ‘Medical Center’ at the time of the attack.”
The Bible prohibits the conviction of an accused unless at least two eye witnesses agree on and confirm the facts of the underlying charge. If, however, the witness lied or was negligent in his or her testimony, he or she had to be punished.
Strained Relations Between Vatican and Israel
Deutsche Welle reported on December 19:
“Pope Benedict XVI is facing criticism after he put a controversial wartime predecessor one step closer to sainthood. Jewish groups say Pope Pius XII did not do enough to save Jewish lives during the Second World War… Pope Benedict has approved a decree that recognizes the pontiff, who is accused of doing too little to help Europe’s Jews during World War II, as having ‘heroic virtues.’ The posthumous honor gives the former pope the title ‘venerable’ and places him two steps from full canonization.
“Pius XI has been accused of turning a blind eye to the Nazi genocide of the Jews, in a controversy that has strained relations between the Vatican and Israel… Attempts to beatify the former pope had been described as ‘unacceptable’ by Israel’s social affairs minister Isaac Herzog… ‘Throughout the period of the Holocaust, the Vatican knew very well what was happening in Europe,’ Herzog told the Haaretz newspaper in 2008.”
The New York Times added on December 23:
“In an effort to calm growing tensions with Jewish groups, the Vatican said Wednesday that Pope Benedict XVI’s decision moving the wartime pope Pius XII closer to sainthood was not a ‘hostile act’ against those who believe Pius did not do enough to stop the Holocaust. The Vatican spokesman… issued a statement saying that the beatification process evaluated the ‘Christian life’ of Pius, who reigned from 1939 to 1958, and not ‘the historical impact of all his operative decisions’… Benedict confirmed the ‘heroic virtues’ of Pius — along with those of John Paul II — on Saturday, opening the door to beatification once a miracle is attributed to each. A second miracle would be required for sainthood.
“The move created anger among many Jewish groups, which have argued that Pius did not speak out vocally enough against the Nazis or intervene to save Jews during World War II, and that the Vatican helped many former Nazis escape to South America after World War II. The decision by Benedict — a German who was an unwilling member of the Hitler Youth — to move Pius closer to sainthood was the latest in a series of controversies. It came less than a year after he revoked the excommunication of a schismatic bishop who had denied the scope of the Holocaust, an act that caused the pope and the Vatican to issue a series of extensive clarifications. Benedict also upset many Jews when he did not directly mention the Nazis or Germany during a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Israel in May, as John Paul II had done, although Benedict has denounced the Holocaust on many other occasions…
“[The Vatican spokesman] added that the Vatican hoped the pope’s expected visit to the Rome synagogue next month would reaffirm ties between Judaism and the Roman Catholic Church… The legacy of Pius is particularly sensitive for the Jewish community in Rome. More than 1,000 of its members were rounded up in 1943 and deported to Auschwitz. Documents in the Vatican archives indicate that Pius knew of the deportation and did not act to stop it.”
The Bible shows that ultimately, the Roman Catholic Church will be at odds with Israel. In spite of wrong assumptions taught by some, there is nothing in the Bible prophesying a future friendship pact, contract or treaty between Catholic Europe and the state of Israel, which will allegedly last for 3 1/2 years. Rather, the relationship between these two entities will steadily deteriorate. For more information, please read our Q&A on Daniel 9:27.
Will the Habsburgs Run for Presidency?
Europe World News reported on December 16:
“Austria’s Habsburg family suffered a blow in their bid for the Austrian presidency Wednesday, after the country’s Constitutional Court delayed a ruling on whether the former rulers could be barred from running for office until after forthcoming elections. Ulrich Habsburg-Lothringen and his daughter-in-law Gabriele Maria Habsburg-Lothringen are seeking to overturn a clause in the constitution that excludes members of current or former ruling families from being elected head of state. The court said it has no mandate to take up the matter before the elections in April – but advised the Habsburgs on how to proceed in order to have their case heard eventually.
“They should formally announce their candidature, which would be rejected by the national election authority, and Habsburg-Lothringen and his daughter-in-law could then contest the decision at the court. ‘Of course, I will follow through with this,’ said Ulrich Habsburg-Lothringen, 68. He is a third-degree nephew of Otto von Habsburg, the son of the last emperor Charles. He is set to run as an independent candidate, but the Green party, along with the far-right Freedom Party, has said it wants to change the constitution so that former ruling nobility can be elected. Habsburg-Lothringen said he was confident that he could collect the 6,000 signatures necessary to launch a presidential bid.”
This development is worth watching, as the Bible says that modern Europe will unite as the tenth resurrection of the ancient Roman Empire, and the Habsburgs (under Charles V.) constituted the seventh revival of the Roman Empire (and the fourth revival of the Holy Roman Empire). For more information, please read our free booklet, “Europe in Prophecy.”
Who were the magi or wise men in Matthew 2? How many were there?
Surprisingly to many, the “magi” were neither “astrologers,” nor did they visit Joseph, Mary and the Christ Child in the inn, nor is it biblically revealed how many there were. However, there are traditions which would support the idea that they were twelve, not three, as commonly assumed.
The idea that they were “astrologers” derived, in part, from the fact that the magi saw Christ’s “star” (compare Matthew 2:2). But this was clearly not an ordinary star, as J.H. Blunt, The Annotated Bible, confirms. He says: “Taking the evidence into account, and not mere conjecture, the star must have been an appearance of a supernatural kind… [It] guided them westward to Jerusalem… it afterwards moved in a manner so different from that of fixed stars, planets or even ordinary comets, that they could distinguish its motion as leading them six miles southward to Bethlehem… then it ‘stood,’ as ‘stars’ are never known to stand still… it may have been a guiding angel… and such an idea is in accordance with that of ancient art which represents the star as a child [of course, the Bible never represents angels as children or babies] bearing a scepter and surrounded by a star-like glory…”
The Bible describes at times angels as stars (compare Revelation 1:20; Isaiah 14:13; Job 38:7); so it appears certain that this “star,” which was not always visible to the “magi,” was an angel who showed them the way to the place where Christ dwelled. At that time, Christ was no longer in a manger or an inn. Rather, He was now in a house (compare Matthew 2:11). Blunt states that some time had passed since His birth, “for the Presentation in the Temple had taken place… and during the interval the Holy Family had doubtless left the public inn for a private dwelling-house.”
We stated the following in a recent Q&A (Update 422):
“The whole Christmas manger scene is a complete fraud. There were no wise men at the manger. The number of the wise men is not specified. It is only stated that they gave three types of gifts, but they didn’t see Christ until He was a young child. At that time, He was no longer in a manger, but lived in a house (Matthew 2:11). According to Matthew 2:16, Christ was at that time perhaps as old as two years, since King Herod had all children two and under killed, based on the information which he had received from the wise men.”
In this regard, let us also quote from our booklet, “Is that in the Bible?–Man’s Holidays or God’s Holy Days”:
“The Archbishop of Canterbury said that the Christmas story of the ‘Three Wise Men’ was nothing but a ‘legend.’ The British Daily Telegraph reported on December 20, 2007: ‘Dr Rowan Williams has claimed that there was certainly nothing to prove there were three of them… or that they were kings. He said the only reference to the wise men from the East was in Matthew’s gospel and the details were very vague. Dr Williams said: “Matthew’s gospel says they are astrologers, wise men, priests from somewhere outside the Roman Empire, that’s all we’re really told. It works quite well as legend.”
“’The Archbishop went on to dispel other details of the Christmas story, adding that there were probably no asses or oxen in the stable. He also argued that Christmas cards which showed the Virgin Mary cradling the baby Jesus, flanked by shepherds and wise men, were misleading. As for the scenes that depicted snow falling in Bethlehem, the Archbishop said the chance of this was “very unlikely”. He added that Jesus was probably not born in December at all. He said: “Christmas was when it was because it fitted well with the winter festival.”‘”
But as we will show, the “magi” were not astrologers, either. The Church of England came up with even more spectacular conclusions in the past. The Telegraph reported on February 11, 2004: “The Three Wise Men who brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the infant Jesus may not have been particularly wise and could have been women, the Church of England has ruled.”
This is of course utter nonsense.
First, let us quote from additional commentaries and encyclopedias which describe the nature of the “magi” or “wise men.”
The Bible Encyclopedia states:
“The term ‘wise men’ appears 44 times in the Bible, and the meaning varies somewhat. The first mention of ‘wise men’ is in the account of Jacob’s son, Joseph, in Genesis 41:8 where it says that the pharaoh ‘called for all the magicians of Egypt and all its wise men’ [Hebrew: chakam] to interpret his dream. Chakam means intelligent, skillful, artful or cunning man. This same word is used throughout the rest of the Old Testament, except in the Book of Daniel. In Daniel, the word used in the original language is chakamim or chakkiym from a root corresponding to chakam. The first of these ‘wise men’ is mentioned in Daniel 2:12…
“[Regarding the] Magi who worshipped Jesus [the word] translated ‘wise men’ is the Greek word magos. This is the same as magus, an old Persian word equivalent to the chakam of the Old Testament (above). Magi is the plural of magus… There is no indication that they practiced sorcery or claimed magical powers. Their recorded conduct is sincere and worshipful. They appear to have researched the Old Testament and believed its prophecies about the Messiah… The record does not specifically say that there were three, or that they were kings… but there was obvious wealth involved… These magi did not arrive until possibly almost two years after Christ’s birth, certainly sometime after his presentation in the Temple (Luke 2:22-39)… There is no mention of camels or any mode of transportation in the biblical record. There is also no mention of their names…”
The Catholic Encyclopedia adds:
“No Father of the Church holds the Magi to have been kings… Neither were they magicians… The Gospel narrative omits to mention the number of the Magi, and there is no certain tradition in this matter. Some Fathers speak of three Magi; they are very likely influenced by the number of gifts. In the Orient, tradition favours twelve.”
The Lutheran Church published the following comments:
“There is no conclusive evidence that they were kings… How many magi were there? Unknown. Matthew 2:1-16 simply uses the plural… Where did they come from? The only thing we can say with certainty is ‘from the east’ (Matthew 2:1). Our best knowledge is that members of the Magian priesthood existed in [the] Parthian empire at this time, which encompassed a large area to the east of the eastern frontier of the Roman Empire… Did the magi visit baby Jesus while He was still in the manger? No. Matthew’s Gospel clearly says that the magi entered a house (2:11).”
On December 18, 2001, the Meredian Magazine published an article, titled, “Who Were The Wise Men?” It pointed out:
“Among the more intriguing figures in the scriptures are the wise men who visited the infant Jesus. The story of their journey to Bethlehem is found in the Gospel of Matthew, where we learn that they came ‘from the east’ (Matthew 2:1-2) when Jesus was apparently two years old (Matthew 2:1-2, 7, 16). By that time, Mary and Joseph were no longer in the place where the shepherds had found them (Luke 2:7), but in a house (Matthew 2:11)…
“What… did the wise men follow from Jerusalem to Bethlehem? We cannot know for certain, but it is interesting that an early Christian document indicates that it was an angel in the guise of a star… Some early traditions indicate that there were twelve wise men. The most prevalent tradition says they were three kings, their number derived from the three gifts they brought: gold, frankincense, and myrrh (Matthew 2:11)…”
However, as we point out in our booklet, “Don’t Keep Christmas,” the conclusion that there were three magi, based on the three types of gifts, is not compelling:
“The P.M. magazine published an article some time ago, entitled, ‘What do we know about the Three Holy Kings?’ It pointed out:
“’That they… became kings, can be accredited to the theologian Tertullian (160 until 220). He wrote, “in the east, Magi were normally kings.” So we see how quickly the wise men of the Bible had become kings… According to Persian tradition, these Magi were descendants of the ancient Median priesthood… In the gospel, we are not told how many they were. The oriental churches speak of twelve Magi.
“’Jacob of Edessa (640-708), one of the most important ancient writers of the Church of the Jacobites, writes: “The Magi were from Persia, but they were not three, as portrayed by artists for the people, as derived from the threeness of the gifts of gold, myrrh and frankincense, but rather twelve, as can be seen in many traditions. Those who came were princes and well-respected persons from the country of Persia. Many people, more than a thousand men, accompanied them, so that Jerusalem became very excited when they arrived.”‘
“The article also speculates that the number of the Magi was reduced to ‘three,’ not because of the three types of gifts mentioned, but because another argument for the Trinity was searched for. Allegedly, the remains of the ‘three kings’ rest today in the dome of Cologne in Germany. However, P.M. notes that ‘the garments, in which the bones are wrapped, were made in the second or third century after Christ in Syria.’”
Over 20 years ago, the Worldwide Church of God published the following comments about the “Magi”:
“Many people believe that the Magi were astrologers. However, God condemns astrology (Deut. 4:15, 19; 17:2-5; Isa. 47:13-14)… One of God’s most righteous men [Daniel] was made leader of the Babylonian magi [“wise men” or “magi” in Daniel 2:48]! Since Daniel remained in this position for a long time, this Bible example proves there was at least one righteous magus–Daniel… Now who were the Magi of Matthew 2? And where did they come from?…
“Matthew says the Magi are from ‘the east’ (or ‘eastern parts’…) or the distant East… One great empire east of the Euphrates… conquered the lands east of the Euphrates area, had Babylon as its capital, and included the areas of Persia, Bactria, etc. It was the Parthian Empire… the Parthians rose to power around 250 B.C. in and around the southern shores of the Caspian Sea. That was the very land into which the house of Israel–not Judah–was exiled. The exiles in this land were members of the ten tribes of Israel. The Parthian Empire included exiles from the lost ten tribes of Israel–many of whom remained in the land of their captivity until about A.D. 226. Certain of the ancient magi could claim Abraham as their father (see McClintock and Strong’s Cyclopedia, article, ‘Magi.’) Thus, historical and biblical evidence reveals that the Magi of Matthew 2 were not astrologers whose observations of heavenly bodies led them to the Christ Child. Instead, they were representatives of the tribes of Israel in exile who were led to their King by an angel…”
Following this rationale and concept, then additional interesting aspects would be worth considering: Since the Jew Daniel was one of the righteous “magi,” and he and many other Jewish exiles lived in Babylon as captives, after King Nebuchadnezzar had conquered the house of Judah, and since the Parthian Empire subsequently absorbed the Babylonian Empire, it stands to reason that Jews continued to live in the Parthian Empire, and that they still dwelled there at the time of the birth of Christ. The tradition that it was TWELVE magi who visited Christ would be quite interesting, in that the magi could have been representatives of ALL the twelve tribes of Israel AND Judah (being descendants of the TWELVE sons of Jacob or Israel), who were led by an angel to their King.
Jesus was called the King of the Jews (Matthew 2:2; 27:11, 37), as well as the King of Israel (John 1:49; 12:13). He will also be recognized as the King of all peoples (Isaiah 2:2-4; 9:6-7; Daniel 7:14), and the time will come when ALL nations will accept Him as their King and obey, honor and worship Him (Philippians 2:9-11).
Lead Writer: Norbert Link
Preaching the Gospel and Feeding the Flock
A new StandingWatch program was posted on StandingWatch and You Tube. It is titled, Religious Persecution in Germany? The following is a summary: Surely, there could not be lack or violation of religious freedom in Germany! Don’t be too convinced! And what’s worse, the Bible prophesies that continental Europe will soon begin–as it did in the past–to inflict tremendous persecution on all those who don’t agree with the EU’s religious concepts of “Christianity.” Don’t be duped into thinking it could not happen.
A new German sermon, titled, “Du Sollst Nicht Luegen, Teil 2” (“You shall Not Lie, Part 2”), was posted on the Web.
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This Update is an official publication by the ministry of the Church of the Eternal God in the United States of America; the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship in Canada; and the Global Church of God in the United Kingdom.
Editorial Team: Norbert Link, Dave Harris, Rene Messier, Brian Gale, Margaret Adair, Johanna Link, Eric Rank, Michael Link, Anna Link, Kalon Mitchell, Manuela Mitchell, Dawn Thompson
Technical Team: Eric Rank, Shana Rank
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