Chapter 2 - The Magic Kingdom

When I think of the magic kingdom, it usually has more to do with mice than the Magi. However, as I read Matt. 2 in Ruden's translation, the first few verses put magic in focus, and not in an amusement park sense. She describes the Magi as "diviners from where the sun rises" which sounds way more intriguing and magical than most English versions, which say something like "wise men from the east". Calling them diviners makes the magical part of what they do vary apparent.

The interaction between Herod and the diviners might be another discouraging example of various parties trying to manipulate each other for an advantage, but the Topic of their conversation brings hope. Matthew does some nice wordplay, it's almost like the diviners are saying, "We have come from the rising of the sun to see the rising of the star." To me, it seems like they're saying that what they are seeking is far more important than even the sun, which, of course, is true.

The translation also makes it clear how bad Herod really was - sly, manipulative, malevolent. He hears about the rising star and sees a threat rather than something to pursue. His reaction is to use the honest seekers for his dishonest ends. Not everyone who says they are looking for Jesus is doing so for good reasons, or from pure motives. Sometimes people try to turn Jesus into a tool for political or personal gain. The more things change...

I'm struck by the fact that, as I read this with new eyes, how much conflict and suffering there is around Jesus' birth. It's really not a peaceful manger scene--it's more like a cynical political thriller and there is violence and betrayal everywhere. The Magi give me hope--they were honest seekers. If they were flattered by Herod's invitations, or proud of their brush with power, they didn't let it distract them from their quest. I'm struck by their genuineness--who knows what they expected, but they rejoiced in and worshiped what they found.