What's wrong with Epiphany - Catholic Courier

What’s wrong with Epiphany

Each year on Jan. 6, the church celebrates the Feast of Epiphany, the 12th day of Christmas. In the U.S., this feast is observed on the Sunday that falls between Jan. 2 and 8. In popular culture, Epiphany is often depicted as the time when the Three Kings arrived, riding on camels, to visit Jesus on the day of his birth. And much of this depiction is dead wrong.

A review of the scriptural story (Matthew 2:1-12) reveals no mention of kings or camels visiting young Jesus. It does say that Wise Men, or "Magi from the East," traveled to "the place where the child was." The term "Magi" was originally used to describe a caste of learned priests, but it came to mean those who were wise and had great knowledge. There is no scriptural report that the Magi traveled on camels, and no indication that they were kings.

The number of Magi is not specified. Since the word "Magi" is plural, we can assume there were at least two Magi, and there could have been three Magi, but there could have been even more. The gifts they presented were three in number — gold, frankincense and myrrh — but this doesn’t mean that each gift was offered by one individual.

Matthew’s story makes no mention that Jesus was still lying in the manger when the Magi arrived and entered his "house." At this point, Jesus is called a "child," not a baby or infant. It certainly took place after Jesus was presented in the temple (Luke 2:22-39), since Matthew reports that immediately after the visit, the Holy Family took flight into Egypt. If we look to the plans of King Herod and the calculations of the Magi (Matthew 2:16), Jesus could have been up to 2 years old at the time the Magi appeared.

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