Friday, February 13, 2009

Whence came they?

There are other possibilities as to the origins of the wise men who visited the Savior almost two millennia ago.

It is a belief of mine, that the wise men of Matthew 2 were Nephite prophets.

What! How can that be? Don't be silly! That's apostate! Not a chance.

These are only a few of the reactions that my ponderings have been met with on those few instances when I've shared this thought with others. But before you close up, think about this:
Alma 13:26 - "And it shall be made known unto just and holy men, by the mouth of Angels at the time of his coming, that the words of our fathers may be fulfilled..."

Helaman 16:7-8 - "...And [Samuel] did flee out of their lands, yea, even unto his own country, and began to preach to and prophesy among his own people. And behold, he was never heard more among the Nephites;"
Now coming close to the advent of the Savior, but still about a year before his birth we read:
Helaman 16:13-14 - "And the words of the prophets began to be fulfilled. And Angels did appear unto men, wise men, and did declare unto them glad tidings of great joy; thus in this year [BC 2] the scriptures began to be fulfilled."
Note: when Angels declare "glad tidings of great joy" they are always referring to the birth of the Savior.

Who was the prophet at the time the Angels appeared to wise men in the Book of Mormon? Nephi, the son of Helaman. Nephi, you might remember, had served the Lord for decades, he had been conferred the sealing powers and had been part of many miracles. The Book of Helaman, of which Nephi was the final author, closes with that visit and the contentious bickering of the unbelievers.

Nephi, the prophet, closes shop, turns things over to his son and leaves:
3 Nephi 1:2-3 - "And Nephi, the son of Helaman, had departed out of the land of Zarahemla, giving charge unto his son Nephi, who was his eldest son, concerning the plates of brass, and all the records which had been kept...Then he departed out of the land, and whither he went, no man knoweth; and his son Nephi did keep the records in his stead,"
Nephi, the elder prophet's sudden departure remained a cause for concern and speculation, because it is discussed later:
3 Nephi 2:9 - "And Nephi, who was the father of Nephi, who had the charge of the records, did not return to the land of Zarahemla, and could nowhere be found in all the land."
Now, of course, even if the Angels presented their message a year before Christ's birth, a journey back to Bethlehem must have taken time. How long? By the wise men's reckoning Herod had all the boys under the age of two put to death, that would mean the wise men arrived sometime in Jesus' second year.
Matthew 2:1-2 - "Now when Jesus was born...behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, where is he that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen his Star in the east and are come to worship him."
Following the footnote trail "in the east" refers to a place called Aram as a place in the east.
Matthew 2:7-16 - Then Herod, when he had privly called the wise men, inquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. Then Herod...slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men."

Matthew 2:11 - " And when they [the wise men] were come into the house..."
At the time the wise men visited, Joseph and Mary were no longer in a stable, but a house. time had passed since the birth.

As to the star, there is no Old Testament prophecy, as to the appearance of a star at the time of the Savior's birth, so far as I've found in my fumbling studies. However, returning to the Book of Mormon we find specific mention made of the new star at Christ's birth:
Helaman 14:5 - "And behold, [Samuel prophesied] there shall a new star arise, such as one as ye never have beheld;"

3 Nephi 1:21 - "And it came to pass also that a new star did appear, according to the word."
So, a star was predicted and expected in the new world. On the other hand, the closest old world star prophecy I've found is:
Isaiah 60:3 - "And the gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising."
The question also comes up: How could the Prophets have crossed the ocean? The first Nephi in the Book of Mormon took quite a while to build ships to get to the promised land. Nephi, the son of Helaman, on the other hand, lived in a time about 50 years since the ship building industry had been re-discovered by that odd man, Hagoth [see Alma 63:5]. The Nephites by this time were experienced sailors, and could have provided much needed aid.

I can only imagine that prophets who had diligently served the Lord would do everything in their power to pay personal homage to their master, face to face, if there was anything they could possibly do to make that happen.

I don't present this as doctrine, just my belief. The world is a big place and Magi-astrologers are certainly a possible source for the wise men of Matthew 2. I do, however, favor the picture of a faithful servant coming to his Savior's home to worship, praise and offer final acts of service to save his life as the crowning of a life's work. It makes so much sense to me.