Fortress Press

The Magi: Who They Were, How They’ve Been Remembered, and Why They Still Fascinate

The Magi

Who They Were, How They’ve Been Remembered, and Why They Still Fascinate

Eric Vanden Eykel (Author)

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George Tyrrell insisted that the quest for the historical Jesus was no more than scholars staring into a well to see their own reflections staring back. Jesus is the mirror image of those who study him. A similar phenomenon accompanies the quest for the historical Magi, those mysterious travelers who came from theEast, following a star to Bethlehem.

In this work, ancient historian and scholar Eric Vanden Eykel helps readers better understand both the Magi and the ancient and modern interpreters who have tried to study them. He shows how, from a mere twelve verses in the Gospel of Matthew, a varied and vast literary and artistic tradition was born. The Magi examines the birth of the Magi story;its enrichments, embellishments, and expansions in apocryphal writing and early Christian preaching;its artistic expressions in catacombs, icons, and paintings and its modern legacy in novels, poetry, and music.

Throughout, the book explores the fascination the Magi story elicits in both ancient and modern readers and what the legacy of the Magi story tells us about its storytellers--and ourselves.

  • Publisher Fortress Press
  • Format Hardcover
  • ISBN 9781506473734
  • eBook ISBN 9781506473741
  • Dimensions 6.25 x 9.25
  • Pages 218
  • Publication Date October 25, 2022

Endorsements

"Despite being an integral part of the Christmas story, the journey of the Magi in Matthew's Gospel raises more questions than it answers. For such a bewildering array of traditions, Eric Vanden Eykel's study of the history of interpretation of the Magi story is a reliable and delightful guide to these mysterious strangers who have captivated so many readers."

Brent Landau, senior lecturer in religious studies, University of Texas at Austin, and author of Revelation of the Magi: The Lost Tale of the Wise Men's Journey to Bethlehem

"This book is lucidly and wittily written, making it accessible to a broad audience while also offering fascinating new avenues for scholars interested in the Gospel of Matthew and in the Magi. Without falling into the trap of repackaging old claims or pursuing novelty for novelty's sake, Vanden Eykel takes us on a cultural journey, allowing us to better understand the Magi in their world, and therefore, to better understand their place in the story of Jesus."

Shaily Patel, assistant professor of early Christianity, Virginia Tech

"Eric Vanden Eykel is clearly a consummate teacher--he excels at making difficult concepts and complicated histories comprehensible--but he is also an outstanding researcher, raising all the right questions and digging for the best available answers. The Magi is an exceedingly engaging and accessible book that any interested reader will enjoy, but even the specialist will learn something new. Vanden Eykel's expertise in apocryphal Christian literature and tradition is evident on every page."

Janet Spittler, associate professor of religious studies, University of Virginia, and coauthor of Reading Christian Apocrypha: Tradition, Interpretation, Practice

"Vanden Eykel steps around questions of the historicity of the Magi to focus on tracing their literary journey, from their origin in the Gospel of Matthew through selected ancient and modern transformations and interpretations. With wisdom and whimsy, Vanden Eykel gently guides readers through a detailed scholarly examination of the tale and effectively demonstrates how the brevity of the Magi's story invites other writers to supplement and adapt their search for a king for new audiences and new contexts. It is a thoroughly entertaining introduction not only to the story of the Magi but to ways of reading that can be used for all biblical narratives."

Tony Burke, professor of early Christianity, York University, and editor of New Testament Apocrypha: More Noncanonical Scriptures

"In this fascinating book, Eric Vanden Eykel examines the figures of the Magi from a variety of angles. Full of pertinent scholarship and historical data, The Magi also includes vivid descriptions of art as well as anecdotal stories that function as relatable teaching tools. Students, scholars, and congregations will appreciate this book and will never see the Magi in the same light after reading it."

Christy Cobb, assistant professor of religion, Wingate University, and author of Slavery, Gender, Truth, and Power in Luke-Acts and Other Ancient Narratives

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