Friday, December 23, 2016

Matthew 2:1-12

My sister has sent us a beautiful trifold Christmas card that opens up to show a 15th century painting of the adoration of the magi. As my wife and I were admiring the painting, we had to admit that neither of us really knew the details of this Bible story. So we consulted our King James Version. We were surprised by what we read. For example, I hadn't known that before visiting Jesus, the wise men checked in with Herod when they arrived; nor had I known that the news they brought raised an alarm in all of Jerusalem. I hadn't known that Herod tried to use the wise men to locate the infant, nor that the wise men sneaked out of town rather than tell Herod where Jesus lived. The story is far more ominous than I had understood. (Herod's instruction to the wise men is especially chilling to read.)

In case you prefer a more accurate translation than the KJV, below I have collected together the ESV, NET, and NRSV. These differ among themselves only in small ways.

And for your enjoyment as we head into the Christmas weekend, here is the beautiful painting from my sister's card: Adoration of the Magi, by Gentile da Fabrano (1385–1427). A larger image is here.



Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him." 3When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet

6"'And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
    are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
    who will shepherd my people Israel.'"

7Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him." 9After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

        —ESV, available online.


1After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, in the time of King Herod, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem 2saying, "Where is the one who is born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him." 3When King Herod heard this he was alarmed, and all Jerusalem with him. 4After assembling all the chief priests and experts in the law, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. 5"In Bethlehem of Judea," they said, "for it is written this way by the prophet: 

   6'And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
   are in no way least among the rulers of Judah,
   for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.'"

7Then Herod privately summoned the wise men and determined from them when the star had appeared. 8He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and look carefully for the child. When you find him, inform me so that I can go and worship him as well." 9After listening to the king they left, and once again the star they saw when it rose led them until it stopped above the place where the child was. 10When they saw the star they shouted joyfully. 11As they came into the house and saw the child with Mary his mother, they bowed down and worshiped him. They opened their treasure boxes and gave him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12After being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they went back by another route to their own country.

        —NET, available online.


1In the time of King Herod, after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, 2asking, "Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? For we observed his star at its rising, and have come to pay him homage." 3When King Herod heard this, he was frightened, and all Jerusalem with him; 4and calling together all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Messiah was to be born. 5They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it has been written by the prophet: 6"And you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who is to shepherd my people Israel.' " 7Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. 8Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage." 9When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. 10When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. 11On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. 12And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road. 

        —NRSV, available online

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