Re: Magi & Matthew 2

RE:  Larry Swain's helpful comments (Mon., 26 Sept 1994) about the Magi in 
Matthew 2, emphasizing the contrast between the Magi and chief priests/Herod 
and also the similar contrast between Pilate and chief priests in the Passion 

I am also intrigued at the similar motifs in the beginning and conclusion of 
Matthew which center on the chief priests (perhaps a kind of inclusio). In the 
Passion Narrative, they accuse Jesus of being the Messiah (which they do not 
believe), giving him an opportunity to assent and establish that testimony. 
Then the chief priests stir up the crowds to demand Jesus' crucifixion, which 
enables Jesus' words in the hinge passage of Peter's confession (Matt 16) to 
come to pass. Then they remind Pilate of Jesus' prediction of resurrection 
(which they do not believe) so he will post guards and thus lend even more 
credence to Jesus' resurrection (which again recalls Matt 16). Then after 
Jesus' resurrection, the chief priests make up a cover story and also prevent 
Pilate from disciplining guards who supposedly were sleeping. In short, by 
saying things that they do not believe, they further the purposes of God in 
Jesus' Passion.

Similarly, I think, in Matt 2, the chief priests also tell Herod where the 
Messiah would be born -- which they also do *not* believe!  This statement also 
enables the Magi (Gentiles) to see and worship Jesus at his birth, just as the 
chief priests' urging of crucifixion made it possible for the Roman centurion 
to acknowledge Jesus as "a son of God" at his death.

Which they do *not* believe? Although this is outside my area, I am not aware 
of any Jewish literature prior to this time which looks for a Messiah to be 
born, much less one to be born in Bethlehem. The figure of a Messiah, when this 
is mentioned in Intertestamental Jewish literature (not a major theme), is a 
figure who will appear at the end of days to set things right. 

I wonder if the chief priests in Matt 2 may be seeking to protect their own 
interests and divert Herod away from Jerusalem to the sleepy village of 
Bethlehem. At any rate, it seems to me that there is great irony in chief 
priests who in seeking their own interests (even in saying things that they do 
not believe) actually further the purposes of God and His Messiah -- from start 
to finish.

I think that Larry Swain says it well:
> Anyway, I think that the role of the magi is as a foil which condemns
> Herod and the chief priests for their blindness-if the Magi are to be
> understood as Gentiles this only increases this role-that God has
> revealed truth to Gentiles and not to those who serve in His temple.

David B. Kennedy
Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary, MI