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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

03 January 2006

Jesus and the Wise Men

Q: I was surprised to hear in that Jesus may have been two years old when the Wise Men came. Could you help shed any light on this for me?

Wise MenA: Determining Biblical dates is sometimes easier than others. The reigns of various rulers often help pin down when things happened. At other times, events occurred within a range of activities or overlapping governances and we must use educated guesswork. Jesus’ age at the visit of the magi (wise men) falls into the latter category. Besides knowing the ruling times of Quirinius (Luke 2:2) and Herod the Great, we also have Herod asking the magi when they first saw the star (Matthew 2:7). He based the slaughter of Bethlehem’s boy-children who were two years old or younger on this account (Matthew 2:13-18).

A lot depends upon when the star appeared relative to Jesus’ conception and birth: Did it come at the Annunciation (Luke 1:26-35), the Nativity (Luke 2:1-20), the Presentation (Luke 2:22-38), or at another time? Also, how long did it take the magi to provision themselves, gather their gifts, and make the journey? Whatever the wise men told Herod was enough to convince him that Jesus might be as old as two. This means that Joseph might have been working in Bethlehem for a couple years after Jesus’ birth. On the other hand, the wise men may have come not long after the Nativity; we just don’t know.

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Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.


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