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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

We Three Makrebs: Were the Magi Jewish?

Adoration of the Magi (by B. E. Murillo)
According to Fossil HD, the exact origin of those who are called Magi (from the Old Persian magus, referring to the priestly class of astrologers) is actually unknown.  The Gospel of Matthew simply explains that they came “from the East” (or “from the rising of the sun”). 

Although many believe that these Magi (also referred to as “wise men” and “kings”) were from Persia or Babylon, a third traditional belief is that they were Jewish kings (Makrebs) from Yemen.  According to Wikipedia, John Chrysostom (Early Church Father and Archbishop of Constantinople) held this third belief (which is somewhat ironic, considering Chrysostom’s eight homilies against Judaizers).

The Jewish Encyclopedia states that Sanaite Jews have a
legend regarding the settling of their forefathers in Yemen
“forty-two years before the destruction of the First Temple.”
This encyclopedia also states the following:  Under the prophet Jeremiah 75,000 Jews, including priests and Levites, are said to have gone to Yemen; and when Ezra commanded the Jews to return to Jersusalem they disobeyed, whereupon he pronounced an everlasting ban upon them.

Wikipedia mentions a traditional theory that “King Solomon sent Jewish merchant marines to Yemen to prospect for gold and silver with which to adorn the Temple in Jerusalem.”  Wikipedia then states that “the Jews of southern Yemen have a legend that they are the descendants of Judeans who settled in the area before the destruction of the Second Temple.”  These Judean settlers were supposedly dispatched there by King Herod “to assist the Roman legions fighting in the region.” 

Centuries later, there were at least two historically-recorded Jewish kings of Yemen.  Approximately 500 CE, Himyarite King Abu-Kariba Assad undertook a military campaign against the Byzantines.  This campaign came to a head at Yathrib (present-day Medina).  Although Yathrib Jews at the time fought against him in order to help save their city - when Abu-Kariba fell desperately ill, two Jewish sages saved his life with their medicinal knowledge.  As a result, Abu-Kariba converted to Judaism - as did a successor, Yusuf Dhu Nuwas.


Copyright January 4, 2012 by Linda Van Slyke   All Rights Reserved

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