Looking for a good history book on an obscure topic in Church History? I can’t think of a better book to suit that bill than Mystery of the Magi: The Quest to Identify the Three Wise Men by Father Dwight Longenecker. You may be asking yourself why I am writing about this book now? The Epiphany is not here yet. the Messiah has not been born. To be honest, this was intentional. As you will discover upon reading this book, it is not limited to a Christmas time read. Part history and part Indiana Jones adventure, if you have any interest in a book that digs into history, you are going to love this one.
We are familiar with the biblical story in Matthew about the three men who traveled from afar to see the Christ child. Their appearance in scripture is brief, but though limited to a few verses, it successfully landed them in the creche of people through the centuries. They are known as Magi, the three kings, the three wise men, men from the Orient. But who were these three figures and were they even real?
Father Dwight takes a deep look at their stories and comes away with some solid theories as to who the three Magi were. I will not spoil those theories in this review. To get the full picture of the puzzle Father Dwight has assembled, you will have to get the book to read it for yourself. However, I will tell you that the book itself I well researched and a delightful read. Anyone with a nose for history will love this book.
The first step on the path of discovery that Father takes readers on is to determine if the entire infancy narratives themselves are a historical reality. The short answer to that question is yes. They may not be presented in the way we are used to seeing the news today, but the scriptural accounts of the birth of the Messiah are accurate and deeply rooted in human history. Once this is established then the real fun begins.
Father Dwight attempts to separate fact from fiction and myth from truth in discerning the real history of the Magi. Did they ride on camels? Where exactly did they come from? What route did they take? And most importantly what was the real reason for their quest? You will walk away with these answers and more that piece together snippets of historical fact that once assembled create a complete picture.
I’ve talked a lot about how history lovers will enjoy this book. Do not allow that to scare you away. Realizing that some history books are dense tomes rest assured that this book is a very approachable read for the general reader. Take the opportunity that Father Dwight Longenecker has given us to clear off the dust and re-examine the very real story or shall we say mystery – of the Magi.
For more on Mystery of the Magi listen to my Off the Shelf interview with Father Dwight Longenecker here.
I received a copy of the book from the publisher in an exchange for an honest review.