#1──簡介：聖人與星童──INTRODUCTION: THE SAGES AND THE STAR-CHILD
智者在本書中亦稱為馬吉（The Magi）──通常被稱為三位智者或三個王 ──就是最有名出現在耶穌誕生時的訪客，在許多福音故事中都有介紹。無論他／她是否去教會， 幾乎每個人都聽說過他們。他們給稱作基督的那個孩子帶來禮物，從此形成了一個聖誕禮物的傳統，這個傳統永遠把他們與節日禮物的儀式聯繫在一起。儘管他們非常有名，然而，在《新約》中，只有一段短文講述了他們，他們在新約聖經中被稱為博士，而這段講述對他們的人數描述是非常模糊和概括的。
我們發現這段講述出現在馬太福音第 2 章第 1 節至第 12 節，它說：
請注意在這個故事中有一個巨大的空間，這是一個有思想的讀者必須嘗試填補的空白。這些智者沒有特定的國籍，也沒有具體的名字和數目，雖然三個是最常見的數字，這是由於三個禮物的緣故（見《三個國王》第 4 頁和 5 頁的 [ 智者 ]）。
事實上，智者是希臘語 magi 相當糟糕的翻譯。《新約》的其他地方則用明顯負面的詞──魔術師來表達它。同樣令人費解的是這顆智者跟隨到猶太地的星星。馬太福音從未解釋智者怎樣知道這顆星揭示猶太人的王誕生。此外，這顆星本身的行為很奇怪，它再次出現在智者前往伯利恒的路上，引導他們，然後直接停留在耶穌所在的地方。總之，馬太福音中智者的故事是非常離奇的， 許多早期的基督徒努力去理解它。在廣泛的早期基督教對智者的推測中──聖經、詩篇、佈道、莫紮克、木雕和石雕──其中一篇作品特別令人印象深刻，但卻出人意料地不為人知。它被稱為智者的啟示，這是一個漫長的敘述，是關於基督來臨之事的個人見證。雖然這個傳說在整個中世紀的歐洲基督教為眾所周知，但這本書首次呈現了《智者的啟示》的完整英文譯本。
INTRODUCTION: THE SAGES AND THE STAR-CHILD
The Magi──usually known as the “Three Wise Men” or “Three Kings” ──are easily the most famous of the visitors who appear at Jesus’s birth in the Gospel accounts of the Christmas story. Whether or not one is a churchgoer, practically everyone has heard of them. Their bringing of gifts to the Christ child began a tradition that has linked them forever with the rite of holiday gift giving. Despite their great fame, however, there is only one short passage in the New Testament that tells of the Magi, and this account is remarkably vague about these figures. Found in the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 2, verses 1 through 12, it says this:
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea; for so it is written by the prophet: ‘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 govern my people Israel.’”
Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time they star appeared; and 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.” When they had heard the king they went their way; and lo, the star which they had seen in the East went before them, till it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and 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. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.
Notice the enormous gaps in this story, gaps that a thoughtful reader must attempt to fill in. The wise men have no specific country of origin. No number of names are given for the wise men, though three was destined to become the most common number because of the three gifts (See The Three Kings [Wise Men] on pages 4 and 5).
In fact, “wise men” itself is a rather poor translation of the Greek word magoi, which elsewhere in the New Testament means “magicians” in a clearly negative sense. Equally problematic──if not altogether disturbing──is the puzzling nature of this “star” that the Magi have followed to Judea. The Gospel of Matthew never explains how to Magi came to know that this star revealed the birth of the King of the Jews. Moreover, the star itself behaves very strangely, reappearing to the Magi on their way to Bethlehem and then coming to rest directly over the place where the child Jesus was. All in all, the story of the Magi from Matthew’s Gospel is a very bizarre one, and many early Christians struggled to make sense of it.
Amid a wide range of early Christian speculation on the Magi – apocryphal Gospels, hymns, sermons, mosaics, wood carvings, and sculptures on sarcophagi – one composition is particularly impressive and yet surprisingly unknown. Called the Revelation of the Magi, it is a lengthy narrative that claims to be the personal testimony of the Magi themselves on the events of Christ’s coming. Though versions of this legend were well known in Christian Europe throughout the Middle Ages, this book presents the first-ever complete English translation of the Revelation of the Magi.
I confess that I have had a lifelong fascination with the Christmas holiday, with the traditions of Jesus’s birth and childhood, and with the story of the Magi and their star in particular. As a young child, I was captivated when my church in Flagstaff, Arizona, brought in an astronomer from the nearby Lowell Observatory one Advent season to discuss the range of possible scientific explanations for the Star of Bethlehem. Then, during my high school education at a Jesuit school in Phoenix, I first learned about the existence of writings outside the New Testament that purported to fill in gaps in the Gospel accounts of Jesus’s upbringing. Finally, as a doctoral student studying early Christianity at Harvard University, I was deeply impressed during a study trip to Italy when I saw how popular a subject the Magi were in paintings, altarpieces, and sculptures. Upon my return to Cambridge, I resolved to learn as much as I could about early Christian legends of the Magi. In this search, I happened upon an article that mentioned the Revelation of the Magi. I asked around and was surprised to find that none of my colleagues had even heard of it. Did such a document really exist? It sounded like such a remarkable text that almost immediately I decided to investigate further.
Later in this introduction, I will discuss where this text came from, why it is so little known today, and why it may be a writing of great importance. But I’ll start with the contents of the story itself, which I eventually discovered hidden away in the Vatican Library.
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