Katharine J. Dell

in The Oxford Handbook of Biblical Studies

Published in print April 2006 | ISBN: 9780199254255
Published online April 2009 |

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Religion and Theology


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Perhaps the most famous reference to wise men is that in the New Testament to the wise men who came to visit the baby Jesus. We are told that the wise men came to worship Jesus bringing with them expensive gifts, their visit the result of observation and the pursuit of a star or other heavenly body. These were magi, men from the East, probably from Persia, trained in the art of wisdom, which included astronomy, astrology, and other powers of divination as well as wise thoughts and actions. This chapter examines this tradition of wisdom to which the wise men belong. It is shown that the genre of wisdom that begins with the book of Proverbs developed in a number of different directions as the canon expanded and then closed, and as the tradition continued into the Apocrypha, the Qumran documents, and the New Testament.

Keywords: wise men; New Testament; Proverbs; wisdom tradition; apocryphal wisdom literature

Chapter.  4956 words. 

Subjects: Religious Studies ; Biblical Studies

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