Ancient manuscript tells of journey of the 3 wise men; text has ideas Mormons will relate to, BYU prof says

Published: Thursday, Jan. 6 2011 10:00 p.m. MST

"The fact that this text is really being studied for the first time at the beginning of the 21st century, when we live in a global village, where you meet people of different religions," he added, "the fact that this text actually has something very interesting and very unique to say in terms of Christianity's relationship with other religions ... I think it's a lot of food for thought, theologically speaking."

Daniel C. Peterson, professor of Islamic Studies and Arabic at BYU, was also fascinated by the words of the Christ child.

He said, "It talks about him having revealed himself to all nations. That in some form or another, they've all known and that is extremely striking."

Peterson said the text contains many ideas that Latter-day Saints will relate to. Landau agreed, mentioning the faith in his introduction:

Sacred texts in a holy mountain ...

Washing in a spring for purification

The shaft of light from the star was overwhelmingly intense.

On their journey mountains and hills became level, food was miraculously provided.

The Apostle Thomas visited them, baptized them and then they preached the Gospel.

"I found when he shows up," said Peterson, "he talks about baptism, he presents the Eucharist, that is what we would call the sacrament. … This reminded me very much of Christ's visit to the Nephites in Third Nephi. Those were his two themes."

Images of a child in a star and the Magi still exist on some medieval art.

Peterson explained, "Landau does a good job of showing that even though we've forgotten the text, evidently, it was circulating. People knew it and then we lost it. And so, this may be more important than we know."

At the very least, both professors said, "The Revelation of the Magi" gives us a glimpse into the faith and devotion of people who believed a star led them to the truth.

Landau said "Revelation of the Magi" falls into the category of apocryphal writings, which many scholars and students use to broaden their understanding of the Bible or early Christianity.

"I see great value in the Apocrypha," Peterson said, "and from a Latter-day Saint perspective, we're allowed to do that. We're told there are things in it that are true, things that are not, read it with discernment. But we're not told, 'don't read it.' We're not told, 'it's all false.' So, there's value to me in this kind of text."

e-mail: cmikita@desnews.com

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