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10 The Story of the Magi in the Light of Alexander the Great’s Encounters with Chaldeans

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Chapter Summary

The story of the magi (Matt 2:1–12) may be condensed as follows: scholars from the East observe a celestial phenomenon, which they interpret as a sign of the coming of a new king, to whom they go to pay homage. If summarized in this fashion, the story of the magi is not without its parallels. In particular, it is remarkably similar to stories about the encounters between Alexander the Great and Chaldean astrologers. In the Greco-Roman era, these accounts enjoyed a wide circulation, both in textual form and perhaps also as oral legends. In this chapter, the author argues that these accounts could have inspired the story of the magi, which may therefore preserve a reminiscence of events from the life of Alexander.



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