I am the one who makes the Report Night rules, who sets the limits and imposes crazy ideas upon those willing to partake in our tomfoolery. So I was the one who spiced up December’s get-together with these two morsels: holiday-themed topics, under 5 minutes. In so doing, I quickly realized I had shot myself in the foot. Come the week of Report Night, I had yet to cement for myself a topic that maintained my fleeting fancies.
My mind was already filled, however, with the historical and cultural images of ancient Palestine and the Christmas story. I had written a narrative on Mary the mother of Jesus, and researched many of the familiar characters of the Biblical account. So about four days beforehand, I landed on the Magi. And then off again. And on again. You see, I had peeked into the wonders of history and cultural anthropology like a child peeking in a keyhole. I was a bit baffled on how to package this vast and hidden world in a comprehensive, five-minute report within a few days. (I’m 98% sure I went over five minutes.)
One of my visuals was a long string. I explained that many people groups have the incredible fortune to be traced all the way back to the beginning–having a variety of written texts and uncovered artifacts to compare and confirm their culture. The Israelites are such an example. There are countless other cultures that have been lost in time with only a few accounts (or less), leaving historians to wonder if they were real or mythological. Using scissors, I then cut the string in two places and removed that middle section. The Magi fall into this third group: historians can look at one end of the thread and then another piece further back in history, compare the incredible similarities, and guess that they may actually be pieces of the same lineage.
I took the group through a crash course in ancient Palestinian history; beginning with the Babylonian Empire, marching into the Persian’s heyday, swallowed by Alexander the Great and the Greek Period, casually sauntering into the Maccabean Period which included 100 fine years of Israeli independence, and ending with the Roman Age–the time of Christ’s birth. All along that tour of history, I followed the priestly tribe of the Medes: the Magi. A permanent fixture of spiritual and scientific influence, the Magi maintained their identity as royal advisors for hundreds of years–if not more. In both Babylonian and Persian times, the Magi were responsible for training and crowning the prospective kings. They were highly spiritual (monotheistic, years later they adopted Zoroastrianism as their religion), and educated in classical literature, astronomy, and astrology.
Six hundred years before the birth of Christ, the Magi are referenced heavily in the book of Daniel as the group relied upon when dream interpretation was the order of the day. When these court advisors to King Nebuchadnezzar were unable to do so, Daniel (who was able to interpret his dreams) eventually replaced their leader and–logic would have it–became the head of the Magi. Another credible assumption (this report was full of “credible assumptions”) is that Daniel shared his own spiritual knowledge with this educated tribe of priests–including the prophecies of the coming Jewish Messiah. So for sake of pondering, it is possible that 600 years before the birth of Christ, God paved the way for this Gentile group of spiritual advisors to recognize the King when he came.
*The white elephant topic I ended up with for January: The best way to dispose of a dead body and get away with it.
*I forgot to mention Mike’s white elephant topic: Secret Societies.