The Epiphany (Mt 2:11-2:11)

“The Magi

Knelt down.

They paid homage

To the child.

They worshiped him.

Then,

Opening their treasures,

They offered him gifts

Of gold,

Of frankincense,

Of myrrh.”

 

καὶ πεσόντες προσεκύνησαν αὐτῷ, καὶ ἀνοίξαντες τοὺς θησαυροὺς αὐτῶν προσήνεγκαν αὐτῷ δῶρα, χρυσὸν καὶ λίβανον καὶ σμύρναν

 

This is the classic scene of the Epiphany of Jesus, with the magi, the 3 kings, the wise men adoring and worshiping the new born infant Jesus.  The magi entered the house.  They knelt down and worshipped the new child (πεσόντες προσεκύνησαν αὐτῷ).  Then they opened their treasures (ἀνοίξαντες τοὺς θησαυροὺς αὐτῶν).  They offered him gifts (προσήνεγκαν αὐτῷ δῶρα) of gold (χρυσὸν), frankincense (λίβανον), and myrrh (σμύρναν).  These were the same traditional gifts mentioned in Isaiah, chapter 60:6, gold and frankincense, an expensive spice.  Myrrh was a perfume.  So too, Epiphany, ἐπιφάνεια, means manifestation or appearance.  In classical Greek, it was a manifestation of a deity to a worshiper.  Thus, Jesus manifests himself to these worshipping magi.  The earliest references to the Christian feast of Epiphany come from the 4th century CE.  In the Latin-speaking Western Christianity, this holiday emphasized the visit of the magi, who represented the non-Jewish people of the world.  Thus, this child Jesus was considered a revelation to the gentiles.  In the middle ages, these biblical magi or magicians became the 3 kings, as a whole story developed around them.  Balthasar was the youngest one, bearing frankincense that symbolized the divinity of Jesus, representing Africa.  Caspar was middle-aged one bearing gold that symbolized the royalty of Jesus, representing Asia.  Melchior the oldest one, bearing myrrh symbolized the passion of Jesus, representing Europe.  For many years, and still in some non-English speaking countries today, Epiphany was and is a bigger feast day than Christmas, celebrating the birth of Jesus and his revelation to the world.

The death of Nicanor (2 Macc 15:25-15:28)

“Nicanor and his troops advanced with trumpets and battle songs. Judas Maccabeus and his troops met the enemy in battle with invocations to God and prayers. So, fighting with their hands and praying to God in their hearts, they laid low no less than thirty-five thousand men. They were greatly gladdened by God’s manifestation. When the action was over, they were returning with joy. They recognized Nicanor, lying dead, in full armor.”

Nicanor and his army advanced with trumpets and battle songs. On the other hand, Judas Maccabeus and his troops went to fight with prayers in their hearts to God. Thus they fought and prayed at the same time. This seemed to have worked quite well. They killed 35,000 troops of Nicanor. They were glad because God had manifested his gladness with their actions. After the action was all over, they too were happy. Then they recognized Nicanor in full armor dead. There is something similar to this in 1 Maccabees, chapter 7, where Nicanor was defeated.

The battle at Carnaim with Timothy (2 Macc 12:17-12:23)

“When they had gone ninety-five miles from there, they came to Charax, to the Jews who are called Toubiani. They did not find Timothy in that region, for he had by then left there without accomplishing anything. Although in one place, he had left a very strong garrison. Dositheus and Sosipater, who were the captains under Judas Maccabeus, marched out. They destroyed those whom Timothy had left in the stronghold, more than ten thousand men. However, Judas Maccabeus arranged his army in divisions as he set men in command of these divisions. He hastened after Timothy, who had with him one hundred twenty thousand infantry and two thousand five hundred cavalry. When Timothy learned of the approach of Judas Maccabeus, he sent off the women and the children with the baggage to a place called Carnaim that was hard to besiege. It was difficult to access because of the narrowness of all its approaches. But when Judas Maccabeus’ first division appeared, terror and fear came over the enemy at the manifestation to them of him, who sees all things. They rushed headlong in every direction, so that often they were injured by their own men and pierced by the points of their own swords. Judas Maccabeus pressed the pursuit with the utmost vigor. He put the sinners to the sword. He destroyed as many as thirty thousand men.”

Once again, this is similar to the battles in Gilead in 1 Maccabees, chapter 5. Charax might be present day Kuwait. Apparently they were looking for the elusive Timothy, who had already died in chapter 10 of this book. Dositheus and Sosipater were the captains of Judas Maccabeus on the east side of the Jordan River. They had already destroyed 10,000 of Timothy’s men. However, he had an enormous amount of troops, 125,000 infantry and 2,500 cavalry. Yet he was afraid of Judas Maccabeus. He sent all the women and children with the baggage to Carnaim, because it would be difficult to besiege that place due to its narrow approaches. As usual, the men of Judas Maccabeus pressed after the men of Timothy. Those men were so afraid of the God of Judas Maccabeus and his men that they ran in every which way so that they injured their own troops with their own swords. Nevertheless, Judas Maccabeus and his troops killed 30,000 men. These numbers are enormous here.