How well do you know the Christmas story? Here are some obscure facts (& some conjecture) about what really happened all those years ago.
The Magi’s Arrival in Jerusalem:
7. The Magi were not kings at all, but members of an elite group called the “Megistanes” of the Parthian empire who formed a kind of “senate” politically, but also served as priests, scientists, counselors, and astronomers to the king of Parthia(4).
8. The Bible records that the Magi brought 3 primary gifts and from this, tradition has derived that there were only 3 Magi who came to visit. This is almost certainly wrong. Parthia was a separate empire from Rome and, though there was currently a state of peace at the time of Christ’s birth, tensions were always high. But an incursion of Parthian Magi into Roman territory was no trivial matter. An undertaking such as this, combined with the length of the journey itself would have required a large caravan to bring the food, supplies, shelter, and various accoutrements the Magi would have required along the way. In addition to the large supply train, there would have been a large contingent of armed cavalry to protect the group not only from bandits, but also to prevent any attempt by the Romans to kill or take the Magi hostage.
9. Herod was “king” over one of the farthest Roman outposts from Rome (“Palestine”) lying at the very edge of the enormous Roman Empire, and frequently at war with the neighboring Parthian Empire. It would have taken weeks or months for Rome to send reinforcements to the local armies controlled by Herod and Pilate if war were to break out. Part of Herod's insanity was constant paranoia about Parthian incursions. This paranoia is demonstrated in the many fortresses he built including Herodium, Masada, the Antonia Fortress, and the Temple Complex itself in Jerusalem.
10. Herod’s paranoia was increased to explosive levels when the Magi showed up asking the question “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” This was both a statement of their primary mission and an insult to Herod. Herod was not born a king of the Jews. He was not even Jewish but an Idumean who was appointed by Rome to rule the area. But now Parthians were on his doorstep to recognize a replacement King whom they believed to have a birthright to the throne. Herod had killed many, including his own family members, when he felt his reign being threatened in the past and this was enough to push him over the edge enough to commit the horrendous mass murder event of slaughtering all the Jewish male children under 2 in an effort to eliminate his completion. Herod died only a few months later.
11. The Bible records that when the Magi arrived in Jerusalem (they naturally went to the capitol city first), seeking the new-born King of the Jews, Herod “AND ALL JERUSALEM WITH HIM” were very “troubled”! It’s difficult to imagine the concern and probably fear that would have accompanied the arrival of so large an armed caravan from Parthia unannounced and asking questions about a replacement king for the Jewish people!
12. The Magi were at one time ruled over by none other than Daniel himself (Dan 2:48, etc.) – a position he apparently held for his entire career. It is likely that the Magi’s response to the appearance of the star and the birth of Jesus had everything to do with what Daniel must have taught them 500 years earlier. There is no other reason for Parthian officials to show any interest whatsoever in the birth of a new king over the tiny and insignificant Roman province of Palestine and its corrupt government … much less to worship him! (more on this later)
For a more in-depth study, see my full study in the file titled "The Christmas Story" at: