Just Announced: Philippians Sermon Series

Summary: The wisest men on earth were brought to their knees by the Son of God.

Good morning. My name is Caspar, and I’m a senior fellow at the Babylonian Institute for Astrological Studies. We - that is my colleagues and I - have waited a long time to tell the story of our long journey to Palestine because, I tell you frankly, we didn’t know what to make of it. What we found was so different from what we expected that we all had to rethink our whole approach to scholarship, not to mention religion and history. But I should start at the beginning.

I had been working for some years on interpreting some old manuscripts from the Royal Babylonian archives and correlating them with the Sybelline oracles which a Roman colleague had sent me when I got a letter from the Temple of the Stars in Persepolis. A priest named Melchior had been studying the prophetic writings from the time of Cyrus, and had been joined the previous year by a graduate student, Balthazar, who had traveled all the way from the Astrological College on Cos to track down some discrepancies in their tables. At any rate they asked if I had run across any references to the Hebrew prophecies about the coming of a great king.

Well, of course I had. After all, most of the Hebrews hadn’t returned to their homeland after Cyrus released them from their exile, and there were a number of Hebrew scholars right here in Babylon. It wasn’t my field of expertise, but you can’t help hearing things. I checked with them, and confirmed that there was indeed such a prophecy. In fact, there were many. The earliest reference they had was from a Canaanite prophet over a thousand years ago, a chap named Balaam, who reportedly said, “I see him, but not now; I behold him, but not near-- a star shall come out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel.. One out of Jacob shall rule.” [Num 24:17,19]

So I wrote back and the next thing I knew Melchior and Belthazar were

on knocking at the door of the Institute with ten servants and fifteen camels loaded down with scrolls and all the other paraphernalia needed to make a long and dusty trip as close to luxurious as any pair of pampered priests could desire. And before you charge me with the same habits, let me tell you I’m a scholar, not a priest. They’re called on regularly to consult at the Persian court, and have to keep up appearances. And besides, people are always slipping them a little something - everything from priceless pearls to bars of gold - to guarantee a favorable reading of the stars. So they’re used to luxury. But if anyone wants to pick my brain, they come to my study and breathe my dust.

Well, that’s neither here nor there. You don’t care about our domestic arrangements. The long and short of it is that they had cross-correlated the Hebrew prophecies they had with the current astronomical observations, and had come to the conclusion that the time was at hand. By the end of that ten-day we had verified their interpretations against the even older manuscripts the Jewish teachers had - and incidentally picked up some additional confirmation - and convinced even me that we were at a cusp of history that any scholar would sell his sister to slavers to participate in. And while they were pointing out the unusual alignment of stars in the heavens that had started them digging for explanatory prophecies, we saw what became the final proof of their hypothesis. A star streaked across thy night sky, moving from Bakhtria in the NE directly toward Judea. And as it faded from view it seemed to leave a luminous line connecting the old fixed, familiar stars with the new one Melchior had discovered, as clear as any road marked on a map, and we knew we were being guided by the gods.

The journey from took about as long as we expected it to, 8 moon cycles from beginning to end, and the new star seemed to grow brighter every time we re-verified our calculations. We had to head north along the Euphrates before turning south, and the star to our left seemed to pull at us, as if it knew we were heading in the wrong direction. The second half of our journey, south through Damascus, we were heading in the direction the star wanted us to go

When we finally crossed the Jordan river just north of Herod’s capital city of Jerusalem, it was time to get our final directions. Of course we could have continued on in the same direction, but eventually we would wind up wading out into the Middle Sea, so we figured the birthplace would be somewhere between Jerusalem and the coast.

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