Saturday, January 9, 2016

An Epiphany with Wise Women? by Christine Schenk, Jan. 7, 2016, National Catholic Reporter


http://ncronline.org/blogs/simply-spirit/epiphany-wise-women

Epiphany," ©2003 Janet McKenzie, www.janetmckenzie.com, Collection of Catholic Theological Union, Chicago, IL
Thanks, Sister Chris, for this wonderful, scholarly article! Bridget Mary Meehan, ARCWP

...."a renowned authority on the Gospel of Matthew, Dominican Fr. Benedict Thomas Viviano, believes it entirely possible that women could have been among the Magi portrayed in the Matthean birth narrative. Viviano is professor emeritus at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. He also wrote the commentary on Matthew in The New Jerome Biblical Commentary.Matthew is the only Gospel that says anything at all about Magi. You may be surprised to learn that this Gospel does not ascribe number, gender or royal status to the Wise Ones from the East. The traditional number three was deduced from the three gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh, and the idea that the Magi were kings didn't appear until the fifth century. Matthew's use of the Greek masculine plural magoi for magi can be used inclusively, just as the English word "men" often includes women.But there is more to Viviano's wonderfully provocative claim than grammar. Matthew's Gospel was meant for a Jewish audience. Viviano specializes in examining the book of Matthew in light of its literary connections to the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). It is upon this analysis that he bases his arguments about female magoi.According to Viviano, "The main reason to think of the presence of one or more women among the magi is the background story of the queen of Sheba, with her quest for Israelite royal wisdom, her reverent awe, and her three gifts fit for a king."




The first book of Kings, Chapter 10:1-29, narrates the visit of the queen to King Solomon with gifts of gold and spices such as myrrh and frankincense.
Viviano believes viewing the Solomon-Sheba background as a close biblical parallel to the Magi story opens up some "previously neglected possibilities" such as the "wisdom and feminine aspects of the narrative."He points to the Israelite tradition of personifying wisdom as female (Proverbs 8:22-30, 9:1-6 and Sirach 24) and notes that for Matthew, Jesus embodies wisdom (Matthew 11:19, 25-30).Even more compelling to me is that in the Middle East it would have been inconceivable for men to be in the presence of a woman without the presence of other women. Joseph is conspicuously absent when the Magi visit. This is surprising, since Matthew's infancy account normally narrates events from the point of view of Joseph. (In Luke's account, Mary is more prominent).The phrase "the child and his mother" is used five times in the Magi-flight-into-Egypt narrative (Matthew 2:11, 13, 14, 19, 21). For Viviano, "The presence of Jesus' mother Mary is an explicit statement of the presence of a woman at the time of the magi's visit. It is a question of attending to the feminine resonances in the text."
Scholars tell us that the magoi were a caste associated with the interpretation of dreams, astrology, Zoroastrianism and magic. In support of Viviano's thesis, Zoroastrianism allowed women to serve as priests and in ancient Persia there were female astronomers and rulers....."
[A Sister of St. Joseph, Sr. Christine Schenk served urban families for 18 years as a nurse midwife before co-founding FutureChurch, where she served for 23 years. She holds master's degrees in nursing and theology.]

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