Two very extraordinary events have been recorded by two Evangelists in connection with the birth of Prophet Jesus Christ (upon whom be peace and the blessings of Allah). The Evangelist Mattai (Matthew) has left to us an account of the wonderful pilgrimage of the Magi, who were guided by a star from Persia to the manger at Bethlehem, where the new-born Jesus, whom they "worshipped" and presented with rich gifts of gold, myrrh, and incense, was lying. The condensed material in this historical event or fictitious story of the "Wise Men" from the East is in itself a plausible legend consisting of more than half a dozen miracles, which the Christian Church alone has been able to create and to believe in. The Church has preserved the very names of the Magi, who, headed by the King Caspar, were "inspired by God," and knew that the little Babe of Bethlehem was God, Lamb, and King, and therefore they offered him incense as to a deity, myrrh for his burial as a sacrifice, and gold for his royal treasury! That the Zoroastrian magicians, or the astrologian Chaldees, through the astral divination and guidance, traversed all that distance to Jerusalem, and there lost the sight of the star; that the Jewish reigning sovereign Herod and the inhabitants of Jerusalem shook and trembled at the news of the birth of a new king; that only an incoherent passage in the writings of the Prophet Micah (v. 2) could solve the problem of the locality where the nativity had taken place; and finally that the astrologers were informed by God in a dream not to return to Herod, are indeed some wonderful miracles which only the Christian superstition can swallow. The royal retinue of the pilgrims proceeds to Bethlehem only at a few miles' distance from Jerusalem, and, lo! the old guiding star again appears and leads them on until it stops exactly above the spot where the infant was born. The prodigious rapidity with which the long journey from Persia to Bethlehem was completed while the babe was still in the stable (Luke ii. 4-7) shows the importance of the miracle.
Another miracle connected with the birth of Christ is the fact, or the fiction, that after all those demonstrations at the Court of Herod and in the educated classes at Jerusalem, nobody knew the address of the Holy Family; and that this mystifying ignorance cost the massacre by Herod of hundreds of infants at Bethlehem and its suburbs. The last but not the least miracle insinuated in this narrative is the fulfillment of another prophecy from Jeremiah (xxxi. 15), where Rachel is represented as weeping and lamenting over the slaughter of the Ephraimites at Ramah and not at Bethlehem, and this, too, some seven hundred years ago, when the descendants of Rachel were deported into Assyria while she herself was dead long before Jacob her husband descended into Egypt! St. Matthew, who alone among all the ancient archivists and historians knows this event, does not tell us what the impressions of King Caspar and his astrologers after their visit of pilgrimage to the manger of Bethlehem were. Were they convinced that the son of Mary was a king, or were they not? If they were persuaded that Jesus was a king, why then did Persia persecute Christianity until it was converted to Islam in the seventh century? Is it not true that the Persians received no light and information about Jesus of Nazareth from their magicians, but only from the Muslim army sent by Hazrat Omar, the second caliph?
It is not my intention to deny altogether the truth of the visit of some Eastern Magi to the crypt of Jesus, but simply to show the avidity or the ambition of the Church to exaggerate simple events in the life of Jesus Christ and to exhibit in them some supernatural characteristics.
The other equally wonderful event which concerns our present discourse is recorded by the Evangelist Luke (ii. 1-20). Some shepherds were watching their flocks in a field near Bethlehem on the very night when Jesus was born in a manger. An angel announces the birth of the "Savior Lord," and suddenly a host of angels appear in the sky and sing aloud the following hymn:
Glory be to God in the Highest, And on earth peace, And among men good will. [Verse 14.]
This famous angelic anthem, known as Gloria in excelsis deo, and sung in all the sacerdotalist churches during their celebration of the sacraments, is, unfortunately, only a vague translation from the Greek text, which cannot be considered at all reliable or truth worthy because it does not show us the original words in the language in which the angels chanted and which the Hebrew shepherds understood. That the heavenly hosts sang their joyous song in the language of the shepherds, and that that language was not Greek but the vernacular Hebrew - or rather the Aramaic - is an admitted truth. All the scriptural names of Allah, angels, heaven, prophets, etc., are revealed to us in the Semitic tongues (Hebrew, Aramaic, Arabic); and to imagine that the celestial hosts sang in Greek to the ignorant Jewish shepherds in the suburbs of Bethlehem would be equivalent to the belief that such an angelic army, in the firmament above the mountains of Kurdistan, sang a similar hymn in Japanese for the digestion, or puzzle, of some Kurdish herdsmen!
The appearance of an angel to the humble shepherds of Bethlehem and the annunciation of the birth of a great Prophet that very night, and the hearing of the angelic Hallelujah (Allilujah) by them alone and not by the haughty priests and the scribes, is one of the innumerable miracles recorded in the history of the people of Israel. There is nothing in the story which might be considered to be such a contradictory nature as to expose the narrative to incredi- bility. An angel can appear to a prophet or to a holy worshiper of God and communicate to him a message from Allah in the presence of other people, yet be quite imperceptible to them. The good shepherds had good hearts and good faith, therefore they were worthy of the divine favor. So from a religious point of view there is nothing incompatible or incredible in this wonderful event as recorded by St. Luke. The author of this narrative exhibits precision of diction, he is discreet and cautious in his statements, and throughout his Gospel he uses a very good Greek style. Considering the fact that he wrote his book long after the death of all the Apostles, and that he had "very carefully" examined numer- ous works concerning Jesus and his Gospel, it seems very probable that he was aware of the legend of the Magi and abstained altogether from including it in his own book (l).
------------ Footnote (1) Readers are advised to very carefully read the preface, or the introductory passage, at the beginning of St. Luke's Gospel. ------------ end of f