Was There Really A Fourth Wise Man?

“Somehow, not only for Christmas,
But all the long year through,
The joy that you give to others,
Is the joy that comes back to you.
And the more you spend in blessing,
The poor and lonely and sad,
The more of your heart’s possessing,
Returns to you glad.”
John Greenleaf Whittier~
One of my all time favorite Christmas stories is The Other Wise Man by Henry Van Dyke.  I remember sitting in a family circle while my mom, tears in her eyes, read this timeless classic.  A soul-touching Christmas tradition.  The Other Wise Manalways makes me cry every time I read it.
“You know the story of the Three Wise Men of the East, and how they travelled from far away to offer their gifts at the manger-cradle in Bethlehem. But have you ever heard the story of the Other Wise Man, who also saw the star in its rising, and set out to follow it, yet did not arrive with his brethren in the presence of the young child Jesus? Of the great desire of this fourth pilgrim, and how it was denied, yet accomplished in the denial; of his many wanderings and the probations of his soul; of the long way of his seeking and the strange way of his finding the One whom he sought–I would tell the tale as I have heard fragments of it in the Hall of Dreams, in the palace of the Heart of Man.”
Van Dyke goes on to weave the beautiful story of Artaban, the fourth Wiseman, and how he sacrifices his every cherished gift for the Christ child in the service of mankind and, in doing so, ultimately for Christ,  The message is profound and badly needed in this world.~
“1895. American clergyman, educator, and author, Van Dyke explains the origins of the story of the Fourth Wise Manas having arrived suddenly and without labor.  One night he saw him distinctly, moving through the shadows in a little circle of light.  His countenance was as clear as the memory of his father’s face. The narrative of his journeyings and trials and disappointments ran without a break. Even certain sentences came complete and unforgettable, clear-cut like a cameo. All that he had to do was to follow Artaban, step by step, as the tale went on, from the beginning to the end of his pilgrimage…”
***Fascinating how this story came to Van Dyke.  No wonder it rings true and makes me think maybe there really was another wise man.  The Magi have always intrigued me. I’d love to know more about them.

8 responses to “Was There Really A Fourth Wise Man?

  1. Caroline Clemmons

    Beth, you reminded me of reading that to our daughters years ago.


  2. Beautiful, Beth! And what most right-wing Christians fail to mention is that the wise men were so called because they studied Astrology—the position of the stars and planets to predict things. Which is how they knew about that particular star. Which lends more credence, to me, about a the miracle of Christ’s birth. So I don’t know why it was later put down by the church. Well, I have my suspicions. Astrology was a revered science, the pursuit of leaned men, though it has been reduced to being called a pseudo-science. Astronomers who laugh at Astrology do not like to acknowledge that Astronomy came about because of Astrology, which when broken down is Astr = Star + ology = study of. I had done a huge paper on this in the ’80’s for my MA degree.


  3. Hmm. I never heard of this story – thanks for sharing!


  4. They actually made a movie of this story. I remember seeing it ONCE on TV as a kid and loving it but could never find it again. I never knew it was based on a book (which I now need to find). Thanks!

    Link to the movie http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0089165/


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