When did the wise men visit Jesus?
In the centre spread dedicated to the book by Pope Benedict about the infancy of Jesus (November 22), Reuters reporter Philip Pullella wrote that the author discusses “the story of the wise men who the Bible says paid tribute to the infant Jesus in the manger in Bethlehem”.
Although I have not read it yet, I have no doubt that Benedict did not discuss such a myth in his book for the wise men could not have visited Jesus while he was still a baby in the manger and this is nowhere written in the Bible.
In Matthew’s gospel, we find that when King Herod resolved to kill infants under two years of age, after he met with the wise men, an angel appeared to Joseph in a dream and warned him to flee to Egypt. Joseph left that very night.
Luke’s gospel also tells us that Jesus was presented in the temple, which, according to Jewish custom, would take place upon the passage of 40 days after birth. Since the Holy Family remained in Egypt for about three and a half years, the presentation must have taken place before they went there.
Since they fled on the same night that Herod resolved to kill the infants – that is, at the time that the wise men had visited Jesus – it follows that their visit must have taken place at least 40 days after his birth, probably as much as a year later.
I doubt that Mary would have kept her child in a manger for 40 days, if not much longer, until the wise men got there.