‘Behold, the Star’

One of the earliest depictions of the Magi, Roman carving, 4th century

“THIRD-CENTURY FRESCOES in Roman catacombs hold the earliest depictions of the Adoration of the Magi. In one, three men advance in a line toward a child standing in his mother’s wide-legged stance, showing her authority. Others reveal the Magi extending platters of bread toward the child Jesus. Another illustrates men with camels approaching Mary and Jesus with gifts. The lead gift-bearer extends a disproportionately large right hand to an encircled star overhead. These are the earliest details of the nativity narrative: travelers, bread, camels, a wide-legged woman, a child, a star. Later portrayals add partially visible soldiers.”–Rose Marie Berger, “Epiphany Is a Time for Imaginative Leaps,” Sojourners (Jan 2020)

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