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Excerpt: Matthew 2:1-12


Matthew 2:1–12 (ESV): 2 Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, 2 saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” 3 When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; 4 and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. 5 They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: 6 “ ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ” 7 Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” 9 After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. 11 And going into the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. 12 And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

Matthew 2:1-12 says, "...they saw the child with his mother Mary..." In this piece Da Vinci chooses to depict baby Jesus on Mary's lap which correlates with the source text. Matthew doesn't go into any other detail about Mary and Jesus' interactions with each other, which gives Da Vinci the artistic freedom to choose how they interact with each other. For example, he could've shown Jesus sleeping in a basket. Instead, he chose to show Jesus on her lap with her hands physically touching his body. This decision was most likely motivated by Incarnationist Theology, demonstrating that his humanity comes from his human mother by "taking on the flesh" through her touch.

Matthew 2:1-12 says " they bowed down and worshiped him" illstrating all the wise men bowing to the divine figure the journied to see. Da Vinci stays true to this detail by having all three wisemen bowing before Jesus. Interestingly, the three wise men all bow in different ways. One bows with their head almost touching the ground appearing more submissive, one looks up in awe with their hands not touching the ground, and the last one while bowing interacts with Christ. I like to think Da Vinci chooses to vary the protrayal of the wisemen to show the complexity of Jesus' simulationous humanity and divinity while showing how differently the world can react.

Matthew 2:1-12 says "Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh". Da Vinci follows the text by having the Magi give gifts to Christ, however, only two of the gifts appear in the painting. It's important to note that this painting remains to be unfinished, which could be the cause of not displaying the third gift. However, it doesn't even appear to be mapped out in the painting. Perhaps it was intentionally left out while staying true to the general detail, in order to show the humbleness of Christ. Jesus is a very divine figure, the son of God himself, yet does not live in a lavishly wealthy way. Perhaps by removing 1 of the gifts, Da Vinci subtly shifts the focus toward Christ's humility yet maintains his significance and powerful destiny.

Matthew 2:1-12 says "Magi from the east came to Jerusalem 2 and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him" The people bowing and surrounding Mary and Jesus are the Magi who have traveled to see him. Magi are traditionally wisemen, for example, Priests, yet the text didn't mention how many of them were present. While many know this story traditionally with only the three wise men, Da Vinci shows more. However, Da Vinci highlights three of the wise men while the rest are astonished by seeing Christ's presence

This painting is called the Adoration of the Magi by Leonardo Da Vinici which is based off of Matthew 2:1-12 which describes the wisemen's journey to see Christ. Da Vinici follows the text through the following: Displaying the warnings/threats from the King in the background through the storming fighting soldiers, showing the Magi worshiping Christ upon arrival, Mary and Jesus’ interactions following Incarnationist Theology, the gifts from the wisemen given to Jesus, and having the wisemen bow before Jesus. However, even following these details there was still room for creativity. The actions of soldiers fighting didn’t occur at the same time, in fact it didn’t occur at all and I believe it's a representation of the warning mentioned in the text. The text didn’t mention how many Magi were there giving Da Vinci the freedom to decide how many or how little there should be. The text only mentioned Mary very briefly, only to show her being with Christ and that was all. So Da Vinci chose to depict him sitting on her lap with her hands physically touching his body, likely motivated by Incarnationist Theology. Moving on to the gifts, the text mentions 3 gifts were given yet in the painting only 2 were seen to be found. This could be to make Christ subtly appear as a humble baby with a powerful story, rather than a baby with lots of lavish gifts with a powerful story. Finally the text mentions the wisemen bowing to Jesus, which Da Vinci follows but as room for creative freedom. All the wisemen bow very differently, I like to think Da Vinci chooses to vary the portrayal of the wisemen to show the complexity of Jesus' simultaneous humanity and divinity while showing how differently the world can react.

Matthew 2:1-12 says "When King Herod heard this he was disturbed... he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. ....He sent them to Bethlehem and said, “Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him...And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” This part of the text shows how threatened the King was by the news of Jesus and sent the Magi to see him and report his location back under false pretenses. In the painting, soilder sotrming the area and fighting is seen in the background. While these action aren't mentioned in the text, Da Vinci creatively includes this to show either what would've happened if the Magi told the king where Jesus was OR its a visual of the dream that warned the Magi to not return to the king