Mystery of the Magi: The Quest to Identify the Three Wise Men – Book Review

Christmas pageants have been taking place in similar fashion for the past 50 or so years. Children dress up as Mary, Joseph, the shepherds and the Three Wise Men. In fact, the three Wise Men “from the East” are part of most Christmas pageants and readings of the Christmas story. But are the Magi fictional characters based on legends, or did they really exist?

Fr. Dwight Longenecker, author of Mystery of the Magi: The Quest to Identify the Three Wise Men, asserts that they really did exist. But he goes several steps further and identifies them as historical figures. Of course, modern biblical scholars tend to dismiss the story of the Three Wise Men as legend. Since Matthew’s gospel offers sparse details, imaginative Christians began embellishing the story early on, giving us the “three kings guided by a magical star who join the adoring shepherds in every Christmas crèche.”

Because of the legends, many scholars don’t take the story of the Wise Men seriously. In fascinating detective work, Fr. Longenecker contends that the Three Wise Men were actual historical figures and that the visit to the Child Jesus really happened. Using evidence from scriptural studies, history, archeology and astronomy, he also discovers where they came from, the reasons for their visit and what may have happened to them after their visit.

The evidence shows that the mysterious Magi from the East were in all likelihood “astrologers and counselors from the court of the Nabatean king at Petra, where the Hebrew messianic prophecies were well known.” And that “the ‘star’ that inspired their journey was a particular planetary alignment ― confirmed by computer models ― that in the astrological lore of the time portended the birth of a Jewish king.”

Like any good detective and using a variety of resources and documents as well as Scripture passages, Fr. Longenecker distinguishes historical facts from legends and gives us the most detailed description of who these men were. The author recognizes that not everyone will be as enthusiastic as he is about the true identities of the Magi, but those are interested in history and historical figures will find this a fascinating read.

The magi may not have been the oriental kings in turbans, but they were real, and by showing that the wise men were historical figures, Mystery of the Magi demands a new level of respect for the historical claims of the gospel.

Why does it matter whether there were Wise Men? Why does it even matter where they came from? Because, Longenecker says, “the story of history matters.” It matters because “history matters and history matters because truth matters.” It matters because the events of “the life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ are the most history-shattering events of all time. If the gospel is historical then it is true, and if it is true, then we must confront the reality of Jesus Christ. And if we encounter Jesus Christ as a historical figure, then we must also deal with the question of who he is and what he accomplished.”

If we dismiss the story of the Wise Men as legends, then we must also dismiss the other Gospel stories. The tale of the Wise Men is not fiction. The author contends these men were historical figures, taking part in historical events.

At the end of the book, the author takes the reader through a summary of his findings (not unlike the summation done at trials)  and he uses Matthew’s Gospel and other scriptural readings and intersperses the historical facts as we know them (rather than the legends).

This isn’t a light read, but it is a fascinating and detailed account of the Wise Men who brought gifts to the newborn King. I highly recommend to all scriptural scholars and anyone who enjoys a good historical mystery.  I was given a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

Copyright 2017 Ellen Gable Hrkach

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Chance Encounter With a WW II Nurse

At a vendor fair last Friday, I had the privilege of meeting a woman who served as a nurse for the British in World War II.   Needless to say, it was the highlight of the evening.  I didn’t get her name, but she is in her 90’s and lost her brother during the war in 1941.Photo copyright Ellen Hrkach

Cyber Monday Sale at Full Quiver Publishing!

The following Kindle editions by FQP authors are only .99!  Click on the cover photo to download!

Remembrance Day – Veterans Day 2017 (Julia’s Gifts VBT)

My novel, Julia’s Gifts, is a World War 1 Romance and the first of the Great War Great Love series.  It is available on Kindle and in paperback.   I’m currently in the midst of a Virtual Book Tour. Check out all the links here.   The summaries of the other two books in the series are as follows:

Charlotte’s Honor is Book #2 and takes place at approximately the same time as Julia’s Gifts, but focuses on a different female protagonist, Charlotte, who finds her purpose in live when she begins working in the death ward and holding men’s hands as they die.  She is attracted to Canadian Dr. Paul Kilgallen. During an advance by the enemy, everyone at the field hospital evacuates, except for Charlotte and Dr. K.  They remain hidden in the basement of the chateau to take care of the terminally ill men and those soldiers who can’t be moved. Charlotte becomes convinced that Paul is her own “beloved.” But when she loses contact with Paul, she fears not only for his safety, but begins to doubt his love for her.  Charlotte’s Honor will be released in late 2018.

Ella’s Promise is Book #3 in the series. It is about the daughter of German immigrants, Ella, an American nurse who (because of the time period) was discouraged from continuing on in her studies to be a doctor.  She works as a nurse for three years in Philadelphia but reads medical books every opportunity she gets. During the Great War, she travels to Le Treport, France to work at the American-run hospital. She meets her own beloved in the last place she would expect to meet him.  Ella’s Promise will be released in mid-2019.

Remembrance Day/Veterans Day

Today is also a day to remember those who served in wars. I’d like to remember in a special way my father, father-in-law and stepfather (all now deceased). Each served their country in war: my father-in-law was in the United States Air Force during World War II and was ‘Missing in Action’ for months, my father and stepfather (my father’s first cousin) both served in Korea. Today is also my father’s birthday. He died in 1978 at the age of 49.

Remembering Tony An article about my father-in-law, who was a gunner for the USAF in WW II. He was shot down over Yugoslavia, near his father’s birthplace.Tony in army

Remembering Dad A tribute to my own father, who served in both the USMC and the United States Army, and who died when I was 18.Dad in Army

This last post is a special way to remember, with fondness, the three father figures in my life: Remembrance Day/Veterans Day 2009

Lest We Forget…

Author Publishes Eighth Book, Julia’s Gifts, WW1 Romance

From Inside Ottawa Valley and Arnprior Chronicle-Guide

“No man has tasted the full flavour of life until he has known poverty, love and war.” O. Henry’s quote could well be the theme of local author, Ellen Gable Hrkach’s, eighth book, Julia’s Gifts, a First World War romance.

One hundred years ago, the world was at war. It was supposed to be the “war to end all wars.” However, amid the carnage of the First World War, soldiers, nurses and other volunteers discovered love. Hrkach, who writes under her maiden name (Gable), says that creating characters and stories can be “rewarding, but it’s also challenging work, especially if it entails historical research.”

Julia’s Gifts is the first of three books planned for a series entitled Great War Great Love. The setting for this novel is 1917-18, France. The protagonist is Julia Murphy who, as a young girl in Philadelphia, began buying Christmas gifts for her future spouse, a man whose name she doesn’t yet know, a man she calls her beloved. Soon after the United States enters the Great War, Julia impulsively volunteers as a medical-aid worker, with no experience or training. During the course of the novel, the reader follows Julia from Philadelphia to war-torn France as she transitions from unworldly young woman to compassionate volunteer.

Hrkach has always been fascinated with history. “This particular war piqued my interest, especially since it’s been one hundred years since it took place.” In the story, Julia is American and her love interest, Peter, is Canadian. “I am American and my husband is Canadian. I thought it might be fun exploring that relationship with fictional characters.” The novel also includes beautiful sonnets written by Peter (but actually written by the author’s husband, James Hrkach).
The second in the Great War Great Love series, Charlotte’s Honor, will be released in late 2018, and the third, Ella’s Promise, will be released in 2019.

Originally from the Philadelphia area, Hrkach is now a dual citizen, having received her Canadian citizenship in 2014.

The author began writing Christian fiction as a hobby in 2002 when her five sons were small boys. The part-time hobby eventually turned into a full-time career of writing, editing, book coaching and publishing.

Reviews and Awards

Reviews for Julia’s Gifts have been overwhelmingly positive. In her review, award-winning author Therese Heckenkamp, says that this novel is a, “touching story of faith and devotion that is sure to leave a lasting impression.” Jean Heimann, author of Fatima: The Apparition that Changed the World, gave Julia’s Gifts high praise: “Stunning love story amid World War 1 … outstanding and unforgettable book!”

“This book is filled with fascinating historical detail and a reminder that love never fails and that miracles — great and small — happen all around us,” says Carolyn Astfalk, award-winning author.

In 2015, Hrkach’s fifth book, A Subtle Grace, was a finalist in the IAN Book Awards in both the romance and historical categories. In 2010, Hrkach’s second book, In Name Only, won the IPPY Gold Medal in Religious Fiction. All of her books are available on Amazon on Kindle and in paperback. Since 2009, the author’s books have been collectively downloaded over 600,000 times on Kindle.

Upcoming Book Signings

The author will be signing and selling books at the following events during the next six weeks:

Friday, Nov. 10: The Ninth Annual Ladies’ Shopping Night, St. John Chrysostom Parish Hall, Arnprior, Ontario, from 4 p.m. to 9:30 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 18: CWL Bake Sale and Bazaar, Our Lady of Perpetual Help Parish Hall, Braeside, Ont. from 8:30 a.m. to 12 p.m.

Friday, Nov. 17: Christmas Shopping Adventure, 164 Argyle Street South, Renfrew, Ontario from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

Saturday, Nov. 25: One of a Kind Christmas Craft, Bake and Business Sale, Nick Smith Centre, Arnprior, Ont. from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Saturday, December 2: Gifts of Light, Christmas Gifts and Bake Sale, Sponsored by L’Arche Arnprior, Kirkman House Bed and Breakfast, Arnprior, Ont. from 10 a.m. to two p.m.

Julia’s Gifts costs $15 (Canadian) for the print edition and $4.99 for the Kindle edition. It’s available online via Amazon and through the publisher’s website at http://www.fullquiverpublishing.com. More information can be found at the author’s website: http://www.ellengable.com

Prayer for the Holy Souls

The Virgin of Mercy with Souls (Mattia Preti), Wikimedia Commons

The Virgin of Mercy with Souls (Mattia Preti), Wikimedia Commons

St. Gertrude’s Prayer for the Holy Souls

Happy Feast of the Holy Souls. November is the month of the Holy Souls. St. Gertrude’s Prayer is an ideal prayer to recite during this month, but it is also a powerful prayer said daily.

Eternal Father, I offer Thee the most precious blood of thy Divine Son, Jesus, in union with the Masses said throughout the world today, for all the Holy Souls in Purgatory, for sinners everywhere, for sinners in the universal church, for those in my own home and in my family. Amen.