The Magi: Who They Were, How They’ve Been Remembered, and Why They Still Fascinate (Fortress Press, 2022) is Eric Vanden Eykel’s second monograph overall and his first geared at a popular, non-scholarly audience. However, even scholars will find much to appreciate and more than a few narrative surprises from this thorough account of the Magi (often translated in English Bibles as “wise men” or “astrologers”), for it succeeds as an excellent recent example of uncompromising, but accessible, public-facing biblical scholarship. The author plumbs beyond basic exegesis of Matthew 2:1–12 to examine apocryphal texts, patristic treatises, and more recent tendential literature demonstrating how, despite palpable political undertones in the evangelist’s intentions to signify Jesus as the rightfully born “King of the Judeans,” the journey of the Magi has served as fertile storytelling fodder for Christians down the centuries, earning them names, royal backstories, sainthood, and perennial reverence for their recognition of Jesus’s nativity. Vanden Eykel joined the New Books Network to discuss all these topics and more from his attempt to unravel the mysteries of the Magi.
Eric Vanden Eykel (Ph.D., Marquette University, 2014) is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and the Forrest S. Williams Teaching Chair in the Humanities at Ferrum College in Virginia. Dr. Vanden Eykel’s primary area of research is early Christian apocryphal literature, with a special focus on texts and traditions about the infancies and childhoods of Jesus and his mother, Mary. He has previously authored “But Their Faces Were All Looking Up”: Author and Reader in the Protevangelium of James (T&T Clark, 2016) and co-edited Sex, Violence, and Early Christian Texts (Lexington Books, 2022). In his free time, he enjoys making beer, running, and woodworking.
Rob Heaton (Ph.D., University of Denver, 2019) hosts Biblical Studies conversations for New Books in Religion and teaches New Testament, Christian origins, and early Christianity at Anderson University in Indiana. He recently authored The Shepherd of Hermas as Scriptura Non Grata: From Popularity in Early Christianity to Exclusion from the New Testament Canon (Lexington Books, 2023). For more about Rob and his work, please see his website at https://www.robheaton.com.