Live from Music Row, Tuesday morning on The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy welcomed author and Fox News contributor Raymond Arroyo to the newsmaker line to discuss his new book The Wise Men Who Found Christmas and book signing this Saturday at Barnes and Noble of Cool Springs Galleria.
Leahy: On our newsmaker line by Raymond Arroyo. You know Raymond? He’s a Fox News contributor. Often you see him on the Laura Ingraham program. He occasionally guest hosts the Laura Ingraham program. He has a new book out called The Wise Men Who Found Christmas. Good morning, Raymond.
Arroyo: Michael, good morning to you. Great to be with you all.
Leahy: It’s great to have you on. We met actually several years ago when I was working with Laura on a project in her radio studios when they were in Arlington.
Arroyo: Yes, I remember it well.
Leahy: You were a fun guy.
Arroyo: You are very kind.
Leahy: Tell us about this book. You are a New York Times bestselling author. Tell us about The Wise Men who Found Christmas?
Arroyo: Michael, look, when I went looking for there was a book I did several years ago called The Spider Who Saved Christmas, which is an old legend, goes back to the first century, but it’s a very sweet tale about a little spider who saves the holy family on their way to Egypt.
So I was looking for another legend about figures we know. And I thought, well, what about the wise men? Everybody knows about the wise men. So I started poking around. Turns out, Michael, everything we know about the wise men is a legend.
You and probably like your listeners and I think, okay, we three kings of Orient are. There were three of them. There were kings that were from the Far East. All of that is incorrect. They were none of those things.
And as I dug into the history, I realized the gospel only talks about three gifts, not three men. And they were not kings. That was created in the 6th and 7th centuries by a guy named Venerable Bede in England, and they were not from the Far East.
Justin Martyr Clement of Rome, first-century sources tell us they came from Arabia. The wise men were from Arabia, very likely from modern-day Petra, which would be something called the Kingdom of Nabatea at that time.
Just 300 miles east of Jerusalem. So once I comprehended that, I started digging into the biblical history, the ancient world, and the archeology of the region. And I found this amazing story that was so much better than the one we’ve been told and one that actually conforms to the Bible story, if you read it closely.
And it is about these men who were impelled by some, I think, religious devotion, see the star and they feel they have to go toward this thing and find this messiah. But they do so at great peril.
They’re risking their lives going to Herod, they’re risking their lives trying to get to this child, and it changes the whole tone of the story we thought we knew. So I thought, you know what?
I’m going to retell this in the historic setting with some of the things I’ve learned for families and turn it into the buddy story that it is kind of a traveling, high-stakes adventure and restore that sense of drama and tension to the story. And that’s what I tried to do. And thank goodness families love it and are making it part of their Christmas tradition.
Leahy: What I love about your approach here, Raymond, is that you’ve taken this story and it conforms with what we know in the New Testament.
Leahy: That’s really great. It must have been fun doing the research on this.
Arroyo: It took me eight months, and there’s so much we don’t know, so much I didn’t know about this part of the world and this time and the kingdom of Nabatea, that Herod’s mother was a Nabatean princess. Anyway, there are lots of biblical connections once you open this up.
King Aretas, the king that appears in my story, who the wise men go to after they see the star, appears later in the Acts of the Apostles. St. Paul is running from this king. So it’s a really interesting story of royal dynamics, the tension in the world, the Roman occupation, borders, and how all of this informs the movement of the wise men, where they went, and why they went the way they did.
But the most important thing, Michael, those gifts. Those gifts tell us where they’re from. And again, the first-century sources point to it. The gifts kind of confirm it. Those three items, Frankincense, gold, and myrrh. They were very likely sent by the king with these wise men to pay tribute to what he imagined was an heir to Herod.
The king of Nabatea wanted to keep peace with Herod. He didn’t want to invade his kingdom again as he did 30 years earlier. So he sends this little royal delegation of wise men with the gifts of the region. Frankincense and myrrh are tree sap. They come from tree sap only grown in the kingdom of Nabatea in southern Arabia.
And gold, gold at that time was found in only a few places, including the gold mines of Solomon, and the mines of Midian, the same place that was also controlled by the Kingdom of Nabatea. So all of this fits. It all fits when you look at it in a historic and accurate setting.
And once I had that, I added a little drama here and there and put my wise men on Arabian steeds, because Arabian horses were introduced into the kingdom 100 years before Jesus, I thought, you know what, my guys would very likely have ridden Arabian horses.
That was the preferred mode of travel, the TESLA of its day. And the camels carried the packed stuff, they carried the heavy freight. But it’s a different way of looking at a story we’ve taken for granted. And I love doing that.
Leahy: Yes. And the part of the story that is interesting is as a kid, you hear the guests were Frankincense, gold and myrrh. Now everybody knows what gold is, but Frankincense, myrrh? (Laughter)
Listen to today’s show highlights, including this interview:
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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 a.m. to The Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.
Photo “Raymond Arroyo” by Gage Skidmore. CC BY-SA 2.0. Photo “The Wise Men Who Found Christmas” by Amazon. Background Photo “Barnes & Noble” by BrokenSphere. CC BY-SA 3.0.