Gift of Gold

A Gift of Gold
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However, traditions and legends identify a variety of different names for them. One candidate for the origin of the name Caspar appears in the Acts of Thomas as Gondophares 21 — c. This Gondophares declared independence from the Arsacids to become the first Indo-Parthian king, and he was allegedly visited by Thomas the Apostle.

According to Ernst Herzfeld, his name is perpetuated in the name of the Afghan city Kandahar , which he is said to have founded under the name Gundopharron.

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The Parthian Empire , centered in Persia, occupied virtually all of the land east of Judea and Syria except for the deserts of Arabia to the southeast. Though the empire was tolerant of other religions, its dominant religion was Zoroastrianism, with its priestly magos class. Although Matthew's account does not explicitly cite the motivation for their journey other than seeing the star in the east, which they took to be the star of the King of the Jews , the Syriac Infancy Gospel provides some clarity by stating explicitly in the third chapter that they were pursuing a prophecy from their prophet, Zoradascht Zoroaster.

Sebastian Brock, a historian of Christianity, has said: "It was no doubt among converts from Zoroastrianism that… certain legends were developed around the Magi of the Gospels". A model for the homage of the Magi might have been provided, it has been suggested, by the journey to Rome of King Tiridates I of Armenia, with his magi, to pay homage to the Emperor Nero , which took place in 66 AD, a few years before the date assigned to the composition of the Gospel of Matthew.

There was a tradition that the Central Asian Naimans and their Christian relatives, the Keraites , were descended from the biblical Magi. Toghrul became identified with the legendary Central Asian Christian king, Prester John , whose Mongol descendants were sought as allies against the Muslims by contemporary European monarchs and popes. And know that the power of Christ has been, and is, so great, that the people of that land are Christians; and the whole land of Chata [Khitai, or Kara-Khitai ] believes those Three Kings. I have myself been in their churches and have seen pictures of Jesus Christ and the Three Kings, one offering gold, the second frankincense, and the third myrrh.

The Magi are described as "falling down", "kneeling" or "bowing" in the worship of Jesus. They were indicative of great respect, and typically used when venerating a king. While prostration is now rarely practised in the West it is still relatively common in the Eastern Churches, especially during Lent. Kneeling has remained an important element of Christian worship to this day. Apart from their names, the three Magi developed distinct characteristics in Christian tradition, so that between them they represented the three ages of adult man, three geographical and cultural areas, and sometimes other things.

In one tradition, reflected in art by the 14th century for example in the Arena Chapel by Giotto in Caspar is old, normally with a white beard, and gives the gold; he is "King of Tarsus , land of merchants" on the Mediterranean coast of modern Turkey, and is first in line to kneel to Christ. Melchior is middle-aged, giving frankincense from his native Arabia , and Balthazar is a young man, very often and increasingly black-skinned, with myrrh from Saba modern south Yemen.

Their ages were often given as 60, 40 and 20 respectively, and their geographical origins were rather variable, with Balthazar increasingly coming from Ethiopia or other parts of Africa, and being represented accordingly. The gift of gold is sometimes associated with Melchior as well and in some traditions, Melchior is the old man of the three Magi. Many different theories of the meaning and symbolism of the gifts have been brought forward. While gold is fairly obviously explained, frankincense, and particularly myrrh, are much more obscure. See the previous section for who gave which.

Myrrh was used as an embalming ointment and as a penitential incense in funerals and cremations until the 15th century. The "holy oil" traditionally used by the Eastern Orthodox Church for performing the sacraments of chrismation and unction is traditionally scented with myrrh, and receiving either of these sacraments is commonly referred to as "receiving the myrrh".

The picture of the Magi on the 7th-century Franks Casket shows the third visitor — he who brings myrrh — with a valknut over his back, a pagan symbol referring to Death. It has been suggested by scholars that the "gifts" were medicinal rather than precious material for tribute. It was these three gifts, it is thought, which were the chief cause for the number of the Magi becoming fixed eventually at three. This episode can be linked to Isaiah 60 and to Psalm 72 , which report gifts being given by kings, and this has played a central role in the perception of the Magi as kings, rather than as astronomer-priests.

In a hymn of the late 4th-century hispanic poet Prudentius , the three gifts have already gained their medieval interpretation as prophetic emblems of Jesus' identity, familiar in the carol " We Three Kings " by John Henry Hopkins, Jr. John Chrysostom suggested that the gifts were fit to be given not just to a king but to God, and contrasted them with the Jews' traditional offerings of sheep and calves, and accordingly Chrysostom asserts that the Magi worshiped Jesus as God.

What subsequently happened to these gifts is never mentioned in the scripture, but several traditions have developed. Another tale has it being entrusted to and then misappropriated by Judas. One tradition suggests that Joseph and Mary used the gold to finance their travels when they fled Bethlehem after an angel had warned, in a dream, about King Herod's plan to kill Jesus. And another story proposes the theory that the myrrh given to them at Jesus' birth was used to anoint Jesus' body after his crucifixion.

There was a 15th-century golden case purportedly containing the Gift of the Magi housed in the Monastery of St. Paul of Mount Athos. After the Athens earthquake of September 7, they were temporarily displayed in Athens in order to strengthen faith and raise money for earthquake victims.

The relics were displayed in Ukraine and Belarus in Christmas of , and thus left Greece for the first time since the 15th century.


Two separate traditions have surfaced claiming that they were so moved by their encounter with Jesus that they either became Christians on their own or were quick to convert fully upon later encountering an Apostle of Jesus. The traditions claim that they were so strong in their beliefs that they willingly embraced martyrdom. One tradition gained popularity in Spain during the 17th century; it was found in a work called the Chronicon of Dexter. The tradition appears in the form of a simple martyrology reading, "In Arabia Felix, in the city of Sessania of the Adrumeti, the martyrdom of the holy kings, the three Magi, Gaspar, Balthassar, and Melchior who adored Christ. Later, this was all brought into question when historians and the Catholic hierarchy in Rome declared the work a pious forgery. A competing tradition asserts that the biblical Magi "were martyred for the faith, and that their bodies were first venerated at Constantinople ; thence they were transferred to Milan in It is certain that when Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor Barbarossa imposed his authority on Milan , the relics there were transferred to Cologne Cathedral , housed in the Shrine of the Three Kings , and are venerated there today.

There are several traditions on where the remains of the Magi are located, although none of the traditions is considered as an established fact or even as particularly likely by secular history. Marco Polo claimed that he was shown the three tombs of the Magi at Saveh south of Tehran in the s:. In Persia is the city of Saba , from which the Three Magi set out when they went to worship Jesus Christ; and in this city they are buried, in three very large and beautiful monuments, side by side. And above them there is a square building, carefully kept.

Giving Gold as a Gift

The bodies are still entire, with the hair and beard remaining. Paul William Roberts provides some modern-day corroboration of this possibility in his book Journey of the Magi. Reputedly they were first discovered by Saint Helena on her famous pilgrimage to Palestine and the Holy Lands. She took the remains to the church of Hagia Sophia in Constantinople ; they were later moved to Milan some sources say by the city's bishop, Eustorgius I [61] , before being sent to their current resting place by the Holy Roman Emperor Frederick I in The Milanese celebrate their part in the tradition by holding a medieval costume parade every 6 January.

A version of the detailed elaboration familiar to us is laid out by the 14th-century cleric John of Hildesheim 's Historia Trium Regum "History of the Three Kings". In accounting for the presence in Cologne of their mummified relics, he begins with the journey of Helena , the mother of Constantine I to Jerusalem, where she recovered the True Cross and other relics:. Queen Helen… began to think greatly of the bodies of these three kings, and she arrayed herself, and accompanied by many attendants, went into the Land of Ind… after she had found the bodies of Melchior, Balthazar, and Gaspar, Queen Helen put them into one chest and ornamented it with great riches, and she brought them into Constantinople The visit of the Magi is commemorated in most Western Christian churches by the observance of Epiphany , 6 January, which also serves as the feast of the three as saints.

The Eastern Orthodox celebrate the visit of the Magi on 25 December. Qur'an omits Matthew's episode of the Magi.


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However, the Persian Muslim encyclopaedist al-Tabari , writing in the 9th century, gives the familiar symbolism of the gifts of the Magi. Al-Tabari gave his source for the information to be the later 7th century Perso-Yemenite writer Wahb ibn Munabbih. Holidays celebrating the arrival of the Magi traditionally recognise a distinction between the date of their arrival and the date of Jesus' birth. The account given in the Gospel of Matthew does not state that they were present on the night of the birth; in the Gospel of Luke, Joseph and Mary remain in Bethlehem until it is time for Jesus' dedication, in Jerusalem, and then return to their home in Nazareth.

Western Christianity celebrates the Magi on the day of Epiphany , January 6, the day immediately following the twelve days of Christmas , particularly in the Spanish-speaking parts of the world. According to the tradition, the Magi come from the Orient on their camels to visit the houses of all the children, much like Sinterklaas and Santa Claus with his reindeer elsewhere, they visit everyone in one night. In some areas, children prepare a drink for each of the Magi.

It is also traditional to prepare food and drink for the camels, because this is the only night of the year when they eat. In Spain, Argentina, Mexico, Paraguay and Uruguay, there is a long tradition for having the children receive presents by the three " Reyes Magos " on the night of January 5 Epiphany Eve or morning of January 6.

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Almost every Spanish city or town organises cabalgatas in the evening, in which the kings and their servants parade and throw sweets to the children and parents in attendance. The cavalcade of the three kings in Alcoy claims to be the oldest in the world, having started in The tradition of the Three Kings' cabalgada is today done only in some areas, such as the old city of Intramuros in Manila , and the island of Marinduque.

Another dying custom is children leaving shoes out on Epiphany Eve, so that they may receive sweets and money from the Three Kings. With the arrival of American culture in the early 20th century, the Three Kings as gift-givers have been largely replaced in urban areas by Santa Claus , and they only survive in the greeting "Happy Three Kings! In Paraguay, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, children cut grass or greenery on January 5 and put it in a box under their bed for the Kings' camels.

Gold Gifts

Christmas starts in December and ends in January after Epiphany, although in Puerto Rico there are eight more days of celebration las octavitas. In a campaign started in Spain over the fact that Balthazar is commonly played by a white person in blackface. Gift tax returns do not need to be filed unless you give someone other than your spouse money or property worth more than the annual exclusion for that year. Generally, the person who receives your gift will not have to pay any federal gift tax because of it.

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Also, that person will not have to pay income tax on the value of the gift received. Making a gift does not ordinarily affect your federal income tax. You cannot deduct the value of gifts you make other than gifts that are deductible charitable contributions. The general rule is that any gift is a taxable gift. However, there are many exceptions to this rule.

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The following gifts are not taxable gifts: gifts that are not more than the annual exclusion for the calendar year, tuition or medical expenses you pay directly to a medical or educational institution for someone, gifts to your spouse, gifts to a political organization for its use, and gifts to charities.

The gift can be considered as made one-half by you and one-half by your spouse.

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If you relate to at least some of the points above, you should have no doubt that, whatever you decide, you will be making the right choice. Americans in general adhere to the principle that, in giving, we receive. This is remarkably expressed in the now-annual tradition of the anonymous dropping of gold coins — American Eagles, Krugerrands, Libertads, Maple Leafs — into Salvation Army red kettles at Christmas time.