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Interpreting Interpreter
Magi-cal Insights

This post is a summary of the article ““One Drop of Salvation from the House of Majesty”: An Analysis of the Revelation of the Magi and Restoration Scripture” by Spencer Kraus in Volume 61 of Interpreter: A Journal of Latter-day Saint Faith and Scholarship. All of the Interpreting Interpreter articles may be seen at An introduction to the Interpreting Interpreter series is available at


The Takeaway

Kraus outlines the early Christian text Revelation of the Magi, exploring the common elements that text shares with the Book of Mormon and modern revelation, including affirmations that divinely granted knowledge of Christ was available outside of Jerusalem, and that the words and language of the earliest patriarchs were recorded and transmitted across generations.


The Summary

In this article, Spencer Kraus provides an analysis of a recently translated (or at least relatively so) early Christian text, the Revelation of the Magi—a retelling of the experiences of the Magi as they awaited the birth of the Savior and worshipped him following his birth. As with the many texts that arose in the centuries after Christ’s death, the text gives us a chance to apply the thoughts of Joseph Smith regarding the study of apocryphal works, searching for the elements within that have the potential to substantiate faith. After providing a brief overview of the contents of the text, which spans 32 chapters, and providing an estimate as to its date of authorship (extending to at least the 5th century AD, based on direct references to it from works of that period, and perhaps as early as the 3rd century, based on the similarities of its liturgy to others of that era), Kraus examines its potential connections to both the Book of Mormon and other Restoration scripture. These ties include:

After noting an interesting implication for the Revelation of the Magi and the timing of Christ’s birth, Kraus concludes as follows:

[These] many similarities may indicate that early Christians had some beliefs strikingly similar to the doctrines revealed in the Book of Mormon and other Restoration scripture. Indeed, it could be said that, just as the Father told the Magi, this serves as a witness that many people received “(only) one drop of salvation from the house of [majesty]” to bring them to their Savior, Jesus Christ (Rev. Magi 15:1; parentheses and brackets in original)… It is my conclusion that it remains outside of the realm of possibility for Joseph Smith to have known all this of his own accord. That he was able to reveal scriptures that so closely and consistently match ancient texts not discovered until well after the publication of his revelations and translations, the source of Joseph’s knowledge must be found elsewhere in the realms of the divine.


The Reflection

Kraus provides a useful look at the content of an interesting early Christian text. One piece that would be a nice future addition is a sense of whether the Magi records traditions of the magi passed down from earlier generations, or whether many of these elements had their origin in the Magi text. If these ideas began in the 3rd Century, I’m not sure how much they help the Book of Mormon’s case—at best they would be coincidences, and, at worst, evidence that these ideas could be invented independently across centuries of Christian tradition. Ultimately, it may be impossible to know when these ideas first came forward, which I think helps emphasize Joseph’s counsel toward the apocrypha. Yes, they contain some useful and true ideas, but the uncertainty surrounding them means that they could lead us to pitfalls and blind alleys as often as not. Nevertheless, Kraus has done a commendable job outlining some fascinating possibilities—I perhaps will be tempted to pick up the Revelation of the Magi the next time I find a good hole in my reading schedule.

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