February 11, 2004
Three wise somethings
By Paul Majendie
LONDON Feb 10 (Reuters) - Three Wise Men May Have
Been Neither Wise Nor MenBy Paul MajendieLONDON - The Three Wise
Men who followed the star
to Bethlehem bearing gifts for the baby Jesus may not have
been all that wise -- or even men.
The traditional infant Nativity play scene could
be in for a drastic rewrite after the Church of England indulged
in some academic gender-swapping over the three Magi at its General
Synod in London this week.
committee revising the latest prayer book said the term "Magi" was
a transliteration of the name used by officials at the Persian
court, and that they could well have been women.
a word which discloses nothing about numbers, wisdom or gender
in the term," a Synod spokesman said on Tuesday after the
revision was agreed by the Church of England's parliament which
meets twice a year.
In the authorized 17th century King James bible
used by up to 70 million worshippers in Anglican churches around
the world, the gift-bearing visitors are referred to as "The
Three Wise Men."
Now they are to be called just "Magi" and
no longer gender-specific in the Anglican prayer book.
'Wise Men' to 'Magi' seems to be an entirely sensible move," the
Synod spokesman said.
The revision committee said: "While
it seems very unlikely that these Persian court officials were
the possibility that one or more of the Magi were female cannot
be excluded completely."
There is no theological dispute about
the gifts they brought -- gold, frankincense and myrrh -- but the
prayer has been changed to use the word Magi on the grounds that "the
visitors were not necessarily wise and not necessarily men."
officials denied that the Church of England, a pillar of the Establishment
in Britain, was being seized by an attack of political correctness
and pandering to feminists.
The decision was greeted by mocking
newspaper headlines like "The Three Fairly Sagacious Persons" and "Is
it unwise to call the Magi men?"
On Tuesday, the Synod will
be turning its attention to "Gender Neutral Titles."
are debating whether words like "Chairman" can be replaced
at committee meetings by more neutral words like "Chair."
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