Thursday, December 22, 2016

The Star of the Wise Men

Richard Chenevix Trench - The Star of the Wise Men (1850) direct link 
Open Library main page

A study of the story of the three wise men with an aim toward untangling who they might actually have been as well as what religious symbolism the author thinks he can find.  It's nothing if not scholarly - I see references to Bede, Tertullian, Justin Martyr, Eusebius, Irenaeus, Ambrose and so on.  It's a lot to put on a story that appears in one chapter of only one gospel (with a couple of other stray references) but he's drawing on centuries of stories that did everything from set the number to come up with names.

Richard Chenevix Trench (1807-1886) was an Irish-born poet and Anglican clergyman.  He was dean of Westminster Abbey for several years (he's buried there) and after Archbishop of Dublin.  Trench was a prolific writer - other than religious works he wrote about Calderon, Plutarch, church history and philology.  In fact this last is one of his main claims to fame - his 1857 paper "On Some Deficiencies in Our English Dictionaries" was the direct inspiration for the Oxford English Dictionary.  (For a recent account see Simon Winchester's The Meaning of Everything.)  The poet Geoffrey Hill was greatly interested in Trench.  (See Matthew Sperling's 2014 Visionary Philology: Geoffrey Hill and the Study of Words.)

The link is to a US edition which has the note "a few passages, appropriate only to readers in the Church of England, have been omitted".