HOME SCHOOL BOOK REVIEW
Book: The Story of the Other Wise Man
Author: Henry van Dyke
Publisher: Ballantine Books, republished in 1996
Language level: 1
(1=nothing objectionable; 2=common euphemisms and/or childish slang terms; 3=some cursing or profanity; 4=a lot of cursing or profanity; 5=obscenity and/or vulgarity)
Reading level: Ages 10 and up
Rating: 5 stars (EXCELLENT)
Reviewed by Wayne S. Walker
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Van Dyke, Henry. The Story of the Other Wise Man (originally published in 1895 by Harper and Row Publishers Inc.; republished in 1984 by Ballantine/Epiphany Books, a division of Random House Inc., New York City, NY). Nearly everyone is familiar with the story of the Wise Men who brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh to the baby Jesus. Tradition numbers them at three and names them Caspar, Melchoir, and Balthazar. But did you know the story of “The Other Wise Man”? Artaban, a leader of the Persian Magi, learns from heavenly signs that the time is at hand for the fulfillment of an ancient prophecy about the birth among the Hebrews of a holy Prince and Deliverer of Man. Hastening to join three fellow Magi for the long journey into Judaea, he pauses to help a dying man in Babylon and is left behind. And so Artaban begins his pilgrimage alone.
Artaban then makes it to Bethlehem but finds that he has just missed both his friends and the young child. But before he can hope to catch up with Joseph, Mary, and their child on their way to Egypt, he stops to assist a mother whose child is in danger of being killed by Herod’s troops. After searching for His quest in Egypt and not finding it, he then travels from place to place, visiting the oppressed, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, tending the sick, and comforting the captive. After 33 years, he ends up, an aged, white-haired man, in Jerusalem on the day of the Passover. Just as he thinks that he might find the object of his search who is being led away to be crucified, he is beseeched by a young girl from his native Parthia who is being sold into slavery to pay her father’s debts. Will he ever see the King for whom He has looked these many years?
Henry Jackson van Dyke (1852–1933) was a Presbyterian minister, professor at Princeton University, President Woodrow Wilson’s ambassador to the Netherlands and Luxembourg, and a noted author who wrote the hymn, “Joyful, Joyful, We Adore Thee” set to the “Ode to Joy” theme from Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony. Van Dyke said, “I do not know where this little story came from–out of the air, perhaps. One thing is certain, it is not written in any other book, nor is it to be found among the ancient lore of the East. And yet I have never felt as if it were my own. It was a gift, and it seemed to me as if I knew the Giver.” He first read The Story of The Other Wise Man aloud to his New York congregation after writing it and then had it published in written form. It is, in essence, a parable that shows what seeking for Jesus in life is really all about. We did it as a family read aloud, and everyone was moved by the story.