Three wise men and Baby Jesus
Posted December 25, 2014on:
One of the most popular images of Christmas is the Three Wise Men, riding camels, following the Star of Bethlehem on their way to the baby Jesus. That image is absolutely not supported by the Bible.
According to an article by Debra Kelly in ‘Listverse’, the story of the wise men appears only in Matthew 2:1–12. According to Matthew, wise men visit King Herod, ask for the King of the Jews, and find him in a home with his mother, where they give him gold, incense, and myrrh. And that’s about all Matthew says.
He doesn’t say that there were three of them, that they were kings, or that they rode camels—all things that we repeat every Christmas. They’re referred to as magoi, the Latin word from which we get “magic.” Far from being kings, they might have been astrologers.
Original depictions of the magoi began in the second century, but not until the third century did they take on the trappings of royalty. They’ve also been variously assigned the roles of representing the three races created by Noah’s three sons, but the idea of three kings likely just came from the mention of three gifts.
They’re also not mentioned as being at the birth of Christ, though we always see them popping up at Nativity scenes. According to Matthew, they found the baby and his mother in a house. Based on Herod’s genocide of male children less than two years old, they likely showed up in the spring or summer after the birth.