The so-called ‘three kings’
info This commentary was written by a volunteer for our Bible translation project. It’s not an official view of our project; we are not a religious denomination and we do not establish doctrine. These commentaries reflect a variety of views and some disagree with each other.
There is more myth than fact to most people’s ideas of just who ‘the three wise men’ were that brought gifts to Jesus after his birth as a human, and to how many there were that brought the gifts. As common myth has it (and as all the Christmas songs say), there were (1) three (2) kings that brought gifts to Jesus while he was (3) in the feed trough (manger) in BethLehem.
Which is probably wrong on all three counts.
Let’s take a close look at all three of these beliefs:
1. If you go back and re-read Matthew 2:1-12, you will see that the account doesn’t say how many men there were.
All we do know is that they brought three gifts: Gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
2. Matthew didn’t write that they were ‘wise men,’ ‘kings,’ or ‘astrologers’ (as some Bibles say). The account simply says (in Greek) that they were magoi. Magoi means, ‘Priests of Babylon.’
Actually, it’s the word that we get the English word ‘magician’ from, so there may be some extended meaning to the term (but that is speculation).
Yet others have argued for the use of the word Zoroastrians.
3. Then go back and reread Matthew 2:11. It clearly says that they went to a house (gr. oikian), not a stable or barn. So, Jesus wasn’t lying in the manger by the time they arrived.
However, the rest of the account does indicate that this house was in BethLehem (where JoSeph had gone to register), which indicates that these things did actually happen shortly after Jesus’ human birth.