The account of the Magi, or Wise Men, is a well-known and loved part of the Christmas story. Nevertheless, Matthew’s account simply states that when Jesus Christ was born, “there came wise men from the east,” without specifying how many there were, exactly who they were, where they came from, or that they were kings. The traditional number of three wise men arose because of the association of one king for each gift given to the infant Jesus (gold, frankincense, and myrrh). The identification of these “kings” as Balthasar, Melchior, and Caspar does not date before the sixth century.The historian Herodotus first uses the Greek term magoi to refer to a priestly caste among the Medes and Persians who were noted as dream interpreters. Later associated with the priests of the Zoroastrian religion, magoi was also used to describe various types of eastern diviners and wise men, including the Babylonian astronomers known as Chaldeans. By the roman period, the Latin term magi was used for a whole range of practitioners, from diviners and more respectable astrologers to magicians and charlatans. Although some scholars have suggested that the Magi may have been Jews from Babylon or elsewhere in the eastern Diaspora, the earliest artistic representations of the Magi portray them in Persian or other eastern garb. Some early Christian writers viewed the Magi as magicians who readily accepted the superiority of Jesus Christ and gave up their magical arts to come and worship him. Others saw them as the best of the pagan wise men who were inspired by their knowledge of astronomy to recognize signs of Christ’s birth.
Many scholars see the emphasis of the Jewish milieu of Matthew as a sign that this Gospel was written primarily for Jews and Jewish Christians. Therefore, if the Magi were indeed Gentiles rather than Jews from the eastern Diaspora, they join the women of the Matthean genealogy, the Syrophoenecian woman, and the centurion at the foot of the cross as figures demonstrating the inclusion of Gentiles as well in the Christian message in Matthew’s Gospel.
Living out a great season of my life, thanks to Jesus Christ, and two wonderful daughters, a great life's work. Loving this opportunity to share faith online... I'm a single Mom, convert to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, second-gen Italian, from the East coast originally. Love the fine arts, dance, frozen yogurt, temples, scriptures, writing, jazz, helping others reach their potential, king salmon, ....and not in that order. God is good. I feel it deeply when people have a misconception of Heavenly Father or Jesus Christ, His Son, that lessens or cheapens Them and blinds one's ability to feel His presence or to trust in an ultimately good eternal end to life's circumstances.