The legend of the Three Wise Men in the Christian tradition
September 28, 2020
As every year, the night of January 5th is approaching, when the arrival of the Three Wise Men is celebrated in the Christian tradition. Although not much is known about them, nor does the Bible specify much about them, the popular belief has spread that three kings from pagan religions went to bring gifts of great value to the God of the Christians, reincarnated in a little boy. Were there really three of them? What were their names? Did the star really guide them to the portal of Bethlehem?
The Bible does not give much information about the Magi. The Gospel of Matthew mentions the Magi from the East. However, it does not mention a specific number of them, although it does mention that they gave three gifts.
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judah in the days of King Herod, wise men came from the East to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is the King of the Jews who has just been born? Gospel of Matthew (2, 1-2)
And when they entered the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and fell down and worshipped him, and opening their treasures, they offered him gifts: gold, frankincense and myrrh. Gospel of Matthew (2, 11)
But what were the Magi (magusàioi) called at the time of Jesus?
The magusàioi were soothsayers and astrologers, of Chaldean origin, i.e. from the Syro-Mesopotamian area, which from Judea meant the geographical East. Thus, the term magusàioi was used to designate the charlatans who practised some kind of magic, who practised the ancient science of the Magû, a tribe of followers of Zaratrusta (Zoroaster), which brought together practices of a magical nature and who were guided by the stars in their divinatory practices.
The three gifts they brought, namely gold, frankincense and myrrh, date back to the so-called "Incense Route", a route that stretched from the Indian Ocean up the Arabian Peninsula, bringing goods from Central Asia to the Mediterranean. Along this route, goods were transported to the territory of Judea.
According to the apocryphal accounts of the Bible (both the proto-Gospel of James and the so-called Armenian Gospel of the infancy, a text from the 5th or 6th century), the birth of Christ is dated the 6th of January, and the arrival of the Magi three days later. In these texts three kings are named,
It is logical to think that the goods or gifts given to the Saviour came not only from their own distribution route, but also from their place of origin as a kingdom. The gold represented the sign of divine majesty and kingship; the frankincense symbolised sacrifice and the myrrh was a funerary representation, emphasising human frailty.
What are the names of the 3 wise kings?
According to other sources, the 3 magi were Melchiar, Melchior, king of Nubia and Arabia. Jaspar, Gaspar, who was king of Tharsis and Egriseula. And Balthasar, Balthasar, king of Godolia and Sheba. Although they were of different nationalities and did not speak the same language, they stayed together, riding on dromedaries and guided by a star (many sources suggest it was Halley's comet itself, which these magi interpreted as a sign of good luck), marking the birth of the king of the Jews.
The Star appeared again, but as a harbinger of the end of the kings' days on earth. Melchior died at the age of 116, Gaspar at 112, five days after the former; and Balthasar at 109, six days after Gaspar. They were buried together and as long as the star shone over the sky, their bodies remained incorrupt.
If you want to know more about the life of Jesus, don't miss our videos with one of the greatest national experts, Professor Antonio Piñeiro, in the videos on the Myths and truths about Jesus Christ, on Conscious Television.