Three Kings: What Your Sunday School Teacher Didn't Tell You

There is a guest author posting today here at Mr. Hyde's Blog. His name is Demian Farnworth and he is the keynote blogger for Fallen and Flawed. He is kicking off the series titled "Christmas: Separating the Fact from the Fiction." After you finish reading his post, you should head on over to Fallen and Flawed and check out his blog.


Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar.

Do those names sound familiar? Should, they're the names of the three kings who brought gifts to the baby Jesus.

Only problem, the Bible never names the three kings. In fact, the Bible never specifies how many kings actually visit the baby Jesus.

Yes, it specifies three gifts: frankincense, gold and myrrh, but Matthew 2:2-12, which narrates the visit of the kings, allows for the visitation of a hundred kings.

It's that wide open.

And while we're on the topic, those kings...well, they weren't actually kings. That's right. The Bible states "Magi from the east came to Jerusalem."

Well, how did they become kings then? The most popular theory suggests that after 350 A. D. someone wanted to endorse the role of Christian monarchs--and voila, the magi became kings.

But what's a magi? Think Zoroastrian priest. In Latin, the singular form of magi--magos--refers to the religious caste in which Zoroaster was born.

The biblical equivalent would be the religious caste of Levi.

What did Zoroaster and his priests caste do? They studied astronomy, medicine and mathematics--and, you guessed it, astrology--the art of interpreting how stars influence human affairs.

So, where did the those names come from? Well you have to wait about 500 years before the names crop up in a Greek manuscript found in Alexandria.

After that, they just stuck.

Okay, if so much of what we know about the story of the Magi's is wrong, what's true? Well, we know this much: They humped it across the desert to Bethlehem following a star, found baby Jesus in a cave and bowed before him.

Then they gave him gifts fit for a king.

Gifts that were a beautiful reflection of their spiritual adoration. An adoration you and I would be wise to imitate.
What'd you think? 


6 Response to "Three Kings: What Your Sunday School Teacher Didn't Tell You"

  • Daniel Says:

    I love the all the funky facts for setting the Christmas record straight. Half of that stuff was completely new to me.


  • Tracy Says:

    May we all spend time adoring Christmas both during this Christmas season and the days to follow.


  • Anonymous Says:

    Well, in fact the whole story of the magi is a relatively late addition. Mark, author of the earliest gospel, never heard about it, so it must havbe been added at least a generation after Jesus' death. Most modern biblical scholars agree that Jesus would most likely have been born in Nazareth, not Bethlehem. The story that people would be ordered to migrate for census purposes has no basis in history and is unbelievable. Most likely it was added just to make Jesus fit into the mold of legendary king David.


  • Mr. Hyde Says:

    Anonymous,

    Thank you for stopping by and reading the post. I am going to make the inference that you are a skeptic who is familiar with Christianity, probably even someone who once professed to be a Christian. Is this correct?

    That doesn't make your comment more or less valid, but simply reveals your bias.

    A couple of things I would like to point out. First, your comment is operating under the assumption that Mark never heard of the magi. The problem with that is Mark doesn't really address the birth narrative at all. He simply jumps right to the beginning of Jesus' ministry when he is baptized by John the Baptist.

    Second, could you please be more specific than "most biblical scholars agree that Jesus would most likely have been born in Nazareth, not Bethlehem." Could you give an example or two?

    Third, how would adding the story of Joseph and Mary traveling to Bethlehem make Jesus "fit into the mold of legendary king David"?


  • Anonymous Says:

    is the bible clear that the magi actually visited the manger as tradition is taught or was Jesus already older, no longer a NEWBORN? I understand that they went to the HOUSE and saw the young child with Mary his mother. Thank you for your response.


  • Mr. Hyde Says:

    Anonymous,

    No, tradition is wrong on this point as you hinted at in your comment. The Bible does not say that the Magi visited the manger. In fact, the Bible is clear that the Magi visited them in a "house." Matthew 2:11, "On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him." In addition to them visiting at a house, they saw the "child." The Greek used there is clear that Jesus is no longer a newborn, but probably of a year or two in age.