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Did Three Wise Men Really Visit Baby Jesus?
Christmastime lore from South America to Eastern Europe to Asia depicts a Nativity scene with three kings, or wise men, bearing precious gifts for the babe Jesus. Is this story true? Does it line up with the facts? Let us see.
Two Gospels, Matthew and Luke, chronicle the birth of Jesus. These accounts show that only lowly shepherds from nearby fields visited Jesus at his birth. The so-called kings, or wise men, were in reality astrologers, not royalty, and they are not numbered. The astrologers did not journey to the side of a newborn in a manger but arrived when Jesus was a child and was living in a house. Their presence even jeopardized the life of Jesus!
Look closely at the account of Jesus’ birth by Bible writer Luke, and you will find that it says: “There were . . . shepherds living out of doors and keeping watches in the night over their flocks. And suddenly Jehovah’s angel stood by them, and . . . said to them: ‘. . . You will find an infant bound in cloth bands and lying in a manger.’ . . . And they went with haste and found Mary as well as Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.”—Luke 2:8-16.
Only Joseph, Mary, and the shepherds were present with baby Jesus. No one else is listed in Luke’s report.
Now examine the account at Matthew 2:1-11 from the King James Bible: “Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem . . . And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother.”
Notice that the account states just “wise men,” not “three wise men,” and that they first traveled from the east to Jerusalem, not to the birth city of Jesus, Bethlehem. By the time they finally reached Bethlehem, Jesus was a “young child”—no longer a baby—and no longer in a stable but in a house.
Also, while the King James Bible uses the words “wise men” in describing these visitors, other translations use “Magi” or “astrologers.” According to A Handbook on the Gospel of Matthew, the expression “wise men” translates “a Greek noun which originally referred to Persian priests who were experts in astrology.” And The Expanded Vine’s Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words defines the word as “a wizard, sorcerer, a pretender to magic powers, a professor of the arts of witchcraft.”
Although astrology and witchcraft are still popular today, the Bible warns against their use. (Isaiah 47:13-15) They are forms of spiritism and are practices that Jehovah God abhors. (Deuteronomy 18:10-12) That is why no angel of God announced the birth of Jesus to the astrologers. However, by means of divine intervention in a dream, they were warned not to report back to wicked King Herod, since he sought to kill Jesus. So “they withdrew to their country by another way.”—Matthew 2:11-16.
Would true Christians want to perpetuate a fabled Nativity that distorts the truth surrounding the birth of Jesus? Surely the answer is no.