Today we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany, when the Magi arrive to pay homage to baby Jesus. Matthew’s gospel gives the fascinating account of this event. However, it has been retold so many times, and in so many ways—in plays, poetry, songs—that most people have a distorted view of the events. Here are three “misconceptions.”
- WERE THEY KINGS?
Probably not. Though the famous song chimes “We Three Kings from Orient Are…” the Bible does not say anything about their political status. It does say that they are “wise men,” also known as Magi. Strong theories suggest they were astrologers or part of a Persian priesthood.
- WERE THERE THREE?
We don’t know for sure. Matthew’s gospel is silent about the number of visitors. But since the word Magi is plural, there were apparently at least two, and there could have been more—even several more. The bible does say that they “offered him gifts, gold frankincense and myrrh.” Those three gifts are why it is usually assumed that there were three of them.
- WHEN DID THEY COME?
The night of his birth? Well….the specific scripture verses that chronicle the Magi’s journey, (Matthew 2:8 ,11,13 and 14) all refers to Jesus as a “child,” not an infant/baby. And based on the calculations of King Herod and the Magi, (Matthew 2:16) Jesus could have been close to two years old.
Even though some of our impressions about Epiphany may be a bit off, this much is true:
A group of distinguished foreigners left their homes, their families, and their country. They left and undertook the troubles of a long, long, journey to follow a star…not exactly sure of where it would lead them, or what they would find. What sacrifices! What faith! Their dedication paid off, for finally “when they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy; and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.”
Lord, grant me the faithful perseverance of these wise men and may we all worship him with great joy!