Undergroundchurch Blog

Preparing the Church for the future

12 Day of Christmas Correction – A Wise Men or Kings

Posted by undergroundchurch on December 1, 2009


Christmas is a time of joy and celebration as we recognize the sacrifice God made by sending his only son to earth as a little child. However, there are a few details in the story that need to be corrected from a biblical point of view.

So over the next 12 days I’m going to look at 12 themes in the way we traditionally understand Christmas that don’t exactly line up with Scripture.

The first of these is the three wise men. Actually, there are several details about these men that that are incorrectly observed, so I will break it up over the first few postings.

Wise Men or Kings?

The well-known Christmas carol goes, “We three Kings of Orient are…” Well the Bible does not tell us that they are Kings. In fact, Augustine mentions that there were 12. The actual number is not important, but we do know that there are three gifts, but the Bible does not mention 3 wise men.

The word used in the Bible is the Greek word magos which is the same word used for the sorcerer, Barjesus (a.k.a. Elymas), that followed Paul around in Acts 13. Elymas is the Aramaic word for “wise man”. The word for “sorcerer” in this passage and “wise man” in the Matthew story is the word magos which is the Greek word based on a Babylonian word for the wise men, teachers, priests, physicians, astrologers, seers, interpreters of dreams, augers, soothsayers etc.

Did you follow all of that?

They were basically a group of men, according to the Greeks, that followed Zoroaster’s teaching as early as 400 to 600 B.C. who was an astrologist whose followers found of what would be known as magic (the word “magic” comes from the Latin plural of magosmagi)

Hebrew Roots

The Hebrew word for magos, is rabmag, and the Bible used the root of this word to describe the group in which Daniel and the other Hebrew children were assimilated (Daniel 1:3). The Septuagint uses the word magos multiple times in refering to the order in which Daniel was a part. It is possible, since Daniel did prophecy about the coming messiah and the time of his coming (c.f. Daniel 9) that Daniel had an influence on a group of magoi that led up to the coming of these men in Matthew 2.

The magoi (the Greek plural for magos since magi is the plural for the Latin magus) that came to visit Jesus believed first that a savior of the world was to be born of the Jewish people. This base belief tells us that the influence of this particular group of magoi were not of Baylonian origin, but of Hebrew origin and probably influenced, again, by Daniel’s visions several hundred years earlier.

To summarize, the magoi, or “wise men” if you prefer, were not kings, but simply astrologers and men who believed that a savior was to be born of the Jews and that the time of his birth was foretold years earlier. They had the faith and the drive to track him down, with the help of God, to a little town in order to present gifts of worship.

We can learn one thing from these men… They put a ton of effort into one single act of worship. How much are we willing today to sacrifice and give for one special moment of worship before the King of kings and the Lord of lords?

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