Three Wise Men Visited the Baby Jesus
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Three wise men visited the baby Jesus.

Don’t Believe That!

Like many bible stories, this legend has become distorted and embellished beyond its source material. The typical telling is that three wise men arrived on camels to visit baby Jesus in his manger, the first bringing a gift of gold, the second bringing a gift of frankincense and the third bringing a gift of myrrh.

According to the Matthew 2:1, “… behold there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem.” Notice, no mention of the number – there could have been three wise men, or five, or twenty. There is also no mention of how they arrived – camel or otherwise. Matthew 2:11 continues, “And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary his mother, and falling down they adored him; and opening their treasures they offered him gifts; gold, frankincense and myrrh.”

So, the three gifts are accurate – each was a highly-valued commodity at the time – and may have led to the simplification of one wise man per gift. More likely, each visitor presented all three. Also standing out in this passage is the reference to a house, and that Jesus is referred to as a child, not a baby. In fact, the wise men never visited Jesus at his birth, or in a manger, but some period of time later, perhaps up to two years. According to the book of Luke, only shepherds were present with Jesus in the manger.

Further details added to this story, such as the three wise men being kings (per the familiar Christmas carol, “We Three Kings”), and even the names of the wise men (Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar) also have no biblical basis.

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