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Who are the three wise men?

Who are the three wise men?

Every nativity scene is such a beautiful sight to behold. The whole ensemble is there. The Holy Family, Mary, Joseph, the barn animals, the angels, and the three wise men. But, here comes the question – who are the three wise men?

Who are the three wise men?

The three wise men or also called as Magi are the noble pilgrims from the East who followed a miraculous guiding star to Bethlehem. The three wise men claim an essential role in the Epiphany, the manifestation of God to the world. Yet, their descriptions provide so few details.

Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar

So, biblical scholars have had to speculate on their number, appearance, and origins. Looking back at the Bible, we don’t even see their names. However, scholars proposed that they represent the three known continents at the time – Europe, Asia, and Africa.

From a wide assortment of names suggested for the Magi, those that eventually prevailed were Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. They are often presented in their regal garments bearing gifts. Their gifts are symbolic of the life of Jesus and include gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Gaspar is often shown with a green cloak and gold crown jewels. His gift is frankincense, symbolizing Jesus as the high priest. Frankincense is often used in worship in temples and churches. 

Melchior is often presented wearing a gold cloak and has long white hair and a beard. His gift is gold, which symbolizes Jesus’ Kingship as gold is always associated with the treasures of royalties.

Balthazar is depicted with a black beard and wears a purple cloak. His gift is myrrh, a perfume used on dead bodies in order for the bodies to smell pleasant. This is because Jesus will face persecution and death on the cross.

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The Biblical Story

The story of the Magi will be found in the Gospel of Matthew. They are looking for the star in the east. And, where the star is located, there is also the king of the Jews. They approached King Herod about this.

With the help of Herod’s scribes, they found that the star is in Bethlehem, according to a prophecy. Herod sent the three Magi to find the boy so that he, too, can ‘worship’ him. But really, Herod’s plan is to kill the baby in order to preserve his kingship. 

When they found the baby with Mary and Joseph, they worshipped Him and gave Him gifts. Then, an angel appeared to them with a warning that Herod would kill the baby. Because of this, they went home through an alternative route. 

This story is different from what we see in the nativity scene. For they could have worshipped Jesus when He was about two years old. But oftentimes, artists associate the arrival of the three magi with Luke’s narrative in the manger scene. Nevertheless, they add to the beautiful and classic story of the birth of Jesus.

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