7. How many kings attended Jesus birth?
Perhaps no element of the Christmas Story has so much myth surrounding it. The Christmas song “We Three Kings of Orient Are” is not biblical. The book of Matthew alone mentions the visitors and says that magi from the east came looking for Jesus. No number is mentioned, but they did bring three gifts (gold, frankincense, and myrrh) giving origin to the idea that there were three men. In Western Christian tradition, written 500 hundred years later, the three men are Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar, each representing a specific continent.
Rather than kings, they were magi, from which we get the term magic. Magi were a religious group in Persia who studied the stars, which explains why they saw the star of the King of the Jews, and similar people are mentioned in the book of Daniel. Scholars have tried to find a stellar event that could be the star they followed and thereby give a date for Jesus’ birth. The magi do not say if it was a comet, a specific star or constellation, or a supernatural event.
Another myth surrounding the magi is that they were at the birth of Jesus. Matthew says that they found the child Jesus at the house in Bethlehem. The word child does not mean infant, so Jesus was months are perhaps two years old at the time of the arrival. After they left, Herod killed all the boys in Bethlehem two-years old and younger. This likely means they saw the star two years earlier, and whether that was at conception or his birth, they met the boy Jesus, not the baby. That they met Jesus at the house, is again proof Joseph and Mary were living with relatives, maybe the same ones in whose stable Mary gave birth.
Editors Note: Travis Childs is a history instructor at Cameron University in Lawton, Okla. He is a graduate of Midway High School and lives in Bluegrove. He is currently president of the Clay County Historical Society.