The Magi Discover the Christmas custom, story, myth and legend associated with the Magi. This festive tradition and Christmas custom, with its familiar symbol and meaning, has evolved over time.The Magi were the first figures to worship Jesus Christ and therefore particularly respected by many Christians. But what is the history of the Magi and the significance of their gifts? This article provides facts and information about the history of the Magi as a familiar symbol of our Christmas today.
Picture of the Magi
The History of the Magi - Where did they come from? The 'Magi' are believed by many experts to have come from from Persia. The Yemen is also a possibility as their place of origin, as this is the only place where myrrh was found. The Magi are most typically depicted wearing Persian clothes in Christian art as illustrated in the above picture.
The History of the Magi - The Bible Story The Magi are also referred to as the Three Wise Men of the East. The Magi, or Wise Men, are featured in the Bible story of the Nativity. The story of them are detailed in the Bible in Matthew 2, 1-5; 7-15; 19-23:
Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled. And when he had gathered the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. They said, In Bethlehem of Judea.
Then Herod privily called the wise men, and inquired of them what time the star appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Search diligently for the child; and when ye have found him, bring me word, that I may come and worship him also.
The wise men departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it stood over where the child was. They rejoiced with exceeding great joy.
And when they saw the child with Mary his mother, they worshipped him: and they opened their treasures, and presented unto him gifts, gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.
The History of the Magi - How many Magi were there? As you can see from the above text taken from Matthew in the Bible the names and the number of the 'Wise Men' were not mentioned. However, because three gifts were recorded, there are traditionally said to have been three Magi.
What were the names of the Magi? Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar? The names of the three 'Magi' are not actually mentioned in the Bible. They are referred to by a variety of different names but in the traditional Western Christian church they are commonly known as Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. These names given to the Magi were detailed in an early 6th century Greek manuscript.
The History of the Magi - Were they Kings? Were the Magi kings? The identification of the Magi as kings is linked to Old Testament prophesies (Isaiah 60:3, Psalm 72:10, and Psalm 68:29) that state that the Messiah would be worshipped by kings. The gifts that they presented were extremely valuable, fit for a king and the type of gifts to be given by kings. The above picture depicts the Magi, one of whom is kneeling before the infant Jesus. The gesture of kneeling has had an important effect on Christian religious practices which shows great respect. Previously, both Jewish and Roman traditions had viewed kneeling as undignified. Only in other cultures, such as Persian, was this gesture typically used when venerating a king.
The Gifts given by the Magi The Magi presented the infant Jesus with three gifts which were fit for a king.
Gold as a symbol of kingship on earth, symbolizing virtue
Myrrh (an embalming oil) was used as an anointing oil and as a symbol of suffering
Frankincense was used as a perfume, symbolizing prayer and the priesthood
The History of the Magi - Who were the Magi? As previously stated the Magi were the first to worship Jesus Christ and therefore particularly respected by many Christians. But who were the Magi? The Greek word 'Magi' is usually translated as "wise men." The Magi had identified a star which they believed signified the birth of the King of the Jews. The Magi were therefore deemed to be "astronomers" or "astrologers". The ancients believed that astronomical phenomena were connected to important terrestrial events and the study of the stars was accorded great respect.
The Term 'Magi' and its association with Magic The term 'Magi' is associated with the priests of Zoroastrianism, which was system of religion founded in Persia in the 6th century BC, by the prophet Zoroaster. As part of their religion, these priests paid particular attention to the stars, and gained an international reputation for astrology. The religious practices of this sect and their use of astrology caused derivatives of the term 'Magi' to be applied to the occult in general and led to the English term magic.
Magi Christmas is celebrated worldwide, throughout the Christian population of approximately 2275 million people, but is also celebrated by many non-Christians as a secular, cultural festival. Customs and traditions are symbolized by familiar symbols and icons, such as the Magi, have come to represent the spirit and meaning of this special time of the year.
The Term 'Magi' and its association with Magic
Who were the Magi?
The Gifts given by the Magi
Were the Magi Kings?
What were the names of the Magi? Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar
How many Magi were there?
The History of the Magi - The Bible Story
Where did the Magi come from?
"Merry Christmas, have a happy and prosperous New Year!"