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Why do people think there were 3 wise men that visited Jesus, and why are they referred to as 'Maji'?

It seems like every story (including the new movie out about the Nativity) states that there were 3 wise men. However, the bible just says 'wise men' in the plural, which means it could be two or more.

I know the bible says they brought gifts of 'gold, frankincence, and myrrh', but that certainly doesn't mean 3 gifts... just what they were made of. It would be like saying today's kids get gifts of plastic, metal and glass, which could describe hundreds of toys. It's not likely that one guy brought Jesus a brick of gold. In fact, one of the wise men might have brought frankincence IN a gold container. Anyway, I've always been curious why people are so dead-set on there being three wise men.

Also, where does the term Magi come from? It certainly isn't in the King James version, and I can't find evidence of it in the Hebrew texts (not that I am proficient in Hebrew).

PLEASE do not copy and paste answers (esp. long ones) from Wikipedia and such. I have already read all those


Wow... I got some interesting responces... I think I need to clarify a couple things:

1. No I am NOT trying to belittle the scriptures. I am a devout Christian who tries to understand the core of scripture, not ideas popularized by men in the last 2000 years.

2. The answers provided about the Maji still don't explain why it is not actually in the Bible. I KNOW what a Maji is, and I KNOW that it is a Greek concept. The problem is, Jesus wasn't Greek, and neither were the men who wrote the Gospels. Since they didn't call the men Maji, why have people since decided to call them that?

3. And finally, why is no one answering my first question... why do people (including the web sites included here as links) claim there were 3 wise men?

Update 2:

Also, a couple of the links provided by some of you provide information that has no biblical substance at all. One link shows what countries the 'Maji' came from, and what gifts they brought. This is specifically the type of rhetoric that I am trying to sift through. NONE of that is scriptural. My question is specific to scriptures.

9 Answers

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago
    Favourite answer

    Simple Question, Simple Answer. Religion if fake, a hoax, waste of time and it starts wars.

    Source(s): My brains again!
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  • 1 decade ago

    The truth is, your right...many people believe that there were three wisemen/magi, because of the three gifts. Whether there were three or not, we do know that there were at least two, because wisemen is plural not singular. Just like we don't know how many shepherds came to the stable that night as well.

    The three gifts were most likely exactly as stated. One gift was gold, another was frankincense, and the other was myrrh.

    Some people believer that each of these gifts carried a specific purpose for them.

    For example: The gold was to pay tribute to a king. (For example: Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's.) The frankincense was a incense that was offered as a sweet smelling sacrifice to God, and the third Myrrh, was used in the embalming process. Thus giving the idea that the wisemen (however many there were) knew what the Messiah was for, and what he was going to do.

    I have been studying the wisemen recently in my devotions, and I believe that the wisemen came from the area the Bible calls Babylon. Let me explain. Babylon was the area where Daniel was taken captive to, and was trained as one of the Babylonian young men. Here he was taught, and gained the knowledge of Babylon and also taught them the knowledge of the nation of Israel. In Babylon it has been discovered there existed a HUGE library, probabley of which Daniel had access to. Most likely he read, and wrote material that was placed there. These Wisemen were trained in the things of the Daniel, even though he had been out of the scene for over 1,000 years! It is like us learning about the Egyptian Pharoahs, and what they believed. The same is with the Wisemen as they have studied what Daniel believed.

    The word Magi is the greek word for wisemen. The New Testament is written in Greek. Yes, the characters of the Bible in the New Testament did speak Greek. Rome was the world ruler of the time. Remember Herod was just the Governor of Judeae not King. Caesar was King. They spoke Greek. That is why when you pick up a concordance of the Bible you will find Hebrew which is what the Old Testament is written with, and Greek which is what the New Testament is written with. Feel free to email me with more questions if you like. I'd be more than happy to answer them for you.

    This is taken from the Strong's Concordance:

    Mat 2:7 Then (5119) Herod (2264), when he had privily (2977)called (2564) the wise men (3097), enquired (1980) of (3844) them (846) diligently (198) what time (5550) the star (792) appeared (5316) .

    Greek for (3097)

    Pronunciation Guide

    magos {mag'-os} -magi

    Outline of Biblical Usage

    1) a magus

    a) the name given by the Babylonians (Chaldeans), Medes, Persians, and others, to the wise men, teachers, priests, physicians, astrologers, seers, interpreters of dreams, augers, soothsayers, sorcerers etc.

    b) the oriental wise men (astrologers) who, having discovered by the rising of a remarkable star that the Messiah had just been born, came to Jerusalem to worship him

    c) a false prophet and sorcerer

    Hope that helps!!!

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  • It appears as if you answered one of your own questions. Just read between the lines. Think about when you said,"I know the bible says they brought gifts of 'gold, frankincence, and myrrh', but that certainly doesn't mean 3 gifts." People automatically assume since there are 3 gifts that three people brought the gifts. But hey I dontknow...i wasnt there. :)

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  • Anonymous
    4 years ago

    It doesn't say how many. The word used is plural, so there were at least 2. The idea of 3 comes from later Catholic tradition. I'm not buying it, but that is where the idea comes from. ---------------------------------------.... RE I believe it comes from the 3 gifts they brought. Yes. The early Catholic iconography would show one wise man with gold, one with frankincense, and one with myrrh. Originally, it was meant to be a teaching tool (not literal). Later, it was believed that there were literally 3 wise men.

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  • 1 decade ago

    I agree. I don't know where Magi comes from, but I've never found anywhere in the Bible that told how many wise men there were. And you are correct; three gifts does not necessarily mean three wise men.

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  • Shayna
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago

    The above site should clariify it for you. I am confused, if you already read the encyclopedia and all the other sources, why is it you are asking us, I find it very clear. Since you do not want actual sited answers from sources, refer to this site. By the way, siting a reliable source is always the best credible answer.

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  • saehli
    Lv 6
    1 decade ago

    It is not MAJI, it is MAGI

    Magi means that they had something magic.

    And of course there was a lot of magic about it.

    No normal man could have known about the birth of Jesus long in advance.

    No normal man could have followed at moving star.

    No man could have known that Jesus was going to be something special.

    Especially since there is no such thing as God.

    So you see, it is absolutely justified to call them MAGI.

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  • 1 decade ago

    You know, with three minutes of net searching, you could answer this yourself, and probably more to your satisfaction than anyone here. That's IF you wanted facts and history. But I get the sense that you're here to belittle and sneer at the faith of any answerers. Is that right?

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  • 1 decade ago

    Have you read the information located at this sight?

    The main page also gives information on the three gift types given.

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