Nativity scenes usually depict three robed men with their camels, arriving at a stable where the babe Jesus is lying in a manger. The splendidly dressed visitors are commonly called the three wise men. What does the Bible have to say about them?
According to the Bible, the so-called wise men were “from eastern parts,” and it was there that they had learned about Jesus’ birth. (Matthew 2:1, 2, 9) It must have taken a long time for these men to travel to Judea. When they eventually found Jesus, he was no longer a newly born babe in a stable. Instead, the men found Mary and “the young child” living in a house. Matthew 2:11.
The Bible calls these men magi, or “astrologers,” and it does not say how many there were. The Oxford Companion to the Bible explains: “The connection between magic and astrology is reflected in the visitors’ fascination with the star that had led them to Bethlehem.” The Bible clearly condemns all forms of magic and the Babylonian practice of trying to get information from the stars.
The information conveyed to these men did not lead to any good. It aroused wicked King Herod’s jealous anger. This, in turn, resulted in the flight of Joseph, Mary, and Jesus to Egypt and the murder of all male children in Bethlehem “from two years of age and under.” Herod had carefully ascertained the time of Jesus’ birth from what he learned from the astrologers. (Matthew 2:16) In view of all the troubles caused by their visit, it is reasonable to conclude that the star that they saw and the message about “the one born king of the Jews” came from God’s enemy, Satan the Devil, who wanted to do away with Jesus. Matthew 2:1, 2.
The star these men followed led them, not directly to Jesus’ birthplace in Bethlehem, but to Jerusalem, where King Herod ruled.
Matthew is the only Gospel that refers to these visitors. (2:1-12) But does Matthew mention that there were three and that they were kings, and does he record their names? The Catholic newspaper Kirchenzeitung für das Bistum Aachen admits: “The Three Holy Kings are not referred to as such in the Bible. Starting in the sixth century, the wise men were understood to have been, three kings, As to the number of astrologers, Matthew gives no details, In the ninth century they first appeared under the names Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar.” Furthermore, the Catholic reference work Lexikon für Theologie und Kirche notes that the Greek word ma'goi does not mean kings but, rather, “ones having secret knowledge of astrology.” Justin Martyr, Origen, and Tertullian each understood the word to mean “astrologer.” Modern Bible translations also use “astrologers” at Matthew 2:1, 7. The Living Bible; An American Translation.
So no one actually knows how many men came to see Jesus.
Reasoning from the Scriptures