Christmastime lore from South America to Eastern Europe to Asia depicts a Nativity scene with three kings, or wise men, bearing precious gifts for the babe Jesus. Is this story true? Does it line up with the facts? Let us see.
Two Gospels, Matthew and Luke, chronicle the birth of Jesus. These accounts show that only lowly shepherds from nearby fields visited Jesus at his birth. The so-called kings, or wise men, were in reality astrologers, not royalty, and they are not numbered. The astrologers did not journey to the side of a newborn in a manger but arrived when Jesus was a child and was living in a house. Their presence even jeopardized the life of Jesus!
Notice that the account states just “wise men,” not “three wise men,” and that they first traveled from the east to Jerusalem, not to the birth city of Jesus, Bethlehem. By the time they finally reached Bethlehem, Jesus was a “young child”—no longer a baby—and no longer in a stable but in a house. (Luke 2:8-16; Matthew 2:1-11)