The Journey of the Three Kings Leopold Kupelwieser - public domain

The Christmas Gifts

The Christmas season retells the marvelous events surrounding the birth of our Lord in Bethlehem: the shepherds, angels and manger, all familiar and beloved.


 But what about those mysterious “Magi,” the first to worship Jesus? What do we really know about them and their Christmas gifts? Here is the story surrounding those world-shaking events still celebrated 2,000 years on.


While most assume that there were three, since they brought three gifts, the biblical text doesn’t number these strange visitors from the East. They are called “Magi,” a Latin transliteration of the Persian word magoi, which was a sect of priests (“magic” comes from the same root).


These Magi were clerics in the Medo-Persian Empire known particularly for their extraordinary religious knowledge. They held considerable civic and political authority. As such, those who visited Jesus are also called “Three Kings” in some Bible translations.


One of the titles given to the Prophet Daniel was “Chief of the Magi” because of his ability to interpret dreams (Daniel 4:9, 5:11). When King Darius...