4. There Weren’t Three Wise Men
We’ve come to know them as Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar, the three wise men from the East who supposedly traveled by camel following the star. But were there really only three of them? In truth, these three names weren’t added to the story until the seventh century in the earliest Latin records.
Three gifts are mentioned in the Christmas story: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Nowhere is the number of wise men recorded. It’s assumed that each wise man brought a gift, and thus, there must have been three wise men. In reality, there may have been more who came to worship the baby.
Early Christian art is inconsistent as to the number of wise men. A painting in the cemetery of Saints Peter and Marcellinus displays two wise men, while one in the cemetery of Domitilla shows four. A vase in the Kircher Museum has eight wise men, and Asian tradition says there were twelve. The truth is that the number of wise men who visited the infant king simply isn’t known, and there is no compelling reason, aside from the number of gifts, to believe that there were three.