3. The Wise Men Weren’t Kings
“We three kings of orient” is sung each Christmas to celebrate the journey of the wise men. Were they really kings?
The Greek word used in Matthew 2:1 is magos. The word is primarily used to denote a member of a group of priests or wise men among the Medes, Persians, and Babylonians. They were educated men, whose study included astronomy, astrology, and enchantment. It is sometimes translated as “wise man,” sometimes as “magician.” The Greek translation of the Old Testament uses the same word in the book of Daniel, where it describes that Daniel was made the “chief of the magicians.”
This fits well with the Christmas story, where we’re told that the wise men “saw his star in the east” and came to worship the baby. Magoi studied the stars and saw meaning in the celestial object that dominated the night sky at that time. Rather than being kings, it seems more likely that the wise men were educated astronomers from the East.