Wise Men HeaderMagi, or Wise Men.

By Rev. Phil Greetham. © Copyright 1996. This Version, 2012.

5: Where the Magi, Kings?

Hymns, songs, story books, television and radio all say that the Magi were kings. Yet Matthew's gospel says nothing of them being kings. Where does this idea come from? The discovery of the account of King Tiridates, a Magi, might have had some influence on this. Mostly it is attempts by later scholars to squeeze information out of the Old Testamant passages.

Isaiah 60:3
Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your dawn.

Psalms 72:10
The kings of Tarshish and of distant shores will bring tribute to him; the kings of Sheba and Seba will present him gifts.

Psalm 68:29
Because of your temple at Jerusalem, kings will bring you gifts.

What are we to make of these prophecies?
Old Testament prophecies tend to have an immediate use for the time they were made but they are often used for a distant event as well. The prophecy in Psalm 72:10 (above) is a good example. It mentions the kings of Tarshish bringing tribute. This was originally for King David, to show how his rule will impress other nations. However if the whole psalm is read, it goes beyond King David's time and looks to a more perfect king and kingdom. Like a three dimensional image, the focus can be pulled backwards and forwards, giving emphasis to different parts of the image. It need not be true that kings came to Jesus and presented him with herds of camels, chests of gold and other gifts. (For instance we are told nothing of herds of camels given to the infant Jesus!) The principle of what happened to David will symbolically happen to the coming Messiah. Therefore the Magi need not be kings, but symbolically, the prophecies are fulfilled in the coming of wise men to Jesus.

Having said that, it is possible that the Magi were members of royal families, or lords of some kinds. Magi tended to come from those social groups. It is not impossible for a Magi to be a king. History knows of at least one, King Tiradates. However they are not described as Kings in the New Testament and therefore the term should not really be used.

Comet - Click here to return to the Index.
Go Back - Click here to return to the Homepage.