Three gifts, three kings? - The Myths of Christmas #4

December 22, 2020

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The Bible says that Magi from the east brought three gifts to Jesus - gold, frankincense, and myrrh. But does the Bible say that there were three kings? In this fourth episode of "The Myths of Christmas", learn a bit more about the Magi and why they are important in the Christmas story.


Hey friends, welcome to episode number four of The Myths of Christmas. Today’s myth: “Three kings showed up the night of Jesus birth and brought gold, frankincense, and myrrh.”

Well, that’s not completely true. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that they were kings nor does it say that only three wise men visited Jesus, but we often think that because according to Matthew chapter 2, there were 3 specific gifts given - gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and there must have been 3 different Magi carrying each gift. So instead of 3, it was more an entourage of an unspecified number of Magi from the east that visited Jesus. But unlike our nativity scenes and Christmas pageants, these wise men did not arrive on the night of His birth. How do we know? Matthew 2 verse 11 says that Mary and Joseph were residing in a house when the Magi visited. He made no mention of a manger, which gives the impression that the family had settled down in Bethlehem after the census had been taken. Something else - Jesus was no longer a tiny newborn when they arrived. We know this because immediately following the visit of the Magi, Joseph receives a dream to take Mary and Jesus to Egypt. The family fled by night and remained there until Herod was dead (Matthew 2:14-15). If the flight to Egypt occurred on the same night of His birth, Mary and Joseph would not have been able to present Jesus in the Temple on the eighth day according to the Law of Moses, which is narrated by Luke in Luke chapter 2 verses 22-24.

So to summarize, though perhaps the Eastern Orthodox celebrate the visit of the Magi on December 25th, and as I talked about in the second episode of this series, Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th and the Magi likely arrived a good while after Jesus was born - at least more than 8 days after, likely a lot longer. I’ve got a couple of other videos I’ve done on this topic if you’re interested, I’ve linked them in the description below.

Now a more important question would be: why did these Magi from the east make a long journey all the way to Jerusalem to pay homage to Israel’s king? Because remember, that’s what this story is all about - the birth of the Messiah, the king of the Jews. A safe assumption would be that these wise men were not Jewish if they came from the Parthian empire in the Persian region at the time. Of course many of Israel’s enemies were from the east - Persia, Assyria, Babylon, etc. And that’s the point that I think Matthew is trying to make in his gospel account - that the Jewish king is going to be recognized and lauded and honored by the Gentiles. This of course is what so many of the Old Testament prophets have to say - that the king of the Jews will rule over all the nations in the age to come, and that the Gentiles will come to the city of Jerusalem and bring their glory and wealth into it to build it up. While John would say in his gospel that Jesus came to his own and his own didn’t receive him, Matthew presents a clearly eschatological picture pointing forward to the day when people from every tribe, tongue, and nation will come to the land of Israel to pay homage to the Jewish king, Jesus. The story of Jesus’ first coming isn’t about God’s rejection of the Jews and the starting of a new thing called “the church”, it’s about the continuing story that will climax on the day of the Lord when the messiah reigns in Jerusalem and the nations flow up there to worship him and learn from him and from the rest of the Jewish people.

And this is why Christmas is about so much more than just gift giving and family and time off work. We’re beckoned to remember and to see these events as the Gospel authors present them - as the continuing story of God’s covenantal dealings with the nation of Israel and how he intends to bring all that he’s spoken to pass.

Well, there’s more to come, so subscribe if you haven’t, hit that like button down below, and share this video with your friends. May the Lord be with you, see you in the next one.

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