By LOU TISCIONE
The Apostle Matthew recorded the visit of the “wise men.” (Matthew 2) Tradition suggests there were three wise men. Scholars are not certain of the number. It is suggested that there were more than three. The original word from which English translations of the Bible translate “wise men” is the word magi (magoi in Greek).
The number three is likely assumed because three royal gifts were listed as being given to the Christ child and Mary. “And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh.” (Matthew 2:11)
This narrative creates a great scene. It is usually part of depictions of the Christmas Story. Much has been written on the three gifts that the wise men gave to Jesus. Yet the main point of this episode in the life of Jesus is God’s will to manifest the Savior to gentiles. It is a foreshadowing of the universal call of the gospel to all men, not only those of Israel.
These wise men traveled from the east. They were possibly from ancient Babylon or even further east. They may have been court advisers to kings who “read” the stars. God led these men to the exact location of Jesus’ birth. Pictures often show the wise men kneeling before the baby Jesus. But, it was more likely that they arrived during the time that Jesus was a toddler. Herod set out to destroy Jesus by killing all the male children up to 2 years old. He based his assumption on the timing of the visit of the magi.
An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and told him to take Mary and Jesus and flee to Egypt. Joseph obeyed the angel of the Lord and they were far from the reach of Herod. This is one of many revelations from God that His plan of redemption cannot be thwarted by man.