How many WISE MEN
came to worship Jesus?
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Question: Does the Bible clearly state that THREE wise men came to visit and worship Jesus after he was born?
Answer: There are many ideas connected to the birth of Jesus that are simply not true and not in the Bible! There is much regarding Christ's nativity which is wrapped up in tradition, folklore and custom. Such is the case with the common assumption that THREE and only three wise men (Magi) visited Jesus after his birth.
We must remember that Jesus Christ, the Savior of the world, really was born in Bethlehem long ago. That part is not custom and tradition. The scripture concerning the Magi and their visit is found in the Gospel of Matthew. This is the place where the idea concerning how many wise men came to worship the Lord is derived. Matthew is the only Gospel writer that mentions wise men traveling a great distance to see Jesus soon after his birth.
Matthew states that after Jesus' birth Magi visit Herod the Great to inquire exactly where Jesus is located. Herod, however, does not have a clue himself as to where he is. After leaving Jerusalem without an answer the wise men see a star that leads them to where they need to go.
11. And when they (Magi or wise men) had come into the house (notice Jesus was NOT visited in some stable or manger!), they found the little child with Mary His mother, and they bowed down and worshiped Him; then they opened their treasures and presented their gifts to Him - gold and frankincense and myrrh. (Matthew 2)
The 1913 Catholic Encyclopedia, in an article about the Magi, admits that Matthew (and the rest of the New Testament) completely omits the number of wise men that came more than 1,000 miles to worship the true King of all Kings. According to this reference, not only is there no certain tradition regarding this question but that "Some (Catholic church) Fathers speak of three Magi. They are very likely influenced by the number of gifts. In the Orient, tradition favors twelve."