Q&A: How Many Magi?

How Many Magi?

Question

How many Magi were at the birth of Christ? - Matthew 2:1-12

Answer

Matthew 2:1-12 After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem

2 and asked, "Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him."

3 When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.

4 When he had called together all the people's chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.

5 "In Bethlehem in Judea," they replied, "for this is what the prophet has written:

6 "'But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.'"

7 Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star had appeared.

8 He sent them to Bethlehem and said, "Go and search carefully for the child. As soon as you find him, report to me, so that I too may go and worship him."

9 After they had heard the king, they went on their way, and the star they had seen when it rose went ahead of them until it stopped over the place where the child was.

10 When they saw the star, they were overjoyed.

11 On coming to the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshiped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

12 And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.

There were no Magi at the birth of Christ. Their search for the Messiah began after he was born (Matt. 2:1). They found him in "a house" (Matt. 2:11) approximately two years later and not in the manger where he was lying when found by the shepherds (Luke 2:4-16). Additionally, we do not know the exact number of Magi that actually went to Jesus' home after his birth. Yes, they were carrying three gifts - gold, frankincense and myrrh - but this does not mean that there were only three Magi.

Not to be overlooked is Romans 1:16: "...first for the Jew (shepherds), then the Gentiles (Magi)."

To the Jews first...

(1) as they are the historic chosen people of God - Genesis 12; Nehemiah 9:7; Amos 3:2; Romans 11:28-29.

(2) as they are the guardians of God's special revelation, the Old Testament Scriptures - Romans 3:1-2; 9:4.

(3) as Messiah and Savior, Jesus, came to the world as a Jew to Jews - Mathew 10:5-6; 15:24; Romans 1:23; 9:5.

(4) as salvation is from the Jews - John 4:22; Romans 11:17-24; Galatians 3:7.

(5) as Paul evangelized Jews first when he arrived at a new place - Acts 13:46; 18:6; Galatians 1:14; Romans 9:3.

(6) as Jews have a precedence over the Gentiles in final judgment and final blessing - Luke 12:24; Romans 2:9-10.

However, Jews do not have priority...

(1) in righteousness or merit - Romans 3:9-10, 22-23.

(2) in how they are saved - Romans 3:29-30; 10:12.

(3) in taking part in God's covenant blessings - Ephesians 2:12-19; 3:4-6.

Whether Jew or Gentile, wise men still attend the house of Christ (Heb. 10:25).

References:

To The Jew First: A Reformed Perspective, by Dr. Richard L. Pratt, Jr., President of Third Millennium Ministries.

For the numbered list above, please see: "To the Jew First and Also to the Greek," by John Denson, President, Shalom Ministry.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).