What were the names of the three wise men?

Question

What were the names of the three wise men?

Answer

The Bible doesn't actually give the names of the wise men, and there wasn’t necessarily three of them. The tradition that there were three arose from the Bible mentioning three gifts — gold, frankincense and myrrh (cf. Matt. 2:11). However, three gifts could have been given by two, three, four or more wise men. And these wise men were most likely astonomers and not kings.

This said, unreliable sources and tradition has it that the three wise men were named; Bithisarea, Melichior, and Gathaspa which is as they appear in the chronicle Excerpta Latina Barbari (or A Barbarian’s Latin Excerpts). [1] According to Western church tradition, they are known as Balthasar, a king of Arabia (or possibly Ethiopia); Melchior, a king of Persia; and Gaspar, a king of India. Note that the spellings of the names may vary from resource to resource.

Reference

[1] Probably composed in Greek in either the 5th or early 6th centuries. (http://www.attalus.org/translate/barbari.html). Last Accessed 4 March 2021.

According to Wiki, “The Excerpta Latina Barbari is a Latin translation of a Greek chronicle composed in Alexandria during the reign of Zeno (474-491) or Anastasius (491-518). The original Greek chronicle was a variation of the Chronica Alexandrina. It was translated into Latin c. 750 by an anonymous Merovingian author. Excerpta Latina Barbari derives its name from the fact that the late Merovingian translator made many mistakes in translating the Greek into Latin. It is also now known that the translator included some alterations to the original chronicle. These alterations include the insertion of a lineage linking the Merovingian kings to the ancient Trojans (see Francus) as popularised in the Liber Historiae Francorum.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Excerpta_Latina_Barbari). Last Accessed 4 March 2021.

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).