Friday, December 19, 2008

There came wise men from the East to Jerusalem

The Three Magi were kings
Update 10/2/2016: Can anyone help with translations of Hugo Kehrer†, Die Heiligen drei Könige in Literatur und Kunst (Leipzig: Verlag von E. A. Seamann, 1908) <>?

Here are my thoughts on our heavenly intercessors the three magi, Sts. Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar. The point of this post is to discuss whether the three magi were actually royal/kings, and if I am way off please do not hesitate to correct me! I believe that the Magi probably were kings and I'd love to read your opinion.

Scripture says that more than one magus from the East delivered three gifts to baby Jesus. St. Matthew the Evangelist says [Mt 2:1-16]:
When Jesus therefore was born in Bethlehem of Juda, in the days of King Herod, behold, there came wise men from the East to Jerusalem, saying: Where is He that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East, and are come to adore Him. And King Herod hearing this, was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. And assembling together all the chief priests and the scribes of the people, he inquired of them where Christ should be born. But they said to him: In Bethlehem of Judah. For so it is written by the prophet: And thou Bethlehem the land of Judah art not the least among the princes of Judah: for out of thee shall come forth the Captain that shall rule My people Israel. Then Herod, privately calling the wise men learned diligently of them the time of the star which appeared to them; and sending them into Bethlehem, said: Go and diligently inquire after the child, and when you have found Him, bring me word again, that I also may come and adore Him. Who having heard the king, went their way; and behold the star which they had seen in the East, went before them, until it came and stood over where the child was. And seeing the star they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And entering into the house, they found the child with Mary His mother, and falling down they adored Him: and opening their treasures, they offered Him gifts; gold, frankincense, and myrrh. And having received an answer in sleep that they should not return to Herod, they went back another way into their country. And after they were departed, behold an angel of the Lord appeared in sleep to Joseph, saying: Arise, and take the child and His mother, and fly into Egypt: and be there until I shall tell thee. For it will come to pass that Herod will seek the child to destroy Him. Who arose, and took the child and His mother by night, and retired into Egypt: and he was there until the death of Herod: That it might be fulfilled which the Lord spoke by the prophet, saying: Out of Egypt have I called My Son. Then Herod perceiving that he was deluded by the wise men, was exceeding angry: and sending killed all the menchildren that were in Bethlehem, and in all the borders thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently inquired of the wise men.
However, we reject sola scriptura{1} and instead affirm Sacred Tradition in addition to the canon of Scripture. There were three magi, Sts. Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar. Were they kings?

(1) Magi status and kingly status are not mutually exclusive, if you recall the case of the first century King Tiradates I of Armenia (Տրդատ Ա).{2} (2) Tertullian of Carthage said that they were virtually kings (fere reges){3} and (3) Bl. Jacob de Voragine quotes Hieromonk St. Jerome the Great of Strido and Bishop St. Augustine the Great of Hippo, both Church Doctors, as saying that the Magi were kings.{4} (4) The three magi, if kings, would keep secret their royal status for the sake of their safety. (5) The Old Testament prophecies might offer some justification for viewing the Magi as royal:

Ps 68:30: "Because of thy temple in Jerusalem, kings shall offer presents to thee."
Ps 72:10: "The kings of Tharsis and the islands shall offer presents: the kings of the Arabians and of Saba shall bring gifts."
Isaiah 60:3: "Nations shall walk in the light, and kings in the brightness of thy rising."
(6) This is what I have found by synthesizing the various traditions:{5}
King St. Gaspar of India was a young, beardless man with ruddy skin who gave frankincense to Jesus since Jesus is God.
King St. Balthazar of Arabia was a middle-aged, heavily bearded black man who gave Jesus myrrh since Jesus is the Son of Man Who was to die for our sins.
King St. Melchior of Persia was an old man with white hair and a long beard who gave gold to Jesus since Jesus is King of kings.
These age descriptions agree with the sutures on the skulls of the Three Kings, the bodies of whom were discovered by Empress St. Helena of Constantinople, at the Shrine of the Three Kings in the Cathedral of Cologne. The Calendar of Saints account written upon the installation of the relic shrine there says,
Having undergone many trials and fatigues for the Gospel, the three wise men met at Sewa (in Armenia) in A.D. 54 to celebrate the feast of Christmas. Thereupon, after the celebration of Mass, they died: St. Melchior on January 1st, aged 116; St. Balthasar on January 6th, aged 112, and St. Gaspar on January 11th, aged 109.
The ages given contradict the relics, specifically the skulls, the sutures on which reveal that King St. Gaspar of India died young and that King St. Balthasar of Arabia died in middle age, and that there was a larger age gap between each of the Three Kings.

Timing of the Visit of the Three Kings to the Newborn Prince of Peace

O Three Wise Magi-Kings Gaspar, Balthasar, and Melchior, pray to the King of kings for our salvation!

Notes & References
{1} Huysman, Will R. "Summa Contra Sola Scriptura." The Banana Republican. 14 Mar. 2006. 19 Dec. 2008 <>.
{3} Tertullian of Carthage, Adversus Marcionem 3:13: "Moreover, respecting that gift of gold, David also says: And there shall be given to Him of the gold of Arabia; and again: The kings of Arabia and Saba shall offer to Him gifts. For the East generally regarded the magi as kings; and Damascus was anciently deemed to belong to Arabia, before it was transferred to Syrophœnicia on the division of the Syrias (by Rome). Its riches Christ then received, when He received the tokens thereof in the gold and spices; while the spoils of Samaria were the magi themselves." <>
{4} Bl. Jacob de Voragine, Golden Legend. Bl. Jacob quotes Bishop St. Augustine the Great of Hippo (Doctor Gratiae) as saying "the kings joy." He also quotes Hieromonk St. Jerome the Great of Strido (Church Doctor) as saying, "O ye kings, what do ye? Ye worship the child in a little foul house wrapped in foul clouts" and in his commentary on St. Paul the Apostle's Epistle to the Hebrews, "Herod is persecuted and the kings worship the child."
{5} Appearances and gifts come from the Excerpta et Collectanea. Nationalities come from the Armenisches Kindheitsevangelium.


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