Misconceptions About the Magi

Matthew 2:11  

And when they had come into the house, they saw the young Child with Mary His mother, and fell down and worshiped Him. And when they had opened their treasures, they presented gifts to Him: gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

Often nativity scenes will show three wise men along with the shepherds coming to see the newborn Christ in an animal’s manger. However, the biblical account describes things differently. First, it mentions that the wise men came “into the house.” This was apparently some time after Jesus’ birth, since Herod assumed the baby could be up to 2 years old (Matthew 2:16). By this time the family was living in a house.

Also, though the account mentions three types of gifts, it does not mention the number of wise men who came to worship the Messiah, the “King of the Jews” who will eventually rule all nations in the Kingdom of God. The gifts were given as homage to a king, not birthday gifts. “Bringing gifts was particularly important in the ancient East when approaching a superior (cf. Ge 43:11; 1 Sa 9:7-8; 1 Ki 10:2)” (Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary).

For more about Jesus Christ’s birth and how it is misrepresented in the traditional nativity scenes and customs of Christmas, see our articles “Why Did the Wise Men Bring Gifts?” and “Christmas: Should Christians Celebrate It?

New Call-to-action
Ask a Question