All About The 3 Kings from the Nativity Scene

The birth of Jesus Christ is considered one of the greatest events in mankind. Generations of people are captivated by the birth of Jesus and the surrounding cast of characters that play a role in this spectacular event. There is Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, the local shepherds from Bethlehem and eventually the Wise Men from the East show up bearing gifts of frankincense, myrrh and gold. The Wise Men in the story of the birth of Jesus are controversial figures. No one is exactly sure who these people are or their place of origin. The Bible does give insight into the lives of these men but not specific details. Matthew 2: 1–12 is the only place in the Bible where the Wise Men make their appearance.

According to scripture, the “magi” (Wise Men) had arrived in Jerusalem looking for the baby Jesus. They had traveled from the east and were following a certain star which led them to the holy city of Jerusalem. They wanted to worship this newborn baby. They were asking the local people to help them find this special child and word about their actions made it back to King Herod, who was the leading ruler in Jerusalem at the time.

Were they Really Kings?
Nowhere in scripture does it indicate that the Wise Men who visited Jesus were kings. Since they are referred to as “magi” in the original Greek text this means that they were either magicians or astronomers. The same word was used to describe the priests who assisted Nebuchadnezzar in the book of Daniel and Paul spoke of magi or magicians in the book of Acts.

People started to call them kings over the years because they had brought valuable treasurers to Christ to honor his birth. Also, people had created many legends surrounding the original Wise Men who showed visited the baby Jesus. The term “Wise Men” would not have been a common term for monarchs who lived during those times. The term would have been associated with magicians, scholars and advisors.

The Three Kings
The passage in Matthew 2: 1–12 states that there were Wise Men but it does not say how many of them had come to see Jesus. Over the years people have naturally assumed that there were only three of them because of the three gifts that were given to Christ.

Did the Three Kings Witness the Birth of Jesus?

The Wise Men found Jesus after he was born and were not present during his birth. Once they followed the star to Bethlehem they presented the gifts to Christ.

The Nativity Influences the Legends of the Wise Men
St. Francis of Assisi was a Catholic friar who came up with the Nativity scene in 1223. He wanted people to remember that Christmas was all about Jesus. His Nativity story was such a big hit with people of the time that the idea had spread all over Europe.

St. Francis’ original presentation of the Nativity included an ox and a donkey in the cast which were not a part of the original account of Jesus’ birth (see Luke 2: 8 – 20 KJV). He took a passage from Isaiah 1: 3 and used it to justify the addition of the donkey and ox inside of the original Nativity show.

Many people all throughout the ages have followed St. Francis’ lead and changed the story of the Nativity around to either make it more dramatic or to present it in a new way. No one knows who started the belief that there were only three Wise Men and they were Kings from the East. It is likely that the stories of these characters where altered in order to make them more appealing for the Nativity Scene.

Christian Tradition and the Wise Menshrine-of-the-three-kings
The Three Kings are traditionally known as Melchior from Persia, Caspar from India and Balthazar from Arabia. The star that the Three Kings had followed in order to find Jesus is known in tradition as the Star of Bethlehem or Star of David. St. Thomas (one of Jesus’s Apostles) supposedly had found the Wise Men and baptized them before they went on to India. The remains of the Magi are said to have been buried in the Shrine of the Three Kings at Colonge Cathedral in Germany.

The Legacy of the Three Kingscologne-cathedral The Nativity Scene presentations that include the Three Kings might not all be factual but most people are not concerned with the inaccuracies. As a matter of fact people have accepted the tradition of the Magi and don’t want them to change. St. Francis himself probably wouldn’t mind the inconsistencies with the Wise Men in scripture and the Three Kings portrayed in the Nativity Scene. As long as people are honoring Jesus as savior, then the legends surrounding his birth shouldn’t be too much of a concern.