Who Were the Three Kings?
Only the Gospel of Matthew mentions “wise men from the East” who follow a star to Bethlehem. In the original Greek, they were called magoi (in Latin, magi), from the same root that gives us the word magic. Believed that they were astrologers or wise men from Persia. But the most important fact about their visit is that they were not Jews, and that as Gentiles they had come from far away to honor Jesus and presented him to the world as Jesus Christ.
In the United States they are portrayed as ridding three camels, however, in other countries including Mexico they are riding a horse, a camel, and an elephant, and came from Europe, Asia, and Africa.
2nd. Century, The first artistic depictions of the Magi are found in Roman catacombs, but it wasn’t until the early 3rd. Century, Christian writer Tertullian referred to them as “almost kings”
5th Century The Pope Leon I the Great confirms the number of three.
6th. Century at The Basilica of Sant’Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy, their names are inscribed on a mosaic for the first time as “Melchior”, “Caspar” and “Balthazar” are inscribed. Let’s see what the origins of these names are:
- Melchior: this name is of Hebrew origin and comes from the word “malki-or” which means “King of Light”. It represents divinity.
- Caspar: it is attributed to the Hebrew origin “ghaz” which means “to manage, as Persian origin with the name “kansbar” which means in ancient Persian “treasurer”. It represents the management of goodness.
- Balthazar: from the Assyrian empire, the words “Belio-šarru-usur” which means “God protects the King” represents protection.
6th. Century, Christians begin to celebrate the Epiphany a.k.a. the presentation of Jesus to the world on January 6th, which is the “Twelve Day of Christmas”, and it is also when Christmas is celebrated by the Eastern Orthodox Church.
19th. Century in Spain, people start the tradition of giving gifts to children from the Three Kings, on the Eve of January 6th. and it is spread to Latin America and the rest of Europe.
Children’s Books about the Three Wise Men – Magi that you might want to read.