The ‘Wise Men’ from the East (Matt. 2:1–18), probably astrologers. They are portrayed as Gentiles, ignorant of the OT (Matt. 2:2–6), and presumably three in number (2:11). Later tradition supposed, on the basis of Isa. 60:3, that they were kings, and even accorded them the names Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar. The story contains impossible features—a moving star (could the magi have only travelled by night?) which stopped over exactly the right location (2:9), though in spite of this celestial guide the magi were obliged to ask directions from Herod (2:8–9). It is better to regard the story as midrash rather than history and Matthew's way of showing Christ's universal kingship (Gentiles acknowledge it) and of the submission of magical arts and superstition to the Lord—the point made by Luke in his account of the destruction of magical texts at Ephesus after listening to Paul (Acts 19:19).

Dictionary of the Bible.

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