Magi from the East (Greek: μάγοι ἀπὸ ἀνατολῶν)[fn 1] were astrologers[fn 2] who came to Jerusalem looking for the "king of the Jews" in order to "do obeisance to him", according to the book of Matthew.[fn 3] "For it was written through the prophet"[fn 4] that the "Christ, or "Messiah", was to be born in Bethlehem of Judea. The names of the magi are not given, nor is a number of them given who underwent the journey.


In the days of Herod

The author of Matthew tells the audience that after Jesus had been born in Bethlehem, “in the days of Herod the king,” astrologers from eastern parts came to Jerusalem, saying that they saw his star when they were in the east. Herod’s fears and suspicions were immediately aroused, and he determined from the chief priests and scribes that the Christ was to be born in Bethlehem. Then he called in the astrologers and ascertained from them the time of the star’s appearing.—Mt 2:1-7.[2]

The journey
1024px-Median Empire

Parthia, 7th century BCE

Eurasia in 2nd Century

Eurasia, 2nd century CE

The phrase from the east (ἀπὸ ἀνατολῶν), more literally from the rising [of the sun], is the only description Matthew gives concerning the region from which they came. The Parthian Empire, centered in Persia, occupied virtually all of the land east of Judea and Syria (except for the deserts of Arabia to the southeast). Though the empire was tolerant of other religions, its dominant religion was Zoroastrianism, with its priestly magos class.[3] According to the third chapter of the Syriac Infancy Gospel the magos were pursuing a prophecy from their prophet, Zoradascht (Zoroaster).[4]

Young child

Herod made calculations from the time that the star appeared to the astrologers, while they were in the east (Mt 2:1, 2, 7-9). This may have been a period of some months, for if the astrologers came from either Parthia or Babylonia, it would have been a very long journey.[fn 5] The astrologers' visit occurs sometime after Jesus’ birth. Jesus is referred to as παιδίον, paidion, meaning "young child".[fn 6] and he is with his parents in a house (Mt 2:11; compare Lu 2:4-7).[2]

800px-Kerald (Meister des Codex Egberti) 001

10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei

After the astrologers failed to return to Herod with news of the young child’s whereabouts, Herod ordered the killing of all babies up to two years of age in an effort to kill the one born as “king of the Jews.” (Mt 2:2) Herod died not long after these events. Jesus, in the meantime, was taken to Egypt by his parents because of God’s warning. (Mt 2:12-18)[fn 7] Jesus did not stay in Egypt very long.—Mt 2:19-21.[2]


  1. Greek: μάγος, magos,[1] meaning "astrologers",
  2. Strong’s Definitions (G3097), μάγος mágos, mag'-os; of foreign origin (H7248); a Magian, i.e. Oriental scientist; by implication, a magician:—sorcerer, wise man.[1]
  3. The book of Matthew is the only Gospel of the Christian Greek Scriptures that mentions these Magi.
  4. "For it was written through the prophet"—γὰρ γέγραπται διὰ τοῦ προφήτου–Matt. 2:5
  5. It had taken the Israelites at least four months to make the trip when they were repatriated from Babylon in 537 BCE.
  6. παιδίον, παιδίου, τό (diminutive of παῖς) (from Herodotus down), the Sept. for טַף, נַעַר, בֵּן, etc.; a young child, a little boy, a little girl—Thayer's Greek Lexicon.[1]
  7. Some modern scholars place the death of Herod the Great as early as 4 BCE,[5] about 2 years before events could take place in the narrative of Matthew. Calculations for the birth of Jesus have been given as early as October, 2 BCE.[2]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 Strong's G3097 - magos
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Insight (1988) Vol.1, pp.1090-1099, Herod
  3. A History of Iran, Michael Axworthy, (2008) Basic Books, pgs 31–43
  4. Hone, William (1890 (4th edit); 1820 (1st edition)). "The Apocryphal Books of the New Testament". Gebbie & Co., Publishers, Philadelphia. See: Retrieved 26 January 2017.
  5. Marshall, Taylor. The Eternal City (Dallas: St. John, 2012), pp. 35-65.
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