• Tue. Mar 21st, 2023

The Feast of Epiphany: Who Were The Three Kings and Where Did They Come From?


Jan 6, 2023

In Western Christianity, the feast of Epiphany, often known as Three Kings’ Day, is widely known yearly on the sixth January to commemorate the go to of the  Magi, sensible males, or kings from the East to the child Jesus. The Three Kings are celebrated notably in Spain and Latin American international locations, a day marked by parades, meals and gift-giving, much like how Christmas is widely known on the twenty fifth December in different elements of the world.

The picture of three sensible males from the East bringing valuable presents and paying homage to the kid Jesus is linked inextricably with at present’s Nativity scenes. Nonetheless, the story of the Magi’s go to shouldn’t be present in all 4 of the canonical Gospels. Aside from the  Gospel in keeping with Matthew, the opposite three Gospels say nothing about these magi. So, who’re the Magi, or Three Kings, who visited the toddler  Jesus?

third century sarcophagus depicting two magi bearing presents from the Vatican Museums in Rome, Italy. ( Public domain )

The Magi in Matthew’s Gospel – How Many Magi Have been There?

The account in Matthew’s Gospel relating to the visitation of the Magi is as follows:

“Now when Jesus was born in  Bethlehem of Judaea within the days of  Herod the king, behold, there got here sensible males from the east to Jerusalem… Once they noticed the star, they rejoiced with exceeding nice pleasure. And after they have been come into the home, they noticed the younger youngster with  Mary his mom, and fell down, and worshipped him: and after they had opened their treasures, they offered unto him presents; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh.”

Word that Matthew doesn’t point out the precise variety of these Magi from the East. In response to custom, nevertheless, there have been three. It’s possible that this quantity was chosen to correspond with the variety of presents offered to the child Jesus –  gold, frankincense, and  myrrh.

Nonetheless, different numbers are offered by different traditions. Within the Orient, for example, custom dictates that there have been 12 Magi. Moreover, early Christian artwork supplies completely different numbers of Magi. In a portray from the cemetery of Sts. Peter and Marcellinus, two  Magi are proven. A portray within the Lateran Museum, nevertheless, reveals three, while one other within the cemetery of Domitilla reveals 4. On a vase within the Kircher Museum, eight Magi are proven.

Adoration of the Magi, altarpiece from the Mosteiro de Celas, by Manuel Vicente circa 1500 to 1525. (Public domain)

Adoration of the Magi, altarpiece from the Mosteiro de Celas, by Manuel Vicente circa 1500 to 1525. ( Public domain )

What Have been the Sensible Males’s Names?

Just like the variety of Magi, the names of those sensible males are additionally unknown. As soon as once more, it is because of custom that we have now their names. Moreover, the names given to those biblical figures differ primarily based on custom. In Western custom, for example, the three Magi have been Melchior, Caspar and Balthazar. These males have been stated to have come from  Persia, India and  Babylonia respectively.

In response to the Syrian custom nevertheless, the names of the Magi are Larvandad, Hormisdas, and Gushnasaph. Within the Armenian custom, alternatively, Kagba, Badadakharida, and Badadilma are the names of the Magi.

After the Magi had paid homage to the toddler Jesus, they have been ready to return to  Jerusalem, as they have been requested by King Herod to deliver information of the kid’s whereabouts. The sensible males believed Herod when he claimed that he desired to go and worship the new-born king as properly. In a dream, nevertheless, the sensible males have been warned by God to not return to Herod, and the Magi “departed into their very own nation one other means.”

Helena of Constantinople, who supposedly located the remains of the Three Kings, by Cima da Conegliano circa 1495. (Public domain)

Helena of Constantinople, who supposedly positioned the stays of the Three Kings, by Cima da Conegliano circa 1495. ( Public domain )

The Magi and St. Helena

Thus, the story of the Magi involves an finish, or so it appears. Nonetheless, through the 4th century AD, St. Helena, the mom of the Roman emperor  Constantine, launched into a quest to find the sacred  relics of the Christian religion.

It’s stated that St. Helena succeeded find the stays of the Magi, reportedly found in Persia, after which introduced them again to  Constantinople. Through the fifth century AD, the relics of the Magi have been dropped at Milan.

The Shrine of the Three Kings at Cologne Cathedral in Germany. (Elya / CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Shrine of the Three Kings at Cologne Cathedral in Germany. (Elya /  CC BY-SA 4.0 )

When the town was conquered by  Frederick Barbarossa , the Holy Roman Emperor in 1164, the relics got to Rainald von Dassel, the Archbishop of Cologne. The stays of the Magi have been then transferred to Cologne Cathedral, the place they’ve remained, behind the excessive altar, ever since.

A big gilded sarcophagus was constructed to accommodate these stays. This reliquary, referred to as the Shrine of the  Three Kings , is the biggest reliquary within the Western world, and has drawn pilgrims to Cologne Cathedral for the reason that supposed stays of the Magi arrived within the metropolis through the twelfth century.     

High picture: A Byzantine depiction of the Three Sensible Males (526 AD) from the Basilica of Sant’ Apollinare Nuovo in Ravenna, Italy. Supply: Nina-no /  CC BY-SA 2.5

By Wu Mingren

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