A couple of years ago, my late friend and dear deacon, Mark Callaway, called up to ask, “Brother Bob, is it Kings or Magi?” A lot of people ask that, so I’m repeating the answer I gave Mark that day:
Mark, it was magi. Although the popular Christmas carol says, “We Three Kings Orient Are,” Matthew 2:1 says “magi,” or “wise men,” came from the east, following the star to the newborn Christ child. The term “magi” comes from a Persian word for wise men who studied the stars. The association with kings comes from Messianic passages like Isaiah 60:3, 6: “Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your radiance…They will carry gold and frankincense and proclaim the praises of the Lord.”
By the way, although Matthew 2:11 lists three gifts, scripture does not explicitly say there were three magi. I still love the traditional carol. Somehow, “We half dozen wise men from Persia are,” just doesn’t flow as well.