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  • Writer's pictureBrittany Proffitt

Podcast: Who Were the Magi?

Check out the So We Speak podcast on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

What Does “Magi” Mean?

There are several ways to approach the word “Magi.” Ancient Greek history translated the word “magos” as “magician” or “gypsie.” It can easily be translated as “magic.” The “magi” can be thought of as “counselors.” The Magi were also people who predicted kingship and who crowned kings in the Persian Empire.

What About Astrology?

In the book of Matthew, the Magi follow a star associated with a prophecy about a king. These men actively practiced astrology, and ancient people believed that stars had an influence on human events.

While these things were not necessarily true about astrology and the working of magic, this is how people viewed magi in biblical times. They were widely regarded in the ancient world, specifically in the rise of kings. Joseph and Daniel seemed to fulfill a type of “magi” role in kings’ courts. However, instead of getting their wisdom from stars they looked to God for their wisdom.

Where Were They From?

Scripture tells us they were from “the east.” They would have been coming from the major eastern empires like ancient Babylon or Persia.

Was There Jewish Influence?

There was an influence of Jewish writings in the eastern thought of a Messiah at that time. They had expectation of the location of the king outside of their knowledge of astrology.

It is not outlandish to think that the Jewish expectation of a Messiah would have made its way into the Babylonian Empire and Persia. They most likely had access to the Old Testament writings and prophecies. These writings would have had a major influence on the Magi’s decision to travel to Judea.

Gentiles Let In

These astrology-minded yet Messiah-seeking Magi understood who Jesus was more than Jesus’s own people. “He came to his own, yet his own did not receive him” (John 1:11). God saw fit that these eastern pagans should come, worship Christ, and find their salvation in his Son.

Brittany Proffitt lives in Dallas and is a writer and content manager for So


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