For Bible Study Nerds

For Bible Study Nerds

Matthew 2:1-12; The Visit of the Magi (Historical Background)

No one knows for sure who the Magi were that brought gifts to the baby Jesus, or exactly what their country of origin was. Matthew simply says they came “from the east,” first going to Jerusalem and then on to Bethlehem. Still, scholars generally believe these “wise men” likely came from one of three places in the ancient world: Persia, Babylon, or the desert areas east of Palestine.

Interestingly, Magi at that time were not followers of the Hebrew God. They were “disciples of Zoroaster…an important Persian religious leader who believed in one God.” Magi were known as studied in the “science” of astrology, and as experts in magic. Given Old Testament prohibitions against sorcery, it’s surprising that Matthew included these wise men as part of the history of Christ because they could be viewed negatively in the eyes of his Jewish readers. The only real reason for Matthew to include them in his account is simply because they were actually there—regardless of what people would think of that fact.


Matthew 2:1-12

Works Cited:

[JHT, 27, 29]



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