The scene ingrained in the public imagination -- a stately procession of three kings in turbans, crowns, elaborate capes and fancy slippers, with an entourage of servants and camels trailing behind -- is a common image in books and films, but it isn't from Scripture.
In fact, there's no evidence in the Gospels that the Magi were kings, or even that there were three, much less that they sidled up to a manger on dromedaries exactly 12 days after Jesus's birth.
"Legends pop up when people begin to look closely at historical events," said Christopher Bellitto, assistant professor of history at New Jersey's Kean University. "They want to fill in the blanks."
Only the Gospel of Matthew mentions "wise men from the East" who follow a star to Bethlehem. In the original Greek, they were called magoi (in Latin, magi), from the same root that gives us the word magic. It's been posited that they were astrologers or members of a Persian priestly caste.
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