What were the names of the wise men who went to Jesus?
1. The Bible doesn’t say.
2. The Bible also doesn’t say how many wise men there were. Some Christians think there were 12 wise men!
3. Because the Bible mentions that the wise men gave three gifts, most Christians have thought there were only three of them.
4. Over the 2000 years since the wise men visited Jesus, there have been a lot of different ideas about their names and where they came from:
o Melchior from Persia …now Iran
o Caspar (or Gaspar, Jaspar, Jaspas, Gathaspa) from India.
o Balthazar (or Balthassar or Bithisarea) from Babylon … now Iraq or Arabia … now Saudi Arabia
o These names come from Christians in Turkey and from a Greek book found in Egypt from 500 A.D.
5. Christians from Syria have different names for the wise men: Larvandad, Gushnasaph, and Hormisdas. What if your little brother was named Gushnasaph? Does he look like a Gushnasaph?
6. Ethiopian (in Africa) Christians think the names of the wise men are Hor, Karsudan, and Basanater.
7. Armenian (near Turkey) Christians believe their names are
Kagpha, Badadakharida and Badadilma.
8. Wouldn’t it be fun to try to pronounce all these names?
9. It would be a lot of fun to find all these countries on a map!
10. The number of different names for the wise men tells us how many different kinds of Christians there are!
11. Sometimes we call the wise men kings. Like in the hymn We Three Kings of Orient Are. Part of the reason for that is the story about where Caspar’s name came from. In a book that didn’t make it into the Bible called The Gospel of Thomas there’s a king named Gondophares (or Gudapharasa or Gundopharron). He was the king of Iran and India. The Gospel of Thomas says Thomas (Doubting Thomas) went to visit this king to tell him about Jesus. This king apparently told Thomas he already knew about Jesus, because he was one of the wise men! This king’s name, when translated into other languages is Gaspar or Caspar … one of the three kings!
12. With this story in mind, people wondered if the other wise men were kings, too. It says in the Bible, after all, that kings would visit the Messiah (look up Isaiah 60:1-7 or Psalm 72:10-11, 15). By the 800’s Christians thought of the wise men as kings.
13. Later it was thought that the kings were thought to have come from each of the continents: Melchior from Europe, Caspar from Asia, and Balthasar from Africa. Which continents are missing? Why could that be? When were those continents “discovered?”
14. The whole idea that the wise men were kings is not in the Bible. The Greek word we translate as “wise men” is magi which, if you heard the Christmas Eve sermon, you might remember means the wise men were actually scientists! They studied the stars and the moon and the sun. It took them hundreds of years, but they figured out by just watching the stars and the moon and the sun when eclipses of the sun and the moon would happen. Do you think you’d like to be a scientist like that … noticing things and keeping track of things so carefully?
15. People not only thought the magi were pretty smart, but they also thought they knew a lot about God. Because the stars and sun and moon are in a different place in the sky for each season, people thought the stars and the sun and the moon were in charge of the changing seasons. Because the stars and the sun and the moon seemed to control life on earth in this way, people thought they were gods. And, since the magi knew all about the stars and the sun and the moon, people thought they also knew all about God.
16. People who think the stars and sun and moon affect our lives now days write horoscopes which explain how the stars and moon and sun affect people’s lives.
17. Christians don’t believe the stars and moon and sun control people’s lives. God always just simply wants the best for every single one of his people. Still, sometimes terrible and sad things happen to people like when Jesus’ friend Lazarus died. When terrible and sad things happen to people, we know God is sad, because when Jesus’ friend Lazarus died, Jesus cried. When terrible and sad things happen to people, God gives us love to share to help those people.
18. Wow Pastor Larry. That got a little off topic. But it’s interesting to learn about all the different kinds of Christians there have been and that there are. Still, we all believe in one thing: God’s love for us is something to share!