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How to Understand the Origins and History of the Feast of the Epihany

According to legend, three kings arrived arrived in Bethlehem riding camels 12 days after the birth of Jesus Christ. Here's how the legend evolved.


  • Step 1: Know that in 1164 CE, when relics believed to be those of the three Magi were taken to a cathedral in Cologne, the Magi were declared to be saints.
  • Step 2: Recognize that an early eastern church tradition had Jesus's birth set on January 6. Today, many Christians commemorate the Magi's journey with the Feast of the Epiphany on the sixth of January.
  • FACT: Researchers have reported that frankincense resin can help alleviate anxiety and depression.
  • Step 3: Recognize that the names of the three Magi were given as Caspar, Melchior, and Balthazar in a Latin document dating to the sixth century.
  • Step 4: Be aware that the Christian writer Tertullian referred to the Magi as "almost kings" in the third century, elevating them to nearly royal status. Soon, they were referred to as kings.
  • TIP: There has been speculation that these visitors may have been astrologers. They were later referred to as Magi -- a term related to the modern word magic -- in Latin texts.
  • Step 5: Learn that Origen -- a second century theologian in Alexandria, Egypt -- set the number of Magi at three. This may have been because they carried three gifts.
  • Step 6: Read the beginning of the Gospel of Matthew. The second chapter mentions wise men from the East following a star to Bethlehem at the time of Christ's birth. The same source says they brought gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrhh.

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