Every January 6, we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany in honor of the Three Kings or the Magi who visited Baby Jesus in Bethlehem. But what happened to them after the historical visit? And to begin with, were they even real people?
First, let’s delve into who these kings are. According to the Gospel of Matthew, they were astronomers, or at least experts of stars, who came from the East and brought gold, incense, and myrrh to the newborn Jesus led by a glowing star. However, the information stops there. Matthew does not even confirm that there were three of them—it was just a number later chosen by Christian tradition as bearers of the three gifts. It’s not even proven that they were called Melchior, Balthasar, and Gaspar!
Also Read: How do OFWs celebrate Christmas?
Proof of Existence
Because of lack of further information on the Three Kings, it is no surprise that some people question their existence. However, celebrated explorer Marco Polo supposedly found the tombs of the Three Kings in the city of Saba, south of Tehran—he even visited their resting place around the year 1270.
As the story goes, the remains of the Three Kings rest in the Cologne Cathedral in Germany, where they were transferred in 1164 from the Basilica of Santa Sophia in Constantinople (today’s Istanbul, Turkey).
What Happened After
The Three Kings of Cologne—A Legend of the Middle Ages by John of Hildesheim says that after visiting Baby Jesus and giving Him their gifts, the Three Kings chose a different route on their way to their respective homes. They then journeyed together for quite some time, coming to the Hill of Vaws. The Three Kings picked a certain spot for a chapel “in worship of the Child they had sought,” and made an agreement to meet at there once a year.
Several years after visiting the newborn Christ, a star appeared over the towns where the Magi lived. This was their sign that their time had come to depart this world. According to same book by Hildesheim, the Three Kings built “a fair and large tomb” at the Hill of Vaws. And it was there that they died and were buried.
Fake or Real?
If you’re feeling skeptical about the existence of the Three Kings, just remember that the Bible is filled with symbolism—so it’s important to focus on what the kings represent, rather than if they existed the way we know them to be. Their three gifts represent a spiritual meaning with gold pointing to Christ’s royal lineage, frankincense paying tribute to His divinity, and myrrh evoking the sacrifice of His death. The races of the Three Kings (Asian, Caucasian, and African) represent the spread of Christianity to all parts of the world, and the last line in Matthew’s Gospel account pertaining to the Magi perhaps, if the most significant hidden message of all. “And having been warned in a dream not to go back to Herod, they returned to their country by another route.” (Matt 2:12)
On the surface, we can say that the Magi passed another route simply to avoid Herod, but as many scholars say, once we discover the light of the Christ Child, we—like the Three Kings—feel a calling to leave our unenlightened ways behind, and follow a new path in life.
Also Read: Have a Merry Christ-mas!