The Magi were specialists in interpreting the signs in the heavens. According to the dialogue "Alcibiades", ascribed to Plato, the Persian Magi practiced a form of spiritual mysticism which was their religion. .

The word "Magi" is the plural form of the word "magus" (from old Persian "magu") which designates a member of an ancient Near Eastern priestly caste. The gospel of Matthew (2.1-12) presents the Magi as "wise men from the East", who sought the Christ to pay homage to him.

Catholics celebrate the visit of the Magi with the Feast of the Epiphany  (January 6th).  There is no mention of the number of the Magi who came to pay homage to Christ. The idea that the Magi were three in number may have grown from the number of gifts (gold, frankincense and myrrh) offered to the infant Christ.

Some commentators have thought that the visit of the Magi was a "mythological embellishment" which was ordained by the prophesy which states that, "All from Saba shall come, bearing gold and frankincense and proclaiming the praises of the Lord" (Is 60.6). However, now that an actual "star" has been located, the presence of the Magi becomes much more of a reality instead of a "literary embellishment" employed by Matthew.

Sir Isaac Newton writes of the Magi

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Source materials: The New Catholic Encyclopedia.
John Charles Webb, Jr.- ©Copyright 1997, 2008 - All Rights Reserved - United States of America