Who are the magi?
"The magi" is a term usually used to refer to the three "wise men" who are said by the Bible to have come to worship Jesus at the time of his birth.
To be precise, the story of the magi is only told in the Gospel of Matthew. And even in that gospel the number of magi who came to worship Jesus is not specified. People have come to assume that there were three of them because three gifts (gold, frankincense and myrrh) are listed. Although the Bible does not so much as specify how many magi came, traditions have sprung up that even give the names (Caspar, Melchior, Balthasar) of the three who are supposed to have come.
The Magi are found in the gospel of Matthew and they come to see the baby Jesus. They bear gifts of frankincense, myrrh and gold. No one really knows how many there were. There could have been ten of them with only three gifts. From Matthew's theological point of view, they function to validate that Jesus was the promised king. Also the fact that these Magi came from the east heralds that he is the king not only of one region, but the world. Finally, from a historical point of view, these Magi were probably people from Persia or there about. They also had some expertise in astrology, since they followed a star.
In English the term 'magi' refers to the wise men from the East who visited and worshiped our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ at his birth and offered him precious gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. We read of this in the Gospel according to St. Matthew Chapter 2, verse 11:
11And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense and myrrh.
Since the magi offered three gifts it is traditionally believed that they were three in number.
The Greeks considered Zoroaster to be the founder and the figurehead of the magi. The magi were considered to be 'wise' because they specialized in both astronomy and astrology and were able to foretell the future.
In Matthew Ch:2 verse 2 the magi (singular: 'magus') visit King Herod thinking that our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ was born in the king's palace and ask King Herod,
Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.
In the Christian bible the Magi are the three wise men who are also called the three kings. They are the men who go to the manager to visit Christ after his birth. They are from the east and are represented in the nativity scene. They are said to have followed a star which led them to "The King of Jews." They can be found in "The Gospel of Mathew" in the Christian bible.
The Magi in times before Christ was a follower of Zoroaster and possessed the ability to read the stars. They were also believed to be able to change futures. The word magi relates to the modern day word magician. The magi have been addressed through Greek religions, Christianity, Arabic culture and history, and even Chinese tales.
At the time of Jesus, to the east of Israel was the Persian Empire. Persia was a MAJOR world power. They had a huge empire. They were a rival to the Roman Empire (who dominated Israel at this time) Persian priests were called Magi (sing. Magus)
In an attempt at political assimilation, someone added into the story of the birth of Jesus 3 religious leaders from the Persian Empire who visited Jesus prophetically.