Struck by new historical context, journalist Raymond Arroyo is sharing the real story about the three wise men who traveled to visit Jesus Christ after his birth — the most ubiquitous Christmas story on the planet.
“Everything I thought I knew about them ended up not being true,” the EWTN host told The Daily Wire. “So I dug into the research. I said, ‘Wait a minute, who are these guys? Where did they come from? Why were they going to the Christ child? Are they even real?'”
They were real, he found — just not at all how you might have been taught. The “three kings” were not kings at all, they were not from as far east as Asia or Persia, and there likely were not three of them.
“Once I discovered those answers, I had to turn this into a family read,” Arroyo said. “So rather than a chapter book, which was my first impulse, I turned it into a picture book for families so they could enjoy it together at the holidays. And that’s how we have ‘The Wise Men Who Found Christmas.'”
Arroyo’s adventurous new family book, “The Wise Men Who Found Christmas,” influenced by research from Fr. Dwight Longenecker, Dr. Margaret Barker, and John Healey, was released in October, and is already racking up hundreds of five-star reviews.
“There were not three of them,” Arroyo told us about the history of these wise men. “The gospel only says there were three gifts, not three kings or three wise men. And it turns out that they couldn’t have been kings, because there’s no way they could have made it from the far east — or wherever they’re supposed to have come from, because of the political situation of the day. There were just too many blockades. You couldn’t pass freely from one kingdom to the other without permission.”
Arroyo posits that they wise men were likely Zoroastrian priests, mathematicians, theologians, stargazers, magicians, interpreters of dreams, and royal consults.
So, where did the Magi come from?
“The gifts indicate where they came from,” Arroyo said. “Those three gifts would only really be available and were, so to speak, the ‘hometown goods’ of the kingdom of Nabatea in Arabia — really, modern day Jordan, and a little bit of Syria. That is basically where I believe these wise men came from.”
“Solomon’s mines, or the Gold Mines of Midian as they’re sometimes called, those are in Arabia, and were controlled by the kingdom of Nabatea at the time,” the author explained. “So there’s the gold.”
“And frankincense and myrrh were only made in the Kingdom of Arabia,” he added. “They’re derived from tree sap, which I had no idea of. So, that gives us a really strong indication of where they came from.”
Arroyo said that there are first and second century writings that say the wise men came from Arabia. “Justin Martyr says that; Clement of Rome says that,” the author noted. “So this is not a stretch, it’s just we’ve ignored all of those early sources and bought into the sixth, seventh, and eighth century creations, which are: they were kings, their names were Casper, Balthasar, and Melchior. Those are all creations much, much, further down the line.”
These historical clues and findings about the wise men help to root the Christmas story in a vibrant historical reality, Arroyo argued.
“Here was my contention: If the wise men were not true, then the object of their devotion, the person they sought is probably on shaky ground as well, historically,” he said. “So I went ahead and looked at the historical situation and read through the data. And what I discovered is this really happened, it really did happen in this particular time.”
“It doesn’t change the story, but it roots it in a historic reality that I think gives it more vibrancy and makes it far more human and interesting than it might have been before,” the author added.
And the stakes are raised. “These guys were facing political pressure, sudden death from King Herod,” he explained. “I mean, there’s a lot of pressure on them. Why would they go to the lengths that they go through if they didn’t believe something extraordinary was there?”
“I want families and young people — all of them to go on a journey together,” Arroyo said of the new book. “All of my books are written for a family audience. … I do try to weave things in that only adults will understand, and then there are things that only children can grasp. And so when they read them together, the experience is richer, they can share their takeaways and their impressions of the story. But most of all, I want families to find Christmas the way these wise men found — in a fresh way, in a new way with an urgency and a kind of vitality, which is what I see when I look at the historical record and consider what we have in the gospels.”
You can purchase “The Wise Men Who Found Christmas” here and here.