Saturday, January 16, 2021

Christian Trivia Question #21 - A Not So Wise Account

 We just passed through "the 12 Days of Christmas" (the days between Christmas and the day traditionally celebrating the visit of the "Wise Men" to Jesus).  Long before the song identified the "12th day of Christmas" as the day "my true love" presented 12 drummers drumming, Christians were remembering and celebrating the occasion when the Wise Men traveled to Bethlehem to worship Jesus (aka Epiphany).

Here is one account of that visit:

“On the night of Jesus’ birth, 3 wise men from the west came to honor the newborn king in the manger.  One brought gold (symbolizing royalty), one brought frankinsense (used for embalming – prefiguring his death and burial), and one brought myrrh (an incense used in worship).  

After learning the location of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph from the 3 kings, King Herod ordered the killing of all boys who had been born in Israel that year to assure that this prophesied infant King would not take his throne.”

But that account has numerous errors.  

How many errors can you find in this account?  Name them.

(Hint: There are no errors in Matthew 2:1-23) 


  1. 1. They came from the east.
    2. King Herod did not learn the location of Jesus from the three wise men.
    3. King Herod ordered the killing of all male boys two years and younger.

  2. East, not West
    The definitions of frankinsense and myrrh is reversed
    Wise men don't snitch

  3. Junior found 3 errors - all correct. Good job. But there are still 6 things in the statement that are either incorrect or assumptions we have jumped to over the years that are actually not in the nativity account in Matthew's Gospel.

  4. Bill found one more - frankincense and myrrh purposes are reversed. So between Junior and Bill's answers, there are still 5 errors remaining.

  5. - There may have been more than three wise men
    - There was not necessarily a manger
    - Herod only ordered boys 2 years and younger born *in Bethlehem* to be killed

  6. ANSWER: I counted 9 errors:

    1. On the night of Jesus’ birth
    While our nativity scenes have 3 wise men standing at the manger worshipping Jesus, Scripture does not say they were there that night. In fact, Matthew records that they visited the “house” (Matt 2:11).

    The other indication in Scripture that their visit could havc been many days or weeks later is that Herod had all male children under 2 years old killed. This indicates that much more than a few weeks had passed between when Jesus was born and when the wise men arrived in town and Herod realized that they had ignored his request to inform him of Jesus’ location.

    2. 3 wise men
    Scripture never states how many wise men there were. Three is likely an assumption that 3 men brought one of the 3 gifts each and/or from the Christmas carol “We Three Kings”.

    3. From the west
    Easy one. They came from the east.

    4. One brought gold/frankincense/myrrh
    An assumption. No mention that each had their own separate gift.

    5. Frankincense (used for embalming) / myrrh (an incense used in worship).
    While both were (and still are in eastern cultures) used as incense and anointing oil in worship, myrrh was more commonly used as embalming oil used for burial – not frankincense.

    6. After learning the location of Jesus from the wise men
    Herod never learned the location of Jesus.

    7. 3 kings
    No mention in the text that they were kings.

    8. all boys who had been born in Israel
    Herod ordered all boys born in Bethlehem killed, not all of Israel.

    9. Born that year
    The decree was for boys 2 yrs old and under.