Unless otherwise noted, all scripture quotations are from the New King James Version
According to the account of Jesus’ birth in the Gospel of Matthew, visitors “from the East” who had seen the star of a new king presented gifts to young Jesus. The Greek text of the Gospel calls these visitors ma’goi, that is, “magi.” (Matthew 2:1) What do we know about them?
The earliest substantial source of information about the Magi is the Greek historian Herodotus. Living in the fifth century B.C.E., Herodotus recorded that the Magi belonged to a Persian priestly class who specialized in astrology, interpretation of dreams, and casting of spells. In Herodotus’ time, the religion of Persia was Zoroastrianism. Hence, the Magi he spoke about were likely Zoroastrian priests. “In a more general sense,” says The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, “a mágos in the Hellenistic world had supernatural knowledge and ability and was sometimes a practitioner of magic.”
A number of early “Christian” commentators, such as Justin Martyr, Origen, and Tertullian, described the Magi who visited Jesus as astrologers. For example, Tertullian wrote in his book On Idolatry: “We know the mutual alliance of magic and astrology. The interpreters of the stars, then, were the first … to present Him [Jesus] ‘gifts.’“ In harmony with this understanding, some Bible translations render ma’goi “astrologers.”
“Therefore when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Juda, in the days of king Herod, lo! astrologers [lo! kings, or wise men,] came from the east to Jerusalem” (Matthew 2:1, Wycliffe New Testament).