Why do Christmas cards show three exotically dressed men on camels? How could just three travellers terrify King Herod to the extent that, like Pharaoh centuries before, he ordered the mass murder of Hebrew boys?

The myth of three men is based solely on their bringing three gifts. They rode horses, not camels – but they were certainly wise and possibly more important than kings: they were the kingmakers of the Middle East.

The Magi, a convenient name misleadingly shortened from ‘magician’, were scholars dating back to the time of Daniel in Babylon. Daniel’s vindication by God led to his visions and the Hebrew Scriptures being studied very seriously.

His followers’ influence grew and when they travelled, there were hundreds of them in distinctive turbans on horseback with their own provisions and a retinue that would have included bodyguards and potentially servants, animals and cooks.

Their arrival in occupied Judea, searching for the King of the Jews whose star had appeared in the east, signalled regime change to the insecure Herod.

Hence his conciliatory response to them while he rapidly plotted to retain control of his kingdom through mass infanticide.

More details are on a CD, ‘Who were the wise men?’ by the late Roger Price, available from CCF Resources, a HEART Partner Ministry, at www.ccftapes.co.uk/STSPage2.htm#STS038