The birth of Jesus is one of the most significant events in the Bible and it is no wonder that Christmas is the hugest holiday around the world. When Jesus was born, wise men traveled from a far land to come and worship him. In this article, we will attempt to answer the question of how old Jesus was at the time.
The visit likely occurred within two years after Jesus’s birth. The Bible points to a young child (Matthew 2:11-16). This scripture talks about the wise men meeting Jesus in a house. This eliminates the idea that when the wise men came, Jesus was a newborn since He was born in a barn/manger. It also implies that some time had passed since Jesus’ birth.
Jesus and the Wise Men
The events that determine Jesus’ age when He met the wise men start with his birth. On the 8th day, His parents took him to be circumcised, and later on, He was presented to the Temple (Luke 2:1-24). The scripture further states that when King Herod found out that he had been outwitted, he ordered all boys aged two years and under to be killed.
The king, who might have had spies, might have given the order a few hours or days after the wise men left. In addition, when the wise men came to King Herod, he asked them when the star had appeared. That means when King Herod gave the order to kill he had a good guess on what age Jesus was as he had ascertained it from the wise men but chose a large age margin to leave room for error.
This puts Jesus’ age at the time of meeting the wise men more than a few days old but not later than two years. However, King Herod’s guess of Jesus’ age is based on the star, which was believed to announce the birth of Jesus.
Biblical Evidence That Points to Jesus’ Age
Mary and Joseph followed the Law and took Jesus to the temple to be dedicated (Luke 2:22). They did this at least 40 days after the birth of Jesus. The 40 days would have covered Mary’s days of purification (Leviticus 12:2-4).
In addition, based on the scripture, Mary and Joseph were to present a lamb during the dedication of Jesus. However, they could only offer a bird (dove or pigeon), which points to their financial status. If the wise men had visited before the dedication, they would have given the parents expensive gifts such as gold.
Afterward, Mary and Joseph would have sold some of the items and used the money to offer a lamb sacrifice. So with this in mind, the time the wise men met Jesus would have been more than 40 days after His birth but within the first two years.
The Three Wise Men and the Epiphany Connection
The visit of the Wise Men is celebrated as the Epiphany in many Christian traditions. Epiphany is celebrated 12 days after Christmas on the 6th or 7th of January when Christians remember the Wise Men/Three Kings/Magi who visited Jesus. For churches that use the Julian calendar, Christmas Eve falls on January 6th, and Epiphany is celebrated on January 19th. There is also a general misconception that the wise men were three in number. However, the Bible doesn’t specify the number of wise men. The number three comes from the three gifts the wise men brought.
Can the Epiphany point to Jesus’ age? Epiphany (tied to biblical accounts of Jesus Christ’s birth and baptism) originates in the Christian belief. It’s known by different names in different countries and cultures. Three Kings’ Day, Twelfth Day or Theophany are used interchangeably to mean the same thing but differ depending on where it’s celebrated.
For non-Orthodox Christians, Epiphany is the day the three kings (or wise men) visited Jesus in Bethlehem, and it is celebrated on January 6th. On the other hand, Orthodox Churches that take Epiphany as the Theophany celebrate Jesus’ baptism by John on January 19th. However, both Eastern and Western traditions of Epiphany share a common message: the revelation of Jesus Christ to the world and the acknowledgment of His divine nature.
Did the Wise Men Arrive After 12 Days of Christmas?
The 12 days of Christmas (25 December-6th January) in Christian tradition covers the time from the birth of Jesus to the arrival of the wise men. In most traditions, the 12 days start on Christmas or the day after Christmas and conclude with the feast of Epiphany. There is a belief that the kings/wise men arrived twelve days after Jesus’s birth on Epiphany.
The Visit of the Magi: Importance and Significance
The wise men journeyed from afar land (from the East) to visit Jesus, which is a gift of time and sacrifice. In addition, the gifts they presented have symbolic meanings: Gold represents Jesus’s kingship, frankincense divinity, and myrrh mortality. The Magi’s arrival also has religious, cultural, and symbolic meaning. For starters, it aids in understanding the cultural and historical aspects of the Christmas story. Their journey signifies that the message of Christ is not for a specific region or people but is intended for all.
In the biblical aspect, the core message centers on Jesus’ identity and the fulfillment of prophecies rather than the specific age at the time of the visit. It also aligns with Old Testament prophecies, where the coming of kings carrying gifts is foretold (Isaiah 60:6).
Our analysis leads us to the conclusion that when the wise men arrived, Jesus was probably a few days or months old but not more than two years old. Though alternative ages might be proposed, having a specific number is not a central aspect of Christian doctrine. The focus is on the symbolism of the wise men humbling themselves before Jesus and recognizing Him as the Messiah.