Aix en Provence, les rois mages +1
The Magi (play /ˈmædʒaɪ/; Greek: μάγοι, magoi), also referred to as the (Three) Wise Men, (Three) Kings, or Kings from the East, were, according to Christian beliefs, a group of distinguished foreigners who visited Jesus after his birth, bearing gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. They are regular figures in traditional accounts of the nativity celebrations of Christmas and are an important part of the Christian tradition.
The Gospel of Matthew, the only one of the four Canonical gospels to mention the Magi, states that they came "from the east" to worship the Christ, "born King of the Jews." Although the account does not tell how many they were, the three gifts led to a widespread assumption that they were three as well. In the East, the magi traditionally number twelve. Their identification as kings in later Christian writings is probably linked to Psalms 72:11, “May all kings fall down before him”
Traditions identify a variety of different names for the Magi. In the Western Christian church they have been commonly known as:
Melchior (also Melichior), a Babylonian scholar
Caspar (also Gaspar, Jaspar, Jaspas, Gathaspa, and other variations), a Persian scholar
Balthazar (also Balthasar, Balthassar, and Bithisarea), an Arab scholar
These names apparently derive from a Greek manuscript probably composed in Alexandria around 500 A.D., and which has been translated into Latin with the title Excerpta Latina Barbari. Another Greek document from the 8th century, of presumed Irish origin and translated into Latin with the title Collectanea et Flores, continues the tradition of three kings and their names and gives additional details.
Caspar is also sometimes given as Gaspar or Jaspar. One candidate for the origin of the name Caspar appears in the Acts of Thomas as Gondophares (AD 21 – c.AD 47), i.e., Gudapharasa (from which 'Caspar' might derive as corruption of 'Gaspar'). This Gondophares declared independence from the Arsacids to become the first Indo-Parthian king and who was allegedly visited by Thomas the Apostle. His name is perpetuated in the name of the Afghan city Kandahar, which he founded under the name Gundopharron. Christian legend may have chosen Gondofarr simply because he was an eastern king living in the right time period.
In contrast, the Syrian Christians name the Magi Larvandad, Gushnasaph, and Hormisdas. These names have a far greater likelihood of being originally Persian, though that does not, of course, guarantee their authenticity.
In the Eastern churches, Ethiopian Christianity, for instance, has Hor, Karsudan, and Basanater, while the Armenians have Kagpha, Badadakharida and Badadilma. Many Chinese Christians believe that one of the magi came from China. This final idea is used by Christopher Moore in his novel Lamb.
Bible historian Chuck Missler mentions an Armenian tradition identifying the Magi as Balthasar of Arabia, Melchior of Persia and Gasper of India