Have the Three Kings always been three?

The Three Kings weren’t always three. In fact, the canonical Gospels never established their number. The first Christian theologians and exegetes discussed this aspect, and went so far as to establish from two to several dozen Magi. Three was the definitive number thanks to Origen of Alexandria (184 or 185-254), who established that if three gifts were offered to the newborn Jesus, three must have been the offerers, each carrying an offering. Later, however, some works sometimes represented a fourth King in an allegorical manner.


In this painting by Vasco Fernandes from the beginning of the 16th century, a new King appears, with evident features of a South American Indian. It makes sense, because the Kings also served to represent humanity from different regions of the world that, regardless of their origin, all worshipped the Son of God (the Three Kings represent the peoples of the three known continents until 1492, Europe, Asia and Africa). Let us remember that in 1492 America was discovered…

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