The three Wise Men might not have been men at all and there might not have been three of them, the Church of England has ruled.
In a new short prayer book, the Church of England has decided to refer to them as "magi", because it says the Bible is "silent" on whether they were men or women.
Last night a spokesman for the Church confirmed the decision of the General Synod in preparing the prayer book, Common Worship. He said the Synod knew there were the three gifts for Jesus of gold, frankincense and myrrh but original scripture did not say whether these were from three or fewer visitors, or from men or women.
"There is a prayer called Epiphany where magi is left in in preference to wise men," the spokesman said.
"We had grown up with three wise men because in scripture translation, it had been an easy jump to take the three gifts to three bearers who must be men," the spokesman said.
A church report found: "The possibility that one or more of the magi were female cannot be excluded completely ... the visitors were not necessarily wise and not necessarily men."
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