Who were the Magi of Matthew 2.1-11?

On the one hand, it is possible that they are literary invention of the Evangelist, but that seems quite extravagant for purely fictional characters. On the other hand, if the Magi were real people from the east they invite a lot of thought.

We have pagans finding Christ through their superstitions. God did not reject them because of their magical worldview. God used it to bring them to Christ.

The Magi are not part of the established people of God, yet they find themselves worshiping God’s Messiah.

The Magi disappear back to their homeland. We have no evidence that they came to know more of Jesus’ story later, yet they are framed positively. They are what some may call “righteous pagans”. They find Christ through another religious worldview, they know him in part only, they worship him and bring gifts, and they are remembered in a saintly way.

I wouldn’t establish a robust soteriology on this story, but it does make me stop before I declare knowledge of who is “in-and-out” of God’s Kingdom. Sometimes I think only the King himself knows. I am comfortable with that.

I am open to the likelihood that God may have more “Magi” in the world who come to the Feast of the Lamb from the east and the west, the north and the south. I’ll happily welcome them to the banquet.