Three wise men may not have been says Synod
The three wise men who brought gifts to the baby Jesus could have been women, according to the Church of England's General Synod.
The scriptures describe the people who followed a star to Bethlehem as Magi, which in translation could mean either sex.
The General Synod had discussed substituting the word "Magi" for the more widely known, but less exact, "wise men" in a new set of collects, or prayers.
But it decided against the reference to "wise men" in a prayer for the Epiphany, one of 69 of the collects approved yesterday, on the basis that they may not necessarily have been men - or even wise.
It has been suggested that Matthew deliberately referred to Magos/magoi, meaning an official in the Persian court, to emphasise the visitors' exotic nature.
In a report, the General Synod revision committee states that "it believes that to translate the term into something more universally understood (as the Authorised Version did) is to miss the point being made.
"Further, while it seems very unlikely that these Persian court officials were female, the possibility that one or more of the magoi were female cannot be excluded completely. The committee has retained 'Magi' on the grounds that the visitors were not necessarily wise and not necessarily men."