Reminder, on Dec. 24th I will announce my choice for the Star of Bethlehem along with ample reasons why. Last week I blogged about the relationship between Parthia and Rome. I believe this to be significant in finding the real Star of Bethlehem. If the Magi came from Parthia they would have not had the astrological skills of the Babylonians. In fact they may be a little overrated. History has been very favorable to them. They are considered "wise men" who were the first Gentiles to worship Jesus. But, they were more likely ambassadors to kings or rulers, not rulers themselves. They probably consulted with Jewish rabbis before leaving, the smart thing to do, and were told of Old Testament prophecy and the Oral Law of the Talmud (the Talmud was still in its original oral form at that time). Remember the Talmud informs us that Jewish profits were born in Nissan around the time of Passover, and Issac, often compared to Jesus was born and died on Passover. From The Essence of Perfection:
When Marco Polo made his epic 24-year journey through the Middle East to China in 1271, he passed through what is modern-day Iran. During this time, he was greeted by the citizens of Sabā. He was told that their town had been the point of origin of the Magi. A. V. Williams Jackson notes the following:
It has long been recognized that the names “Saba” and “Ava” of Marco Polo are probably to be identified with Savah, some 50 miles southwest of Tehran, and with Avah, a village about 16 miles southwest of Savah. The third city, called “Cala Ataperistan” by the Venetian traveler and said to be “three days’ journey” from Sabā, has not identified, although Marco Polo is correct in his statement that the name means ‘Castle of the Fire-Worshippers,’ for it represents the Persian Kalah-i Atasparastan.
Thus, more than one town claimed to have some connection to the Magi’s narrative, which may contribute to the theory that three Magi did, in fact, make their epic journey. Marco Polo, in his book The Travels of Marco Polo, writes about visiting this region of Iran while traveling to China:
In Persia, there is the city which is called Saba, from whence were the three Magi who came to adore Christ in Bethlehem; and the three are buried in that city in a fair sepulcher, and they are all three entire with their beards and hair. One was called Baldasar, the second Gaspar, and the third Belchior. Marco inquired often in that city concerning the three Magi, and nobody could tell him anything about them except that the three Magi were buried there in an-cient times. After three days’ journey you come to a castle which is called Palasata, which means the castle of the fire-worshippers; and it is true that the inhabitants of that castle worship fire, and this is given as the reason.
It is intriguing that there exists evidence from Iran that the Magi did travel from that location to pay homage to Jesus. Polo later even references the Magi’s gifts of gold, frank-incense, and myrrh. Thus, the inhabitants of the region were at least aware of the narrative. Polo also gives an account of an unusual gift that Jesus gave the Magi when they left:
When they went away, the infant gave them a closed box, which they carried with them for several days, and then becoming curious to see what he had given them, they opened the box and found in it a stone, which was intended for a sign that they should remain as firm as a stone in the faith they received from him. When, however, they saw the stone, they marveled, and thinking themselves deluded, they threw the stone into a certain pit, and instantly fire burst forth in the pit.
Although the Magi were at first disgusted by the gift from Jesus, they soon found out it was more than a stone. The stone transforming itself is, of course, a metaphor for a simple carpenter who turns out to be a Messiah. It also proves that Jesus was respected by some in Iran well into the thirteenth century. Marco Polo reports that the Magi brought some of the fire with them back to their Church, where they worshiped it as a god by offering it sacrifices. Marco Polo believed this to be the reason the inhabitants of Persia worshiped fire. His account, therefore, points to somewhere in first-century Parthia as the best choice for the origin of the Magi, even though this source is one thousand years after the birth of Jesus. It also indicates that the Magi were more than likely aware of Jewish prophecy and religion, since they were in close proximity to the Jewish community in Babylonia.
If the Magi came from Persia or Babylon, they were more than likely well-adept astrologers, astronomers, and philosophers. This required them to spend many hours each day learning from ancient manuscripts and experienced teachers and ample amounts of time in the evenings observing the sky. They managed their own astrological charts over the centuries; unfortunately, none survive today. The charts documented when the planets and celestial bodies rose and the paths they followed. Celestial bodies were the subjects of intensely serious study by these wise men. Their proficiency in astronomy required them to watch the movements and alignments of the celestial bodies to predict important events. According to Mark Kidger, in his book The Star of Bethlehem: An Astronomer's View,
If the Magi did indeed come from Babylonia, as is tacitly accepted by many people, then the distance they would have had to travel to get to Jerusalem was around 550 miles. . . The journey would have been made in a camel train, or possibly, on horseback . . . If the camel train traveled at around two miles per hour and for around eight hours per day, the journey would have taken close to a month and a half.
From Persia, where the Magi may have originated, to Jerusalem was a journey of between 1000 and 1200 miles. Such a distance may have taken anywhere between 3 and 12 months by camel. Besides the time of travel, there were probably many weeks of preparation, which would include gathering the gifts and readying the animals for the journey. Depending on how hostile the area was, they may have needed guides and bodyguards.
If the Magi were Zoroastrians from Persia, they would have been intrigued by the Jewish idea of a savior bringing justice and happiness to the world. The linkage between a new star and a savior went far back into the Zoroastrian past. They would have known of Balaam, who in Numbers 24:15–19 is described as living in the Mesopotamian city of Pethor and being ordered by the king of Moab to curse the Israelites. Instead, tongue-tied by God, he blessed them and prophesied the coming of a great king out of Israel. Balaam said that there shall be seen a star out of Jacob and a scepter shall rise out of Israel. Zoroaster predicted the advent of a savior known as the Saosyant, who would bring justice and happiness to the world. Thus, the Saosyant and the Star out of Jacob work together as evidence.
According to Carter, the Saosyant denotes a figure who is a combination of priest, deliverer, and saint. Carter writes from the ancient text of Zoroastrianism:
The victorious Saoshyant with his helpers shall restore the world, which henceforth never will grow old and never die, never decaying and never rotting, ever living and ever increasing, and master of its wish, when the dead will rise, when life and immortality will come, and the world will be restored at its wish . . . In bringing to pass the wonderful and happy future, Saoshyant will be assisted by 15 men and 15 damsels. Together they perform a final sacrifice, the virtue of which will bring about the resurrection and the blessings of immortality. There will be a long conflict with evil but Saoshyant will be victorious.
Maneckji Nusservanji Dhalla noted in his book Zoroastrian Theology that Persian rulers, guided most likely by political expediency, often built or restored the temples of conquered people, including built temples honoring Jewish, Egyptian, Babylonian, and Greek divinities:
He notes, “Their empire was made up of various nationalities of diverse faith, and the Achaemenian rulers were always tolerant toward the religions of these subject races. . . . Cyrus ordered the restoration of the temple at Jerusalem, and Darius, the devout worshipper of Auramazda, favored its rebuilding as decreed by Cyrus.
Carter further noted, it was even proclaimed on an ancient cylinder inscription that, “Cyrus was the shepherd and the anointed of Yahweh in Judea.”
14 years ago I became interested in the date that Jesus was born. This led to several years of research, I quickly realized that there was no valid information that provided any real answers to this question. Since this website is getting some interest I will post from time to time some of the information I learned during this quest.