The Birth of Christ as acknowledged by the 3 Persian
Wise Men
From old Persian language, a priest of Zarathustra (Zoroaster).
The Bible gives us the direction, East and the legend states
that the wise men were from Persia (Iran) - Balthasar, Melchior,
Caspar - thus being priests of Zarathustra religion, the mages.
Obviously the pilgrimage had some religious significance for
these men, otherwise they would not have taken the trouble
and risk of travelling so far. But what was it? An astrological
phenomenon, the Star?
  • Matthew 2:1 - "After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi [*] from the east came to Jerusalem."
    (* Footnote: Traditionally Wise Men). Matthew 2:7 - Then Herod called the Magi secretly and found out from them the exact time the star
    had appeared. Matthew 2:16 - When Herod realized that he had been outwitted by the Magi, he was furious, and he gave orders to kill
    all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity who were two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had learned from the Magi.

  • Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, was erected in 329 by Queen Helena in the area it was believed to be where Jesus was born. In 614,
    The Church was saved from destruction by the Persian rampage because of the mosaic of the Magi dressed in Persian Garb on the
    floor of this church.

  • Magi, priestly caste in ancient Persia. They are thought to have been followers of Zoroaster, the Persian teacher and prophet, and they
    professed the doctrines of Zoroastrianism. By the 1st century AD, the magi were identified with wise men and soothsayers. Encarta
    Concise Encyclopedia - Religion & Philosophy.
The Holy Epiphany - by Lewis Williams

While oftentimes conflicting lore muddles the story of the Magi, those bearing gifts for the Christ child are Caspar of Tarsus, Melchior of
Persian and Balthasar of Saba. Weary from desert travel, the Magi humbly offer their gifts. Caspar is young, European and offers gold. Gold
finances the Holy Family's coming flight to Egypt and also symbolizes Christ's immortality and purity. For his generosity, Caspar receives the
gifts of charity and spiritual wealth. Melchior is middle-aged, Persian and offers myrrh. Myrrh is a fragrant gum, which the ancient Israelites
believed to strengthen children. This symbol of Christ's mortality was blended with wine and offered to him on the cross, and also mixed with
aloes to wrap his body for the tomb. Melchior receives the gifts of humility and truth. Balthasar is elderly, Ethiopian and offers frankincense.
Frankincense is a resin used in incense for worship and also symbolizes prayer and sacrifice. Balthasar receives the gift of Faith. And Christ,
humbling himself to become man, offers us the greatest gift of all, the light that forever burns in the darkness.
Wise Men of the East, also called Magi, or Three Kings of the Orient. In Matthew, noble pilgrims
followed a star to Israel to pay homage to the newborn Christ Child. They asked King Herod the Great
for assistance in finding the child. Herod could not help them but asked the men to return with news of
the child. Warned in a dream, they did not return to Herod.

  • "In Search of the Birth of Jesus, the Real Journey of the Magi"
A Pilgrimage from Ancient Persian to Modern Bethlehem with Paul William Roberts
Esfahan -> Saveh -> Damascus -> Jerusalem -> Bethlehem
Roberts has woven the journey of the Magi with a comtemporary journey overland - by car and camel -
from Iran to Bethlehem and has gathered up some intriguing information on the development of our
civilization and our belief systems.
The Magi, revisited
Another translation of Marco Polo's classic

By H. Behzadi
May 28, 2002
The Iranian

Religion did not play a big part in my upbringing in Iran. What little I know comes from those interminable compulsory Religious Study classes
at high school in Tehran which as I recollect were either run by clerics or Literature teachers looking for extra income. The Persian Literature
teachers never took it that seriously and as long as you remembered the main tenets and could basically write. You were assured of getting
through with a reasonable grade.

We (or at least I) could never understand what the clerics were on about, as they seemed to speak in a foreign language. Those who have
read Jamalzadeh's short but very witty ingenuous piece "Farsi Shekar Ast" ("Persian Is Nectar") will know what I mean. They seemed to pride
themselves into making the subject at hand totally uninteresting and arcane. And to a child they were dangerous as they were liable to fail you
in "Feqh". IMagine the risk of losing those beautiful summers having to study for a Religious Studies re-sit.

I know even less about Christianity and it wasn't till my daughter started school run by the local church in the suburbs of London, chosen
mainly for its proximity and better reputation that I had any proper exposure to it. Don't worry! This is not an attempt to convert you. The religious
schools in England are very popular with the immigrant communities, non-religious and even non-believers.

They are chosen solely because of their reputation for better discipline, smaller class sizes and higher standard of learning. In some ways it
shows up something of the double standard by these groups and I have often wondered why the school organisers tolerate it. Some Catholic
schools now insist on at least one parent being Catholic and the local priest confirming regular worship before acceptance.

One of the stories the kids become familiar with from an early age is the story of three Magi (or the three Kings) who foresaw the birth of Christ
and went on a pilgrimage to see the newly born baby Jesus. My mother, god bless her soul, was kind of funky with a surreal aspect to her
character. She had a habit of sometimes dropping and boring you (that is how it seemed to me then) with "pearls of wisdom" either totally
unrelated to the subject of conversation or what you were up to at the time (like trying to find an excuse to get out of the house to play football in
the street or to spy on the girls in the neighbourhood).

The funny thing was that she never liked anyone else doing the same to her and if she was concentrating, say reading a good book, the only
response you could ever get would be a 'hmmm'. You could shout and scream about the house being on fire but if she was reading a
particularly good novel, 'hmmmm' meaning: "don't bother me kid; let whatever is happening, happen without me."

Just after my mother moved to England I have a vague recollection of her dropping one of these pearls of wisdom without any solicitation on
my part about the three Magi, according to her the the three Magi must have been Iranian as Magi must be the same as "mogh" in Persian
meaning Zoroastrian priests, being young and not interested in these matters I never really paid attention.

I recently read "The Travels" of Marco Polo translated by Ronald Latham for Penguin Classics and the first story Marco Polo relates about
Persia proper is about the three Magi. The Iranian published an excerpt from another translation in 1997 but I prefer the Penguin version as it
is a better translation and Ronald Latham has used modern names where it has been possible to make a match. Thanks to the Internet I also
found the story as it appears in the Bible in the Testament of Matthew.

Marco Polo's version relates the version of the story prevalent in Iran in the middle of the 12th century with specific references to places in Iran
making it very interesting reading. I also looked up Magi in the dictionary and learnt that it is indeed plural for magus, meaning "a: a member of
a hereditary priestly class among the ancient Medes and Persians; b often capitalized : one of the traditionally three wise men from the East
paying homage to the infant."
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