Were the Three Wise Men Bearing Gifts to Jesus Zoroastrians?
‘Three Wise Men’ – believed to have travelled from afar to bring gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the newly-born baby Jesus in Bethlehem – may have been Zoroastrians.
The beloved tale of the Three Magis is annually re-enacted at millions of venues across the globe. In the story, three Kings — Caspar, Balthazar and Melchior — travelled on camels across deserts and mountains for more than a week in search of the new Messiah. A single, shining star guided the pilgrims, who found the infant in a manger.
Zoroastrianism – believed to be the world’s first monotheistic religion, predating Judaism and Christianity – arose in the Persian Empire, around the 6th century B.C. Sometime around the 8th or 10th century, many Zoroastrians migrated to the coast of Gujarat to avoid subjugation at the hands of Muslims, who were now dominating the region. The migrants became known as Parsis.
Zoroastrianism is one of the world’s smallest religions, with a population of less than 200,000 people world-wide. About 17,000 Zoroastrians live in North America; the community will hold its annual three-day conference later this week in Los Angeles, Calif., beginning Dec. 28. Many scholars believe the three men were Zoroastrian priests, teaching the philosophy of Zoroaster. Others, however, believe the triowere princes skilled in astronomy, which allowed them to predict that Saoshyant – a new Zoroastrian messiah – would be born in Jerusalem.
Citing a story in the Book of Seth, renowned Zoroastrian scholar Mary Boyce said the Magis of Persia had for many generations expected a star to appear. Every year, 12 of the Magis would climb a mountain to look for the star. “At last one year, the star appeared, descending from the mountain, having within it, the form of a baby boy,” wrote Boyce, as cited by the Bombay Parsi Punchayet Review.
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