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Were the Magi who visited Jesus -- Persian?
Christian Farsinet ^ | 12/23/03 | Christian Farsinet

Posted on 12/23/2003 10:55:46 PM PST by freedom44

Magi (Majusian)

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?

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 Lwis 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 (See Pilgrim). 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. Encarta Concise Encyclopedia - Religion & Philosophy.

"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."

Here is the Ronald Latham translation:

In Persia is the city called Saveh, from which the three Magi set out when they came to worship Jesus Christ. Here, too, they lie buried in three sepulchres of great size and beauty. Above each sepulchre is a square building with a domed roof of very fine workmanship. The one is just beside the other. Their bodies are still whole, and they have hair and beards. One was named Beltasar, the second Gaspar, and the third Melchior.

Messer Marco asked several of the inhabitants who these Magi were; but no one could tell him anything except that they were three kings who were buried there in days gone by. But at last he learnt What I will tell you.

Three days farther on, he found a town called Kala Atashparastan, that is to say Town of the Fire-worshippers. And that is no more than the truth; for the men of this town do worship fire. And I will tell you why they worship it. The inhabitants declare that in days gone by three kings of this country went to worship a new-born prophet and took with them three offerings -gold, frankincense, and myrrh - so as to discover whether this prophet was a god, or an earthly king or a healer. For they said : 'If he takes gold, he is an earthly king; if frankincense, a god; if myrrh, a healer.'

When they had come to the place where the prophet was born, the youngest of the three kings went in all alone to see the child. He found that he was like himself, for he seemed to be of his own age and appearance. And he came out, full of wonder. Then in went the second, who was a man of middle age. And to him also the child seemed, as it had seemed to the other, to be of his own age and appearance. And he came out quite dumbfounded. Then in went the third, who was of riper years; and to him also it happened as it had to the other two. And he came out deep in thought. When the three kings were all together, each told the others what he had seen. And they were much amazed and resolved that they would all go in together.

So, in they went, all three together, and came before the child and saw him in his real likeness and of his real age; for he was only thirteen days old. Then they worshipped him and offered him the gold, the frankincense, and the myrrh. The child took all three offerings and then gave them a closed casket. And the three kings set out to return to their own country.

After they had ridden for some days, they resolved to see what the child had given them. They opened the casket and found inside it a stone. They wondered greatly what this could be. The child had given it to them to signify that they should be firm as stone in the faith that they had adopted. For, when the three kings saw that the child had taken all three offerings, they concluded that he was at once a god, and an earthly king, and a healer. And, since the child knew that the three kings believed this, he gave them the stone to signify that they should be firm and constant in their belief.

The three kings, not knowing why the stone had been given to them, took it and threw it into a well. No sooner had it fallen in than there descended from heaven a burning fire, which came straight to the well into which it had been thrown. When the three kings saw this miracle, they were taken aback and repented of their throwing away the stone; for they saw clearly that its significance was great and good. They immediately took some of this fire and carried it to their country and put it in one of their churches, a very fine and splendid building.

They keep it perpetually burning and worship it as a god. And every sacrifice and burnt offering which they make is roasted with this fire. If it ever happens that the fire goes out, they go round to others who hold the same faith and worship fire also and are given some of the fire that burns in their church. This they bring back to rekindle their own fire. They never rekindle it except with this fire of which I have spoken. To procure this fire, they often make a journey of ten days.

That is how it comes about that the people of this country are fire worshippers. And I assure you that they are very numerous. All this was related to Messer Marco Polo by the inhabitants of this town; and it is all perfectly true. Let me tell you finally that one of the three Magi came from Saveh, one from Hawah, and the third from Kashan.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Christ and the Persian magi Marco Polo on Persia's "Christian" fire worshippers

December 22, 1997 The Iranian

From Chapter XI (Of the province of Persia) of Marco Polo's "The Travels; The Description of the world" written in 1298. This translation is by William Marsden, revised by Thomas Wright (Konemann Travel Classics, Koln, Germany, 1996).

Persia was anciently a large and noble province, but it is now in great part destroyed by the Tartars. In Persia there is a 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 sepulchre, and they are all three entire with their beards and hair. One was called Baldasar, the second Gaspar, and the third Melchior.

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 ancient 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.

The men of that castle say, that anciently three kings of that country went to adore a certain king who was newly born, and carried with them three offerings, namely, gold, frankincense, and myrth: gold, that they might know if he were an earthly king; frankincense, that they might know if he were God; and myrth, that they might now if he were a mortal man.

When these magi were presented to Christ, the youngest of the three adored him first, and it appeared to him that Christ was of his stature and age. The middle one came next, and then the eldest, and to each he seemed to be of their own stature and age. Having compared their observations together, they agreed to go all to worship at once, and then he appeared to them all of his true age.

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 firm as a stone in the faith they had received from him.

When, however, they saw the stone, they marvelled, and thinking themselves deluded, they threw the stone into a certain pit, and instantly fire burst forth in the pit. When they saw this, they repented bitterly of what they had done, and taking some of the fire with them they carried it home.

And having placed it in one of their churches, they keep it continually burning, and adore that fire as a god, and make all their sacrifices with it; and if it happen to be extinguished, they go for more to the original fire in the pit where they threw the stone, which is never extinguished, and they take of none other fire. And, therefore, the people of the country worship fire.

Marco was told all this by the people of the country; and it is true that one of those kings was of Saba; and the second was Dyava, and the third was of the castle.

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Foreign Affairs
KEYWORDS: ancienthistory; archaeoastronomy; christmas; godsgravesglyphs; iran; johanneskepler; magi; mrirangen; nativity; persia; starofbethlehem; staroftheeast; wisemen; worldhistory
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1 posted on 12/23/2003 10:55:46 PM PST by freedom44
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To: freedom44
Thank you for posting this, very timely.
2 posted on 12/23/2003 11:00:33 PM PST by Pan_Yans Wife (Submitting approval for the CAIR COROLLARY to GODWIN'S LAW.)
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To: freedom44
Wise men worshiping Jesus in Bethleham
Merry Christmas everyone!
3 posted on 12/23/2003 11:01:57 PM PST by freedom44
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To: freedom44
Does anyone find it interesting how fluid religiosity was during the time of Jesus (and especially for 100's of years after his death)?

What if God the Father is the center of all things - singularity as the physicists would describe it - wouldn't there be countless paths, like spokes running towards the hub, each coming from their own frame of reference, converging upon 'the truth'?

4 posted on 12/23/2003 11:05:00 PM PST by StatesEnemy
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To: Doctor Stochastic; SJackson; knighthawk; McGavin999; Stultis; river rat; Live free or die; ...

Saint Hripsime's holy Church in Iran.
5 posted on 12/23/2003 11:10:07 PM PST by freedom44
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To: freedom44
Furthermore, the old Testament of the Bible, written hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, tells the story of the Jews living in the south of Israel, Judea, being overcome by the Babylonians. The Babylonians were, in turn, overcome by the Persians while the Jews were in captivity.

The book of Daniel recounts how Daniel was a "wise man" in both the court of the Babylonians and subsequently, the Persians.

Also, Esther, a Jewess, served as a queen of Persia.

Therefore, the Persians would have had access to Jewish writings and teachings which called for a Messiah to arise in Israel. The wise men of Persia of the time at Jesus could well have been aware of the Jewish teachings about a coming Messiah.
6 posted on 12/23/2003 11:11:22 PM PST by the_Watchman
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To: the_Watchman
Some more background on Christ's birth and the Magi:

"The Star of Bethlehem," IMPRIMIS, Hillsdale College (Dec 1996): . A six page article that summarizes important facts supporting Christ's birth date of September 11, 3 B.C. Note that this date was also the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and commonly considered to be the first day of Creation in Genesis ("birthday of the world").

"The Star that Astonished the World," Ernest Martin, Ph.D. and . This book is THE definitive work on what the Star of Bethlehem really was (Jupiter). It describes the numerous conjunctions and massing of planets that announced Christ's birth and pinpoints the exact day and time from astronomical, historical, and Biblical records. This evidence convinced the Magi astronomers (wise men) from Persia (Iran) to journey over 1000 miles to Bethlehem and pay honor to the 15-month old Christ child in December, 2 B.C. The Shockwave video ( ) produced by MSNBC is particularly good as it demonstrates the various conjunctions and retrograde planetary motions in a very clear fashion.

September 11th news, . Islamic jihadists killed nearly 3,000 of our fellow Americans on Sept. 11, 2001. The author of this site includes Christ's birth in his historical timeline of Sept 11 events. It is not surprising that the evil one of this world would besmirch the birth date of his eventual conqueror.
7 posted on 12/23/2003 11:17:03 PM PST by enviros_kill
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To: the_Watchman
Story of Esther - Queen of Persia
Esther 1

1 This is what happened during the time of Xerxes, the Xerxes who ruled over 127 provinces stretching from India to Cush:
2 At that time King Xerxes reigned from his royal throne in the citadel of Susa,
3 and in the third year of his reign he gave a banquet for all his nobles and officials. The military leaders of Persia and Media, the princes, and the nobles of the provinces were present.
4 For a full 180 days he displayed the vast wealth of his kingdom and the splendor and glory of his majesty.
5 When these days were over, the king gave a banquet, lasting seven days, in the enclosed garden of the king's palace, for all the people from the least to the greatest, who were in the citadel of Susa.
6 The garden had hangings of white and blue linen, fastened with cords of white linen and purple material to silver rings on marble pillars. There were couches of gold and silver on a mosaic pavement of porphyry, marble, mother-of-pearl and other costly stones.
7 Wine was served in goblets of gold, each one different from the other, and the royal wine was abundant, in keeping with the king's liberality.
8 By the king's command each guest was allowed to drink in his own way, for the king instructed all the wine stewards to serve each man what he wished.

What the Bible Says About Persia and Persians

"In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of The Lord spoken by Jeremiah, The Lord moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing: "This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: "The Lord, The God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and He has appointed me to build a Temple [see Temples] for Him at Jerusalem in Judah. Anyone of his people among you - may his God be with him, and let him go up to Jerusalem in Judah and build The Temple of The Lord, The God of Israel, The God who is in Jerusalem." (Ezra 1:1-3)

An empire which extended from India to Ethiopia, comprising one hundred and twenty-seven provinces, (Daniel 6), Esth. 1:1;
Government of, restricted by constitutional limitations, Esth. 8:8; (Daniel 6:8-12).
Municipal governments in, provided with dual governors, Neh. 3:9, 12, 16-18.
The princes advisory in matters of administration, (Daniel 6:1-7).
Status of women in, queen sat on the throne with the king, Neh. 2:6.
Vashti divorced for refusing to appear before the king's courtiers, Esth. 1:10-22; 2:4.
Israel captive in, 2 Chr. 36:20;
captivity foretold, Hos. 13:16.
Men of, in the Tyrian army, Ezek. 27:10.
Rulers of: Ahasuerus, Esth. 1:3.
Darius, Dan. 5:31; 6; 9:1.
Artaxerxes I, Ezra 4:7-24 .
Artaxerxes II, Ezra 7; Neh. 2; 5:14.
Cyrus, (2 Chr. 36:22), (2 Chr. 36:23), Ezra 1; 3:7; 4:3; 5:13, 5:14, 5:17; 6:3; Isa. 41:2, 41:3; 44:28; (Isaiah 45:1-8), 13; 46:11; 48:14, 15.
Princes of, Esth. 1:14.
System of justice, Ezra 7:11-26.
Prophecies concerning, Isa. 13: 17; 21:1-10; Jer. 49:34-39; 51:11-64; Ezek. 32:24, 25; 38:5; Dan. 2:31-45; 5:28; 7; 8; 11:1-4.
8 posted on 12/23/2003 11:19:31 PM PST by freedom44
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To: freedom44
stop....stop...STOPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPPP PINGING ME FOR THIS CRAP !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
9 posted on 12/23/2003 11:20:18 PM PST by stuck_in_new_orleans
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To: enviros_kill

Cyrus the Great Became Top Leader Of His Era By Championing Just Rule Cyrus Charter of Human Rights I am Cyrus. King of the world. When I entered Babylon... I did not allow anyone to terrorise the land... I kept in view the needs of Babylon and all its sanctuaries to promote their well-being... I put an end to their misfortune. From The First Charter of the Rights of Nations

Cyrus, The Great, 539 B.C. Founder of The First Persian Empire

King Cyrus allows Return of Jews from Iran to Israel In the first year of Cyrus king of Persia, in order to fulfill the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah, the LORD moved the heart of Cyrus king of Persia to make a proclamation throughout his realm and to put it in writing: "This is what Cyrus king of Persia says: "`The LORD, the God of heaven, has given me all the kingdoms of the earth and he has appointed me to build a temple for him at Jerusalem in Judah. Anyone of his people among you--may the LORD his God be with him, and let him go up.'" 2 Chronicles 36:22-23
10 posted on 12/23/2003 11:25:08 PM PST by freedom44
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To: the_Watchman
More than likely the Magi or Wisemen came from the southern region what is now the Sultanate of Oman in an area called the Dhofar region where the rare Frankincense and Myrrh trees are located. Incidentally, the US Space Shuttle program located an abandoned city called Ubar which was located on the ancient Frankincense trail, which was visible from space (path created by camels). A lucrative trade existed during the time of Christ for the merchants of frankincense in the Dhofar region.

Frankincense can be purchased in bulk in the souk (marketplace) of Muscat, Oman near the coast. I personally purchased an old silver Omani incense burner in the marketplace along with some frankincense and myrrh. Very interesting place with old artifacts for sale.

Job from the Bible is also buried in Oman.

In Oman there is an expensive perfume made from frankincense called Amouage which means "wave" in Arabic.
11 posted on 12/23/2003 11:51:28 PM PST by Mel Gibson (Guessing is cheap, guessing wrong is expensive.)
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To: freedom44; nickcarraway
Interesting post, thanks.
12 posted on 12/23/2003 11:53:02 PM PST by Canticle_of_Deborah
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To: Mel Gibson
Arabs were barbarians.. not much has changed... Persians had much to offer the Bible and the Word.

Cyrus Charter of Human Rights Cylinder

First Charter of Human Rights

The charter of Cyrus the Great, a baked-clay Aryan language (Old Persian) cuneiform cylinder, was discovered in 1878 in excavation of the site of Babylon. In it, Cyrus the Great described his human treatment of the inhabitants of Babylonia after its conquest by the Iranians.
The document has been hailed as the first charter of human rights, and in 1971 the United Nations was published translation of it in all the official U.N. languages. "May Ahura Mazda protect this land, this nation, from rancor, from foes, from falsehood, and from drought". Selected from the book "The Eternal Land".

I am Cyrus.
King of the world. When I entered Babylon... I did not allow anyone to terrorise the land... I kept in view the needs of Babylon and all its sanctuaries to promote their well-being... I put an end to their misfortune.

From The First Charter of the Rights of Nations

Cyrus, The Great, 539 B.C.
Founder of The First Persian Empire

Cyrus The Great
Cyrus (580-529 BC) was the first Achaemenid Emperor. He founded Persia by uniting the two original Iranian Tribes- the Medes and the Persians. Although he was known to be a great conqueror, who at one point controlled one of the greatest Empires ever seen, he is best remembered for his unprecedented tolerance and magnanimous attitude towards those he defeated.
Upon his victory over the Medes, he founded a government for his new kingdom, incorporating both Median and Persian nobles as civilian officials. The conquest of Asia Minor completed, he led his armies to the eastern frontiers. Hyrcania and Parthia were already part of the Median Kingdom. Further east, he conquered Drangiana, Arachosia, Margiana and Bactria. After crossing the Oxus, he reached the Jaxartes, where he built fortified towns with the object of defending the farthest frontier of his kingdom against nomadic tribes of Central Asia.

The victories to the east led him again to the west and sounded the hour for attack on Babylon and Egypt. When he conquered Babylon, he did so to cheers from the Jewish Community, who welcomed him as a liberator- he allowed the Jews to return to the promised Land. He showed great forbearance and respect towards the religious beliefs and cultural traditions of other races. These qualities earned him the respect and homage of all the people over whom he ruled.

13 posted on 12/24/2003 12:53:43 AM PST by freedom44
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To: Mel Gibson
God calls King Cyrus of Persia by name before he is even born to serve Him

God Calls King Cyrus by Name

This is what the LORD says to his anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I take hold of to subdue nations before him and to strip kings of their armor, to open doors before him so that gates will not be shut: I will go before you and will level the mountains; I will break down gates of bronze and cut through bars of iron. I will give you the treasures of darkness, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the LORD, the God of Israel, who summons you by name. For the sake of Jacob my servant, of Israel my chosen, I summon you by name and bestow on you a title of honor, though you do not acknowledge me. I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting men may know there is none besides me. I am the LORD, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things. "You heavens above, rain down righteousness; let the clouds shower it down. Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness grow with it; I, the LORD, have created it. Isaiah 45:1-8
14 posted on 12/24/2003 12:55:18 AM PST by freedom44
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To: enviros_kill
<"This book is THE definitive work on what the Star of Bethlehem really was">

I'm very sure that -THE Definitive Work- has it all wrong because important parts of the biblical account have been replaced with folklore in the understanding of the author of the book you cite.

Tradition has the Magi from the east following a bright star across Asia to Jerusalem and then from Jerusalem to Bethlehem until they wind up on Mary & Joseph’s doorstep. There have been lots of attempts to identify what astronomic event or object the star of Bethlehem was.

The Gospel according to Hallmark is so prevalent that I’ve even seen atheist arguments debunking the Star of Bethlehem by stating that there is no historical record of such a noteworthy event. The notion that there was some spectacular astronomical phenomenon is entirely extra-Biblical though. For extra credit; read Matthew 2:1-18.

The sorts of explanations I’ve heard are super-nova, comets and unusual planetary conjunctions. I believe the type of behavior that the star exhibited near the end of the account precludes any type of natural phenomenon. The star, which is described as the SAME star that they saw in the east, appeared essentially fixed above the surface of the earth. It did move somewhat to lead the Magi from Jerusalem to the house in Bethlehem, a distance of about five miles. I haven’t done any experiments, but I don’t think that I could tell which house a star was leading me to if that star was much higher than a few hundred feet.

Whatever is described in the New Testament account cannot be reconciled to any natural phenomena. The tendency here would be to assume that this story is pure fabrication. Within the account, there are a few instances of hidden self consistency that tend to support the truthfulness of the account. My premise is that if a witness to an event provides incidental detail that later corroborates the main thread of the testimony then the witness is probably telling the truth. The alternative is that the witness is an extremely clever liar.

In the Nativity account, the hidden detail is not terribly subtle but it is delivered in such an offhand way that , to my knowledge, no one noticed the corroborative detail before. Key points: “...magi came from the east...” I’m relying on other people’s expertise here, but magi refers to the Chaldean caste from Persia. The Chaldeans were an ethnic group who were the civil administrators, scholars and mystics of the Babylonian empire. This same group figures prominently in the Book of Daniel. In their day, astronomy and astrology were a single discipline. It is likely that the group that went to Jerusalem included people who were that times equivalent to astronomer/scientists.

They said, "Where is He that is born king of the Jews?”

There is no clue in the account how they put the star and the birth of the king of the Jews together. My favorite explanation is that they had Daniel’s prophesies and timelines and also maybe something astrological to work with.

“...for we have seen His star in the east...”

This is identified as the same star that later hovers over a house in Bethlehem.

“...Herod the king heard these things and was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.”

Herod and the people of Jerusalem were troubled by the arrival of the magi. The Jews do not seem to have noticed anything unusual in the way of a star. If the star was unusually bright or otherwise spectacular they might of noticed it. The legal prohibition against any form of divination kept the Jews from practicing astrology so they might not have been familiar with what went where in the sky.

“Then Herod, when he had secretly called the magi , determined from them what time the star appeared.”

This is another indication that he may not have been aware of anything unusual in the sky. For some reason though, he seems to take the situation very seriously. He covertly meets with the magi to determine when they first saw the star. Apparently it took the magi a fairly long time to start their expedition to Jerusalem. Herod later uses their answer as his basis for killing the 2 year and under males in Bethlehem. Bethlehem was a small town so the number of infants killed probably wasn’t huge. No historical record would have recorded this event since Herod was a bloodthirsty tyrant who ordered up some much larger massacres tha did get reported.

“...they departed, and behold the star, which they had seen in the East, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was.”

Again note that the magi considered this the same star as the one they saw back in their own country. Clearly the word translated here as star refers to any small light in the sky. The modern expression “shooting star” is an example of a less than technically accurate usage.

“When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.”

There is the implication that they hadn’t seen the star for a while and suddenly spot it again. Perhaps the star was so unnoteworthy that it was hard to keep track of from night to night. The expression “exceeding great joy” is really there in the Greek and seems to heap on superlatives in order to indicate that the emotional reaction of the magi to the star was truly extraordinary. They seemed more impressed by the star than they were by Jesus. The narrative states that they fell down and did homage to Jesus as the king that they were seeking but no mention is made of their emotional state.

I spent fourteen years working with NASA TV. On occasion,I was around teams of scientists who were just at the point of discovery. New science was news and needed to be covered. A certain mania sweeps over most scientists when, finally, after all their efforts, the data starts coming in.

Over and over again it went something like this:

The HST project team all crowd around computer display and watch as an image is being built line by line. They are hoping to get images of the Shoemaker/Levy impact sites on Jupiter just as they rotate into view. When the team sees just the edge of the impact sites their eyes widen with excitement. A couple of seconds later, the scan shows some more and they can no longer contain themselves. They start jumping up and down, shouting , pounding on one another and generally going nuts. One of them opens a bottle of Perrier and douses everyone... The magi described in the Matthew account manifested similar behavior.

So did the magi exist? Or were they the clever and self consistent invention of the author of the gospel story? This same author in a fairly offhand way tells us that there was a nondescript star that the Jews never noticed. That same nondescript star was only noticed by star experts from another country. It looked normal but moved (or failed to move) strangely. The following is a fairly plausible conjecture of what may have occurred based on the Bible narrative.

One night in Persia a couple of astrologers were out looking at the sky, taking measurements and plotting the queen’s horoscope. Over on the western horizon in a familiar constellation they noticed an ordinary looking star that didn’t belong in that constellation. All of the planets were accounted for so this had to be something new. They woke up some other colleagues to help figure out what was going on. They noticed that as the original constellation went below the horizon, the new star remained motionless. The next night even more people were out looking at this one star in the sky that never moved. Scholars from every province were talking about it. Perhaps they compared observations from different locations:

Arglebargel wrote, “On the night of the Queen’s Birthday festival Rigel passed right over the star.”

Shnozwanger wrote back, “But on that night, I saw Orinis pass over the star..."

Another scholar , a cartographer, was familiar with Pythagorus and the Wisdom of the Triangle.
This man figured out that this point light source that everyone called a star, was close enough to travel to. His best guess put it about 250 miles high over Jerusalem.

It took a few months to arrange for the expedition, but finally they started out. As they traveled, they tried to keep track of the star. Sometimes the clear desert sky was so full of stars that it was difficult to find the one star that didn’t move with the rest. The mapmaker said that if he was right, the star would seem higher each night as they approached Jerusalem. After several cloudy nights they lost track of the star, and couldn’t locate it. But they traveled on to Jerusalem anyway.

When they arrived, they searched Jerusalem for learned men who could help them find the Messiah that Daniel the prophet spoke of. In the evening Herod had the magi brought to him. Herod asked them some questions and after consulting his own learned men, suggested that the one the magi were seeking might be in Bethlehem.

Bethlehem was a little town five miles to the south of Jerusalem so the magi left right away after leaving Herod. Once outside the south gate they look up at the starry sky and directly overhead where the mapmaker told them to look, they saw the star right in the middle of some constellation where it didn’t belong.

As they walked south they noticed that the star seemed to be traveling south also. The magi were elated. All there lives they studied the stars and looked for signs and now there was a sign that was obviously provided just for them. (Possibly the star was positioned over Bethlehem the entire time but began a descent and brightness change just as the magi started toward Bethlehem.
If the star was higher than a few hundred feet at the end of the magi's journey they could not have identified which house to visit. The descent of the star to the few hundred foot altitude would create an apparent forward motion toward Bethlehem to anyone on the ground.

Admitedly, this is all conjecture but some form of subtle miracle is what has to be described in the Bible. How long did the star move and lead them to the house where Jesus was? A few hours at the longest since it was only a five mile walk from Herod to Bethlehem. The planetary retrograde motion scenario would take many weeks to unfold. But every night during that time, Jupiter would whiz by and never come to rest over anything or anywhere like the book suggests. The author is forcing his data to fit by obscuring this crucial fact.
15 posted on 12/24/2003 1:06:21 AM PST by UnChained
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To: StatesEnemy
NO! all roads do not lead to GOD, if that were so, JESUS would not have had to come and suffer horribly to take away our sin.
Jesus said that HE is the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father (GOD) except through HIM.
To say that all religions lead to GOD makes Jesus life and death a waste.
Jesus is the only way to GOD.

16 posted on 12/24/2003 1:36:38 AM PST by coincheck (support our troops, they are the best bar none (sua sponte))
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To: freedom44

merry christmas.
17 posted on 12/24/2003 4:02:27 AM PST by LadyDoc (liberals only love politically correct poor people)
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To: StatesEnemy; coincheck
each coming from their own frame of reference, converging upon 'the truth'?

Jesus said that HE is the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father (GOD) except through HIM

These two positions are actually in agreement.  The Zoroastrians had a prophesy that they would follow a star to find their savior in a manger - so the magi were sent.  That doesn't make the Zoroastrians wrong, it proves them right.

18 posted on 12/24/2003 5:17:38 AM PST by expat_panama
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To: Mel Gibson
Frankincense can be purchased in bulk in the souk ......

In Dammam and most any other souk in Saudi Arabia.

I have both purchased in bulk.

I would argue that the posession of the gifts have nothing to do with the source and trhe Magi were from a more civilized location, probably Persia.
19 posted on 12/24/2003 5:36:16 AM PST by bert (Have you offended a liberal today?)
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To: StatesEnemy
What if God the Father is the center of all things - singularity as the physicists would describe it - wouldn't there be countless paths, like spokes running towards the hub, each coming from their own frame of reference, converging upon 'the truth'?

Your conclusion is drawn from an unproven initial assumption... that God the Father is the "center of all things." You have constructed a geometric analogy which assures that your conclusion will seem valid.

The magi's religious observance was valid inasmuch as it led them to Christ. Christ himself had this understanding, and expressed it as follows:

Thomas said to him, "Lord, we don't know where you are going, so how can we know the way?" Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him."

-John 14:5-7

In sum, if you want to think of God the Father as being the "center of all things," then fine... but think of Him as being a walled city, with one gate; and the gate is Jesus the Christ.

Either that assessment is reasonably accurate, or Jesus was lying or mistaken. You choose.

20 posted on 12/24/2003 6:14:28 AM PST by Oberon (What does it take to make government shrink?)
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