Monday, July 14, 2014

Were the New Testament Magi Zoroastrians?


Our recent post,
Magi’s Star of Reference to Life of Jesus Christ
here at : has drawn the following from good friend, John R. Salverda (July 10, 2014 at 10:21 PM):

What? No mention of my favorite extra-Biblical source for the visit by the famous Astrologers. Allow me my two cents on the subject;

The Magi are the well known priests of Zoroaster. We learn of the role that the Magi played in the birth of Cyrus (another Hebrew "Messiah" Isa. 45:1-4 and presumably an adherent of the religion of Zoroastrianism) from Herodotus ("Histories." Book 1, Pages 107-129). Zoroaster is also credited with predicting the birth of Christ in the Apocryphal first Gospel of the INFANCY of JESUS CHRIST, Chapter III, Verse 1. ("And it came to pass, when the Lord Jesus was born at Bethlehem, a city of Judea in the time of Herod the King; the wise men came from the East to Jerusalem, according to the prophecy of Zoradascht [Zoroaster], and brought with them offerings: namely, gold, frankincense, and myrrh, and worshiped him, and offered to him their gifts." This gospel was attested to and used by the Gnostics as early as the second century AD.) Certainly this (Zoroaster's) Magi priesthood, who adored the "King of the Jews," helped to direct the event, just as surely as the LORD held the right hand of his Messiah Cyrus, to subdue the nations. (Compare also the role of Merlin the "Magi-cian" in the birth of king Arthur, the archetypal "King of Kings" among the Britons.)


AMAIC Response:
You John, surprisingly, with your penchant for detecting Jewish (Hebrew/Israelite) originals underlying many western myths and legends, the theme also of this very site of ours:
Lost Cultural Foundations of Western Civilisation
with its corresponding eastern version:
Lost Cultural Foundations of Eastern Civilisation
do not appear to be impressed with – as mentioned in our Magi article - those Syro-Arabic legends according to which Zoroaster was the biblical Jewish scribe, Baruch, a friend of the prophet Jeremiah. According to this handy piece from Wikipedia on the matter (

Baruch ben Neriah
Some Christian legends (especially from Syria and Arabia) identify Baruch with Zoroaster, and give much information concerning him. Baruch, angry because the gift of prophecy had been denied him, and on account of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple, left Palestine to found the religion of Zoroaster. The prophecy of the birth of Jesus from a virgin, and of his adoration by the Magi, is also ascribed to Baruch-Zoroaster.[24] It is difficult to explain the origin of this curious identification of a prophet with a magician, such as Zoroaster was held to be, among the Jews, Christians, and Arabs. De Sacy[25] explains it on the ground that in Arabic the name of the prophet Jeremiah is almost identical with that of the city of Urmiah, where, it is said, Zoroaster lived. However, this may be, the Jewish legend mentioned above (under Baruch in Rabbinical Literature), according to which the Ethiopian in Jer. xxxviii. 7 is undoubtedly identical with Baruch, is connected with this Arabic–Christian legend. As early as the Clementine "Recognitiones" (iv. 27), Zoroaster was believed to be a descendant of Ham; and, according to Gen. x. 6, Cush, the Ethiopian, is a son of Ham. According to the "Recognitiones",[26] the Persians believed that Zoroaster had been taken into heaven in a chariot ("ad cœlum vehiculo sublevatum"); and according to the Jewish legend, the above-mentioned Ethiopian was transported alive into paradise,[27] an occurrence that, like the translation of Elijah,[28] must have taken place by means of a "vehiculum." Another reminiscence of the Jewish legend is found in Baruch-Zoroaster's words concerning Jesus: "He shall descend from my family",[29] since, according to the Haggadah, Baruch was a priest; and Maria, the mother of Jesus, was of priestly family.
If Baruch were a wise (see Baruch 4, “Wisdom is the book of God's commandments, the Law that will last forever. All who hold onto her will live, but those who abandon her will die”, etc.) Jewish scribe, in Babylon (Baruch 1:3 “Baruch read the words of this book to Jeconiah son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah … and to all the people, small and great, all who lived in Babylon by the river Sud”), contemporaneous with the prophet Daniel, as we know he was, then he may well have known about Daniel’s “Messianic Prophecy” (Daniel 9:24-27), which Magi Star seekers invariably suggest was an extra factor assisting the New Testament Magi. This Daniel, we have tentatively identified, in turn, with the Benjaminite high official at Susa, Mordecai, in:
Belshazzar’s Feast in the Book of Esther?

Now, given Baruch’s obvious importance, his wisdom, and his contemporaneity with Daniel, and his sometime Babylonian location, then it is not beyond the realms of possibility that Baruch-was-Daniel-was-the-receiver-of-the-Messianic-prophecy, “predicting the birth of Christ”. If this be the case, then it would no longer be “difficult to explain the origin of this curious identification of a prophet with a magician, such as Zoroaster was held to be”, given that Daniel had been placed over all of the wise men in Babylon (Daniel 2:48): “[Nebuchednezzar] made [Daniel] ruler over the entire province of Babylon and placed him in charge of all its wise men”.
The Lost Cultural Foundations apparently extend to the East, as well as to the West.

John Replies Submitted on 2014/07/17 at 8:09 pm

The Magi, The Priests of “Micah’s” Idol I have long held a theory concerning the origins of Zoroaster and the Magi priesthood, although I have not given much thought to the character of Baruch, who as the story goes, did live in the days of Zoroaster and was portrayed as a witness to the destruction of Jerusalem. My theory has to do with an identification that I made years ago between Moses and Perseus (A further triple Identification may be made in this regard between Moses, Perseus and Mithras.). This theory is made especially apparent when it comes to a study of the myth of Perseus and the sea serpent at Joppa. This particular part of the Perseus story, differs from the rest of the tale. It seems evident to me that a different source contributed this episode, a source that had a more intricate knowledge of astrology, for the characters included in this particular segment of the story, as told by those exiles from the Danite Joppa, have constellations named after them such as Cassiopeia, Andromeda, Cepheus, and the sea serpent. However none of the characters from the previous adventures of Perseus, neither Danae, Polydectes, Acrisius, the Gorgons, the Graeae, nor any of those Danaans who had fled from Aegyptus, seem to have been so honored as to be included in the stellar cast. Of course, Perseus himself is also a constellation but presumably, only in regards to this episode of his story, outlining his exploits at the city of Joppa. These astrologers, were most probably the Midian/Ethiopian people themselves, they were often associated with, or considered to be, the star gazing Sabeans of antiquity. This is the race and religion of Jethro and his daughter Zipporah, which Moses had married into (consequently the posterity of Moses were likely master astrologers as well.). These descendants of Moses became the priesthood of Micah’s Idol, within a generation or two of Moses. I have proposed that Jonathan the grandson of Moses, as the founder of the priesthood of Micah’s Idol, was also the first Magian priest; and that the so-called priests of “Micah,” are those who came to be known to we moderns as the “Magi,” (“Micah,” meaning “image” is a plausible transliteration for the term “Magus”) Thus the little understood and vastly underestimated Scriptural episode of Micah’s idol, found at Judges 17 & 18 especially 18:30, has much greater implications and import than was previously thought, for I believe, that it describes the origin of the Magi priesthood. Joppa was the Danite tribal capitol, it is also the place from which the sons of Perseus the “Danaan” had emigrated to Greece (Not only were the place and tribal names coincidental, but also much of the details of each story was as well, such as the Ethiopian bride, and the rivalry of Phinehas/Phineus.). The Danites had a Levitical priesthood, it was not however, the usual one descended from Aaron, but instead their priesthood was descended from Moses (Perseus) through his grandson Jonathan (Perses). These were not merely the priests of Dan. Many national groups adhered to their religion and Kings were chosen by, and from their priesthood. The Midian/Levite descendants of Moses, as the Magians, became a tribe among the Medes after the Assyrian exile of Israel. See Herodotus, Book 1 Page 101. This group was very influential in matters of Astronomy (the New Testament uses the word “Astrologers” in the place where we expect to find the phrase “the Magi,” furthermore, instead of “Priests” we find “Kings”) and were ultimately responsible for naming many of the modern constellations. This of course explains the, so frequent, occurrence of “Ethiopian” characters in Greek as well as modern astronomy. The Joppa episode of the Perseus myth has a much more historic flavor, for from it we not only learn that the sons of Perseus, after sailing out of Joppa, became the Kings of, and fortified the cities of, Mycenae in Greece; But we also learn that Perseus was the great grandfather of Heracles, and his descendants, who eventually assumed power in the Peloponnese; And, most pertinent to the topic at hand, is the assertion that the kings of Persia, were the descendants of this royal resident of Joppa, through his son Perses. Now, it is not my intention, with this short article, to trace the Achaemenid Kings of Persia to Moses (Perhaps I shall make that the subject of a future more lengthy article; and I have written an extensive work tracing the Greek myth of Perseus to the story of Moses.), however serious Greek historians, such as Herodotus, Xenophon, and others, do quite confidently report that the Persian Kings themselves make the claim that they descend from Perseus and Andromeda, I would be remiss if I did not produce a few quotes from the ancient sources on the subject here; “They [the Persians] were formerly called by the Greeks Cephenes … When Perseus son of Danae and Zeus had come to Cepheus son of Belus and married his daughter Andromeda, a son was born to him whom he called Perses, and he left him there; for Cepheus had no male offspring; it was from this Perses that the Persians took their name.” (Herodotus, Histories Book 7 Page 61) “There is a story told in Hellas that before Xerxes set forth on his march against Hellas, he sent a herald to Argos, who said on his coming (so the story goes), ‘Men of Argos, this is the message to you from King Xerxes. Perses our forefather had, as we believe, Perseus son of Danae for his father, and Andromeda daughter of Cepheus for his mother; if that is so, then we are descended from your nation.’ ” (Herodotus, Histories Book 7 Page 150) “Perseus, the son of Danae … wanting to establish for himself his own kingdom, despised that of the Medes.” (Suidas “Medusa”) Here Suidas points out, as is well known, that the Persians, personified by Perseus, are largely a splinter group who broke off from the Medes. We know, that the cities of the Medes were occupied by the exiled Israelites. (see 2KI 17:6 and 18:11) The Magi were the dominant religious organization, a tribe of priests analogous to the Levites among the Israelites, officiating the sacrifices for those Medes and the later Persians. See Herodotus; “Deioces then (709 BC. This date is figured out by adding the time periods for each of the kings of the Medes which Herodotus had included in his “Histories” and counting backwards from Cyrus’ overthrow of Babylon using the conventional date. It falls remarkably close to the date of the exile of the Northern Ten Tribes) united the … Medes there are the tribes which here follow, namely, Busai, Paretakenians, Struchates, Arizantians, Budians, Magians” and “… without a Magian it is not lawful for them to make sacrifices.” (Herodotus Book 1, Page 101. See also Page 132.). However, the question arises, as to what the Magi had to do with those exiled Israelites. If these Magi were living in the cities of the Medes with the exiled Israelites, then one wonders indeed, what their relationship to the Levites was. The city of Dan, in Northern Israel, was the headquarters of the priesthood of Micah’s Idol. Esarhaddon, the Assyrian king, carried it off to Babylon; “Manasseh received the deserved punishment for his sins and crimes. In the twenty-second year of his rulership, the Assyrians came and carried him off to Babylon in fetters, him together with the old Danite idol, Micah’s image.” (Ginzberg’s “Legends of the Jews” Vol. IV, Chap. IX). This religious faction, apparently still an ongoing concern, had a large constituency among the Israelites who were already exiled throughout the Assyrian empire (which included, at the time, the “cities of the Medes”) At that very time there was born a legendary religious leader named Zoroaster, he was famous for, not originating, but for reorganizing the already existing Magi priesthood into one of the most powerful religious organizations in the world at that time. We are told that Zoroaster was born in the city Rages, (the same city, and at the same time, where the relatives of Tobit the Naptalite lived Tob. 5:6) according to the Parse tradition in the year 660 BC. (I even have entertained the supposition that it could have been Zoroaster who was born to the exiled “Virgin Israel” nearly 65 years after the fall of Samaria, as predicted by Isaiah in his Chap. 7, he was a famous curd eater (Isa 7:14) (“according to some he began to observe strict silence at the age of seven; and a long solitary period of initiation was subsequently spent in the wilderness, where he lived in a mountain cave on a snow clad peak, subsisting solely on curds and milk.” See E. M. Butler, “The Myth of the Magus” p. 23, Cambridge University Press, 1948; repr. 1993. Professor Butler relied upon Zoroastrian sources, including the Zartusht-Nama. “According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, Soma is a Sanskrit form of Haoma, the ritualistic drink of the Zoroastrian faith in Persia; it was the juice extracted from a mountain creeper, mixed with honey and curds, and taken at the ritual sacrifice.”), and famed for his “Zoroastrian” dualism distinguishing good from evil (Isa 7:15) (“And this is the opinion of most men, and those the wisest, for they believe, some that there are Two Gods, as it were of opposite trades—one the creator of good, the other of bad things; others call the better one “God,” the other “Daemon,” as did Zoroaster the Magian” See Plutarch, On Isis and Osiris, XLVI), in my view the so called “Deutero-Isaiah” was significantly familiar with Zoroaster and his Magi priesthood. Zoroaster died in the year 583 BC. at the age of seventy seven. As a major religious leader, he must have been aware of the destruction of the Jewish temple when he was 73, in 587 BC. this act may have prompted him to raise up a “Messiah” to overthrow the, Temple destroying, Babylonians, and to deliver the Jews from their Babylonian captivity. Zoroaster lived long enough, (eleven years into the reign of Astyages,) to have, as the chief of the Magi, orchestrated the birth of Cyrus, as outlined by Herodotus. I have even gone so far as to suggest that the city of Ecbatana, which was built by the people who inhabited the cities of the Medes at the time that the Israelites were exiled to them (“Deioces bade them build for him a palace worthy of the royal dignity and strengthen him with a guard of spearmen. And the Medes did so: for they built him a large and strong palace in that part of the land which he told them … He built large and strong walls, those which are now called Ecbatana, …” See Herodotus, Histories 1.98-99) may have been named after the Israelites, “Jacob town” also called “Achmetha” (Scriptural) and “Hamadan” (modern) with “Ecba.” “Achme” and “Hama” all being mere transliterations of the name “Jacob,” And that the term “Achaemenid” as it relates to the Persian Kings including Cyrus, is a reference to their race, meaning “Jacobite.” Now, while I may not have a studied opinion as to whether Baruch can be identified with Zoroaster, I do feel that either way, it will have no bearing on the opinions that I do hold about him. The Idea won’t add to, or detract from, my theories as far as I can see, and I shall keep an open mind about it.

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