You may have
sent and received dozens of Christmas cards with their images.
Yet, how much do you really know about the Three Wise Men?
page is unique in telling the Magi's story through their own
culture from Persia (Iran). Hopefully, you will learn much about
the Magians and ancient Persia and their contributions to us.
Dictionary of Philosophy calls Zarathustra "the world's first
philosopher." He lived between 3,000-5,000 years
songs are in the ancient Gathic (Avestan) language, a sister
language related to Sanskrit. Many scholars believe that
Zarathustra founded the world's first monotheistic. They find
echoes of his words in Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
were also known for their devotion to truth and wisdom. They place
a strong emphasis on protecting the environment.
many web pages on the Internet which claim to be written by "Magi"
- but almost none of them are. Few Zoroastrians use the term
"magi" today, preferring the name Ashavans, (followers of
truth). However, here you can read the real
history of one of the Bible's best known stories. Where did they
Magi come from? Persia (Iran)? Babylon? Did they follow a real
star, or is this just a myth? Why are they in Matthew's gospel and
no other? Is there a link between the early apostles of Jesus and
the missionaries of Zarathustra (called Zoroaster by the
Greeks). Followers of his teachings today often call
Is it just a coincidence that the "Three Wise Men" called God by
the name of Ahura Mazda
("Wise God")? It does not mean "the god of wisdom", as if there
were more than one deity. In it's original language the words
simply mean "Wise God". Nor does Ahura Mazda have a gender.
In the original language (Gathic and Avestan) the word "Ahura" is
male oriented and means "lord". However, the word "Mazda" is
associated with the female gender and means wisdom. The name
Ahura Mazda contains both male and female attributes. Women
are listed among Zarathustra's earliest followers.
Author, Steve Williamson
January 2005 I had the honor of being accepted in the
Zarathustrian community. Below is a link to photographs of
my ceremony which was held at the Dar-e-Meher Fire Temple in San
Jose California. It was a beautiful occasion with many
Wise Men were Priests & Astronomers - not Kings or
story is one of the best loved tales in the Bible. It is possible
we would not have the gift giving at Christmas today without the
story of their gifts for the young Jesus. The Magi bring the first
Christmas gifts. But, today many Christians wrongly believe that
the Magi were "Kings". Let's examine how this idea came about.
Early Christian writers said the Magi were Zoroastrian priests
(see this Catholic
Bible history link). Not a single early Church writer calls
the Magi "kings." Their journey from the East, following a magical
star is in Chapter two of Matthew. Matthew's gospel was written to
Jewish followers. For the Zoroastrian Magi to recognize Jesus
would add to the Hebrew belief of Jesus as the Messiah. It was
widely believed by the Jews that Zoroastrians prophesied three
saviors to be born. The three gifts they bore may
represent the gifts of "Good Thoughts, Good Words and Good
Deeds" - the ancient Zoroastrian motto.
To see the Magi as "Kings" is to completely miss the importance
of their visit to Jesus. It is the first time in the Christian
Bible that Jesus is recognized as a "Savior." Almost any 1st
Century Jew would have understood the significance of the Magi's
visit. When we repeat the myth of them being kings we are taking
away their importance in Mathew's gospel. Another good site is
Wikipedia's page on the Magi of the Bible http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biblical_Magi
Even if the Magi visit is completely legend (and many Persians
and Zoroastrians have thought it fictional) Matthew has created
a brilliant literary twist for his 1st century audience. in
first chapter Matthew records Jesus' full genealogy, back to
King David. Today our eyes gloss over the long genealogies of
Chapter One. Yet, these were vitally important to Matthew's
audience. He leaves no doubt about his beliefs on who Jesus was
and what his mission was to be. The Magi are in Chapter Two
confirming what Matthew states in Chapter One - that Jesus is
the future ruler and savior of the world. To change the Magi and
make them "kings" takes away the power of the opening book of
Mathew's first century audience would likely have laughed at a
story that made the Magi into kings. However, when the
kings story arises, nearly 600 years after the death of Jesus,
the Magi were no longer respected - and neither were the Jews.
Once Christianity became the official religion of the Roman
Empire it became important to full full the Bible verse which
says that all the kings of the earth would bow before Jesus.
But, no early church historian taught that the Magi were kings
rather than traveling Zoroastrian priests or missionaries. The
idea of the three wise men being kings developed much later
after Christianity became the religion of the Romans.
The Magi may have
even been the first missionaries. It is possible that Jesus' Great
Commission at the end of Matthew is based on the missionaries
Zarathustra sent out as there is little history of missionaries in
Judaism or any ancient ethnic/tribal faith. Only Zarathustra's
Magi were sent to all nations to teach a better way of
living. There had never been anything like the Magi in the
ancient world bringing both new technology and a new, freeing
Let's read the Gospel of Matthew
as he intended it and as his first readers read it. The Magi were
priests and astronomers. They were NOT alchemists or magicians
(although the term "magic" comes from Magi). However, the word
Magi actually means "generous" or "benefactor" - as in the word
"magnanimous." The Magi were traveling
missionaries - their faith called for them to seek "saviors" and
to teach that each of us is a potential savior of our world. The
word "savior" had a different meaning to the Magi as it does to
NOTE: at the bottom of this web page are new paraphrases I have
done of the three holiest prayers of the magi. If Jesus was
visited by magians, it is likely that they sang him one or more
of these ancient hymns. Along with the translations and
paraphrases I have written transliterations of the prayers so
you can get an idea of what they sounded like in their native
Zarathustra and Bactria, Afghanistan
Zarathustra was exiled out of his own tribe when he began to
compose his now famous hymns (Gathas).
spent ten years wandering until finding support from King Vishaspa
of ancient Bactria (modern Afghanistan.) Zarathustra
taught that each of us is a "savior" of the world in the struggle
between right and wrong. Each of us is responsible in choosing our
own path, for the better or the worse.
The idea of individuals being free to choose their faith was
revolutionary. He taught that we are to choose our beliefs based
on their truth and goodness at a time when Free Will was almost
unheard of. He taught an ethical dualism within
the mind. Later priests expanded the ethical
dualism of the Gathas (Hymns) into a cosmic battle between good
and evil. Scholars have identified seventeen
hymns that are believed to be by Zarathustra himself. They are
organized in an easy to memorize sequence where one song logically
follows another. It was a collection designed to be taught to the
people. He created the first known group of missionaries to take
the tools and teachings outside of their home area and tribe.
Zarathustra's original Magi were astronomers, not astrologers.
There is nothing about astrology or predicting the future in
either his Gathas or early Zoroastrian writings. However, after
the destruction of the faith and most of its written texts, by
Alexander the Great in 333bc the Magi's ancient lineage was
broken. This allowed other priests in other areas, such as Babylon
and Assyria to call themselves "Magi". There was wide
diversity among the Magi. These later priests changed the
liturgy and beliefs of Zarathustra, often blending them with
Egyptian and Greek elements. These priest also heavily relied on
astrology and prophesy to predict the future. It is they who are
often written about in the Bible. Not all Magi were strict
followers of Zarathustra, although the Magi in Matthew's gospel
Zarathustra may have been killed in his fire temple and Bactria
overrun by a large tribe of nomadic horse warriors - possibly of
the Turanian tribe. Zarathustra gave people the tools they needed
to begin agriculture and settled communities, which the horse
warriors attacked. Imagine the Catholic Church's priesthood if the
Vatican were to be destroyed - or the plight of the Jewish priests
when the temple was destroyed in Jerusalem. The destruction of
Bactria scattered the Magi around the ancient world. In each
locality they picked up local customs, technologies and even
deities. The later Zoroastrian writings include a plethora of
other worldly creatures that are absent in Zarathustra's original
hymns. However, the faith's three most powerful prayers have been
preserved! See below at the bottom of this web page.
The Magi were
educated in Bactria (modern Afghanistan) and sent out as
missionaries. Visits from the Magi were a time of
celebration. They often brought new sciences and ways of building.
The Magi began at a time when Zarathustra's people were still
nomads, violently raiding villages. They taught a way of peaceful
living in settled agricultural communities, in harmony with
nature. The Magi could have traveled from Persia or Babylon or
almost anywhere in the Middle East.
is some debate over whether Zoroastrian beliefs influenced
Christianity - or if Jewish and Christian ideas influenced
hymns predate Christianity by hundreds, perhaps thousands of
years. The story of the Three Magi may help answer this debate.
The story of the Magi is NOT found in any Zoroastrian text.
Zoroastrians today claim little knowledge of the Magi story.
The story of the three Magi is
only found in Matthew's canonical gospel. Yet, the Magi story is an early
Christian belief. There are ancient drawings of the Magi on
the walls of the catacombs under Rome made by Christians. This
story may be in Matthew's text, written to early Jewish
Christians, because of the high respect the Jews had for the
Three Magi in the Bible
Below are three good links about
the three Wise Men. Their reputed bones are in Cologne Germany,
taken from Persia in 330 AD by the Romans. However, Persian
scholars believe their graves lie near Tehran, Iran and were
visited by Marco Polo in 1270 AD.
For centuries astronomers and
priests have debated the Star of Bethlehem. Did the Three Wise Men
really follow a star to find Jesus? If so, there should be
some astronomical record of such a heavenly event. Is it just a
Persia in the
Bible, Cyrus Frees the Jews in Babylon
Jews onc e had a tradition of respect and
support. The Persian king, Cyrus the Great freed the Jews from
their captivity in Babylon in 537 bc. His decree freeing the Jews
is the world's first human rights declaration. You can view it at
the link below. This excellent website is by Iranians
Persian King Cyrus in the Bible, was
Israel's Messiah & God's "Anointed One"
7. And it came to pass, when the Lord Jesus was
born at Bethlehem of Judea, in the time of King Herod,
behold, magi came from the east to Jerusalem, as
Zeraduscht (Zoroaster) had predicted; and there were with
them gifts, gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. And they
adored Him, and presented to Him their gifts. Then the
Lady Mary took one of the swaddling-bands, and, on account
of the smallness of her means, gave it to them; and they
received it from her with the greatest marks of honor."
Around Christmas, we hear about the "Wise Men of
the East," also known as the Magi or Magians, who followed a
star to Bethlehem to pay their respects to infant Jesus.
They brought with them gold, frankincense, and myrrh as
look up the dictionary. "Magus, plural Magi, [Latin from
Greek Magos -- more at magic] 1 a: a member of a hereditary
priestly class among the ancient Medes and Persians b: often
capital: one of the traditionally three wise men from the
East paying homage to the infant Jesus 2: Magician,
sorcerer" (Webster New College Dictionary). An encyclopedia
has more: " followers of Zoroaster, the Persian teacher and
prophet. Gradually, the religion of the magi incorporated
Babylonian elements, including astrology, demonology, and
magic." (Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia, 1983)
The word "Magi" is, therefore, linked with Zoroastrianism.
"Maga" in the Zoroastrian scripture. "Maga" in Avesta and
"magha" in Sanskrit is derived from "maz/mah" meaning "to be
great, magnanimous, liberal, generous." Maga/magha means
"greatness, magnanimity, generosity." The adjective is
magavan/maghavan, "great, liberal, generous, magnanimous."
The Sanskrit adjective is used mostly in honor of Indira,
the Rigvedic god of clouds and rains, who was "generous" in
bringing riches to the Vedic Aryans by driving drought away.
Zarathushtra uses Maga for the "Fellowship" he founded
through his existential philosophy and "Magavan" for
every member of the "Magnanimity." The two words -- Maga and
Magavan -- are mentioned for eight times in the Gathas
(Maga: Songs 2:11, 11:14, 16:11, 16:16, 17.7 (twice), and
Magavan: 6:7, 16:15). Zarathushtra calls his Maga as "maz,
great" in two Gathic stanzas -- Maz Maga, the Great
Magnanimity, Great Fellowship (2:11 and 11:14).
The gist of these
stanzas is that the Great Fellowship is based on its
smallest unit – family - forming unity in "weal and woe."
The units make up the entire living world. It teaches
radiant happiness that reaches all. A person who consults
righteousness, uses his/her good mind, and lives a life of
progressive peace, qualifies to be a member of the
the beginning Zarathushtra prays to Ahura Mazda (the name
means Wise Lord) to lead him to expand his newly founded
Fellowship. Later, he is joined by King Vishtaspa and his
sagacious team, and the work to promote the "Great
Fellowship" gains a great momentum. Zarathushtra's "best
wishes" come true when he watches the Fellowship grow far
the west, the professional priests of Median "nation" were
clever enough to retain their caste ("tribe" in the words of
Herodotus), and at the same time call themselves Magu, the
Median/Old Persian pronunciation of Magava(n). Magu (Magush
as nominative singular masculine) was Greek into Magos with
Magi as its plural.
The word "magic" and other
cognates, derived from Magu, show how highly learned and
advanced were the Magi in their knowledge and crafts. They
made non-Iranians wonder and imagine that they were
watching "sorcerers" at work. This could happen to any
backward people if they see modern scientific implements
used by the advanced. We have many stories how people
looked first at wireless, telephone, locomotive engine,
train, and other inventions and imagined them to be magic
and "products of the Devil." Some still do!
With the Magi's name and fame in mind, all the priests of
the Babylonian and Assyrian priests of other creeds, all
serving within the great Persian Empire for centuries,
took the name "Magi" for themselves. It is simple to
understand the rest of events, even the Three Wise Men who
are said to have visited and paid their respects to the
newborn Jesus. Every Magus in what we call Middle East was
not Zoroastrian. He was just a "priest."
Even the very word "priest," shortened from "presbyteros,"
literally "elder," was originally applied to "a member of
the governing body of an early Christian Church." Today
most of the religious orders, including Traditionalist
Zoroastrians, have "priests" for themselves. We have a few
more examples in Guru, Yogi, and Mogul.Arabic
"Maja»s" occurs in the Quran. It says: "Lo! Those
who believe [Muslims], and those who are Jews, Sabeans,
Christians, and the Magians [all four counted placed
together as the People of Book], and those who are
polytheists -- Lo! Allah will decide between them on the
Day of Resurrection (22:17)."
Contrary to popular myth,
Zarathushtrians do not "worship" fire.
is a picture of the sacred fire at the Dar-e-Meher in San Jose
how shiny everything is - to better reflect the light.
Fire is sacred
because it separates humans from animals.
Both people and animals can think, reason and make
But only human beings can control fire.
Zarathushtrians believe in advancing
Fire was technology
given to us. It is a symbol - but not God.
It's like the wood of crucifix.
Christians do not worship the wood.
Pictures of My Acceptance Ceremony
January 2005 I had the honor of being accepted in the
Zarathustrian community. Below is a link to photographs
of my ceremony which was held at the
Dar-e-Meher Fire Temple in San Jose California. It was a
beautiful occasion with many people attending.