did the Magi come from?
early texts state that "wise men came from Arabia to visit
him", describing the visit of the Magi. Arabia would have
been the region to the south of Palestine, encompassing more or
less what is now Saudi Arabia. If this were so, the traditional
image of the Magi crossing the desert on camels would be
hopelessly wrong, as they would almost certainly have travelled
by ship around the Red Sea coast, only riding the last part of
the journey along the so-called King’s Highway from the coast
people however, believe that Babylon was a more probable point
of origin. There are two main reasons for this:
had a large Jewish community due to the slaves and prisoners
taken back to Babylon after the sack of Jerusalem in 586 BC.
had a tradition of astronomy and astrology and had the most
advanced science in the region.
other words, the Babylonians had the means to study the Star and
a reason for linking it to the Jews. No similar motive can be
applied to the Arabians.
there are some intriguing pointers that suggest that the Magi
came from further afield. Some of the earliest images of the
Magi in churches, which date back to the 6th Century,
show them in Persian dress. The belief in the early church in
the first few centuries AD was that the Magi were Persian. There
is even an Apocryphal Arabic Gospel of the Infancy which appears
to state that the Magi were Persian. Similarly, when Marco Polo
travelled through Persia, the inhabitants of the village of
Saveh told him that the Magi had set out from there (it is also
true that other villages in the region have a similar
tradition). There was also a Persian sect of priests called the
Medes who have been linked with the Magi.
also know of a link between the Persians and the Jews. In 539 BC
the Persians conquered Babylon and would also have taken slaves
and prisoners with them. Amongst them would have been Jews who
knew of the prophesy of the Messiah. If Babylon is a plausible
candidate as the point of origin for the Magi because of its
Jewish community, Persia must be too.
own belief is that the Magi were probably Persian in origin,
having been convinced by the strong circumstantial evidence that
points to them. Unfortunately, there is no evidence at all for
Persian astronomy, nor really for Persian science – unlike the
Babylonians, if the Persians were astronomers, they have left no
conclusion is then that the visiting Magi were probably Jewish
astrologers who were the descendants of the original slaves
captured by the Persians in the sack of Babylon and who were
thus interested in the fulfilment of the Messianic prophesies
made as early as the 8th Century BC.