Bible Scholar Brent Landau Asks “Who Were the Magi?”

Biblical Archaeology Society | 11/29/2011 | Staff
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Interesting background story (and stories), but someone ought to say something in behalf of the more straightforward explanation relating to Zoroastrian magi ( singular or plural, depending on language in which encountered).

Were it not for the account at the beginning of the NT and Matthew, the term magi would have remained rather obscure. But since it is there, it should be understood as well that the documentation in its behalf can be traced to the writing of Darius I King of Persia on the monument at Behistun – and also the commentaries of Herodotus in his Histories, evidently as passing references to Zoroastrian priests. In the former instance, the Rosetta-stone like inscriptions on Behistun cliff wall, carved during the reign of Darius I, refer to tribal Medes or perhaps Zoroastrian priests in the ancient Persian – and presumably translated into the other two languages (Elamite and Babylonian cuneiform).

Xenophon - Century - BCE - Cyropaedia - Magians

Xenophon, in his early 4th century BCE Cyropaedia, depicts the magians as authorities for a depicts the magians as authorities for all religious matters (8.3.11).

Subsequently, in Roman times, “magikos” was associated with Zoroaster and Zoroastrianism with writers such as Pliny the Elder remarking on Greek fascination with it. And all this is quite difficult to summarize here and would require examining a whole host of writings about magic and deciding which ones were related to Zoroastrians directly – or just assumed.

Proclamation - Cyrus - Captivity - Chronicles - II

While we are familiar in the Bible with the Proclamation of Cyrus that ended the Babylonian captivity ( in Chronicles II and Ezra), it should also be noted that there was a universal version of this proclamation, i.e., the Cyrus Cylinder. How many other peoples beside the people of Judea were carried into captivity and then released is another story or controversy, but the Cylinder is the basis for the claims. When the...
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