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The philosophy of the Magi, erroneous though it was, led them to the journey by which they were to find Christ. xiii, 7) think the Magi saw in "his star" a fulfilment of the prophesy of Balaam : "A star shall rise out of Jacob and a sceptre shall spring up from Israel " ( Numbers ).Magian astrology postulated a heavenly counterpart to complement man's earthly self and make up the complete human personality. But from the parallelism of the prophesy, the "Star" of Balaam is a great prince, not a heavenly body; it is not likely that, in virtue of this Messianic prophesy, the Magi would look forward to a very special star of the firmament as a sign of the Messias.Neither were they magicians: the good meaning of magoi , though found nowhere else in the Bible , is demanded by the context of the second chapter of St. These Magians can have been none other than members of the priestly caste already referred to.The religion of the Magi was fundamentally that of Zoroaster and forbade sorcery ; their astrology and skill in interpreting dreams were occasions of their finding Christ.
Some Fathers speak of three Magi; they are very likely influenced by the number of gifts. Early Christian art is no consistent witness : The names of the Magi are as uncertain as is their number. Balthasar, on the eleventh of January (Acta SS., I, 8, 323, 664). Passing over the purely legendary notion that they represented the three families which are decended from Noah, it appears they all came from "the east" ( Matthew 2:1, 2, 9 ). From Persia, whence the Magi are supposed to have come, to Jerusalem was a journey of between 10 miles.
But this use of the text in reference to them no more proves that they were kings than it traces their journey from Tharsis, Arabia, and Saba.
As sometimes happens, a liturgical accommodation of a text has in time come to be looked upon by some as an authentic interpretation thereof.
His "double" (the fravashi of the Parsi) developed together with every good man until death united the two. It is likely, however, that the Magi were familiar with the great Messianic prophesies. When Christ was born, there was undoubtedly a Hebrew population in Babylon, and probably one in Persia.
The sudden appearance of a new and brilliant star suggested to the Magi the birth of an important person. At any rate, the Hebrew tradition survived in Persia.