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The Magi: From Zoroaster to the "Three Wise Men" Paperback – November 15, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Ken Vincent holds an Ed.D. from the University of Northern Colorado and teaches psychology and psychology of religion at Houston Community College. He has studied Zoroaster since his youth and is a respected friend of the Houston Zoroastrian community.

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Introduction

We here respectfully remember
All pious men and women
Of all the World,
All that are and were and are to be . . .

Old Prayer of the Magi

One of the most enduring and endearing images of Christmas is that of the Magi. Have you ever wondered who the Magi were and just why they were motivated to travel from afar to honor the Savior of the Christian faith? Why was it important to the author of the Gospel of Matthew to include the Magi in his story of those who came to acknowledge the Holy Birth? Why are our memories flooded with children in Christmas pageants costumed as camels and kings?

The search for the identity of these Magi is the key to opening a startlingly refreshing insight into our Christian roots, little-known and unappreciated except by scholars. Although the language of the religion of the Magi echoes brilliantly throughout the New Testament, most Christians remain woefully ignorant of its source. Once the most widespread religion in Western Civilization, Magian ideas lie only vaguely concealed under subsequent Western religious thought from the first century to the present. According to Joseph Campbell, the obscure religion of the Magi, known as Zoroastrianism, is the primary religious heritage of the Western world. Magi is the Greek word for Mobeds, a term still used for Zoroastrian priests.

The religion of the Magi is one of Good Thoughts, Good Words, and Good Deeds; the Golden Rule is in the teaching of the Magi, and the greatest sin is to lie. Good humans are needed by God in the fight to overcome evil. The belief that people who are more good than evil go to Heaven, expressed in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) and James of the New Testament, in Jewish writings, and in the Koran, comes to us from the religion of the Magi and from their prophet, Zoroaster. Ideas of Heaven and Hell, as well as angels and devils, come into Judaism and Christianity through the influence of the religion of the Magi. The basic concepts of Zoroastrianism sound immediately familiar:

GodSatan,
GoodEvil,
LightDarkness,
Angels & ArchangelsArchdemons & Demons,
DeathJudgment,
HeavenHell,
Resurrection of the body and the Life Everlasting

While taking a required religion course as a freshman at Baylor University in the 1960s, I was first introduced to the teachings of the Prophet Zoroaster, who lived at least six hundred years before Jesus. I absorbed myself in his revelation and was impressed by the dramatic similarities between his experience with God and those experiences of God more familiar to me from my own Judeo-Christian background. More pointedly, I was moved by the beautiful language of his hymns and their highly ethical teachings. Since that time, my entire life has been spent exploring the Zoroastrian faith in books and libraries. Several years ago, I had the good fortune to form treasured friendships with members of the Zoroastrian community in Houston, and I have had the privilege of being present in their homes, at their meals, at their prayers, and at many of their ceremonies and gatherings.

This book is written to acquaint Christians with their unquestionable kinship to the ancient religion of the Magi and to fill in the gap of knowledge regarding its profound influence on Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and Bahai. More importantly, I want to ensure that when Christian and Zoroastrian children look at the brightly-clad Magi in the creches at Christmastime, they can appreciate the powerful ideas that both of their religions embrace. Finally, I think it is time to say a belated thank you to the Magi, not just for their gold, frankincense, and myrrh, but for the concepts and ideals which live vividly in both Zoroastrianism and Christianity today.

Note: In the many matters of dispute among scholars over the religion of the Magi and its more than twenty-six-hundred-year history, my preference has been for the opinions of modern-day followers of the religion. In matters of translation, preference has been given to clarity and comprehension.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 134 pages
  • Publisher: Bibal Pr (November 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0941037886
  • ISBN-13: 978-0941037884
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.8 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,604,467 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Dr. Ken R. Vincent is a writer whose books include THE GOLDEN THREAD, GOD'S PROMISE OF UNIVERSAL SALVATION, THE MAGI: FROM ZOROASTER TO THE "THREE WISE MEN," and VISIONS OF GOD FROM THE NEAR-DEATH EXPERIENCE. He is webmaster for the UNIVERSALIST HERALD (www.universalist-herald.net). Dr. Vincent is retired from teaching psychology, including the psychology of religious experience, at Houston Community College. He has a doctorate in Counseling Psychology (Ed.D. 1973) from the University of Northern Colorado. Dr. Vincent has over 150 publications in the fields of psychology and religion. He is a member of the International Association of Near-Death Studies, and the Alister Hardy Society (for the Study of Religious Experience).

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

54 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Hannah M.G.Shapero on March 31, 2000
Format: Paperback
Ken Vincent is a professor of religion and psychology as well as a lay Unitarian Universalist minister. His new book, THE MAGI, is a recent addition to the long history of literature which compares the teachings of Zoroastrianism, the monotheistic religion of ancient Persia, to those of Judaism and Christianity, and which traces the influences of the Persian religion on later monotheistic faiths. I am pleased to say that this new entry is well worth reading and a fine addition to this literary lineage.
This book is written especially for Christians, and that is its focus. It is not overly technical or academic; it is directed toward thoughtful lay people. Vincent gives us a brief overview of Zoroastrianism, which concentrates on the central message and teachings of the religion as revealed in the Gatha hymns of Prophet Zarathushtra (who is also known as "Zoroaster" )which are the original Scriptures of the religion. He then shows how some parts of the Bible and the Zoroastrian Scriptures are similar, suggesting that the ancient Jews, and later, the Christians, learned much wisdom from the Persian Zoroastrians when they encountered them in the ancient Middle East.
Vincent carefully explains the features of the "Three Magi" which show up in Christian legends, such as their portrayal as kings, the frankincense, myrrh, and gold, the Christmas Star, and the Magi's belief that they were searching for a Savior.
Other good things about Ken Vincent's book are a "gallery" of historical artworks about the Three Magi (or Kings), and in the back of the book, a very good modern translation of the Gatha hymns of Prophet Zarathushtra, so you can read for yourself the inspiring words of one of the first monotheists of all time.
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21 of 22 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on July 30, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My highest compliments to the author... this is a balanced and very informative little book!! In "The Magi" Mr. Vincent does an excellent job of dispelling many of the myths that have grown up over the years concerning the nature of the Magi, replacing often popular misconceptions with a more accurate representation of who the Magi really were. At the same time he also provides a very good (but basic) introduction to Zoroastrianism, the religion of the Magi that appears to have significantly influenced Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
While merely a quick introduction to the subject, this short book contains a reasonable amount of information and it is written in such a way that it can be easily absorbed by the average reader. The book appears to be written from a Christian perspective, but the author reverentially and fairly describes the Zoroastrian faith. And also to his (and the book's) credit, Mr. Vincent does not hesitate to point out how important and significant the contributions made by Zoroastrianism were to the development of the monotheistic faiths that are most predominant today. All in all, nicely done and a book well worth buying!!!
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful By Eric Gray on September 25, 2004
Format: Paperback
This book is good for the person mildly interested in Zoroastrianism who wants a basic knowledge of the religion and how it relates to the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition.

However, some assertions the author made are not accurate.

On page 46, Vincent writes, "Zoroaster taught that God loves us all and that, after evil is finally defeated, all humanity will be saved at the end of time." But in Yasna 46 verse 11, Zoroaster himself says, "The sacrificers and the sorcerer princes... when they come to the Bridge of the Separator, forever to be inmates of the House of the Lie" So it seems Zoroaster believed some reside in hell forever, contrary to what Vincent says. Although later Zoroastrianism taught some are redeemed from hell at the time of the ressurrection and judgement, this notion is never stated in the Gathas. The Gathas are the only texts generally thought to be written by Zoroaster, and this quote is from the Gathas.

On page 23, Vincent writes "the two hundred years of Jewish apocryphal writings (400-200 BCE)contained in the Catholic, Orthodox, and Coptic Bibles." But the Apocrypha was actually written from about 200-50 BCE.

To anyone seriously interested in Zoroastrianism or any other religion, I have found there simply is no substitute for reading the actual texts themselves. Please read the Holy Books of Zoroastrianism, the Gathas, Yasnas, Bundahis, the Kordo Avesta, and Vendidad, before believing what this or that scholar says. This is a good balance to all the authors out there who want to manipulate ancient religions to fit there own beliefs.
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14 of 19 people found the following review helpful By CharmedLife on October 5, 2004
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Before reading this book, I could not figure out where all this hell stuff came from and why Christianity took the form that it did. This book is the basics on Zoroaster but the author gives some useful insights as to:

1) Why the jews were allowed to build their second temple.

2) The constructs of angels and christian heaven & hell duality

3) Some quotes attributed to Jesus but their ideas first were presented by Zoroaster, including description of Satan as "the father of lies", etc.

4) Why the three wise men appeared in the scriptures at all

Both Judaism and Zoroasterism are pre-messainic religions, and ironically Zoroastrian's 'messiah' is expected come from a virgin (Of course their mythology is a bit different!)Believer or not will learn some important things about their religion. When one studies a religion for personnal truth, you really do need to study at least two!
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