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Волхвы и Вифлиеемская звездаMany people know from the Bible that the Magi is wise men who came from the East. In the gospel of Matthew tells us that the wise men followed the star of Bethlehem to find the Savior, to give him gold gifts, frankincense, and myrrh. However mentioned it somewhere else besides the Bible, these mysterious sages with unusual gifts? If Yes, what was the star of Bethlehem?

The word Magi (in English "magi") comes from the Latin word derived from the Greek language and indicates the term "magoi, which in turn was derived from the ancient Persian language and comes from the word "magus". In old English the word sounded like "mage". It is a modern English the word "magic" ("magic"). One of the first references about the Magi found in the writings of Herodotus, who claimed that this secret bar priests who lived in Mussels (today the North-Western part of Iran and the territory of Kurdistan).

The Magi were from one of the median of six indigenous tribes. When in the VI century B.C. these lands became part of the Persian Empire, the priests of the old Medes religion probably came from Mesopotamia, decided to bring their ancient customs in accordance with monotheistic Zoroastrian faith. There is no doubt that this process was long and painful. From the written sources we know that when the Persian king Darius the Great (521-486, BC), one of the first kings of Achaemenid dynasty (560-330, BC), found out that the wise men in the days of the Kingdom of the Medes were engaged in the interpretation of dreams, he gave them privileges in the new state religion of Persia. Herodotus wrote about the Magi as of priests-the Zoroaster, carrying out functions resembled the ritual of shamans, or medicine men. In addition, the Magi began consultants Persian Emperor in matters of astrology, it is not surprising that soon their impact has been strengthened, and the fame of the Magi, as the great sages, has spread throughout the Empire.

An important source of knowledge about the Magi times Darius was collection of ancient Persian cuneiform texts 506-497, BC on questions of administrative nature in the form of tablets with the fortifications of the city of Persepolis, which is described as a religious and political influence of the Magi on the society of that time. However, combining the posts of the Manager and the priest was a common practice in the Middle East at that time. On of the Magi, as Ministers of religion, was entrusted with important responsibilities, as evidenced by a colorful description of the ritual sacrifices in the capital of Persia the Persepolis. Signs give information about the Magi as "razjigaeva fire", carrying out special ritual similar to the offering of fire Supreme God of the ancient Persians, the Ahuramazda (wise to Mr.). Clay tablets tell us about the activities of the Magi at the court of the Persian king, that is confirmed by the evidence of ancient Greek authors: the priests, at the highest level of carrying out religious activities, took part in governing the state.

After the invasion of Persia, Alexander the great in winter 331 B.C. the Achaemenid dynasty ceased to exist. Of course, in the ancient sources mention some of the rituals performed by the wise men at the court of Alexander, however, it is obvious that he destroyed many Zoroastrian sanctuary, perhaps because they saw in this religion as a threat to their power.

Greek writer and geographer Strabo (63 BC - 21 ad) describes the sect of the Magi in Cappadocia (now the Central part of Turkey), calling its members "nasihatleri of fire". He talks about the temples of fire from the altar, which was kept burning fire, where the Magi "in high hat made of felt, ostavivshih to the cheeks and even covered lips" every day came about an hour and, holding it over the fire branch tamarisk trees or other plants, read spells. Apparently, some of the Magi traveled to the West, stopping in Greece and Italy. Traces of their beliefs and customs can be found in the Mithraic ancient mystery religions, which has gained wide popularity among the Roman legionaries in III - IV century In Roman times the word "wise men" began to be used DL. refer to any representative of the Oriental cult, and with ro vision of Jesus - all who have been associated with magic, astrology and the interpretation of dreams. The Magi, apparently, accepted part of the Roman Imperial court, as they are spoken of as assistants senior official" and managers.

The gospel of Matthew (created in 60-80s of the) is the only source of describing the coming of the Magi to Jesus in Bethlehem. It says "in Jerusalem came wise men from the East", which is interested in the stars. In this case, these wise men were astrologers. Communication with the stars has prompted some researchers to believe that they came out of Babylon - known center of astrology that time. However, judging by the extraordinary gifts that they brought gold, frankincense and myrrh - a more likely place can become Arabia, but it was not a priestly layer, consisting of the Magi. Matthew did not mention how many of the Magi was. But the number of gifts suggests that there were three of them. These gifts are of great symbolic significance for Christians: incense represents the Christian deity, gold - royalty and myrrh that was used for twisting about dead bodies, symbolized the passion of the Lord and impending death.

According to the gospel of Matthew, before coming to Bethlehem the Magi met with the king of Judea, Herod, who was a puppet in the hands of the Roman Empire. Having seen his star in the East, they asked the Governor to show them the new king. Herod, knowing about the old Testament prophecy, he sent them to Bethlehem, but asked on the way back to go to him and tell that he too was able to honor our newborn Savior. When the Magi arrived in Bethlehem, and in the sky appeared a star. They followed it until they found the king of Judah and not handed him their gifts. Then the astrologers dreamed a prophetic dream, a warning from the visit to Herod with a demand to come back to Persia the other way.

Herod was enraged by fraud and ordered the beating of innocent babies, injuring all children under two years who were in Bethlehem and its surroundings. But Joseph had time to take Mary and the baby in a safe place, in Egypt.

Today engaged in extensive discussions regarding the star that led the wise men throughout their long journey from East to Judea. A variety of explanations for this astronomical phenomenon, including the version that it was a meteorite, the planet Venus, the phenomenon standing planets, the birth of new stars, comets, and even UFOs. To date, two of the most common theories are versions that star in the East was or planet Jupiter, or Halley's comet.

The Greek word "aster"that Matthew uses in the gospel, describing the star of Bethlehem, may be interpreted as the comet. However, is there any other information about the comets in the written sources of that time? In the Roman period it was considered that the appearance of the comet informs about the tragic historical events, for example about the death of the Emperor, and therefore, in those days, she could not associated with the birth of the Messiah. However, the wise men of the Turkish Black sea coast considered the comet's a good omen. A good rule of the king Mithridates VI contacted the comets - kind heavenly harbingers, as evidenced by coins with their image. The appearance of Halley's comet of 12 BCE horrifying of all inhabitants of the Mediterranean, first of all inhabitants of Rome, observing it in the sky above the city. Since it is considered that Herod died in 4 BC, today the majority of scholars are inclined to date the birth of Jesus approximately 12-4, B.C. hence, the comet Halley could be the so-called star of Bethlehem. There are however some contradictions in the theory of the comet. In the gospel of Matthew says that Herod and the inhabitants of Jerusalem did not notice the Bethlehem star in the night sky, but it can't be, if we are talking about such a prominent celestial object as Halley's comet.

Jupiter in those days was known as the star of Zeus and was traditionally the planet of the kings. Astronomer Michael P. Molnar from Rutgers University in new Jersey interprets the words from the gospel of Matthew star "returns" and "costs" as evidence to the contrary movement and standing of the planet Jupiter. Molnar found a Roman coin, issued in Antioch, the capital of the Roman provincii in Syria, and Dating from the time of Jesus ' birth. On the coin depicts the astrological sign of the RAM, for he turned his head back, as if looking back at the star. Molnar believes that the coin is issued as a reminder about the capture of the Roman Jews in Antioch 6 ad, Further research showed that the most important work on astronomy of Claudius Ptolemy "Tatrabis-Las" is the sign of Aries is treated as a constellation of controlling residents of Judea, Idumea, Samaria, Palestine and Celesyria", i.e. lands ruled by king Herod.

Thus, a star on the coin could symbolize the fate of the Jews who were under the yoke of the Roman Antioch. This could mean that astrologers had expected the birth of the great King of Judah, that foretold the appearance of the star of Bethlehem in the constellation of Aries. Molnar sure that celestial phenomenon that occurred on 17 April 6 BC, when Jupiter was in the constellation of Aries and the Moon closed the planet, and was okazavshis on the birth of the divine the baby. Though to confirm this version should be not one study, for today it is the most grounded and indicates that the Magi from Persia followed the real star (in this case for Jupiter), which soon led them to Bethlehem to the future King of the Jews.

B. Haughton
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