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I heard in a sermon the following claim linking Daniel:

Daniel mastered Babylonian culture, and went on to become a respected wise man in the King's Palace - whilst still retaining his Israelite distinctiveness.

This is a specific reference to Daniel 1 through to Daniel 6.

The speaker went on to make the following claim:

It seems likely that Daniel would have been leader of the wise men of Babylon in his older age, and his recordings of a coming Messiah, with his Monotheism would have been influential amongst the wise men of that time.

It seems probable then that the Magi (wise men) who came to visit Jesus (being monotheists looking for a coming King) were Babylonians who followed Daniel's order.

This is a reference to Matthew 2.

From a plot point of view - this is a wonderful way to tie two threads together.

In addition, we read this week of the mathemical prowess of Babylonian Astronomers in the years 300-50BC (after the return of the Israelites, but prior to Jesus birth).

My question is: Is there evidence to suggest a link between Daniel's wise-men in Babylon and the 3-Kings (Wise Men) who visit Jesus as a child?

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2 Answers 2

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When we talk of 'wise men' who visited Jesus, the word used in Matthew's Gospel is μάγοι (magoi), which comes to us via Latin as 'magi'. The magi were priests of Ahura Mazda, the Persian god in the Zoroastrian religion. They were known as great astrologers, wise men and interpreters of dreams.

Prior to the Persian conquest of Babylon under Cyrus the Great in 539 BCE, it is unlikely that the Babylonians would have served the Persian god to any significant extent. Daniel chapter 2 makes several references to the wise men of Babylon prior to the Persian conquest, so these wise men could scarcely have been Zoroastrian priests. However, Persia introduced Zoroastrianism to Babylon after the conquest and the new religion had become a major force in Babylon by the time the Book of Daniel was written. If when he repeatedly spoke of 'wise men', the author of Daniel was referring to these magoi, he probably assumed that they had always served in Babylon.

So, there is a remote connection between Daniel's wise men and the wise men of Matthew's Gospel. In both books, the authors appear to have been referring to the Zoroastrian magoi. As the sermon apparently suggests, the magoi were monotheists and they hoped for a Saoshyant who would be born of a virgin and come to save the world from evil.

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    It is correct that the original meaning of magos is “a type of Persian priest” (the Greek word in fact comes from the Old Persian magush). But already in classical Greek magos very commonly means “magician, sorcerer” without any specifically Persian connection. It is much debated whether the author of Matthew 2 thought of his magoi as Persian priests or merely as magicians or astrologers. There is any case no explicit reference to Persia.
    – fdb
    Commented Jan 31, 2016 at 15:39
  • @fdb Granted - and see my wording, "In both books, the authors appear to have been referring to ... " However, in support of the Zoroastrian connection, the Matthean magoi were coming from the east and Zoroastrians had a prophecy of a virgin birth similar to that of Jesus, with the Saoshyant coming to help fight evil. It is, as you say, much debated, but it does make sense that the Matthean author could see the parallels. Commented Jan 31, 2016 at 22:48
  • Zoroastrians do not actually believe that Saošiiant will be born from a virgin, at least not in the way that the virgin birth is conceived in Christianity. Rather they believe that his mother will be impregnated by the seed of Zoroster preserved in the sea of Kąsaoiia which will pass into her while swimming in the mentioned sea.
    – fdb
    Commented Jan 31, 2016 at 23:02
  • @fdb We both know our Zoroastrian scriptures. Commented Jan 31, 2016 at 23:05
  • I am curious what your source is that the magi were Zoroastrians (I do not disagree, but am just curious). Separately, Grant Osborne’s literature review on this passage finds support for Arabia, Babylon, Persia, and Egypt (he concludes there is no way to know): “Brown, Birth of the Messiah, 168 – 70 (no choice); Hagner, Matthew 1 – 13, 27 (prefers Babylon). Davies and Allison, Matthew, 1:228; and T. T. Maalouf, “Were the Magi from Persia or Arabia?” BSac 156 (1999): 423 – 42, both prefer Arabia.”
    – Andrew Min
    Commented Jan 13, 2022 at 13:37
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It is unlikely that the Magi were Zoroastrians because they were sun worshippers. Those who came to check on the birth of Christ knew that he would be a person that could not accept sun worship. i.e. they knew that he came from the Creator who was to be worshiped for Himself and for what He is.

If we wish to locate the place where the wise men came from then we must look for traditions which were able to detect the arrival of divine births. There are very few such traditions who have this capacity and also are active in seeking incarnations of divine personages. The Buddhists for example are interested in this subject. Also they did send missions to the Middle East, Greece and Egypt in the centuries prior to Christ's arrival.

The Buddhists however gained the knowledge and ability to detect the pending births of divine personages from the Brahmins and Vedantist of India.

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