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If so, then why were the Magi still labelled that way? Why call a believer a member of the pagan Zoroastrian religion? Or am I missing something here?

And by believers, I meant how the Magi believed in Yahweh BEFORE they saw the star of Bethlehem and arrived to baby Jesus's house.

"After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magi from the east came to Jerusalem and asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him. When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born. “In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written: “‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for out of you will come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel."-Matthew 2:1-6.

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    Who calls them believers? How do you know they were Zoroastrian? – curiousdannii Dec 19 '19 at 2:56
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    The word may have originated from the Zoroastrian caste but it passed through at least two languages before it reached Koine Greek. So you need to do more to establish that the text or later Christians actually teach they were Zoroastrians. – curiousdannii Dec 19 '19 at 4:32
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    Thank you @NigelJ! – KorvinStarmast Dec 19 '19 at 14:15
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The wise men were spoken to, by God himself (not, as stated, by an angel) in a dream :

And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way. [Matthew 2:12, KJV.]

If God spoke to them - and they clearly heard him, since they took note of it - then, being in communication with God (himself, not an angel), they thus believed in God.

And having gone on a journey which took two years to complete (the time which Herod took note of, in his calculation as to which children to slaughter) and which would necessitate another two years in which to get home, surely they did so not to merely visit the entry into the world of just another human being (not to belittle such events, but really, four years !) they came for a serious purpose.

Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth, and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. [Matthew 2:16, KJV.]

They were wise. Wiser, in context, than the Jews who had received so much divine revelation, it appears. And is probably the whole point of Matthew recording the matter, in his particular account and with his particular aspect of Christ in mind, to highlight this devotion from outside of Israel as a testimony to unbelieving Israel.

Yes, I would say these men were believers and remarkably and devoted so, it appears.

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: [Matthew 2:11, KJV.]

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  • Being warned by God does not necessarily mean God spoke to them himself. If I send someone to tell you about something, then I have 'warned' you. Also it took place in a dream, so they were not actually spoken to by God. – DJClayworth Dec 20 '19 at 14:45
  • @DJClayworth 'Being warned of God' ..... is a narrative which deliberately expresses the fact of communication from God to the individuals. The narrative does not give the details. You are surmising, rather than accepting what the scripture conveys. I do not agree with what you say and I do not agree with your method. – Nigel J Dec 20 '19 at 20:40
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    Actually it's you who are assuming that the communication is in person. I'm saying we don't know if it was in person or not. But it was definitely in a dream, so in that sense it wasn't in person. – DJClayworth Dec 20 '19 at 20:51
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Were the Magi believers?

Catholic tradition holds that they were pagan at the time of their visitation to the Child Jesus. In other words they were probably not Jewish.

Tradition holds that the Magi were three in number, but even this is actually unknown to us for Scripture does not say how many wise men there were.

They seemed to have a faith in God, but Scripture does not clarify what that faith was in any clear fashion. For example, the Sibyls prophesied of the birth of Jesus Christ in various ways, yet were at the same time, of pagan belief and practice.

What belief or religion the Magi practiced is lost to history, but it is reasonable to say they believed in God (or a god). Scripture does say that they did honour the Child Jesus and even worshipped him. Perhaps they knew of some of the Sibil prophecies concerning the birth of Jesus? Again this is not known historically, one way or another.

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: Matthew 2:11

Adoration of the Magi

Adoration of the Magi

The Catholic Encyclopediastates that they were from Persia and that after Christ’s Crucifixion, they were baptized into the Christian faith by the Apostle St. Thomas. The Cathedral of Cologne claims to have their relics.

Time and circumstances of their visit

The visit of the Magi took place after the Presentation of the Child in the Temple (Luke 2:38). No sooner were the Magi departed than the angel bade Joseph take the Child and its Mother into Egypt (Matthew 2:13). Once Herod was wroth at the failure of the Magi to return, it was out of all question that the presentation should take place. Now a new difficulty occurs: after the presentation, the Holy Family returned into Galilee (Luke 2:39). Some think that this return was not immediate. Luke omits the incidents of the Magi, flight into Egypt, massacre of the Innocents, and return from Egypt, and takes up the story with the return of the Holy Family into Galilee. We prefer to interpret Luke's words as indicating a return to Galilee immediately after the presentation. The stay at Nazareth was very brief. Thereafter the Holy Family probably returned to abide in Bethlehem. Then the Magi came. It was "in the days of King Herod" (Matthew 2:1), i.e. before the year 4 B.C. (A.U.C. 750), the probable date of Herod's death at Jericho. For we know that Archelaus, Herod's son, succeeded as ethnarch to a part of his father's realm, and was deposed either in his ninth (Josephus, Bel. Jud., II, vii, 3) or tenth (Josephus, Antiq., XVII, xviii, 2) year of office during the consulship of Lepidus and Arruntius (Dion Cassis, lv, 27), i.e., A.D. 6. Moreover, the Magi came while King Herod was in Jerusalem (vv. 3, 7), not in Jericho, i.e., either the beginning of 4 B.C. or the end of 5 B.C. Lastly, it was probably a year, or a little more than a year, after the birth of Christ. Herod had found out from the Magi the time of the star's appearance. Taking this for the time of the Child's birth, he slew the male children of two years old and under in Bethlehem and its borders (v. 16). Some of the Fathers conclude from this ruthless slaughter that the Magi reached Jerusalem two years after the Nativity (St. Epiphanius, "Haer.", LI, 9; Juvencus, "Hist. Evang.", I, 259). Their conclusion has some degree of probability; yet the slaying of children two years old may possibly have been due to some other reason — for instance, a fear on Herod's part that the Magi had deceived him in the matter of the star's appearance or that the Magi had been deceived as to the conjunction of that appearance with the birth of the Child. Art and archæology favour our view. Only one early monument represents the Child in the crib while the Magi adore; in others Jesus rests upon Mary's knees and is at times fairly well grown (see Cornely, "Introd. Special. in N.T.", p. 203).

From Persia, whence the Magi are supposed to have come, to Jerusalem was a journey of between 1000 and 1200 miles. Such a distance may have taken any time between three and twelve months by camel. Besides the time of travel, there were probably many weeks of preparation. The Magi could scarcely have reached Jerusalem till a year or more had elapsed from the time of the apperance of the star. St. Augustine (De Consensu Evang., II, v, 17) thought the date of the Epiphany, the sixth of January, proved that the Magi reached Bethlehem thirteen days after the Nativity, i.e., after the twenty-fifth of December. His argument from liturgical dates was incorrect. Neither liturgical date is certainly the historical date. (For an explanation of the chronological difficulties, see Chronology, Biblical, Date of the Nativity of Jesus Christ.) In the fourth century the Churches of the Orient celebrated the sixth of January as the feast of Christ's Birth, the Adoration by the Magi, and Christ's Baptism, whereas, in the Occident, the Birth of Chirst was celebrated on the twenty-fifth of December. This latter date of the Nativity was introduced into the Church of Antioch during St. Chrysostom's time (P.G., XLIX, 351), and still later into the Churches of Jerusalem and Alexandria.

The advent of the Magi caused a great stir in Jerusalem; everybody, even King Herod, heard their quest (v. 3). Herod and his priests should have been gladdened at the news; they were saddened. It is a striking fact that the priests showed the Magi the way, but would not go that way themselves. The Magi now followed the star some six miles southward to Bethlehem, "and entering into the house [eis ten oikian], they found the child" (v. 11). There is no reason to suppose, with some of the Fathers (St. Aug., Serm. cc, "In Epiphan.", I, 2), that the Child was still in the stable. The Magi adored (prosekynesan) the Child as God, and offered Him gold, frankincense, and myrrh. The giving of gifts was in keeping with Oriental custom. The purpose of the gold is clear; the Child was poor. We do not know the purpose of the other gifts. The Magi probably meant no symbolism. The Fathers have found manifold and multiform symbolic meanings in the three gifts; it is not clear that any of these meanings are inspired (cf. Knabenbauer, "in Matth.", 1892).

We are certain that the Magi were told in sleep not to return to Herod and that "they went back another way into their country" (v. 12). This other way may have been a way to the Jordan such as to avoid Jerusalem and Jericho; or a roundabout way south through Beersheba, then east to the great highway (now the Mecca route) in the land of Moab and beyond the Dead Sea. It is said that after their return home, the Magi were baptized by St. Thomas and wrought much for the spread of the Faith in Christ. The story is traceable to an Arian writer of not earlier than the sixth century, whose work is printed, as "Opus imperfectum in Matthæum" among the writings of St. Chrysostom (P.G., LVI, 644). This author admits that he is drawing upon the apocryphal Book of Seth, and writes much about the Magi that is clearly legendary. The cathedral of Cologne contains what are claimed to be the remains of the Magi; these, it is said, were discovered in Persia, brought to Constantinople by St. Helena, transferred to Milan in the fifth century and to Cologne in 1163 (Acta SS., I, 323).

Catherine Emmerich in her revelations tells us that Mensor was a Chaldean, Theokeno was from Media and Seir’s region of habitation is not explicitly named. Here too, St. Thomas baptized two of the Magi.

Mensor, the brownish, was a Chaldean. His city, whose name sounded to me something like Acajaja, was surrounded by a river, and appeared to be built on an island. Mensor spent most of his time in the fields with his herds. After the death of Christ, he was baptized by St. Thomas, and named Leander. Seir, the brown, on that very Christmas night stood prepared at Mensor's for the expedition. He and his race were the only ones so brown, but they had red lips. The other people in the neighborhood were white. Seir had the baptism of desire. He was not living at the time of Jesus' journey to the country of the Kings. Theokeno was from Media, a country more to the north. It lay like a strip of land further toward the interior and between two seas. Theokeno dwelt in his own city; its name I have forgotten. It consisted of tents erected on stone foundations. He was the wealthiest of the three. He might, I think, have taken a more direct route to Bethlehem, but in order to join the others he made a circuitous one. I think that he had even to pass near Babylon in order to come up with them. He also was baptized by St. Thomas and named Leo. The names Caspar, Melchior, and Balthasar were given to the kings, because they so well suited them, for Caspar means "He is won by love"; Melchior, "He is so coaxing, so insinuating, he uses so much address, he approaches one so gently"; Balthasar, "With his whole will, he accomplishes the will of God."

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Original Answer from duplicate question at "What religion did the Wise Men from the East practise?"

From Mat. 2:1,2,7 we can gather that they were astrologers (or "magi"), looking for omens in/among the stars. Just as astrology does nowadays, producing the horoscopes that many (have) put their faith in.

One of the foremost references to such people in the Hebrew Scriptures can be found in Daniel 2:27, that relates the failure of the wise men, conjurers, magic-practicing priests or astrologers of Babylon to relate and interpret the dream that Nebuchadnezzar had. So these "wise men" from the East might actually have been from that region or a group of people that originated there.

In the Law of Moses, there are a references to such people, forbidding their practices:

"You must not look for omens or practice magic." ~Leviticus 19:26

"As for the person who turns to the spirit mediums and the fortune-tellers so as to commit spiritual prostitution with them, I will certainly turn against that person and cut him off from his people." ~Leviticus 20:6

"Any man or woman who acts as a spirit medium or is a fortune-teller should be put to death without fail." ~Leviticus 20:27

"There should not be found in you (...) anyone practicing magic, anyone who looks for omens (...) ~Deuteronomy 18:9-13

From the above it is clear that the true God has a hatred against such practices and people who get involved with them. It would therefore not be logical that any of such people would be used for any of his purposes, when (as mentioned in Deuteronomy 18), the Canaanites were driven out because of such "detestable" practices. Also refer to the account of Balak and Balaam in Numbers 22-24. In addition, if these men had been used for what they thought they were doing, they would have been led to Bethlehem, not to Jerusalem, which came with such terrible consequences.

So in conclusion, these men were certainly not practicing a religion that was in any way compatible with the religion that the Jews were practicing, but may have had Babylonian roots instead, or possibly Canaanite ancestors.

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