IN SEARCH OF THE BIRTH OF JESUS: The Real Journey of the Magi by Paul William Roberts

IN SEARCH OF THE BIRTH OF JESUS: The Real Journey of the Magi

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Vivid travelogue combines with a polemic that Christianity was originally a Gnostic offshoot of Zoroastrianism in this intriguing, but highly partisan, attempt to discover the significance of the mysterious Wise Men. Fascinated by Marco Pole's statement that he saw the tombs of the Magi in the Persian city of Sava, screenwriter and journalist Roberts (A River in the Desert, not reviewed, etc.) traces their footsteps in an adventure that begins in Khamenei's Tehran and ends, after several twists and turns, in Bethlehem. Accompanied by Reza, his scatologically loquacious Iranian guide, our author's first surprise is to discover in Sava ruins that actually correspond with Pole's wondrous description. Roberts balances the narrative of his journey to Bethlehem with uncensored accounts of Reza's vulgarities--he learned English on an American campus in the '60s. En route, Roberts also takes gratuitous swipes at Jesus Christ, the New Testament, and ""the Church of Rome,"" declaring that the Magi at Christ's birth were Zoroastrians and that Roman orthodoxy, based on Paul's replacing gnosis with faith, headed a conspiracy that obliterated all record of gnostic Christianity until the discovery of the Dead Sea scrolls. Our author hears of links between Christianity and Zoroastrianism in his encounters in the Islamic holy city of Qom, among Zoroastrians at Yazd, and in Iraq, where he discovers some Mandaeans, a Gnostic sect that he believes was the missing link between Zoroastrianism and true Christianity. We hear of their worship of (a pardoned) Satan and of how Jesus escaped crucifixion to spend his subsequent life with the Magi. Roberts produces no real evidence for his thesis, and even when he speaks of the Dead Sea scrolls, he is offering us simply his interpretation, with very few references, of highly esoteric material. Frequently hilarious, Roberts, as he himself admits, is presenting a history that fits his own needs.

Pub Date: Dec. 5th, 1995
Page count: 400pp
Publisher: Riverhead/Putnam