Uno stupido che cammina va più lontano di dieci intellettuali seduti (Jacques Séguéla)
Il giornalista è stimolato dalla scadenza. Scrive peggio se ha tempo. (Karl Kraus)
Machiavelli contro Grillo: no, non siete “diversi”, purtroppo vi siete rivelati tremendamente UGUALI!
Nota redazionale: attenzione, segnaliamo che questo saggio è di prossima pubblicazione nel libro Orienti, a cura di Maria Grazia Chiappori, Edizioni Aracne; un grazie all’autore, alla curatrice e all’editore.
Mario Alinei, Mario Pincherle and Kamal Salibi,
whose work on Etruscans and Wadi Jalil
gave the key for the proposed scenario
The problem who were the Magi who visited Jesus has always intrigued scholars. Many deem the story as phantasy, others accept a historical basis, with different interpretations. In this paper we use information from the apocryphal Gospels, properties of novae and supernovae stars, the claim by Kamal Salibi who locates Jesus family not in Galilee – Jalil – but in the valley of Galilee - Wadi Jalil - in Arabia, and the studies of Mario Alinei. We reach a scenario that agrees with the Gospel text, and with other ancient texts, that from our scenario appear to be historically correct.
Magi who visited Jesus after his birth are described in many ancient sources, one of the Gospels, several apocryphal Gospels, legends that influenced literature and art, especially in the Middle Ages. For default we assume the event to be historical and explain its details via a scenario differing to large extent from the traditional ones. Among other approaches we just quote Molnar (1999), who sees the Magi story as mainly symbolic, and Panaino (2012), who provides an interpretation via ancient astrology, particularly Ptolemy’s Tetrabiblos. In our approach the Magi story is a quite accurate picture of a real event. It confirms the theory of Salibi about Jesus family, and of Alinei on the Etruscans coming from the original land of the Magyars.
We begin by the documents that we will use, certainly only a part of those that could be considered. We start with Magi story from the only Gospel that quotes it, say Matthew’s. We translate from La Bibbia, traduzione interconfessionale, Edizione CEI, 2002, presented by Genua’s archbishop Angelo Bagnasco on 4-10-2007, see La Sacra Bibbia, Nuovo Testamento, Mondadori, 2009.
Matthew 2, 1-17
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem land of Judea, at the time of king Herod, some Magi arrived in Jerusalem from orient, asking: where is he who was born, the king of Judeans? We have seen his star appear and came to adore him.
On hearing this, the king was troubled and with him all people of Jerusalem. The king called all chiefs of the priests and the scribes of the people, to know from them where Christ was due to be born. They answered: in Bethlehem of Judea, because so we read in the prophet
And you, Bethlehem, land of Judah,
Really you are not the last one
Of the main cities of Judah,
From you indeed a chief will come
Who will be leader of my people,
Then Herod called secretly the Magi, asking them when exactly the star had appeared. He sent them to Bethlehem, telling: Go and inform me exactly on the child. When you find him, let me know so that I too can go and adore him.
The Magi listened to the king and then left. Now the star that they had seen, was in front of them till they reached the place where the child was living and then stopped over it. On seeing the star they were extremely happy. They entered the house, they saw the child with his mother Mary, they kneeled and adored him. They gave him gifts of gold, incense and myrrh. In a dream they were told not to come back to Herod. Thus they returned to their country by a different road.
Just after they left, an Angel of the Lord appeared in dream to Joseph, telling him: Get up, take with you the child and his mother, go to Egypt and remain there till I will inform you. Herod is looking for the child to kill him. Joseph got up in the night, took the child and his mother, and escaped for shelter to Egypt. There he stayed till the death of Herod, so that it was accomplished what the Lord had claimed by way of the prophet:
From Egypt I have called my Son.
When Herod realized that the Magi had not obeyed to him, got angry and sent soldiers to kill all children in Bethlehem and surroundings up to the age of two years, calculated from the birth time of Jesus obtained precisely from the Magi.
Let us consider now apocryphal Gospels. From Proto Gospel of James, see Craven (1969), we get
There was a very great star whose light cancelled the light of other stars
From Pseudo Matthew, see Craven (1969)
In the second year persons came from orient… bringing each one a golden coin and gold, incense and myrrh
The above statement appears also in the Arabian-Sirian Gospel, see Craven (1969), where moreover we read:
As Zoroaster had forecast
In the Armenian Gospel, see Craven (1969), we read:
The Annunciation to Mary took place on Nissan 15th – say April 6th
Magi arrived 9 months after Annunciation… they took with them 12 chiefs and 12.000 men. They brought many gifts. They told that their knowledge of the event came from a book of the time of Adam, that had been kept by Cirus.
In the Gospel of our Saviour childhood, Codex Arundel 404, see Moraldi (1989), we read
“…their dress was different than ours, they had a wide and dark coat, a Phrygian hat, their legs were covered by heavy trousers “
In the Gospel according the Hebrew, see Moraldi (1996), we read:
“ they look as foreigners; their aspect differs from ours; they dress very rich clothes; their skin is very dark; their legs have trousers… they looked as many travelers, but it appeared they had three noble men as guides, say Melo, Caspar and Fadizarda ”
According to Jerome, the above Gospel was written in Hebrew and was read by Nazarens.
The quoted apocryphal come partly from quotations in other authors, partly from a papyrus cache found in 1945 in Nag Hammadi, Egypt, a location near river Nile, by a peasant who was excavating the soil for fertilizers. He found an amphora that had been hidden by some scholar, possibly a monk from a nearby no more extant monastery. Inside the amphora there were leather bags containing 52 documents (at least officially, some might have been sold in the black market), written in Copt, for a total of 1200 pages. The most important document found in the amphora is St Thomas Gospel, consisting of 114 short sentences or logia, often quoted by Church Fathers. Such Gospel allows to remove what appears as an unacceptable statement in the Canonical Gospels, where, in Matthew 11.11, Jesus is claimed to affirm: in truth I say to you, that among those born from a woman no one has been greater than John the Baptist. This sentence taken literally would set John as greater then Jesus, born he too from a woman. But in St Thomas Gospel the sentence is modified as …. among those born from a woman, between Adam and John the Baptist, no one has been greater than John the Baptist. Thus Jesus is excluded from the evaluation, since he was born 6 months after John. Notice here that canonical Gospels may present only part of the story, a fact common in all historical texts, or give it in an ambiguous way. And leaving aside the fact that the Greek text that we read comes possibly from a lost original in Hebraic or Aramaic, with the exception of John’s Gospel.
On Magi there are other sources from both ancient and medieval literature, see e.g. Bussagli and Chiappori (1985). We consider some:
– the number of Magi is stated to be three and their names are often given as Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar, variations of the names in the Gospel of the Hebrew
– their tomb is locayed in the Persian city of Savah, according to Marco Polo
– their bones, now in the cathedral of Koeln, were brought there from Milan in 1164 by Frederic Barbarossa. In Milan they arrived as a donation by Byzantine emperor Maurice. In Costantinople they were kept in Saint Sophia church, after Queen Helen, mother of Constantine, had found them in the Holy Land. The Queen was keen in finding holy relics, as the cross used to crucify Jesus.
– that the Magi had skins of different colors, white, yellowish, dark
– that in the stable where Jesus was born there were a donkey and a bull.
For our analysis, the data in the Gospel of Matthew and in the quoted apocryphal are enough. Let us start with the date when Jesus was born, especially the month, and where Joseph had his home.
- When Jesus was born and where his home was
Here we consider some fundamental questions, where for long time wrong conclusions were used. Say the month and the year Jesus was born, and where his home was, in a place not considered till the work of a great historian, Kamal Salibi, quite ignored in the west. A work that also applies to other questions, as the location of the land of Canaan, that is identified not with Palestine but with Arabia Felix, mainly present Asir. The proposed solution to these questions opens the way to solving the Magi enigma.
The date of birth of Jesus was established in Byzantine time by the Scythian monk Dionysius Exiguus, whose computation, made around 525 AD, turns out to be affected by a mistake of 7-8 years, depending on when one counts the beginning of the year. Notice that Thiele (1983) solved the chronological differences between the states of Israel and Judah by noticing that the two states started the year in the two different equinox days. According to Dionysius the calendar would start in 5500 BC, from some event in the Garden of Eden, see Spedicato (2014), while the Ethiopian calendar, due to monks Panodoros and Anianos, from 5492 BC, these monks using the correct date for Jesus birth as 8 BC. Since Herod died 4 BC, from the tremendous illness described by Josephus Flavius in the Judaic wars, it is clear that Jesus could not be born after Herod’s death. But consider that an author as Baigent (2006) has set Jesus birth in 7 AD.
We consider 8 BC as the correct year for Jesus birth, supported by an additional argument from Kepler. To establish also the month and day of his birth is more difficult. The day officially proposed by Christian churches (apart irrelevant modification in the Orthodox church coming from calendrical variations) is December 25, Christmas. Such a date was rejected by most of recent scholars, for the following reasons:
- Christmas is said to have become a great holy day when Christianity became one of the accepted religions. It was celebrated then at the same day of the Mithraic feast of Sol invictus, for political reasons. Mithraism was one of the most important religions during Roman empire, also for political reasons, see Barbiero (2010, 2013)
- Shepherds in Bethlehem are expected not to take out sheep in December, due to cold weather.
However analysis of the Book of Jubilees and other documents found in Qumran by Shemarjahu Talmon (1958) of Jerusalem University, see Messori (2003), indicates that Jesus was born in the traditional period of Christmas. Talmon’s discovery deals with the 24 families of great priests who were in charge of the sacred activities in the Temple for two weeks, following a task sequence, before unknown, discovered from the quoted documents. Now the great priest Zacharias, father of John the Baptist, belonged to one of these families, the Abia family. According to Luke 1-5, Zacharias had the vision of an angel who told him that his wife, till then a barren woman, would become pregnant. He was in the Temple at the end of September. Since Jesus conception took place 6 months later, Jesus birth time was expected at the end of December. If a statement in the Armenian Gospel is correct, the birth date should have been January 5th; for reasons considered later, the actual birth occurred ten days before the expected day. Talmon’s study has not been accepted by everyone, this being a complex area of study. See Bazec (2001), who concludes with different arguments that December 25th is the correct date.
The claimed presence of the shepherds, at the end of December, might be explained by our discussion of the star of the Magi, which suggests that the weather, at the time of the birth and probably for several days before and after, was cloudy. A cloudy weather in Winter brings milder temperatures. We should note that if winds were coming to Palestine from the Mediterranean, bringing clouds, then they would tend to increase the temperatures, while if they were coming from north, say Russia and Siberia, they would bring clear skies and dry and cold weather. Bethlehem has elevation about 750 m, the land around it in December is green from new grass after the autumn rains. Since milk from first grass is usually better than from later grass or hay, and might get a better price on the market, of, say nearby Jerusalem, we expect that shepherds would be happy to take out their sheep under mild weather conditions.
Let us consider again the statement in the Armenian Gospel that Annunciation happened on 15th Nissan, say April 6th. Assuming the statement to be correct and that conception took place immediately after Mary accepted the proposal from angel Gabriel (we do not discuss how she kept virginity), Jesus should have been born about January 5th. If the traditional date of December 25th is correct, birth took place a dozen days before expected. A case of earlier delivery, not unusual for a girl about 14 years old. Probably also caused by the fatigue of the long trip from home, say from Arabia towards Jerusalem, about a thousand km, with Mary most probably riding a donkey. Therefore Joseph, noticing he could not reach Jerusalem, looked where Mary could deliver the boy in a sheltered place; he had not many choices when the problem suddenly became serious. Notice that the delivery took place in Bethlehem, south of Jerusalem and on the way to Arabia, a location difficult to understand if they were coming from Palestinian Galilee. Notice also that Joseph, a man descending from David and Solomon and with wide knowledge of people, certainly would not have looked for a hotel in Jerusalem, but would have found hospitality with friends in that city. So there is no validity to the usual reason given for birth in Bethlehem, namely that Jerusalem hotels were full. Later we consider which type of accommodation he likely found in Bethlehem, not just a stable of the local shepherds.
So Jesus was born in conditions that are shared by many poor people. Moreover his day of birth corresponded, by chance or more probably by action of providence, to the day of celebration of Sol Invictus. Providential coincidences appear in many biblical events, where facts that may be considered as miracles are often just special rare natural events, but where actions of special persons appear as guided by a superior power. I deem that God prefers to act on man’s mind and actions, than to change a law of nature.
We now consider where Jesus family lived, a fundamental question to understand what happened to the Magi and the actions of Herod after they did not return to Jerusalem. For centuries it has been stated in Christian books, that Jesus family lived in a small village of Galilee, or Jalil in Arabic, named Nazareth. Nazareth lies on the slope of a hill dominating the valley where the city of Sepphoris was being built at the time Jesus was born. Sepphoris counted about 70.000 people at the time of Jewish rebellion of 70 AD, a number comparable with that of Jerusalem. Notice that Jerusalem population increased many times during religious celebrations, counting about one million people at the time of the rebellion, according to Josephus Flavius, a number that led to a terrible famine with episodes of cannibalism. Nazareth and Galilee had a bad reputation when Jesus preached, as stated in one of the Gospels.
In a fundamental work, prof Kamal Salibi (2007), of the American Lebanese University, has argued with several reasons, in particular of geographic type, that the original place of Jesus family, was not Jalil, but Wadi Jalil. This place is found in western Arabia, near the city of Taif, not far also from Mecca. Thus quite far from the territory controlled by Rome and Herod.
Among Salibi’s arguments:
- Most toponima in the Gospels are found in Wadi Jalil, several I have been found in Palestine
- The inhabitants of the valley were called Nazarah, explaining the name Nazarene given to Jesus, without resorting to explanations as man who does not cut his beard
- We remark that in the Islamic world Christians are usually call people of Messiah, but in Arabia, Yemen, Hadhramaut they are called Nasrani, singular, Nazarah, plural, which recalls their origin. See Doughty (2006) for northern Arabia, by him visited at end of 19th century, and Stark (2005), who visited Hadhramaut in 1934
- It is interesting that Paul, after his Damascus vision and his accepting the divinity of Jesus, had limited contacts with his disciples, with whom he seems to have had discussions and divergences; but he spent a period of possibly three years in Arabia. It is not stated where and why he was in Arabia, but from the Kamal Salibi scenario it is reasonable that he went to Wadi Jalil to meet relatives of Jesus or persons who knew him. Paul was a man of action and great energy, not easily seen as someone who meditates for three years in a solitary place. So it was perhaps in Wadi Jalil that he got information that entered his teaching, differing from the teaching of the so called Jerusalem Christianity, headed by James, that disappeared after Titus conquered Jerusalem.
In this paper we accept Salibi’s thesis that Joseph home was in Wadi Jalil, a valley of some extension, rich of water and with many villages, see Google Earth for today’s situation. Since he was certainly known as a descendant of David and Solomon, he was a highly respected man, expert in many fields, almost certainly not just a carpenter, but a specialist in fine building constructions, perhaps in gold working. A real technon as stated in the Greek version of the Gospels. He was probably a rich man. Apocryphal describe how he became a custodian of Mary, who till age 12 worked for the Temple, preparing with eleven other girls the tissues for the Temple. Mary left when she reached menstruation age and was supposed to stay with the quite old widower Joseph till a husband was found for her. A task that Joseph did not like due to his commitments abroad in Roman Palestinian. He is called as constructor of buildings and met Mary pregnant on return from his work in Caesarea Maritima, arriving very tired for the long travel.
It is possible that he or other people from Wadi Jalil, being experts in construction,
had also work contracts for the construction of the city of Sepphoris, that was taking place at that time. Thus we may conjecture that a group of workers nazarah from Wadi Jalil was living in the small village of Nazareth as a temporary residence. The village name reflected their origin.
We do not know for how long Joseph, and his ancestors, lived in Wadi Jalil. Perhaps they went there when Herod came to power, since for someone descending from
David, and for his relatives and clan, it was dangerous to live in a territory controlled by Herod. Herod was subject to Roman power, but had free hand in many decisions, maybe paying the officers who should have controlled him. It is also possible that Joseph family had been living in Wadi Jalil since many generations. This valley is indeed close to the land, Asir, that Salibi (1988, 1996, 1998) identified with the land of Canaan, the land of honey and milk, given by Yahveh to Abraham and his descendants. A land therefore in Arabia and not in Palestine. Only at the time of Solomon, see our scenario, Spedicato (2009), Palestine and Jerusalem, this one founded according to Manetho by the Hyksos expelled from Egypt, were under control of the Hebrew great king, whose short lived kingdom extended from Egypt to India to Turan…
Solomon kingdom was soon divided in two parts, under kingship of his two sons Jeroboam and Rehoboam. One part was the Israel kingdom, consisting of ten tribes. The other the Judah kingdom, consisting of two tribes. The two kingdoms were often fighting each other and the great empire of Solomon dissolved. In 722 BC the ten tribes were deported byAssyrian king Sennacherib II in a far away land, that we have identified with the region of present Kabul (in past Kabol, Habor…) in Afghanistan. The two other tribes were deported to Mesopotamia in 586 BC by Nebuchadnezzar II, who also destroyed the Temple of Solomon (construction started in 966 BC, completed in 7 years, according to standard Biblical dating). When Cyrus conquered Mesopotamia and other lands, he allowed the deported people to return to their lands. Part of the ten tribes returned probably to Arabia, Asir, Yemen and Hejaz. Part of the two tribes settled in Palestine, in the Jerusalem area, beginning to reconstruct the Temple. These people had very good relations with the Persians, often acting as their administrators, which gave them some problems when the Persian empire collapsed under Alexander the Macedonian.
It is well known that many Hebrew were in Arabia at the time of Muhammad, see Al Tabari (2002). They controlled commerce and even the fundamental production of dates. They opposed Muhammad and were defeated. But many were still living in Arabia in the 12th century, see Benjamin of Tudela (1988), who estimates their number just in Yemen at about half million, say half the total number of Hebrew listed by him for Mediterranean lands and much of Asia.
Therefore it is quite possible that Joseph descended from a Judah family which moved to Arabia at the time of Cyrus. We may additionally observe that the anthropometric features of the body in the Shroud, which is related to Jesus according to many, are typical of a Yemenite man, see Baima Bollone (1998). Also the fact that Mary’s most ancient portraits, in particular the so called Luke Madonna in Bologna, portray Mary as dark skinned woman, as women are in Yemen, is an additional argument for a south Arabian origin. Notice that if Mary’s women ancestors were beautiful women, than they were likely to marry non Hebrew dark skinned Arabian men, since their offspring would be counted anyway as Hebrew, according to the Hebrew law.
Therefore it is possible that Joseph descended from a family of Judah that moved to Arabia at the time of Cyrus.
The distance between Nazareth and Wadi Jalil is about 1500 km, some 200 km less to Jerusalem. It was common to travel using a donkey, recall that according to an apocryphal Gospel Joseph found May pregnant while returning home from a far away working place, traveling by donkey. So he probably took a donkey for his travel to Jerusalem, taking possibly over a month if they traveled at about 30 km per day.
Remember that in the past women gave birth while working till a few hours before the event and restarted work not long after.
- The star or stars of Magi
The question of the star of Magi has been considered by many authors, among whose explanations we quote, omitting references:
- multiple hallucinations
- fantasy creation
– triple conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn
- nova or supernova.
In this paper we consider the two last proposals, with arguments not proposed before,
as far as we are aware, that lead to a solution, one about the birth of Jesus, the other concerning the Magi arrival.
The triple conjunction was proposed by Kepler (1614), after long computations that showed that in the year 7 BC, when Jesus was possibly born (but we will claim that it was the year when he was visited by Magi, being one year old…), Jupiter and Saturn had three close passages, on May 29th, September 29th and December 5th. Such conjunctions took place in the Pisces constellation, a rare event happening every 800 years, while every 120 years there is a conjunction in some constellation. Notice that just one conjunction takes place every 20 years, this being possibly a reason, with others, why number 20 is often used ritually, and is used as a basis for computations, in alternative to 10, in hundreds of languages. It is also important in rituals and calendars of Mayas, see Spedicato (2013). The Pisces constellation is important symbolically considering that at Jesus time there was a transition to Pisces from Taurus of the point where sun rises at the Spring equinox. Such transitions follow from precession of Earth and take place about every 2200 years, now the transition to Aquarius being under way. The star that motivates the Magi to leave cannot however be related to the triple conjunction, because:
- even if luminosity would increase, it would not cover the light of other stars, as claimed in Matthew Proto-evangelium. Total luminosity indeed would grow less than a factor two in absolute terms, and even less for human eye, which is sensible to the logarithm of absolute luminosity
- original Kepler computations, and this is true even for today’s computations using a computer, cannot be considered completely accurate. Indeed a comparison between a dozen models and algorithms for evolution of solar system, see Dixon (2008), has shown that they give different results already from 400 years backwards and for 2000 in the future. A result showing the sensitivity in computations of nonlinear systems and that voids the validity of many dates proposed for ancient eclipses based on computations.
Beyond the critical observations above, the triple conjunction should be associated not to the very bright star seen in the departure place, but to the house of Jesus. Star which is noted at Magi arrival, but is not described as having the great luminosity of the star at their departure. Magi arrived after about one year of travel. Hence, assuming year 8 BC for Jesus birth in agreement with the Ethiopian calendar, Magi would arrive to Jesus place exactly in year 7 BC, as calculated by Kepler. If we look for a symbolic meaning in the star over Jesus house, obvious is the reference to Trinity. For more analysis see Molnar (1999).
Let us now see the star at departure as related to a nova or supernova. Let us consider for instance supernovae of class Ia, see Mazzitelli (2002). Such supernovae appear in our galaxy once every few centuries, about once a day if we consider other galaxies. The main feature of them is that their luminosity, generated by a huge explosion, increases in few hours to a value of a hundred billion times Sun’s luminosity, say to a value comparable with the total luminosity of the galaxy. When the event occurs in a distant galaxy, its luminosity doubles, and can be detected by our instruments. After a few weeks the luminosity decreases strongly and the star is no more visible; episodes of new increase in luminosity are not recorded.
A similar phenomenon of great luminosity is associated also to novae, albeit not at the level of supernovae. Very strong luminosity could be registered if the nova is quite close to Sun. Their flash of light lasts less than in supernovae, decrease starting after about one day. For novae it is possible to have a restart of the high luminosity, but after centuries. Thus the star that reappeared when Magi arrived to Jesus place cannot be the star which motivated their travel.
Many supernovae have been observed in our galaxy in the last two millennia, especially from Chinese astronomers, who are also well known for their observations and registration of comets (generally characterized by huge and complex tails, suggesting a recent origin). From Google we get the following list:
- 185 AD, by Chinese
- 1054 AD, by Chinese, generates the famous Crab nebula
- 1181 AD, by Chinese
- 1572 AD, by Ticho Brahe, in his famous observatory in Denmark, where Kepler worked a long time
- 1604 AD, by Kepler, see Kepler (1614).
Probably Chinese observed supernovae also in earlier times, but their records were lost when about 200 BC emperor Qin Shi Huang, the builder of the Great Wall, ordered destruction of all books save those of medicine, divination, agriculture. Some lost books were later retrieved by scholars who after the emperor death rewrote books they had memorized. Perhaps the above list could be increased by checking the 130 books written by Sima Qian, greatest Chinese historian and chief of the court astronomers.
Now for the time about 7th and 8th BC, when Alexandria observatory was fully working, there are no references to a star that could be associated with a supernova. The Alexandria observatory, using a light-house about 130m high, was very well equipped, being endowed at a certain time by a great lens mounted on a steel support, imported at very high cost from China, see Temple (2000). An event that appears to have been a nova was noted by Chinese in 5 AD. A date that cannot be related to Jesus birth or to the Magi. It might relate to when Jesus, aged 12, stopped in the Temple to discuss with rabbis, leaving them amazed of his knowledge.
One has also considered a comet, but for them no accurate computation is possible, since their orbit is very complex, due to loss of material on approaching Sun, with unpredictable effects on their orbit. One has proposed 12 AD for visibility of comet Halley, which is not compatible with Jesus chronology. A comet was used by Giotto in his Assisi frescoes. For more considerations, see Baratta (1997).
Now let us consider why the very bright star that motivated the departure of Magi was not noted in the Mediterranean regions. It was the time when Jesus was born, possibly December 25th, our Christmas Day, the Sol Invictus feast. In this time the Mediterranean areas get most rains and the sky is often fully covered by clouds. Cloud coverage may last many days, hiding stars, even very bright stars, so that the event was not noticed. Clouds coverage moreover tends to increase temperature, giving mild days that shepherds could exploit to bring their sheep to pasture. The region Judea would appear green, and milk from the sheep would be the best for the year.
Now, as argued later on, Magi lived somewhere in the vast region between Tibet and Altai, characterized by desert highlands, where little snow falls in Winter and the hibernal skies are incredibly clear, read the books of the great traveler
Alexandra David Néel. Magi were scholars, astronomers, magicians, experts in jewelry and medicine. They must have recalled the prophecy of Zoroaster, especially if he had left from their land, as proposed by Filippani Ronconi (2007). Thus they left to the land indicated in the prophesy, albeit how they made their decision is beyond my knowledge. I would however consider the possibility that their land had been visited by Solomon, who according to a scenario that I developed, Spedicato (2009), quit power when aged 54, giving it to his two sons, and left for a long trip to the various kingdoms that had accepted his power. During that trip he returned to the original royal families the wives he had obtained as a sign of submission, and most probably any child he had got from them. He knew indeed that these wives were hated by Hebrew and would have been killed, with the children, once he would have died. Notice the existence of a Takht e Suleiman, say a Throne of Solomon, in Fergana, on the way to the Altai region. Such monuments to his possible visits are found in many places in the territory that according to Bible was under his control. The most important one is in Srinagar, the capital of Kashmir. Solomon was a magician according to several traditions, and may have visited the land of Magi also to compare his knowledge to theirs. And Solomon might be aware of what would happen to a child descendant from him.
From the above considerations, the fact that a star appeared when Magi reached Jesus home – notice that it is not claimed that they were in Bethlehem of Judah –can be explained with the conjunction, that took place three times in that year, of Jupiter and Saturn. A conjunction notable for luminosity, but not comparable in intensity with the event observed in the Magi land. The event took place in year 7th BC, as Kepler claimed. The Magi had traveled around 10.000 km, requiring at least one year. Since May is the month where roses are dedicated to the Virgin, they might have arrived in May, bringing from them roses from their land. Roses of the most beautiful quality are originally from the heart of Asia, between Tibet and Siberia, in particular from the oasis in the Lob Nor desert. Maybe the day of May when they arrived was May 13th, the day of 1917 when the Virgin appeared in Fatima to three children, with the event of the moving Sun taking place on October 13th of that day.
- Who were Magi
Word Magi usually refers, following Herodotus and other historians, to the Zoroastrians priests that lived in Iran and nearby countries from Achaemenid times till Islam arrival. Filippani Ronconi (2007) writes that Zoroaster arrived to Iran after a long trip from a north-eastern direction, where he crossed two large rivers, that we may identify with the Amu Darya and Syr Darya. He might have come from the region where ancient Magyars lived, not easy to define now, but somewhere between the Tibetan plateau and the Altai. An area where different people were probably present, say Scythians, Turks, Mongols, Tibetans and others. He arrived to Iran probably in that 6th century AC when, for astronomical reasons, the world witnessed many changes at the religious level and not only there. It was the time of Buddha, Jainism, Confucius, Laotze, Shintoism, and the Greek rationalism started by Thales.
Changes that according to scholars as Velikovsky (1950), De Grazia (1981) and others are explained by the end of a period when solar system differed from today, involving also catastrophic events, see Spedicato (2010).
Most authors claim that Magi who visited Jesus came from Iran. This geographic identification however gives problems with statements in the apocryphal:
- From Iran, especially from the Caspian region where Magi were especially present, reaching Jerusalem would take about 3 months, walking by foot at an easy average of 30 km a day, less using horses or camels
- Persian Magi did not wear the type of clothes that surprised the people in Jerusalem, say trousers and leather jackets.
We propose that Magi came from the original area of Magyars. Thus they covered a distance of some 10.000 requiring one year, as stated in the quoted apocryphal. Their clothing is moreover typical of Magyars, as is known for the time they entered Transylvania. This time is about 1000 years after the Magi time, but ancient people tended to be conservative, especially in clothing where many components had precise ritual meaning.
Now we give our interpretation of the meaning of word Magi, associated both with the Zoroastrian priests and those who can accomplish mysterious actions, being endowed with magical powers. For our interpretation, using the criterion sunt nomina lumina, we notice that in Finno-Ugric languages (till some years ago about thirty such languages were known, some spoken in the forests of Russia and Siberia by a small group of people), consonants m and n are easily exchanged, see Alinei (2003). Thus magy can become nagy, meaning great in Hungarian. And ar can be seen as a shortening of arany, meaning gold in Hungarian. Thus we suggest, of course tentatively, that Magyar means he who is great in working gold, referring possibly both to extracting gold and to working it for jewels. Then Magy can be seen as well as a shortening of Magyar, following a possible decision of the priest caste to leave to others the more technical job of working gold. The exchange of y with i is not a problem, since vowels are known to have high degree of variability, noted in dialects even between today’s neighboring villages.
In another work, Spedicato (2012), we claimed that biblical Ophir, cited already in Genesis but especially noted for the large amount of gold that Solomon got from it,
420 talenti di oro, see Kings 9, 26. Ophir should be identified not with a port on coasts of Africa and India, as usually done, but with the place of production of such a large amount of gold. Such a place is most probably the holy mountain Kailas, generally identified with the most sacred mountain for Hindus, Buddhists, Jain, Bon, say mount Meru. It is a mountain about 6500 m high, with a peculiar shape. From Kailas take their source rivers Indus, Sutlej (that later joins Indus) and Brahamaputra, and at some distance Karnali, considered the original source river of Ganges. On one side of Kailas, elevation about 5000 m. there is a great open air mine with a trench form, long about one mile, deep about 30 m, excavated in a kind of congealed sands and rocks. The mine was described by Allen (1982), whose father had been in Tibet at the time of the Younghusband expedition, which conquered Lhasa for a while. The mine was worked by a special Tibetans, who lived in subterranean dwellings due to the cold and the wind. The region was rich of marmots, that in excavating their dens brought out material rich of gold, sometimes quite large nuggets; Allen claims that nuggets of about 50 kg were not unusual. Marmot name in Greek is similar to ants name, murmekà, this leading to the claim by Herodotus, Arrian and other Greek writers that in India gold was excavated by ants as big as dogs.
It is natural to assume that the Ophir gold, if not exported in nugget or power form, was worked by Magyar specialists in the Indian (now Pakistan) Panjabi city that Bible calls Tharsis, later probably becoming Taxila, possibly the most important of the cities in Panjab. Taxila means, as India specialist professor Subhash Kak told me in an email, the place where precious objects are made. Tharsis name can be also explained by the Finno-Ugro Khanty word tharasa, meaning gold. Notice that Tharsis can also be associated with the two cities Tarsus and Tursa, in south western Anatolia, near the Mediterranean coast, and with the Greek name Thyrsenoi denoting the Etruscans. This association agrees with both the ancient claim that Etruscans came for Lydia, and the recent genetic evidence of their origin from Anatolia that is due to the Florence University Department of Anthropology, headed by prof Chiaretto Brunello. The arrival of Etruscans to Italy may have taken place when Ninus and Semiramis, say Sammurat, created the second Assyrian empire at the end of the 9th century BC. Their policy of skinning alive the leaders in the conquered cities, putting their skins on the city walls, was probably not appreciated by such people who escaped to far away and safe places. Notice here the fundamental thesis of Alinei (2003) that Etruscan is old Hungarian. A thesis based upon great philological knowledge, that gives new light on a period when new powers had appeared in the Mediterranean, say Carthaginian and Roman.
Here we propose a meaning of the name Zoroaster, Zarathustra, that we deem as more meaningful than some of the meanings proposed in the past, for instance, see Filippani Ronconi (2007), the man who moved using a camel. We suggest that the name is related to the word tharasa, say gold in Khanty, which is acceptable in terms of the consonant sequence, and which would relate it to the working of gold, and possibly of other metals, that we believe characterized ancient Magyars and their neighbors Khanty.
An interesting question was discussed by prof Gunnar Heinsohn of Bremen University at the Third Quantavolution Conference in Kandersteg, June 2009. He showed that jewels found in Sumeria and Scythia, dated for a same period of several centuries, are virtually identical. He proposed that Sumerian were Scythian. However a different explanation comes from our scenario where traveling Magyars, or later Etruscans, produced the jewels on demand, from local gold or from gold brought by them, according to a style that was essentially the same. This implies that they were used to long distance traveling, knew the roads, the places where to find water and food, and customers who could pay them.
Apocryfal Gospels say that Magi brought to Jesus, or we should better say to his father and mother, three special gifts, gold, incense and myrrh. Three items that have often been given a symbolic meaning, especially by Church Fathers, but that may have been just materials needed for making jewels. We notice that scholar and engineer Mario Pincherle (2000) has shown that jewels with the so called granulated gold, i.e. small golden spheres attached to the flat gold parts without soldering, can be obtained using incense and myrrh. One produces the small gold spheres by throwing melted gold from the top of a tower inside a water container. Spheres are then formed of different size. This process was used till recently to produce the lead spheres for hunting guns. Then the spheres are attached to the gold using myrrh as a glue. Then the jewel is covered with incense ash and cooked in an oven at over 1000 degrees, obtaining a perfect juncture of the spheres to the gold. This type of jewels has been found in Etruscan tombs and in tombs of the Sargon the Great time (the king who was most probably the Ninus of Diodorus and the Nimrud of Bible), about 2000 BC. Pincherle has produced a number of these jewels, one, a Sargon the Great portrait, he sold to me… and not cheaply.
Hence Magi gifts seem to reflect a Magyar origin and qualify ancient Magyars as possibly the best ancient people in working gold, not to say of other areas where they may have had a special knowledge. Magyars may have some better genetic features, to be seen in their excellency in mathematics and physics during last century. The nature of the gifts suggests moreover that Joseph, beyond being not a poor worker in wood, was not only a specialist in construction of buildings, but also in working precious objects. An ability that might go back to Solomon, who was certainly in touch with India and the Magyars who worked in Tharsis.
- The return of Magi and the attack of Herod soldiers
Magi arrived at the place where Jesus was born, Bethlehem of Judah, about one year after his birth. Bethlehem is located one hour walking from the walls of Jerusalem, as I found on my first and only visit to Israel in 1975. Jesus parents certainly did not wait longer than necessary in that place; Joseph went back to Wadi Jalil as soon as he completed his tasks related to the census. Notice that Sordi (2011), has argued that the census was not the usual one for counting people, but a special one for the minority of local specialists who worked for the Romans and were required to promise fidelity. Apart from the census, Joseph went to the Temple where he met the great priest Simeon, the one who recognized who was Jesus and who forecast to Mary that her heart would be crossed by seven swords.
Herod had certainly a difficulty to inform Magi where child Jesus could be, not being a Hebrew himself and so not well acquainted with the Hebrew story. His advisers certainly knew where Joseph was lived, an important descendant of David, and whose work in Caesarea and Sepphoris had to be well known. So Herod realized that the child was quite far away. This would explain why he had not the Magi be accompanied by an escort, possibly with the order to eliminate the child and the Magi too. A point which seems not having being considered by scholars.
The Magi left Herod and continued their travel, adding some ten per cent to the distance already made. When they approached the house where Jesus was, and notice here the use of the word house instead of stable, the star appeared again. One year had passed from when they had seen a very bright star, that motivated their departure, most probably a nova, hence it could not be the same nova or supernova. Jesus was born in 8 BC, now in 7 BC the “star” had to be one of the three conjunctions of Jupiter and Saturn. Probably the one of May, the month of Mary, the month of roses… probably even May 13th, the date for important Marian events in recent times, as the first vision in Fatima. Manuscript of Zuqnin, see Bussagli et al (1985), claims that Magi were still in Jerusalem on Nissan month, say today’s April. This means that Herod kept them quite a long time in Jerusalem, treating them as kings, and possibly looking if Jesus was perhaps not far from Jerusalem. Also we observe that if Magi left at the beginning of Nissan, they could certainly reach Wadi Jalil for May 13th.
Then Magi left to their land, either following a dream, as Gospel says, or having known who Herod was and what he was planning. They took a different road, that we may try to guess. One is by following a series of wadis, rich of wells, passing by the great oasis Qassim, recently the power center of wahabite Ibn Saud. This was the road used by pilgrims to Mecca, coming from Mesopotamia or other lands in the east. They would then cross Persia, possibly visiting local Magi, and someone of them might have died there, as claimed in Middle Age traditions. Then his bones might have ended up in Constantinople and then in Milano, and finally in Koeln, since relics at that time were very valuable and could have reached Europe via Templars or Armenians or… There is a tradition that Sindon had been hidden in a cavity of the walls of Edessa, where it was discovered after an earthquake. Byzantines bought it from Persians without difficulty.
There is however another interesting way of return, suggested by the following email received from prof Kamal Salibi, on 21th September 2009:
Thanks for the kind gesture of including me in the dedication. I have read your essay twice and will read it again and again to get its full import.Among the Arab traditions relating to the Magi is one that asserts that they died and were buried in the valley of Hadhramaut, now part of the Republic of Yemen. I visited the area in 1974, when it was the Fifth Department of the virtually communist Department of South Yemen, and was shown some old stones which, I was told, were the tomb (or tombs) of the three Magi. My guides reminded me that the southern parts of the Yemen, along with adjacent Dhofar, had always been the home of frankincense and myrrh, and had frequently been under Persian rule or influence. The above suggests that Magi from Wadi Jalil moved south towards Yemen, Hadhramaut and Dhofar, where they could buy incense to sell further on, especially in India, where lot of incense was used in temples. The story of the tomb does not contradict the existence of a tomb in Persia, if not all Magi died in Hadhramaut; the problem actually disappears if we note that at that time Hadhramaut belonged to Persia. From Hadhramaut it is easy to reach Persia by boat from the ports of Al Mukalla or Salala… or from Oman, noticing that from Hadhramaut to Muscat it is about 1000 km, say one month of travel, and that along the road there is the village called Adam. A village whose visit might be of interest to Magi, since the prophecy of Zoroaster that induced them to travel to Palestine was said to originate from Adam.
Let us now go back to Herod, who was thinking how to kill the baby who according to biblical prophecy would become king of Israel. Jesus was living in Wadi Jalil, outside his control. Herod father was a Hebrew, mother was Arabian. Since it is mother who determines if a son is Hebrew or not, Herod was not a Hebrew, one more reason why he was detested. But he could use his mother contacts, relatives especially, to get permission to send soldiers to Wadi Jalil. A permission that probably had a cost. A decision taken independently of the possible return of the Magi. Herod did not know by sure the age of the child. But he knew that Magi took about one year to get to Jerusalem and arrived in Wadi Jalil after few more months. Soldiers also would take maybe over a month to get there. Jesus was then over one year old and Mary might have had another child, Herod not been acquainted of Mary’s virginity. This was expected in view of the high birth rate of that time. And a second child might become dangerous as much as the first child. Thus the decision to kill all children below age two was natural. Now killing a possibly large amount of babies in Bethlehem and vicinity would have been risky due to the proximity to Jerusalem, where relatives and friends were probably living, leading to serious protests. Thus another argument in favor of Salibi’s thesis.
We can try to estimate how many children were killed. There are many villages in Wadi Jalil, due to availability of water. Let us suppose a total population of 50.000 persons. Birth rate at that time was high, similar to the one of today Palestinians, over 6%, or in Florence after the black death, say 7%. This would give 3000 babies per year, over 5000 per two years, estimating the then high mortality. Only males were killed, thus we can estimate a total of some 2000. Maybe less, but most probably several hundreds.
Meantime Joseph had left to Egypt. He may have left after a dream, but as a very experienced man he must have understood immediately after the Magi arrival that Herod would have tried to kill Jesus. He certainly had many contacts not only in Palestine, but in Arabia, where the majority of Hebrew still lived 800 years ago, according to Byniamin of Tudela (1988). He must have found out that Herod was using his mother contacts to send a military expedition. So he left to Egypt, where certainly he had other contact and possibly a commercial activity in jewels. How long Jesus remained in Egypt and what he did there is another story.
We know that sometimes after Herod death, Joseph left Egypt. A question: is it possible that he returned to the home place in Wadi Jalil? There the large number of children killed because of Jesus, and in a sense because of him and Mary, may have generated negative feelings against Joseph. He knew of the danger and had left secretly, leaving many persons in the Wadi to lose their children. So it is reasonable that he avoided to go back to Wadi Jalil. He looked for another place where he could continue his work of constructor, and there were people faithful to him, possibly indebted to him for their job. It is quite possible that Nazareth was such a place, Nazareth being a small settlement created to host people who were working in the construction of the nearby Sepphoris. Here Joseph lived in conditions much more modest than in Wadi Jalil. Not as a poor person, since he probably brought from Egypt gold that had been left from the Magi donation or jewels that he might have produced. By this scenario we have both a confirmation of Salibi’s thesis for an origin in Wadi Jalil and of the traditional thesis that puts Jesus in the Palestinian Galilee.
From apocryfal we know that Joseph married at 40 and was an old widower when Mary was given to his custody, having daughters and sons. It is usually assumed that he went to Egypt only with Mary, but this looks unlikely, Mary may have needed a support for his child, and strict relatives to Joseph were they too under danger from Herod soldiers and possibly from people in Wadi Jalil after their children were butchered. It is possible that one of the three Marys who assisted to Jesus death on the cross was one of his daughters, estimated age up to 60, if it is true that Joseph was 90 when he detected pregnancy of Mary. The considered Mary might have been Mary Jacobea, mother of James Minor and Joseph, this last name suggesting that he was a grandchild of the Joseph in charge of Jesus mother. Perhaps the third Mary was Mary Salomea, mother of three sons, including James Major. Notice that only close relatives were allowed near a crucified person.
It is a natural question if Jesus, who in the Temple aged 12 showed to be a very special person for knowledge and arguing abilities, thought dangerous to stay in Nazareth. Indeed if Herod the Great was dead, his place was taken by Herod Antipas also a man ready to use his power against those who criticized him, which he showed in arresting John the Baptist and then killing him, albeit on request of his daughter Salome, or better his sister Herodiad. Moreover Jesus might have been interested in visiting people of cultural interest in addition to what he learned in Egypt, and where other Hebrew were living. Moreover it was a strict tradition that a boy would be married reaching age 13, a fact that apparently he was not interested in. Two very interesting countries to visit, also for the presence of Hebrew as a consequence of Sennacherib deportation of the ten tribes in 722 BC, were Persia and India. Here we do not discuss the work of sufi Fida Hassnain, a Kashmirian archaeologist and historian, on Jesus spending several years in India. We notice that Jesus contacts with Essenes or Zealots took place very likely, but must have been quite limited, since they lived in places where Herod could easily send his soldiers. Thus the claim by several modern scholars that Jesus was a Essene or a Zealot should be discarded, even not considering that Jesus message of peace and love to the enemies was totally contrary to the ideas of these sects.
- More observations
Middle Ages sources claim the Magi had skin of three colors, say white, black and yellowish. Between Tibet and Altai, where we assume that ancient Magyars lived,
and still some of them were present at time of Genghis Khan, as stated in a passage of Secret history of the Mongols (Magyars probably gave to Genghis a military technology more advanced than the one he had initially, needed to conquer fortified cities), we find:
- Tibetans, whose skin is very dark, almost black; they call themselves Bopas or Black heads, the same name that Sumerians used for themselves
- Tocari, quoted in classic writers but rediscovered only in the last century, in the Dung Huang documents and in the cities emerging from the desert north of Tibet (Miran, Loulan….); their skin was white, hair red or blond, clothes like those of Scottish shepherds, as seen in their mummies emerging from the desert sand in perfect conditions after some 2000 years
- Mongols, whose skin is similar to that of Chinese, color brown yellowish.
From the above, taking into account also that high level ancients easily married high level women from other people ( Chinese gave one princess for wedding a Fergana man in exchange of just one horse, those of Fergana being considered as the best in the world… and Solomon had many wives given to him from the many kings who had accepted his authority), it is quite possible that the three Magi had a skin of different color.
We should here recall that Genghis Khan Mongols invading Europe told that the reason of their attack was to recover the Magi bones in Colonia. This statement, see Bussagli et al (1985), is found in the Annales Marbarcenses of 1222, where Mongols state that Magi came from their land. A statement that agrees with our scenario, as the Magyars belonged to the tribes initially conquered by Genghis.
Some considerations on the donkey and the bull in the stable. If Joseph and May arrived in Bethlehem from Wadi Jalil, they traveled also in hilly regions. Certainly they did not walk, but used animals apt to carry loads. In those parts of Arabia, and again in Hadhramaut at the time of the cited Freya Stark travel in 1934, donkey was the preferred travel animal. Thus the donkey in the stable had probably transported Mary. Less easy is to understand the presence of the bull, since bull was not common in Palestine and was not used by Hebrew in sacrifices. The area around Jerusalem was probably heavily cultivated, as common for ancient cities, and for Milan even in 19th century, with fruit trees and vegetables. No bulls were needed to plough. Now in Jerusalem there lived about 70.000 Hebrew, who liked neither Herod nor Romans. Roman troops were present to stop rebellions, the soldiers most probably living not inside the city but at close distance outside. So we can assume the existence in Bethlehem of a Roman barrack. The Mithra religion at that time was widespread among the Roman military, especially the officers, see Barbiero (2010), and a bull might have been there for the Sol Invictus sacrifice, to take place on December 25th, a solstice day. Now Joseph in his activity as a highly qualified constructor in Roman cities as Caesarea Maritima or Sepphoris, was in contact with Romans, knew most probably Latin, knew many officers, and was actually going to Jerusalem for the special census discusse above. He probably knew the officer in charge of the Bethlehem barrack. So he got lodging in a stable of the barrack, the barrack rooms not being quite suitable for a young woman close to delivery. St Matthew Gospel would not report this fact, since Romans were hated by Palestinians Hebrew, especially after the destruction of the Temple and the repression of the rebellion of 70 AD. If Paul on his visit to Arabia, seemingly for three years, visited Wadi Jalil, he must have had lot of discussions on Romans.
If Jesus was born in a Roman barrack, a fact that many certainly knew in Jerusalem, then this would explain the story spread by anti Christian Jews, see a fragment of Celsius and Talmud, that father of Jesus was a Roman soldier, named Panther.
Finally we ask if in Wadi Jalil there is place named Bethlehem, where Joseph might have lived. There is no certain answer, but I leave to consider the following email received from prof Kamal Salibi, on 24th November 2009.
Dear Emilio, Alas, my good friend, my days for travel and visiting foreign parts are over, and have been over
since the strokes I suffered in the summer of 2006. I have now a nice set of doctors who dictate my life, and I obey them to the letter. Thank you very much, however, for being so thoughtful. Re Bethlehem, the name, as beth lehem, means the “house” or “temple” of “bread”, clearly, the name of a god or goddess of sustenance. There are at least two Bethlehems in Palestine: the famous one south of Jerusalem, in Palestine proper; the other 100 kilometres at least to the north, in Galilee. The same should apply to Western Arabia, because the Old Testament text indicates the existence of more than one Bethlehem in the area, which would mean at least two. The one called the Bethlehem of Judah, which was the hometown of David, is called Umm Lahm (the “mother” of “goddess” Lahm, the place name establishing the feminine sex of the divinity in question. This Umm Lahm is located in the vast unexplored archaeological field of Wadi Adam, on the maritime side of the Taif water divide, and in the hinterland of the coastal town of Lith (the Biblical Laysh, or “Lion”). To my knowledge, there is no Bethlehem in Wadi Jalil, on the inland side of the same water divide. The distance between the two wadis, however, though very rugged, is not great. You just go over the hills from one to reach the other, as I recall. In the New Testament, the toponym Judah is only used in quotation from the Old Testament. Hence the OT quotation addressing “Bethlehem in the land of Judah” where the birth of a guide of the people of Israel is prophesied. Otherwise, the term used to distinguish the Jewish kingdom then administrative area in Palestine from neighbouring areas is not Judah (originally the name of an Israelite tribe), but Ioudaia (English, via Latin, Judaea), meaning the “Jewish country”. The two names, though ultimately related, are not identical.
As general conclusion we observe that the details about the Magi, both in Matthew Gospel as well as in the apocryphal Gospels are basically confirmed in our scenario.
Our solution comes from considering a wider geographic scenario. We do not accept the common idea that ancient people did not move over long distances. They could be actually great travelers, see Ibn Battuta and Gilgamesh, not to say of the great Indian navigators, the Tiranian Pani, who from India could reach probably all continents. And we have used the fundamental contributions of Alinei, Pincherle, Salibi.
Our scenario implies that Jesus family was very well connected, and that when Mary got pregnant Joseph, despite being an old man, was a man of great connections and authority, and still in possession of remarkable energy. This opens the question of how deep was his influence over Jesus. Maybe discovery of more manuscripts or of traditions in Wadi Jalil will shed light.
For their research without which this paper would not have been written, I thank prof Kamal Salibi, emeritus of Beirut Americanan University, and prof Mario Alinei, emeritus of Utrecht University. Thanks also to mathematician Aurel Galantai, who introduced me to prof Alinei. Special thanks also to dr Mario Pincherle, whose study of the granulated gold jewels led to the proposal here that Magi belonged to the great Magyar family, related to the Etruscans.
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Artwork, Albrecht Dürer – Adoration of the Magi Painting