Paul William Roberts. Journey of the Magi: In Search of the Birth of Jesus. Vancouver, British Columbia: Raincoast Books, 2005. Paperback, xviii + 398 pp.
This vibrant work, first published in 1995, shares its title with the title of one of T. S. Eliot’s poems in which he remembers his conversion from agnosticism to religious faith. In the present revised edition of his book, Roberts remembers his own journey in quest of the three mysterious Magi who are supposed to have paid tribute to the newborn Jesus of Nazareth.
Intrigued by Marco Polo’s description of the tombs of the Magi in Iran, the author journeyed to that part of the world, including Iraq and Syria, to verify the intrepid Venetian traveler’s claim. He succeeded in sifting through a formidable tangle of opinions and finding surprising evidence that lends credence to Polo’s strange account, though I will not spoil the reader’s fun by revealing the story’s denouement.
This is an intelligent travelogue that is brimful with adventure, comical and tragic characters, strange circumstances, and not least sterling insights into Middle Eastern culture, notably Zoroastrianism. Roberts is a wonderful narrator, who makes the people he met in the course of his adventure come alive in Technicolor. The remembered dialogues interweave splendidly with his musings about history and religion and keep the suspense going.
As for the remarkable discovery about the Magi, well, you need to read the book.
Copyright ©2006 by Georg Feuerstein. All rights reserved.
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