Did the traditional Magi, Gaspar, have connections to northern Iran?

We have already discussed the three traditional names of the Magi (Melchior, Balthazar and Gaspar) and many of the connections.  Gaspar, especially, has strong connections to India and the Gondaphares dynasty.  This also lines up with the Gospel of Saint Thomas who also has strong connections in India due to his missionary journeys there.  In fact, to this day there is a strain of Christians there who call themselves Saint Thomas Christians.

But, in digging through the list of Magi in the recently released document, REVELATION OF THE MAGI, I found an interesting connection again possibly to the Kings named Gondaphares, India and, therefore, Gaspar.

I have found that most of the King names whose sons make up the twelve magi who visited the Christ child (So far at least) have coincided with the time of the early Sassanid rulers and their conquests of the Parthian kings.  Artaban, who was killed by Ardashir in 224 CE, and Santatruq, who was destroyed with his city, HATRA, in 240 CE are both mentioned in the list along with Merian and Khosrov who were kings in Iberia and Armenia.  Among these men is a king named Gudaphar which is, at least, connected to the Gondaphares line.

The Magi Princely son is named Austazp which is rendered Gusnasp by Theodorus bar Koni.  Amazingly enough, there is a King by that name and he and is people have connections to the Gondapharian dynasty.  But he didn’t reign in India.

The Kushan Empire had done major damage to the kingdom Gondaphares left his descendants about 79 AD.  Northern India had been taken from his current successor, Pacores, and most of what was left of that empire was driven deeper south.  However, there were holding further north that stayed intact but were separated from their southern brothers.

mazandaran

Mazandaran is the mountainous region north of Tehran and the ancient city of Ray!

Gusnasp reigned in the land called Mazandaran which included parts of the kingdoms of Tabaristan and Padashkhwargar.  It was from these lands that Artaban V drew troops to meet Ardashir on the day he fell.  The people of Mazandaran were a rugged, independent people and are know to have held off the Islamic invasion longer than most of their neighbors.  They were known to be available and able warriors and were called upon almost like mercenaries.  After the failure of Artaban V to stop the agression of Ardashir, Gusnasp was recorded via a letter to the Sassanian King weighing his options.

In the end, Gusnasp and his people agreed to turn on the Parthians and become a Sassanian vassal state, therefore keeping control of their lands and staving off an obviously tragic war.

 

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Artaban V and his Jewish connection?

We have previously touched upon the story of the 4th Magi, Artaban, and his sharing a name with the last king of Parthia, Artabanus V.  But, recently, I ran into something that I can only explain as strange.

There are plenty of connections between Parthians, Persians and the Jewish people.  But all other connections seem normal than a mention of Artaban and his relationship to a Jew named Rav.

Only preserved in the Palestinian Talmud is the story of the Parthian king and a high ranking teacher in the Palestinian Jewry.  Rav (175–247) , also known as Abba Arikha, was the founder of the Talmudic center at Sura.  He and Artaban exchanged gifts at one time.  The Parthian king sent a priceless pearl.  Rav sent back a Mezuzah.

mezzuzah

A mezuzah (Hebrew: מְזוּזָה‎‎ “doorpost”; plural: מְזוּזוֹתmezuzot) is a piece of parchment (often contained in a decorative case) inscribed with specified Hebrew verses from the Torah (Deuteronomy 6:4-9 and 11:13-21).

When asked why he returned an everyday item in exchange for the priceless pearl, Rav simply replied,

Your possessions and my possessions together do not equal the value of this. Moreover, you sent me something that I must guard; but I sent you something that will watch over you when you sleep, as it is written ‘When you walk it will lead you, when you lie down it will watch over you’”

Oddly enough, the Palestinian Talmud says that there was more between them than gifts and respect.  It is stated that he aided the Parthian ruler with protection via ‘magic’.  This bond stayed to the end as Artaban V fell to Ardishir, the Sussanian usurper.  Rav exclaimed that the ‘bond is snapped’.

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The exilarch reminisced during the rise of the Sassanian Empire of a “rabbinic ‘Nostalgia'” for the era of the Arsacid kings that ended with Artaban.  And there is no explanation given in the Palestinian Talmud of why the Rabbi’s magic failed Arataban. What is clear is that Rav was deeply touched by the Parthians death and the fall of his families’ empire and that the Rabbi doesn’t seem to have reached out to Ardishir, the Sassanian ruler.