Artaban, the mysterious fourth Wise Man

The day when the peculiar star of Bethlehem indicated to the Three Wise Men the time of the Epiphany, a fourth Wise Man was also informed of this event, an Iranian Zoroastrian priest who was waiting for the prophetic sign to set out on his journey: Artaban.

His goal was to meet the other Wise Men in the ziggurat of the Mesopotamian city of Borsippa to set off together following the path marked out by the star. Along with gold, incense and myrrh, Artaban carried a diamond, a jasper fragment and a ruby as gifts to honour the child god. However, he got held up to heal a wretch man who had been robbed and beaten and to whom he ended up giving the diamond to recover his possessions. He was late for his appointment, so Melchior, Gaspar and Balthazar had to leave without him.

Henry van Dyke wrote a Christmas tale whose protagonist is Artaban, the forgotten Wise Man who lost his way during his journey to Bethlehem. BuzzFeed

He arrived late at Bethlehem to honour Jesus, and instead met the bloody Massacre of the Innocents perpetrated by Herod. From here on, his life becomes an ordeal. He was imprisoned for 30 years for trying to give his ruby to a soldier who was about to skewer one of those children. After his release, he was dragged by a mass of people to Golgotha, where the one for whom the jewels were intended was to be killed. On the way, however, he stopped to buy the freedom of a beautiful young woman who was to be sold into slavery by giving her the small piece of jasper, the last of the gifts destined for Jesus. At that moment, the Nazarene dies on the cross and an earth tremor throws a stone that fatally impacted on Artaban’s head. After a vision the Wise Man died in peace, and for his solidarity and righteousness, his soul is given access to Heavenly Paradise.


This beautiful fable was written by the American theologian Henry van Dyke in his 1896 Christmas story The Other Wise Man. His teaching moves us to help and serve others in order to serve God.

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