The word “magi” is a really ancient word, basically meaning “learned magician.”
For almost 600 years preceding the time of Herod the Great, the magi were an elite class of priests and astrologers who sat atop the powerful state religion of the Persian empire, called Zoroastrianism.
This important religion was founded by Zoroaster somewhere around the 6th century B.C. Zoroastrianism has significant connections to Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. Some core concepts of Zoroastrianism shared with other world religions are the concepts of monotheism, eternal truth, eternal order, free will and Messianic prophecy.
Members of the magi class were held in high regard, and practiced a form of astrology that could be better described as the applied astronomy of their day. Their temples were also ancient observatories from which they watched and charted the movement of celestial objects and constellations. Charting the heavens was an essential part of their spiritual and prophetic role in the Persian empire.
In this video, presenter Frederick Tamagi discusses the importance of the magi.