By: Byron Anderson
Publisher: Lighthouse Publishing
Publication Date: August 2010
Reviewed by: Ellen Feld
Review Date: October 19, 2010
As the Christmas season draws close, it is time to reflect on the birth of Christ. While every Christian knows the story of Christ’s birth in a manger, and that three magi travelled a great distance to pay him homage, few know anything else of those men. In Quest for Light, author Byron Anderson brings us close to these three amazing individuals, Balthasar, Gaspar, and Melchoir, as we follow their journey from Persia to Jerusalem, a daunting trip that took over a year.
The story opens at the palace of Balthasar, the High Priest of Asdin. Balthasar is a “Magi,” a follower of Zoroaster. Zoroaster, an ancient Persian philosopher, “started a religion based on the principle that man should ‘Do only good and should hate evil,’” and “preached that there was only one God, Ahura Mazda, which means ‘The Wise Lord.’” (pg. 19) Balthasar is a kind man and as a Magi, leads his people in their spiritual needs.
In addition to rendering decisions in spiritual matters, the Magi are highly regarded for their astronomical skills. It is here, with his intense interest in the stars, that Balthasar’s life is altered forever. One night, while studying the sky, he sees a magnificent star, one so bright, so large, that it “dominates the heavens.” (pg. 7) While Balthasar’s wife and servant are amazed to see such a star, as it grows cold outside, they lose interest and return to the palace. But Balthasar is powerless to turn away from the glow of the star.
Balthasar is unable to think about anything except the star. He doesn’t understand why everyone doesn’t see the star. It is the biggest thing in the night sky – how can they not see it? He begins to suspect that perhaps there is more going on than a simple appearance of a new star. Could it be a sign of the Persian messiah? Balthasar is perplexed and decides to send for his dear friend Gaspar, who is familiar with the prophecies of their faith. Gaspar will know what the star means.
After much discussion, Balthasar and Gaspar decide that the star originates above Jerusalem and that it is there to announce the impending birth of the Hebrew messiah. Both men feel the intense draw of the star; they must follow it to Jerusalem. But Jerusalem is far away, requiring a dangerous journey of a year or more. Neither wants to leave their families, friends, and homeland for such a treacherous journey, but realizing that if they pass up the trip, they will be miserable for the rest of their lives, the trip is planned. Men are invited to join the caravan, provisions are packed, and perhaps most importantly, the safest route from Persia (modern Iran) to Jerusalem is selected.
The dangerous trip from Persia to Jerusalem takes up the bulk of Quest for Light. While we do read about King Herod and the infant Jesus, this tale is about the incredible faith three Magi had and how that faith carried them through repeated attacks, both human (bandits, soldiers from other lands, etc.) and natural (sandstorms, hail, avalanches, etc.). Along the way, the Magi also make many friends, such as Zheng, the leader of a group of Seres (inhabitants of eastern Central Asia). Zheng’s men accompany the Magi for a portion of the trip, offering protection in exchange for payment. Both groups are at first distrustful of the other, but by the time they part company, they are good friends.
We don’t meet the third Magi, Melchoir, until well into the story, but once we do, the adventure really gets going. And while Quest for Light is, at first glance, about the physical journey the Magi take, it is truly about the spiritual journey they embark on as they travel to Jerusalem. One of their group is Ethan, a “Jew who knows the Hebrew writings.” (pg. 181) Many interesting and enlightening talks ensue as Ethan tells the Persians of the Hebrew faith and of the messiah who shall save them. As the Magi learn, they come to know Christ Jesus and risk all to pay homage to the newborn Christ child.
The story picks up quickly and draws the reader in easily, with descriptive, adventurous tales on almost every page. While the writing was a bit stiff in places, overall it was an enjoyable and quite informative read. The author has done his research and knows the ancient history of Persia. Readers will learn not just about the Magi, but about many customs of these ancient people and what one might have encountered while traveling along the famous ‘Silk Road.’ Most importantly, readers will gain an understanding of the sacrifices the Magi made to meet the Lord and may at the same time do some soul searching of their own as they turn the pages. And speaking of pages, don’t let the over 550 pages of text scare you away from this new author. The text is double-spaced with wide margins, reducing the text per page considerably. It really doesn’t take a long time to read the entire book.
Quill says: An informative and enjoyable look at the hazardous journey the three Magi took that may lead to your own spiritual growth.