The ancient world of the sixth century BC was not yet familiar with the Jewish people and their religion. Therefore, when these Kabbalists emerged from Babylon to disseminate their ideas, particularly among the Greeks, they were confusedly identified with the traditional Babylonian priests, known as the Chaldean Magi. The broad dissemination of these ideas had followed the release of the Jews from captivity by the Persians, led by Cyrus the Great, who had conquered Babylon in 539 BC.
The Magi, according to Herodotus, were a tribe of the Medes, within the Persian Empire. The rise of the Persian Empire began in 553 BC, when Cyrus the Great, king of the Persians, rebelled against his grandfather, the Mede King Astyages. Thus the Medes were subjected to their close kin, the Persians.
The Persians were Zoroastrians, the religion of the prophet Zoroaster, and the Magi were their priests. The Magi, according to Herodotus, were a tribe of the Medes, within the Persian Empire. The rise of the Persian Empire began in 553 BC, when Cyrus the Great, king of the Persians, rebelled against his grandfather, the Mede King Astyages. Thus the Medes were subjected to their close kin, the Persians.
According to tradition, in 588 BC, Zoroaster converted the king Hystaspes. The wife of Hystaspes, Rhodah, Princess of Persia, had first been married to Zorobabel, third Jewish Exilarch of Babylon. Their son, Darius, , through a conspiracy on the part of the Magi, eventually became Emperor.
Cyrus the Great, and later his son and successor, Cambyses, initially curtailed the power of the Magi. As pointed out by Franz Cumont, perhaps the leading scholar of the last century, although Zoroastrianism was originally monotheistic, the Magi quickly corrupted their religion, infusing with Babylonian elements. This point has caused much confusion among scholars, who have failed to properly assess Cumont’s studies. Because, they fail to see that when numerous ancient historians refer to the Magi, they do not refer to orthodox worshippers of Zoroaster, but these corrupting Magi.
Most interestingly, the ideas attributed to these “Magi” mirror those doctrines which later came to be acknowledged as the Kabbalah. It was they, in the sixth century BC, who developed the pseudo-science of astrology. Scholars have demonstrated that, though Babylonian religion was much concerned with astral themes, the cult of astrology could not have been invented until the sixth century BC, because of the lack of an accurate calendar system. In the Book of Daniel 2:48, the prophet Daniel himself is made chief of the “wise men” of Babylon, that is of the Magi or Chaldeans, and yet remains faithful to the laws of his own religion.
Thus, this new cult of astrology and magic was incorporated into the rites of the dying-god. Mithras, the ancient god of the Persians, was assimilated to Baal, and occult mysteries and black arts were dedicated to him, which became the core of all later Ancient Mysteries.