An ancient prophecy connected with the destiny and mission of Zarathustra (Zerdosht) is quoted in The Book of the Bee (Chapter XXXVIII), written by Solomon of Basrach in the thirteenth century and translated by the late Professor E. A. Wallis Budge from copies of the Syriac text made at various and much later dates. The manuscripts in question are in the custody of the following libraries: Royal Asiatic Society, London, and British Museum, London; Royal, Munich; Bodleian, Oxford. There can be little doubt that the source of the contents quoted below was a tradition, genuinely preserved from approximately the sixth century B.C., of the incarnation of the Zarathustra-Individuality as Zarathas or Nazarathos in the regions of ancient Babylonia and of the Tigris and Euphrates.
According to the Preface, little is known of the author of The Book of the Bee except that he was a Nestorian who became metropolitan bishop of al Basra about A.D. 1222. In this district traditions of the ancient Zarathustra and particularly of his later incarnation were very likely to have survived and would naturally have been known to its bishop. The text of the prophecy is as follows:
‘The Prophecy of Zaradosht concerning our Lord.
This. Zaradosht is Baruch the scribe. When he was sitting by the fountain of water called Glosha of Horin, where the royal bath had been erected, he said to his disciples, the king Gushnasp and Sasan and Mahimad, “Hear my beloved children, for I will reveal to you a mystery concerning the great King who is about to rise upon the world. At the end of time, and at the final dissolution, a child shall be conceived in the womb of a virgin, and shall be formed in her members, without any man approaching her. And he shall be like a tree with beautiful foliage and laden with fruit, standing in a parched land; and the inhabitants of that land shall be gathered together to uproot it from the earth, but shall not be able. Then they will take him and crucify him upon a tree and heaven and earth shall sit in mourning for his sake; and all the families of the nations shall be in grief for him. He will begin to go down to the depths of the earth, and from the depth he will be exalted to the height; then he will come with the armies of light, and be borne aloft upon white clouds; for he is a child conceived by the Word which establishes natures.”
Gushnasp says to him: “Whence has this one, of whom thou sayest these things, his power? Is he greater than thou, or art thou greater than he?” Zaradosht says to him, “He shall descend from my family; I am he, and he is I; he is in me, and I am in him. When the beginning of his coming appears, mighty signs will be seen in heaven, and his light shall surpass that of the sun. But ye, sons of the seed of life, who have come forth from the treasuries of life and light and spirit, and have been sown in the land of fire and water, for you it is meet to watch and take heed to these things which I have spoken to you, that ye await his coming; for you will be the first to perceive the coming of that great king, whom the prisoners await to be set free. Now, my sons, guard this secret which I have revealed to you, and let it be kept in the treasure-houses of your souls. And when that star rises of which I have spoken, let ambassadors bearing offerings be sent by you, and let them offer worship to him. Watch, and take heed, and despise him not, that he destroys you not with the sword; for he is the king of kings, and all kings receive their crowns from him. He and I are one !”
These are the things which were spoken by this second Balaam, and God, according to His custom, compelled him to interpret these things; for he sprang from a people who were acquainted with the prophecies concerning our Lord Jesus Christ, and declared them aforetime.’
The Book of the Bee is obviously a compilation from many sources, the products of some of which were no doubt rejected by the Church in the course of the centuries and regarded as apocryphal. It is probably unnecessary to emphasize that the traditions recorded in The Book of the Bee should be read with discrimination, as in the case of all such literature. Although errors obvious even to lay waders may be said to be exceptional, they do occasionally occur and should riot be overlooked. Some of the fifty chapters amount to little more than abbreviated versions of chapters of the Bible but many contain a great deal of unfamiliar detail, for example in connection with the Apostles and early converts to Christianity. What may strike readers as very worthy of note is that the chapter on Zaradosht's prophecy has been inserted almost like an interruption in the biblical sequence, immediately before the chapter telling of the coming of the three Magi to the Child in Bethlehem. Very interesting too are the words with which the writer of The Book of the Bee refers to the star:
‘As touching the nature of that star, whether it was a star in its nature, or in appearance only, it is right to know that it was not of the other stars but a secret power which appeared like a star....’