Sunday, August 21, 2005

Zoroastrianism and Judaism

"Zoroastrianism teaches many of the concepts found in the majorAbrahamic faiths, such as Heaven, Hell, Day of judgement, the concept of Satan, the prophecy and the coming of the Messiah and the extensive teaching of Angels and Evil spirits. According to the Gathas humans are free and responsible beings. Predestination is rejected in Zoroastrian teaching. Humans bear responsibility for all situations they are in and in the way they act to one another. Nothing in the Heavens and Earth has the power to force a being to do evil. Reward, punishment, happiness and grief all depend on how the individual lives his life. Good befalls the people that do righteous deeds. Those that do Evil have themselves to blame for their evil-doing. Humans possess a great power. They can improve their way of living and the living conditions of others. This power is called Charitas. After death, the person must walk through the Path to Judgement or Chinvat Peretum to bear responsibility for his actions when he was alive."

"Whether Zoroastrianism is older than Judaism is uncertain. Nevertheless, it has had an undeniable impact upon Western religious belief. Examples include a tangible, active force for evil (Angra Mainyu, or Satan); a judgment of souls after death; and afterlives in heaven and hell. None of these ideas are present in original Judaism. It is possible that the Jews heard them at the end of the Babylonian Exile, under the Persian emperor Cyrus (Zaehner, 20-21). Also, according to Nesta Ramazani, "Islamic institutions such as waqf (religious endowments) and madreseh (a theological school attached to a mosque) have their roots in Zoroastrian traditions" (Ramazani, 21)."

The influence of Zoroastrianism on the eschatological aspect of Judaism is also noticeable in the post-exilic scriptures. In the early Hebrew writing joy in the hereafter was at best vaguely expressed. For the first time in IInd Isaiah one sees expressions as follows:

"Your dead ones will live.. they will rise up. Awake and cry out joyfully....The earth will bring those long dead to birth again" (verse 26.19).

These expressions are clear overtones of the Zoroastrian revelations in this area. As concluded by Prof. Boyce, ".. it is difficult not to concede to Zoroastrianism both priority and influence; the more especially since elements cf Zoroaster's teaching can be traced far back in the ancient Indo-Iranian religious traditions, whereas those of Jewish apocalyptic first appear after the time of contact with the Persian faith".

Food for thought. Read up.


onionsoupmix said...

I once had someone tell me that the chabad issur against having toy treife animals or pictures of treife animals was reflective of zoroastrian culture rather than Judaism. Have you found anything about that ?

Orthoprax said...


That sounds really odd to me. Zoroastrianism has no forbidden foods. Though it does view certain less popular animals; snakes, rats, flies, roaches, etc, as being from the evil deity, Angra Mainyu.

So I suppose it could be understandable that Zoroastrian homes would not have such distasteful figures in them, but I haven't been able to find anything close to the Jewish far right-wingers who forbid teddy bears. That kind of nutty thing is probably Jewish through and through.

Anonymous said...

The problem with the idea that Zorastrianism predates Judaism is that almost everything we know about it, comes from texts that were written in the 300s and 400s A.D ( or CE). Even the books that make up the New Testament were already written then. So all of these so called "pre jewish" beliefs may not even be as old as Christianity let alone Judaism.

Nobody even knows when Zoroastrianism began. It ranges from 1500- 500 BC and that just tells you when the founder lives. We have no idea if the Zoroastrians of 3,000 years ago believed what they do today. Since their texts are not as old as Jewish and of Christian texts, it is more likely that Zoroastrains borrowed their theology from Christians and Jews than vice versa

Orthoprax said...


We know that Zoroastrianism was active and powerful in the Persian Empire and we see changes in Jewish belief after their time there in exile. It stands to reason that they were influenced by the Zs.

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