The Mask of Zoroastrianism

Well I see this name pop up every now and then, but this time I decided to look into what this was.

I did a CAF search, but I didnt find much, I looked on NewAdvent but it isnt even listed. So I looked around online, but a lot of the terms and ideas were foreign to me.

1)I see a lot of places say that it predates the Jews. I dont believe that, but why do they say that?

2)I see a lot of places say that Jew-Christian ideas were actually “borrowed” from the Zoroastrians. Again, I dont believe this, but from what I have read it has been around since 600bc, and it has survived to today.

3)They claim to have originally held these beliefs (but dont use the same terms) in one supreme God, Heaven and Hell, Good versus Evil, and a few others.

4)What is a general summary of these guys?

From a Zoroastrian perspective:

zarathushtra.com/z/article/influenc.htm

From a humanist perspective:

infidels.org/library/magazines/tsr/1994/4/4zoroa94.html

And from the JewishEncyclopedia.com:

Resemblances Between Zoroastrianism and Judaism.

The points of resemblance between Zoroastrianism and Judaism, and hence also between the former and Christianity, are many and striking. Ahuramazda, the supreme lord of Iran, omniscient, omnipresent, and eternal, endowed with creative power, which he exercises especially through the medium of his Spenta Mainyu (“Holy Spirit”), and governing the universe through the instrumentality of angels and archangels, presents the nearest parallel to Yhwh that is found in antiquity. But Ormuzd’s power is hampered by his adversary, Ahriman, whose dominion, however, like Satan’s, shall be destroyed at the end of the world. Zoroastrianism and Judaism present a number of resemblances to each other in their general systems of angelology and demonology, points of similarity which have been especially emphasized by the Jewish rabbinical scholars Schorr and Kohut and the Christian theologian Stave. There are striking parallels between the two faiths and Christianity in their eschatological teachings—the doctrines of a regenerate world, a perfect kingdom, the coming of a Messiah, the resurrection of the dead, and the life everlasting. Both Zoroastrianism and Judaism are revealed religions: in the one Ahuramazda imparts his revelation and pronounces his commandments to Zarathustra on “the Mountain of the Two Holy Communing Ones”; in the other Yhwh holds a similar communion with Moses on Sinai. The Magian laws of purification, moreover, more particularly those practised to remove pollution incurred through contact with dead or unclean matter, are given in the Avestan Vendïdād quite as elaborately as in the Levitical code, with which the Zoroastrian book has been compared (see Avesta). The two religions agree in certain respects with regard to their cosmological ideas. The six days of Creation in Genesis find a parallel in the six periods of Creation described in the Zoroastrian scriptures. Mankind, according to each religion, is descended from a single couple, and Mashya (man) and Mashyana are the Iranian Adam (man) and Eve. In the Bible a deluge destroys all people except a single righteous individual and his family; in the Avesta a winter depopulates the earth except in the Vara (“enclosure”) of the blessed Yima. In each case the earth is peopled anew with the best two of every kind, and is afterward divided into three realms. The three sons of Yima’s successor Thraetaona, named Erij (Avesta, “Airya”), Selm (Avesta, “Sairima”), and Tur (Avesta, “Tura”), are the inheritors in the Persian account; Shem, Ham, and Japheth, in the Semiticstory. Likenesses in minor matters, in certain details of ceremony and ritual, ideas of uncleanness, and the like, are to be noted, as well as parallels between Zoroaster and Moses as sacred lawgivers; and many of these resemblances are treated in the works referred to at the end of this article.

Causes of Analogies Uncertain.

It is difficult to account for these analogies. It is known, of course, as a historic fact that the Jews and the Persians came in contact with each other at an early period in antiquity and remained in more or less close relation throughout their history (see Avesta; Media; Persia). Most scholars, Jewish as well as non-Jewish, are of the opinion that Judaism was strongly influenced by Zoroastrianism in views relating to angelology and demonology, and probably also in the doctrine of the resurrection, as well as in eschatological ideas in general, and also that the monotheistic conception of Yhwh may have been quickened and strengthened by being opposed to the dualism or quasi-monotheism of the Persians.

The dates for Zoroaster vary, from 600s BCE to thousands of years earlier. From the linguistic evidence, I would seem that Zoroaster dates to earlier than 1500 BCE. The ancient Greeks placed him at 6000 BCE.

         **Place: **     **North Eastern ancient Iran**           **Date: **     **2nd millennium BCE, probably around 17th     Century BCE**           **Father: **     **Pourushaspa**           **Mother: **     **Dughdova**           **Grandfather: **     **Haechadaspa of the Spitama family.**

P.S. Zoroaster definitely dates before 600 BCE, since Cyrus the Great, who lived around 600 BCE and who is mentioned in Isaiah, worshipped Zoroaster’s God, Ahura Mazda.

Ahimsa,

Thanks for the links.
So what are some good Catholic Apologetics to use against those claims? Its like when I first started talking with Mormons here, I have a hard time talking debating people who play by a book other than the Bible. What is a practical defense for their accusation that Jews and Christians adopted some of its thoughts/teachings?
I guess another thing is why are these guys never mentioned? (there has to be some obvious weakness or shortfall that makes people skip over them so quickly). I just started looking into them, so maybe I havent come across it yet.

As for the second post, that is a huge range of dates from 6000BC to 600BC!!! There has to be a reasonable agreed upon time.

[quote=Catholic Dude]Ahimsa,

Thanks for the links.
So what are some good Catholic Apologetics to use against those claims? Its like when I first started talking with Mormons here, I have a hard time talking debating people who play by a book other than the Bible. What is a practical defense for their accusation that Jews and Christians adopted some of its thoughts/teachings?
I guess another thing is why are these guys never mentioned? (there has to be some obvious weakness or shortfall that makes people skip over them so quickly). I just started looking into them, so maybe I havent come across it yet.

As for the second post, that is a huge range of dates from 6000BC to 600BC!!! There has to be a reasonable agreed upon time.
[/quote]

Well, I think the reason you don’t hear about Zoroastrians is that there are so few of them (around 250,000, at most); they discourage intermarriage with non-Zoroastrians; and they don’t seek converts. Zoroaster lived in eastern Iran (Western scholars generally date him from 1000 to 2000 BCE), and his teachings gradually spread. Zoroastrianism dominated Iran until the Muslims came along; then the Zoroastrians sought refuge in India, especially in Bombay, where they became a wealthy and well-educated community.

Zoroaster spoke a language very similar to the language found in the Rig Veda, the oldest Hindu scripture. So you could say that Zoroaster, acting as a Prophet as well as a Priest, sought to purify the Vedic/Hindu religion. But even though he came from a Vedic/Hindu background, Zoroaster is thought to have taught ideas like bodily resurrection of the dead, a last judgement,and a world savior.

Zoroaster developed the concept of a Shaoshyant, a world savior who will conquer Evil forever. So, from a Catholic perspective, you could argue that Jesus is the Shaoshyant. (The wise men “from the East” who visited Jesus as a baby, may have been Zoroastrian priests looking for the Shaoshyant.)

Some criticize Zoroastrianism for being “dualistic”, for making Good and Evil two equal powers. But clearly that’s not the case, since Evil will be vanquished at the end of time.

I’ve read about Zoroasterianism quite a few years back, and at first it does seem to be problematic to Christians: here is perhaps proof that debunks Christianity. But then I realized that if the Old Testament proclaims the New, and the New fulfills the Old, so too does this in a way show the reality of Christianity and Christ, though told in a different wayt with different terms, yet essentially the same. Again we think of the Flood, and how it seems to have parallel stories in other early Middle Eastern religions, and yet it does not affect our belief that it happened or lessen our faith in God. So too this should not, but instead see that God also uses other religions to proclaim Christ before He came. That’s my view on this.

I learned about Zoroastrianism in my AP World History class last year.

Zoroastrianism was founded in ancient Persia by the priest Zoroaster (A.K.A. Zarathustra) sometime in the 500s B.C. Zoroaster based his teachings on a collection of texts called the Avestas, and he proposed the worship of only one god, Ahura Mazda (A.K.A. Ormazd), the “wise lord.” The enemy of Ahura Mazda was Ahriham, the god of darkness. Zoroaster taught that Ahura Mazda would eventually beat Ahriman in a vast cosmic struggle. Ahura Mazda’s followers would then be gathered into heaven; evil souls would be doomed to hell. Zoroastrianism flourished in Persia until the 600s A.D., when the expansion of Islam drove it out. It lingers today mainly in India, among the small religious community known as Parsis.

[quote=JMJ_Pinoy]I learned about Zoroastrianism in my AP World History class last year.

**Zoroastrianism was founded in ancient Persia by the priest Zoroaster (A.K.A. Zarathustra) sometime in the 500s B.C. **
[/quote]

The claim of 500 BC as the date for Zoroaster is commonly given, but it is actually incorrect. One reason one can know it’s incorrect is that Cyrus the Great, the Persian emperor mentioned in the Book of Isaiah as the one who encouraged the Jews to go back and rebuild their Temple, lived from 590 BC to 529 BC and was Zoroastrian.

Zoroaster probably lived in the 7th century B.C., and it’s thought that some parts of the Zoroastrian scriptures (the Avestas) may go back to his time. But they were only put in their current form in the 3rd cent. A.D., under the Sassanian Empire, which was trying to revive the glories of the old Persian Empire. The Sassanians were in constant warfare with the Romans (which weakened both empires and eventually led to the Islamic conquests), and they persecuted Christians quite viciously. After the Islamic conquests Zoroastrianism hung on for a while but today exists only in small remnants. It’s a fascinating religion, and I for one have no problem with the idea that many of their ideas influenced Jews during the Exile and have passed into Christianity. Truth can come from anywhere. But I’m not sure why you would want to argue against them, since there are hardly any of them left and they don’t usually try to win converts (in fact I’m not sure it’s possible to convert to Zoroastrianism–it’s a highly ethnic religion ).

Edwin

I will state what I remember from conversations I had years ago, I cannot vouch for the accuracy of this entirely.

This is a very serious ancient religion, but hardly one to be concerned about as an apologist. As noted above they are not actively seeking converts, (although I know for a fact that there are people interested in their faith, as I was once long ago). The major premise (as I understand it) for apologetics is to give a defense of one’s faith, these people are not going to attack Christianity, or Catholicism in particular. They are extremely tolerant and hard to find in the USA.

The religion is very dualistic, and very definiately influenced western thinking. For example the concept of angels as messengers of God seems to have originated with them, wings and all.

Over the ages they have fallen on hard times and were persecuted relentlessly, many of their holy writings have been lost and they have only an approximation of what some of them contained. Modern westerners have shown an interest in the religion and some have even set up their own temples but they are not generally recognized as legitimate.

I had a friend who is a Parsee from Bombay, in India, which seems to be a major center for the religion. From what I understand the Parsees in North America are trying to be endogamous and have to devote a lot of effort to find spouses of their own kind (much like the Knanaya Catholics) and intermarriage can be a real challenge to the small community. They have accepted the children of mixed marriages as converts.

There are also still some Zoroastrians in Iran, but very few and oppressed.

+T+
Michael

I just met a beautiful Zoroastrian lady, originally from Iran, who lost everything but her family (thanks be to God) in the Iranian revolution 30 years ago… She had owned a health clinic, and her children were in school around the world at the time of the revolution. She and her husband started over again in the US, but now they are moving to Canada, where one of their children lives. She is a loving, caring, prayerful lady, and she showed me a book last night about her religion. It was a children’s book, written in both English and Farsi, so it was very simple. There was nothing in it I could disagree with as a Catholic. She showed me a little necklace which symbolized the moral teachings of her faith. It was encompassed by a circle. She said the circle shows that whatever good you do comes back to you, and whatever evil you do comes back to you. Inside the circle was the figure of a man with two outstretched wings. Each wing had three parts, signifying “good thought, good words, good deeds.” She said that the two wings signify the husband and wife, working together (I love that part). Below the figure was something that looked like a tail, but she said the thing was also in three parts, and it signified that one should put “bad thoughts, bad words and bad deeds” behind you, or under your feet. One thing, however that she said, which I could see would be a stumbling block for her was that in her religion Zoroaster is not “a god,” and I’m sure she was referring to the Christian belief that the man Jesus is also God. And she said they do not “pray to statues and images.” But I used to think that Catholics prayed “to statues and images,” so I know that objection can be overcome. Also, I think this woman truly seeks God and seeks the truth about God, so it is very likely she will recognize Jesus as God as she gets to know Him better. I’m planning to get More than a Carpenter for her, but she is leaving for Canada on Saturday. God willing, I can get the book before she leaves.

I knew a Zoroastrian quite well in college. He was one of the Iranian branch. There’s apparently a different sect which has been in India for centuries, which might hold different views.

The idea of Zoroaster is that all religions lead to the same place, and converting from anything to anything else is a waste of time. They do accept a limited number of converts, but these are required to be either Atheists (people who never had any religious background) or people who were born to Zoroastrian parents but were not raised in the faith. The Iranian Zoroastrians don’t allow people to convert from Islam, Christianity or any of the other religions there, because they feel that others should pursue their own traditions and eventually they’ll all be enlightened together in their own ways.

Aside from influencing Judaism, Zoroastrians supposedly influenced Buddhism too, at least in the area of funeral rites. This guy told me the Tibetan book of the dead was considered acceptable to use by Zoroastrians of the diaspora, if they had no other source because it was so similar to their own rituals. (?)

It’d be interesting to talk to one here. I only had this one source I quote from memory and I wonder if all this is accurate…

When Judah was taken into Exile in Babylon, those that Returned to the Holy Land took with them many influences or Zoroasterian belief. The concept of “Satan” was “fleshed out” and he became the enemy of God, prior to this he wasn’t seen as “evil” but merely the “adversary” of God’s people…the “police man” who accused them before the Judge, see Book of Job.

The Jews belief in the afterlife and angelic beings were also “borrowed” and incorporated into Jewish belief, which in turn influenced Christian belief.

Zoroastrians are “born”, one cannot “become” Zoroastrian through any iniatian process as with Judaism or Christianity. I don’t remember exactly when but a group of them left Iran for India and took the Holy Fire with them and established a temple. As I understand the Holy Fire cannot be moved over water, so after the colony was established in India, a group returned to Iran to take the Holy Fire back to the new temple over land.

They have been accused of being “fire worshipers”, but fire is merely a symbol ot the puryifying aspect of Ahura Mazda. Their practice of disposing of the dead was outlawed in Iran, but is still practiced in India as I understand. They do not bury their dead as a dead body desecrates the earth, nor do they burn it as it would desecrate the fire, but they built places on hills where the dead were taken for the vultures and scavengers to devour, then the bones were pushed into a pit where chemicals or lye reduced the bones to nothing.

Do you know anything about the Yazidi in Kurdistan (hoping I spelled that correctly). They seem to be analogous in this way, but they call their deity something else (Melek Taus).

There was a mystery cult in the Roman Empire based on Mithra killing the primal bull. Various classical philologists have speculated it started out as missionary/universalist form of Zoroastrianism…but I wouldn’t know either way.

I’m not real sure, but Mithraism in Persia was not the same as it was in Roman times. As I understand in Roman times it was a military cult.

If I’m remembering correctly the Yasidi do use fire as a form of prayer. When they light a candle each morning to begin their day they move their hands around the flame then move their hands in front of their face and over their heads to symbolize the light moving around them. If this is the sect I’m thinking of they “moved underground” and appear to be Muslim externally, but use this gesture of surrounding themselves in light in very subtle ways to avoid persecution.

It’s been a long time since I watched the documentary on the group so I’m not even sure of the name, but I was impressed that they “adapted” an ancient practice of faith and culture with Islam.

That’s very interesting because I think my friend’s family may also be in the same category of being nominally Muslim, but actually Zoroastrian or even Christian, or maybe a combination of the three. I don’t know them well enough yet. But today I went with them to a Persian New Year’s party which included many families. At the party, Zoroastrians and Christians seemed to predominate over Muslims. I’m presuming this partly because I saw less than a handful of head scarves in a huge crowd, but I saw several crosses and images of the winged creature symbolizing the Zoroastrian religion, together with many t-shirts having the Zoroastrian exhortation to:“Good thoughts, good words, good deeds.” There were beautiful costumed dancers, with different costumes and different dances from different regions of Iran. It was very beautiful and the people were very friendly and very polite. There were many, many young people from babies to teens, dressed mostly modestly, but attractively. I thoroughly enjoyed the day and the people. Seeing them sitting on the hillside listening to the concert, I couldn’t help thinking how Jesus loves these people and has pity on them because many are sheep without a shepherd. I was comforted to know there are many Farsi-speaking Christians reaching out to them in Christian love.

This morning before we left my friend’s house, upon seeing the picture of what looked like the three wise men being led by the Zoroastrian symbol, the bird with the three sections to its wings, and as the wise men or kings walked, they were holding what looked like a menorah, I thought of the saying, “Wise men still seek him.” I pray all these beautiful people will find the God who loves them: the God who is Love, Jesus the Christ, God the Son.

Zoroastrianism developed gradually through the last millennium B.C. Mithraism was a late cult of Zoroastrianism and it left so few writings that historians can piece together very little about it. Most “Mithraic” legends in existence now seem to have been invented by a Roman miltary secret pseudo-Mithraic society that began in the late Second Century A.D.
Jewish prophets prediced the birth, life, death and resurrection of the Messiah in great detail before and during the Persian captivity. Many devout Jews served in Persian houses of influence and Judaism was the most resistant of all religions and cultures to outside influence, while Persian, Babylonian, Greek and Roman worldviews were very open to additions from outside, just not subtractions. All this leads to the conclusion that Judaism with all its detailed foretelling of Christianity is what influenced the pagans, not vice-versa.

One of the greatest tragedies in the history of world religion is that Christians, Muslims and Jews, remain largely ignorant of the prophet Zarathustra’s genuine contribution to the foundation of monotheism. I myself although Catholic have spent the larger part of my life dedicated to the comparative study of religion in order to better follow Jesus’ commandment, to love my neighbour as myself.

How can you love your neighbour if you don’ t know who he is or what he believes. It is true that the Church Fathers based much of their interpretation of scripture on the philosophy of the Greeks and the theology of the Jews. This in no way means that these are the only traditions to have contributed to the foundation of the Church.

Aspects of monotheism like Angelology, demonology, resurrection, belief in judgment day and worship of one true God all arose as part of the joint development of prehistoric religious orders. Zoroastrianism stands on the bridge between the ancient religious world and the New Israel, Christ succeeded in universalising.

Christ being the Alpha and Omega is free to share God’s love with humanity at any time in the past or future and to do this in ways that suit the people God chooses to inspire. Any individual, from any age that performs a true act of goodness, must essentially draw on the same Holy Spirit just as they must live according to Christ’s example.

Since the Jews knew the Persians very well why couldn’t it be the other way around

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