Zoroastrian Influence?

For years I have been curious about Zoroastrianism. It is not one of the 3 Abrahamic religions, but it developed nearly simultaneoulsy with Judaism. Zoroastrianism is not considered by Catholics to be a revealed faith. Something that strikes me, though, is its teaching that Hell is a temporary state. It also teaches the coming of a general resurrection day, at which time those who have been punished and cleansed in Hell will be given new bodies and enter into Heaven. That sounds alot like Purgatory to me.

There is no record of Jesus ever being exposed to Zoroaster’s teachings, so perhaps this is merely a coincidence. Still, I wonder if it did not somehow influence early Church thinking, considering that in neither Judaism nor Islam is Hell temporary. Nor do they hold to the existence of Purgatory.

It’s interesting to think about.

Actually I believe Zoroastrianism is older than Judaism, and given that it was around in the area Abraham was from, Zoroastrian influence would not be surprising. However Abraham did break from the religion of his homeland (which is never mentioned) in order to worship the True God.

It was the Persian king Cyrus, probably a Zoroastrian, who released the Jews from the Babylonian Captivity and sent them home to rebuild their temple. The old Testament prophet Ezra called him " the Lord’s annointed". Plus the Magi are thought to have been Zoroastrian.

The word for Zoroastrian clergy is Magus, from which we get Magi (plural). So likely the three wise men from the east would have been Zoroastrian. Now, what in Zoroastrian scriptures would lead them to look for the child Jesus?

You had better get to know the Zoroastrians soon, because their numbers are dwindling fast. They are either of Persian or Persian Indian background. Their religion does not permit admitting converts, and they must marry among themselves. In 1993, I attended the Parliament of the World’s Religions in Chicago. There were probably 100 Zoroastrians there and that constituted .05% of all the Zorastrians in the world. Obviously no other religion had anything near that percentage present. Thus in 1993 there were 200,000 in the world. Now, there are closer to 100,000 left. They have fallen, socially, below the numbers needed for critical mass. A young man or woman looking for marriage will be hard pressed to find a suitable partner. I mean, really, you want a choice, not just the one girl or boy who happens to be around. So commonly, they marry outside their faith, typically to other Persian cultural religions, such as Islam, Baha’i, Christian or Jewish, or to Westerners.

The Parsis in India don’t accept converts. Not sure about the Zoroastrians in Iran, but that may be moot since conversion from Islam is a crime there. But there are groups in the West who call themselves reformed Zoroastrians, who do accept converts.


I was married to a Iranian, raised Bahai, who was intensely interested in Zoroastrianism because it was authentically Persian (he eventually became Catholic.) He studied the Zend Avesta, which is their holy book, and piqued my interest as well. Zoroastrianism is the oldest monotheistic religion in the world. They believe in a dualism of good and evil; God is “Ahura Mazda”; I can’t remember their name for their equivalent of the devil. They’ve been known through history as fire worshippers, but that’s a misconception. They worship God as he manifests Himself in their holy fire. Their holy fire is similar to God revealing himself in the burning bush. Magi were astronomers and astrologers; in those days there was no difference. That’s how the magi knew that the appearance of the star heralded the birth of a great king. I’ve known one family who belong to a small temple in our area. From them I learned that they are conciliatory people and very charity- and service-oriented. They feel a great sense of responsibility for improving the lives of others and their temple was involved in philanthropic endeavors. The family I knew were lovely, kind, humble people with a wonderful sense of humor.

Ahriman. Angra Mainyu (evil spirit). The ‘holy spirit/good spirit’ is Spenta Mainyu.

They also have a concept of savior (Saoshyant) who resurrects the dead, purifies their bodies and leads them into everlasting life.

The fact that Judaism was around these beliefs during the Babylonian captivity and the fact that religion was going strong while Christianity was forming probably means that its beliefs were prevalent in the region, even if not directly influential.

A little trivia - Zoroaster is the same person as Zarathustra, as in Strauss’ “And Also Sprach Zarathustra”, which was used in 2001: A Space Odyssey." Iranians call him (phonetically) “Zartosht”.

Strauss’s “Also Sprach Zarathustra” is based on Nietzsche’s book of the same mean, meaning “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” it has nothing to do with the Zoroastrean religion, but is rather a polemic against Christian morality, and thus Christianity itself.

I didn’t say the music had anything to do with Zoroaster, only that another name for Zoroaster is is Zarathustra.

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