Zoroastrianism's influence on the Israelites


#1

In my world religion class in a secular community college my teacher claims that Zoroastrianism had an influence on the Israelites to become monotheistic. She also claims Zoroastrianism influenced Judaism to adopt ideas such as heaven, hell, and satan. Im a bit skeptical.

Any articles or knowledge on the subject?


#2

Take the Biblical account where everyone descends from Noah and his family. One would assume that at this point everyone was monotheist, and everyone worshiped the same.

As time goes on drift in religion/worship happens but ultimately there is an expected similarity between all the different ancient faiths because they came from the same ancestral source. It would be far more surprising if strong similarities between Jewish and Pagan faiths did not exist than if they did.


#3

[quote="maxdouglas402, post:1, topic:302287"]
In my world religion class in a secular community college my teacher claims that Zoroastrianism had an influence on the Israelites to become monotheistic. She also claims Zoroastrianism influenced Judaism to adopt ideas such as heaven, hell, and satan. Im a bit skeptical.

Any articles or knowledge on the subject?

[/quote]

Its not that controversial a claim, at least amongst segments of those who practice Judaism. (the Ultra-Orthodox rabbinical courts however..)

Zoroaster championed a doctrine of salvation in the face of an unstable society stretching from the Iran to Northern India. Much of this revolves around the struggle of good and evil, Ahura Mazda and his shadow Angra Mainyu - with Ahura Mazda having a trump card, the Saoshyant who is the Savior and redeemer of the world. Que Apocalyptic occurrances with Good triumphing over Evil.

The parallel is striking given that Messiah-like figures were not exactly common in that period of time as opposed to the Late-Roman Period.

More to the point, the Zoroasterians may have given the Jewish people the concept of a Soul, possibly during the time of the Babylonian captivity. the Whole "Die and Go to Heaven" business does not have a strong pedigree within the Tanakh - man is usually presented instead as a Psychosomatic Unity (a view championed by theologians within your own faith and esp. those of the Eastern Orthodox) between Body and Mind/Soul/whatever. That's why some sects speak of life in the World to Come, a Restored Earth, as opposed to a dimension like Heaven.


#4

[quote="maxdouglas402, post:1, topic:302287"]
In my world religion class in a secular community college my teacher claims that Zoroastrianism had an influence on the Israelites to become monotheistic. She also claims Zoroastrianism influenced Judaism to adopt ideas such as heaven, hell, and satan. Im a bit skeptical.

Any articles or knowledge on the subject?

[/quote]

The timelines don't support this as the Jews were already monotheistic prior to the Babylonians exile in 605.. The earliest Israelite inscription found, relating to Yahveh as the redeemer of Jerusalem, dates to 7th century BCE.


#5

Given that Abraham came from a region that was very likely Zoroastrian, I would be unsurprised if they did have a major influence.


#6

[quote="Nine_Two, post:5, topic:302287"]
Given that Abraham came from a region that was very likely Zoroastrian, I would be unsurprised if they did have a major influence.

[/quote]

And this is where i'm scrambling around for either Contarini or Meltzerboy to jump in....

I was always under the impression that Abraham came out of Syria - which would mean that he would have been a follower of the Ugaritic/Semetic pantheon ie: El-Shaddai, being the "El" or God of the city of Shaddai. etc. etc.

its a bit of a ways off from the heartland of Zoroaster, although ideas could conceivable travel through trade routes....

The timelines don't support this as the Jews were already monotheistic prior to the Babylonians exile in 605.. The earliest Israelite inscription found, relating to Yahveh as the redeemer of Jerusalem, dates to 7th century BCE.

But would that imply Monotheism? or Henotheism?


#7

[quote="Polycarp1, post:4, topic:302287"]
The timelines don't support this as the Jews were already monotheistic prior to the Babylonians exile in 605.. The earliest Israelite inscription found, relating to Yahveh as the redeemer of Jerusalem, dates to 7th century BCE.

[/quote]

Prior to the Captivity they were not strictly "monotheistic"...they were "henotheistic"....AFTER the Captivity a true monothesim took hold and developed.


#8

[quote="Publisher, post:7, topic:302287"]
Prior to the Captivity they were not strictly "monotheistic"...they were "henotheistic"....AFTER the Captivity a true monothesim took hold and developed.

[/quote]

Glad to see that age has not robbed me of my mind just yet. ;)

In terms of your own religion, the Zoroasterians also have a bit of a connection as well.

At least 3 of them came out of the East seeking your Jesus of Nazareth, believing him to be the one sent by Ahura Mazda due to astrological portents in the heavens.


#9

I'm surprised no one's pointed out that there really isn't "Heaven" or "Hell" like we know of today in Christianity found in Judaism.


#10

[quote="AlexPetrosPio, post:9, topic:302287"]
I'm surprised no one's pointed out that there really isn't "Heaven" or "Hell" like we know of today in Christianity found in Judaism.

[/quote]

There are "analogues" - although i sometimes wonder if those were explications of other pre-medieval concepts given form due to Judaism's close proximity to Christianity.


#11

[quote="TheAtheist, post:8, topic:302287"]
Glad to see that age has not robbed me of my mind just yet. ;)

In terms of your own religion, the Zoroasterians also have a bit of a connection as well.

At least 3 of them came out of the East seeking your Jesus of Nazareth, believing him to be the one sent by Ahura Mazda due to astrological portents in the heavens.

[/quote]

Well at least that's the mythical story included in "Matthew's" nativity narrative.:)


#12

thank you for replying everyone! please continue.

and i also thought i should mention that I was confused with the fact that the Tanakh (psalm,job, etc) point toward God and satan being in a different dimension


#13

[quote="maxdouglas402, post:12, topic:302287"]

and i also thought i should mention that I was confused with the fact that the Tanakh (psalm,job, etc) point toward God and satan being in a different dimension

[/quote]

Really? I thought the Book of Job implied otherwise. Of course, Jewish Satan is a little bit different from Christian Satan.

In your religion is the chief rebel.

In theirs, he's God's Chief of Security/Political Comissar.


#14

[quote="TheAtheist, post:13, topic:302287"]
Really? I thought the Book of Job implied otherwise. Of course, Jewish Satan is a little bit different from Christian Satan.

In your religion is the chief rebel.

In theirs, he's God's Chief of Security/Political Comissar.

[/quote]

This might be true in regards to Rabbinic Judaism as it has been handed down today, but the Judaism around the turn of the first millennium clearly had a evil figure (Beelzebub) whose name might be derived from Satan. Funny thing, this might also be another of Zoroastrianism's influence of Judaism.

In answer to your previous question, depending on how you date things: Ur (where Genesis claims Abraham is from) is a Sumerian city. There may have been some proto-Zoroastrian influence in this area (unlikely given the physical distance), but I highly doubt the religion is as old as 2nd millennium BC. But you are correct that the patriarch narratives seem to reflect more of a Canaanite religion (Ugarit) than Mesopotamian.

Zoroastrian influence on Judaism is hard to gauge. On the one hand, you do have subtle changes from pre-exillic Judaism and post-exillic. However, they are not fundamental shifts (i.e. a shift from "henotheism" to monotheism [debatable BTW] or Messianic tendencies being solidified). Also, the most striking parallel to me, the resurrection, doesn't appear until the 2nd century BC, well after any Persian influence.


#15

[quote="TheAtheist, post:6, topic:302287"]
And this is where i'm scrambling around for either Contarini or Meltzerboy to jump in....

I was always under the impression that Abraham came out of Syria - which would mean that he would have been a follower of the Ugaritic/Semetic pantheon ie: El-Shaddai, being the "El" or God of the city of Shaddai. etc. etc.

its a bit of a ways off from the heartland of Zoroaster, although ideas could conceivable travel through trade routes....

[/quote]

I believe Abraham came from the area of Southern Iraq - South-West Iran, which would have been part of the Zoroastrian influenced regions, of more concern however is the timeline. The establishment of Zoroastrianism vs. when Abraham was there.

Scripture is pretty clear that he was from a region where polytheism was practiced (allusions to household gods), however it also references monotheists (or at the very least henotheists who only worshiped a single God) around him.

But would that imply Monotheism? or Henotheism?

I've never seen a serious argument that the Israelites were not henotheists at first. The Ten Commandments don't rule out a henotheist view, and Job presents a pretty clear henotheistic look at the heavenly court. The only theory I've read on the end of henotheism was the Babylonian Captivity, which makes sense in light of Chronicles and Kings, but I've never done the research myself.


#16

I think a number of people are confused over here. The idea that Zoroastrianism influenced Judaism with regards to Monotheism is a poor and a highly unfavoured theory by scholars. :tsktsk:

"The examples demonstrate the lack of evidence for the "borrowing" theory. Zoroaster's dates are somewhere between 660 and 541 B.C.E.--well over half a millennium after Moses. No scholar dates the rise of Israel's monotheism that late. Zoroastrianism is therefore disqualified as an influence. Even without the conclusive discrepancy in dating, Zoroastrianism's tendency towards dualism (belief in two independent powers standing in opposition) is a far cry from the monotheism of biblical faith."

Click HERE for more information


#17

[quote="Wandile, post:16, topic:302287"]

"The examples demonstrate the lack of evidence for the "borrowing" theory. Zoroaster's dates are somewhere between 660 and 541 B.C.E.--well over half a millennium after Moses. No scholar dates the rise of Israel's monotheism that late. Zoroastrianism is therefore disqualified as an influence. Even without the conclusive discrepancy in dating, Zoroastrianism's tendency towards dualism (belief in two independent powers standing in opposition) is a far cry from the monotheism of biblical faith."

[/quote]

Um, that source appears to presume the Biblical account of Moses and the Hebrew exile is historic, a claim that is problematic.


#18

[quote="Wandile, post:16, topic:302287"]
I think a number of people are confused over here. The idea that Zoroastrianism influenced Judaism with regards to Monotheism is a poor and a highly unfavoured theory by scholars. :tsktsk:

"The examples demonstrate the lack of evidence for the "borrowing" theory. Zoroaster's dates are somewhere between 660 and 541 B.C.E.--well over half a millennium after Moses. No scholar dates the rise of Israel's monotheism that late. Zoroastrianism is therefore disqualified as an influence. Even without the conclusive discrepancy in dating, Zoroastrianism's tendency towards dualism (belief in two independent powers standing in opposition) is a far cry from the monotheism of biblical faith."

Click HERE for more information

[/quote]

From Wikipedia:

The date of Zoroaster, i.e., the date of composition of the Old Avestan gathas, is unknown. Classical writers such as Plutarch proposed dates prior to 6000 BC.[9] Dates proposed in scholarly literature diverge widely, between the 18th and the 6th centuries BC.

6th century is the traditional date.


#19

[quote="pmccombs, post:17, topic:302287"]
Um, that source appears to presume the Biblical account of Moses and the Hebrew exile is historic, a claim that is problematic.

[/quote]

A claim that has some weight to it, mind you. The claim cannot simply be dismissed because it comes from the bible. The bible too, has to be given some credit.

Secondly there exists some storng evidence for the exodus. But I do not want to derail the thread.:shrug:


#20

[quote="Wandile, post:16, topic:302287"]
Even without the conclusive discrepancy in dating, Zoroastrianism's tendency towards dualism (belief in two independent powers standing in opposition) is a far cry from the monotheism of biblical faith."

[/quote]

Look a little more carefully at that bit...

Zoroastrianism's definition of Ahura Mazda is actually as a universal, uncreated, and transcendent deity. [Sound familiar?]

Angra Mainyu is only a mere "principle," opposed by the Spenta Mainyu through which the transcendent Ahura manifests its will.

The type of dualism which you are speaking of is more reminiscient of the Followers of Mani/Manichaeism.


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