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Zoroastrianism from a New Perspective

April 10, 2013
Three Testaments: Torah, Gospel and Quran monthly updates may eventually morph into online discussions on matters of substance in the wider interfaith arena. Meanwhile, 3T appears to feed into the burgeoning area of Zoroastrian Studies. Having prepared an article on this interface for possible publication is a certain learnÚd journal, I invite those receiving this blog to watch for it. The old joke that “Zoroastrianism is the next big thing and always will be” may have run its course, since Z is increasingly an important new field of study. For now, I offer the nub of a new conjecture in a suddenly scintillating field.

“We are now in a position to explore a new angle by working backwards from Judaism in Babylon to Zoroastrianism immediately previous. Until now, most enquiries have moved from what scholars knew, thought or guessed about Zoroaster, forward to what influence or impact Zoroastrianism may have had on Judaism. While scholars tried (almost in vain) to locate and define Zoroaster, they could see little direct connection between him and Judaism (or anything else.) With the dates of Zoroaster now more or less confirmed by consensus as 628 - 551, we can now start with Judaism in Babylon and afterwards, and see how Zoroastrianism itself must have developed dramatically and rapidly as “something” just prior to the Babylonian Exile that looks like Z, sounds like Z and acts like Z, so it must be Z, or something we must invent that is too much like Z to call it anything else.

“The easiest example is the ongoing debate as to whether Zoroaster was a monotheist, a henotheist, or a dualist … impossible to resolve within Zoroastrian evidence alone. The Jews interfaced with Zoroastrians on location in Babylon, and wrote up their observations within a generation, as verified by Dead Sea Scrolls. They declared the Zoroastrians to be monotheists like themselves, or close to the henotheism cum monotheism they practiced, so we can say there is powerful Jewish evidence that early Zoroastrians practiced a religion akin to monotheism.

“We know that Zoroastrianism became largely dualistic over time, a fact that has imprinted in the scholarly world, though typical Zoroastrians “on the street” today maintain that monotheism was there in the earliest texts, remained a subtext throughout history, and is practiced still. Moreover, Jews like Deutero-Isaiah could not possibly have considered Cyrus as a Messiah candidate if they thought of him as worshipping a “pantheon” of gods, as is sometimes suggested. So regarding Zoroastrian monotheism, QED!

“The argument that the Jews thought they were worshipping the same God as the Zoroastrians has other support, too intricate for this brief space, but the same approach can now be applied to other complex questions about the Zoroastrianism encountered by the Jews, such as the figure of the Saoshyant, the moral imperative, the Last Judgement, angelology, demonology, salvation and paradise.”
Posted by: Brian Arthur Brown