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A Sample of Things to Come

November 22, 2010

More than half of the book, Three Testaments: Torah, Gospel and Quran, is actually made up of those three Scriptures. In addition, there are six commentators who will have written something over 30,000 words, some of which I have shared on this blog site, and other samples are about ready for you to see. For the last few months I have been blogging about the current cultural context: aborted book burnings, Ground Zero projects, and the exhibition of scriptural texts at the New York Public Library. I mentioned that the first drafts of my contextual contributions are all complete and folks have emailed to request a sneak peek, since I have shared nothing of my own for about a year. Accordingly, to give you all a feel for how it turns out, this month I share a page from the epilogue with which the work concludes – about as much as anyone wants to read in a blog entry.

(From the Epilogue)

Oceans, Separate but Connected

We avoided any seeming syncretism of Judaism, Christianity and Islam in this book by using the format of Parts One, Two and Three to appreciate both the links and the differences between these three related religions. We might now finally welcome some greater understanding of what they share with each other and with many others.

For example, the three are united in monotheism and in opposition to dualism, which gets a bad reputation in this book. Some may contend that Zoroastrianism did not “descend into dualism,” but rather “developed into balance,” suggesting that there is no difference between right and wrong, only “what is” or “reality,” but this is not what Jews, Christians and Muslims believe, and it was not what Zoroaster himself believed.

Secondly, Jews, Christians and Muslims believe that their one God is both Creator and Redeemer. Since Second Isaiah, Jews have seen God specifically as Redeemer, Christians see the redemptive action of God in Jesus Christ, and in the Quran the redemption motif appears consistently in the “Basmala phrase,” which recurs in 113 of 114 chapters as “In the name of God, Most Gracious, Most Merciful, (b-ismi-ll?hi r-ra?m?ni r-ra??mi), recited also in the daily prayers of Muslims.

Thirdly, Judaism, Christianity and Islam are united in acceptance and promotion of the seminal Zoroastrian concept that time is linear, rather than cyclical or meandering, and that it progresses toward a purpose or goal in paradise, the “kingdom,” city or community of God.

This is the origin of the western view of progress which eluded the orient until communism (with its Judeo-Christian overview) grafted it onto Chinese, Korean and other political and economic systems and Japan adopted a western constitutional and ideological frame of reference.

The contextual commentaries included in this book premise that not only is Zoroastrianism a key link between Judaism, Christianity and Islam, but that Zoroastrianism also links Western Monotheism with the main religions of the orient: Buddhist, Hindu, Sikh, and Jain. Simply put, out of his revelatory experience, Zoroaster took the Aryan “aboriginal” understanding of the divine, as Brahmanic tradition had already begun to refine it, and made it personal in ways that could later be applied to the spectrum of religious communities within a thousand miles of Persian Bactria over the next hundred years. This phenomenon is now known as the Axial Age. Since his dates have recently been established as 628 – 558 BCE, we can also assume that Zoroaster also had personal experience, direct or indirect, with established monotheistic Judaism, making it the centrepiece of his reforms.

As Jews, Christians and Muslims learn from each other, they may also learn from their more distant cousins in the rich religious mosaic of our emerging world culture. Some of those, like Hinduism, carry forward the religious concepts that formed the context of Zoroaster’s reforms. Others, like Buddhism, were regional embodiments of those reforms. Accordingly, properly understood, religion may now be seen as one vast system of oceans around the world, each with different currents but all connected.

Posted by: Brian Arthur Brown