The first fresh concept in the trilogy introduced by this book is its recognition of an “Older Testament,” previous to “revelations” in primary sacred texts of all seven world religions. A second surprise for many may be the extent of Asian “eastern” influence in the “western” Bible. A third special feature is the extent to which each of the primary scriptures speak for itself here, compared to other interfaith texts limited to quotes for study or snippets cited for comparative purposes. These three fresh concepts are introduced here and developed more completely in the two related compendia which present Western monotheism and Eastern monism (Western Oneness of Divinity in a God who is separate from the created universe / Eastern Oneness of absolutely everything and a Godhead within Divinity which is universal). It may be helpful in passing to acknowledge that monism and pantheism are almost the same, though monism suggests that everything is divine, while pantheism holds that there is divinity in everything.

Vedic-Zoroastrian influence on Jews in Babylon has long been recognized. A Zoroastrian perpetual flame in Leviticus and the recent identification of a certain “Krishna” in the Book of Esther are examples which set the scene for a deeper appreciation of Asian realities in the Bible. The concepts of creation and apocalypse, angels and demons, salvation and damnation, resurrection and final judgment, heaven and hell, found in Hebrew Scripture and shared among the seven world religions, are all Vedic in origin, brought forward in Zoroastrian refinement by a Redeemer who is identified first as the Saoshyant, the savior of the world, prophesied to come.

After twentieth century debates about Greek, Egyptian and Jewish influence in their scriptures, Christians may also be astonished at the evidence of a similar Asian underpinning of the New Testament. The appearance of Magi at the nativity of Jesus, and his reference to the Persian “paradise” as the gospel concludes, support a new cognizance that light and dark at creation in St. John’s opening chapter, as well as baptism, angels, Satan, hell, final judgment and salvation, are all concepts originating further east, to say nothing of the prophesied Redeemer / Saoshyant.

Muslims are aware of Zoroastrian echoes in the Quran. Hindus and Buddhists take their Vedic backdrop as given. Confucianists disregarded sixth-century BCE Magi influence in China but, under the influence of a contributor to this work, even Chinese Taoists now accept that fact.

The shared Vedic heritage had been reformed and refined by Zoroaster, whose influence was a stimulant throughout the Silk Route in the Axial Age.[1] None of these religions became Vedic or “Zoroastrian,” but the Zoroastrian-Jewish interface in the Middle East impacted Christian and Muslim monotheistic traditions in the West. As we now realize, this “Z factor” also encouraged interaction between monistic Taoist, Hindu and Buddhist traditions in the East. This shared Vedic heritage points to a fourth unique element in this introductory volume: examination of a symbiotic relationship between monotheism and monism, and the beginning of a conversation, even a sharing, between their proponents.

SEVEN TESTAMENTS OF WORLD RELIGIONS has a centrefold with the Vedic-Zoroastrian contextual setting of the Jewish Torah, where this reality is first reflected among several religions originating in Asia at the same time at various points on the Silk Route. The “Older Testament” is also foundational in primary texts of Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Hinduism of the Bhagavad Gita and Christianity, developed concurrently or revealed subsequently. This series of classic and ancient revelations concludes with a “final testament” from Islam, affirming the Divine warrant for validity of all religious traditions. All these elements unfold in this Volume One of the trilogy and are developed in detail in Volumes Two and Three.

Important newer religions (Sikh, Mormon, Baha’i, “New Age” and others) represent 2.5% of the world’s religious population, and another 2.5% (Shinto, Wicca, Jain and Indigenous religions) are older and also significant. But 95% of the world’s religionists (about 85% of the population) relate to the seven world religions which share an “Older Testament” with all the descriptors we have listed and mention again: creation and apocalypse, angels and demons, salvation and damnation, resurrection and final judgment, heaven and hell.

In the twentieth century many religions moved from essentially negative “exclusivist” attitudes toward each other to “comparative” religion. Comparing might be seen as an advance over judging, but it was not the paradigm shift to the sharing found now in twenty-first century interfaith studies. Religion is rising everywhere except in North America and in Western Europe and the twenty-first century may become an almost worldwide century of religion, much as the twentieth century was a century of science, with exciting developments even in the West.

There may be a waning in seminary programs these days, but there is now a new and popular Religious Studies discipline featuring an interfaith smorgasbord at most universities. Faith Relations have become as important as Race Relations in the twenty-first century, in which religion affects community life, politics and international affairs. On the negative side, genocides and terrorism appear to be delineated by religious identities. On the positive side, religion may now be able to make genuine and significant contributions to the quest for peaceful co-existence.

It is hoped that this book and the others in this trilogy may contribute to that goal.




[1] Lao Tzu (floruit 575 BCE) & Socrates (floruit 400 BCE) are regarded by us and others as effective Axial Age boundaries.