How did early Judaism and Zoroastrianism influence each other, if they were so far apart?

How did early Judaism and Zoroastrianism influence each other, if they were so far apart?

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I've been reading, from various sources, fairly vague and hand-wavey claims that Zoroastrianism and early Judaism influenced each other (and that both were influenced by Atenism).

Looking at summaries of the content of these religions, such a claim seems prima facie plausible, but then I looked at a map.

Zarathustra himself is placed in space and time as, roughly, eastern Iran, perhaps in the 10th century BCE or a couple of hundred years later. This is about 3,000 km from Jerusalem, it would take weeks of dedicated walking to cross that, and the terrain is (and presumably was then) inhospitable. This does not seem prima facie plausible to me -- although it does not seem unreasonable to have, say, trading routes along there, but the integration of two religions seems like it should require an intimate sharing of culture and politics over a long period of time. The geography seems prohibitive.

So, is it actually plausible that early Judaism and Zoroastrianism were sharing ideas? If so, what was the mechanism for that influence? How would the people have come together?

They weren't in fact far apart at all. Zoroastrianism was the state religion of the Achaemenid Empire, which encompassed Israel.

Its actually even closer than this map implies though. In the period of time that a large amount of the Hebrew scriptures were first being written down, a large part of the Jewish nation was living in exile (slavery) in Babylon. That would place them roughly in the geographic center of this map, and the cultural and trading center of near-east civilization.

When Cyrus the Great (a Zoroastrian himself) conquered Babylon, he inherited this Jewish community. Not being a big fan of slavery, he freed them and allowed them to return home to Israel, and even gave them reparations to help with rebuilding some of what the Babylonians had destroyed.

As a result of this, Cyrus got a faithful client state in Israel, and really good press in The Bible.

Some people say that the Tetrateuch (the first four books of the Torah) were written in 8th-7th century Judah. Most people think it was composed entirely during the Babylonian Exile. The exile lasted until the 450s B.C. when Ezra left Babylon. The Jews who were sent to repopulate Judah back in 530 were poor upstarts. Ezra returned during Artaxerxes I, who also made Zoroastrianism the de facto religion (maybe after he left?). Jewish history is therefore tied to Babylon for 130 years. Rabbinic tradition states that Ezra then presided over the first Great Assembly, or the Beit Din, the "council of Ezra". This council is said to have fixed the Biblical Canon. It eventually became the Sanhedrin and Pharisees.

Babylon was the administrative capitol of the Persian Empire. The Babylonian captivity corresponds to the entire height of the Persian Empire. It also corresponds roughly with the Babylonian revolts of 482, after which the Babylonians were defeated and punished, and the statue of Marduk was melted down. The prevailing culture, especially before the rebellion, was Babylonian. It would have impressed Biblical authors the most. Babylon was the greatest city in the world. Its economy and culture was run by Babylonians. Zoroastrianism wasn't widely spread until Artaxerxes II (404-358), who moved the capitol east to Persepolis. Perhaps I am ignorant of it, but I got the impression that the original Magi were a very traditional, closed door group of people. To open their doors would have been to allow foreign influences. The Pharisees, which stemmed out of the Ezra tradition, were the same way.

Jews had a close relationship with the Sasanian Empire (See Babylonian Talmud). Zoroastrianism as we know it was formed in the 10th century. There would have been many Jews, or Rhadanites, travelling through the Persian Empire.

How did early Judaism and Zoroastrianism influence each other, if they were so far apart? - History

Iranian Religions: Zoroastrianism

Influence of Zoroastrian Religion on

the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam

Zarathushtrianism (also known as Zoroastrianism) is one of the oldest monotheistic religions. First taught among nomads on the Asian steppes, Zarathushtrianism was the state religion of the three great Persian empires, Achaemenian, Arsacid and Sassanian. The Persian Empire extended from India to the Mediterranean . Because of its lofty character, it had a remarkable influence on other world faiths: to the east on Northern Buddhism, to the west on Later Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The date of Prophet Asho Zarathushtra (Zoroaster) varies from 1700 BC to as far back as 4000 B.C. according to some Greek authors. The date of Asho Zarathushtra is not as important as the date with the teachings of Asho Zarathushtra. What Asho Zarathushtra taught is perhaps the very oldest and surely the most accurate code of ethics for man. It might indeed be said that Zarathushtra was the discoverer, or at least the uncoverer, of individual morals.

Belief in an all Wise, all Powerful and Eternal God - Ahura Mazda, (Ahura meaning the Creator and Mazda meaning Infinite Wisdom) laid the foundation for all religious faiths. Asho Zarathushtra was the first to teach the doctrines of an Eternal soul, Equality of men and women, Freedom of Choice (to be able to choose between good and evil), Individual Judgment, Heaven and Hell, Resurrection, the Last Judgment (Renovation) and the coming of a Savior. These doctrines were to become familiar articles of faith to much of mankind, through borrowings by the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.

The Jews were in captivity in Babylonia. The great Persian Emperor Cyrus liberated the Jews from their captivity in about 550B.C. History records that he made no attempt to impose his Zarthushtrian religion on his subjects. He allowed the Jews to follow their own religion and assisted them in rebuilding the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. His inscriptions bear witness to the fact that he encouraged each of his subjects to live a good life according to their own tenets.

“This was only one of the many liberal acts recorded of Cyrus, but it was of particular moment for the religious history of mankind for the Jews entertained warm feelings thereafter for the Persians, and this made them more receptive to Zarathushtrian influence”. From Zarathushtrians-Their Religious Beliefs and practices by Dr. Mary Boyce.

The Hebrew scriptures pay tribute to the sterling merit of Asho Zarathushtra’s rule of conduct, when they speak of the law of the Medes and the Persians as one “which altereth not.” The Jews regarded Cyrus as a messiah, and therefore one who acted in Yahweh’s name and authority. Yahweh is quoted as “Cyrus will bring forth justice to the nations,….He will not fail….. till he has established justice in the earth.” Isaiah 42-1,4.

The Jews were intimately connected with their Persian Zarathushtrian conquerors, both socially and culturally. From the times of the Pharaohs of Egypt down to our times, no people had treated them so well as the Persian Zarathushtrians. What the Persian Zarathushtrians did for the Jews is unique in the annals of mankind. The treatment of this kind was therefore all the more bound to lead the Jews to study the institutions, laws and faith of their conquerors. The claim is therefore for a very great and completely surrounding, enveloping and supervening influence of the Zarathushtrian Monotheism, Angelology, Immortality, Soteriology, Judgment, Resurrection, Millen Heaven and Recompense upon the same of the Jews developing during the post captivity period in Babylon.

The Jews found many congenial elements and similar ideas in their faith. Both had many common beliefs such as belief in one God, coming of a Messiah and a strict code of behavior and ethics. The Jews had progressed much in their ethical and spiritual conceptions after their release from the Babylonian captivity. This progress happened to be for the most part in just those doctrines which were commonly held by millions of Zarathushtis among who they lived. Perhaps the foremost among these is the belief in Future Life. Those portions of the Old Testament which were written before the Exile scarcely mention it. They knew no reward for their deeds other than what they found on this earth. Their hopes were centered on this world and prosperity in this life.

The Exile, however, made a great difference in the Jewish thinking in this regard, for it is during this period and thereafter that we find for the first time in their recorded history the expression of hope in the other world. There is an entirely new note struck in the words such as these in the later Isaiah:

“Let thy dead live, let thy dead body arise Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust for thy dew is the dew of the heroes, and the earth shall cast forth the shades.” Canon Cheyne, a great Old Testament scholar in his book The Origin of the Psalter mentions: “The threefold division of sins into those of thought, word and deed in Ps. XVII 3-5 is thoroughly Zarathushtrian. …A knowledge of this great religion is necessary to the full equipment of an Old Testament scholar,….. …had it (Judaism) not come into contact with Zarathushtrianism, Israel would historically speaking have struggled in vain to satisfy its greatest religious aspirations.”

“And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” Even after the Exile this lesson about the Immortality of the Soul was not assimilated by all Jews, notably by the Sadducees. But, the people who professed this new doctrine were called the Pharisees, meaning Persians. Zarathushtrian influence on the Dead Sea Scrolls has been unanimously accepted by historians.

In the book of Tobit, we have an allusion to “Seven Spirits” – Amesha Spentas. The Seven Spirits are also mentioned in Zechariah IV,10 and this is further expanded in Rev. V, 6. The book of Genesis seems to have been influenced by the first chapter of Vendidaad. The Asmodeus (Asmodai) of the Book of Tobit is probably Aeshma-daeva of the Avesta. He was the demon of wrath and an opponent of the Amesha Spentas of the Gathas and in Tobit, he fights with the same Seven Spirits.

Various other scholars, W.R. Alger, Von Bohlen (German), Dr. Martin Haug, Rev. Dr. Lawrence Mills, W.D.Whitney, J.E.C. Schmidt, Michaelis, Doderlin, Horst & Hufnagel, Miles Dawson and many many others have testified to the fact that the change that took place in Judaism after the Exile under the influence of Zarathushtrian contact was so great as to make it a new religion almost. We see a full evidence of it in the Book of Job. The Jewish Prophets such as the second Isaiah, Daniel and the writers of many of the later Psalms, and above all Jesus Christ were in many respects nearer to Zarathushtrianism than to pre-exilic Judaism. It is through Judaism that Christianity afterwards received an important influence from Zarathushtrianism.

“So it was out of a Judaism enriched by five centuries of contact with Zarathushtrianism that Christianity arose – a new religion with roots thus in two ancient faiths, one Semitic, the other Iranian. Doctrines taught perhaps a millennium and a half earlier by Zarathushtra began in this way to reach fresh hearers but again, as in Judaism, they lost some of the logic and coherence by their adoption into another creed for the teachings of the Iranian prophet about Creation, Heaven and Hell and the Days of Judgment, were less intellectually coherent when part of a religion which proclaimed the existence of one Omnipotent God, whose unrestricted rule was based not on justice but on love. They continued nevertheless, even in this new setting, to exert their powerful influence on men’s strivings to be good.” Zarathushtrians by Dr. Mary Boyce.

The three Magis that came to see Christ were Zarathushtrian Priests. Zarathushtis had a belief in the coming of the savior, born of a virgin mother, at least a millennium and a half before Jesus was born. Most scholars agree that Jesus was not born on December 25, which was reckoned as the winter solstice in the Julian calendar. The Romans celebrated it very fervently as the nativity of Mithra, the Sun God that they had adopted from Iran. Mithraism was very popular among the Romans and many relics of Mithra temples found all over Europe bear testimony to it. It was a corrupted and distorted form of Zarathushtrianism. But, even in its corrupt form it stood for certain basic values such as truth, Justice, Brotherhood, Kindness and loyalty, which inspired allegiance among millions of Romans and Europeans.

Franz Cumont, a noted authority on Mithraism, writes in his book, The Mysteries of Mithra: “Never, perhaps, not even in the epoch of the Mussolman invasion, was Europe in greater danger of being Asiaticized than in the third century of our era. ….. A sudden inundation of Iranian….. conceptions swept over the Occident, …… and when the flood subsided it left behind in the consciousness of the people a deep sediment of Oriental beliefs, which have never been obliterated.”

It seems the early Christians absorbed many Mithraic traditions and festivals, but gave them a Christian interpretation and significance, such as to Christmas on December 25.

Even the main tenets of Islam which replaced Zarathushtrianism of Iran were derived ultimately from this ancient and pre historic religion, such as the belief in one supreme God, Heaven and Hell, the end of the world, Resurrection, the Day of Judgment, the five times of daily prayer, emphasis on helping the poor and the rejection of worship of images. It was through its influence on Judaism and Christianity that indirectly, if not directly, Zarathushtrianism contributed a great deal in the very making and shaping of Islam in the mind of the Prophet himself through what he borrowed from Judaism and Christianity.

A government truly worthy of the name must be in accord with religion, in perfect union with it, is a Moslem maxim. This idea did not come from a Moslem legislator but is outlined in a Pahlavi book The Dinkard. The idea of Theocracy and undoubtedly the Khilaafat thus are Zarathushtrian influences. Also, Sufism, the salt of the Islamic world is also a product of the Persian Zarathushtrian spirit. Apart from the mention of Darius and Cyrus as Zulqarnian, amongst the brotherhood of Prophets, the Koran has very little mention of the Zarathushtrian faith. It may be justified in saying that the Prophet received but little direct influence from Zarathushtrianism.

Yet the influence was more prevalent in its cultural sphere. One of the associates of Prophet Mohammed was a Zarathushtrian High priest, Dastur Dinyar. His name was later changed to Salman-al-Farsee. He was regarded by the Prophet as Ahal-al-Bait, meaning “of the family of the prophet”, that is, a member of his spiritual circle. He had widely traveled in Syria, Mesopotamia and had a profound knowledge of Judaism, Christianity besides Zarathushtrianism. It is highly probable that Prophet Mohammed was influenced by Zarathushtrianism through him.

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Encyclopaedia Iranica

The British Institute of Persian Studies

"Persepolis Reconstructed"

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Influence of Zoroastrianism On Judaism, Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism

Although the teachings of prophet Zarathushtra were primarily spiritual, and substantially devoid of mythological and ritualistic beliefs, Zoroastrianism, the religion that was based on his teachings incorporated many aspects of pre-Zarathushtra traditions as well as novel and creative approaches to ritualism.

When Zoroastrian conquerors and kings, primarily Cyrus the Great and his descendants expanded the Persian Empire to include much of the known world at that time, inevitably Zoroastrians encountered people of other faiths.

While Cyrus true to Zarathushtra's teachings, was very respectful of other beliefs and allowed them to flourish of their own accord, and even supported them it was inevitable that Zoroastrianism as the dominant faith would influence the conquered peoples, perhaps more so than be influenced by them.

The priestly cast, namely the Magi, also did their utmost to influence other people and guide them to the path of righteousness and Asha. After all, this was a moral duty to teach others about the path of Asha, and to show them the light of Ahura Mazda, the Universal Divine.

In this exchange of thought and belief, what has obviously been transferred has been some of the visibly manifest aspects of the religion, namely rituals and myths. This is why when the influence of Zoroastrianism on Judaism and Christianity is studied, time and again we return to:

First, the figure of Satan, originally a servant of God, appointed by Him as His prosecutor, came more and more to resemble Ahriman, the enemy of God. Secondly, the figure of the Messiah, originally a future King of Israel who would save his people from oppression, evolved, in Deutero-Isaiah for instance, into a universal Savior very similar to the Iranian Saoshyant.

Other points of comparison between Iran and Israel include the doctrine of the millennia the Last Judgment the heavenly book in which human actions are inscribed the Resurrection the final transformation of the earth paradise on earth or in heaven and hell." by J. Duchesne-Guillemin

The following extensively lists quotations from other scholars to emphasis the same point, as well as to elaborate on many of these similarities. However, what is often missed in these comparisons is the effect that such overwhelming influence would have on shaping the faith, psyche and spiritual chemistry of the affected people.

Namely, such infiltration of mythology and ritualism will inevitably define a framework of what is conceivable and possible vs. what was once inconceivable and consequently not part of the world conception of that people. Let us first study some of these quotations::

Frances Power Cobbe, Studies, new and old, of ethical and social subjects:

"Should we in a future world be permitted to hold high converse with the great departed, it may chance that in the Bactrian sage, who lived and taught almost before the dawn of history, we may find the spiritual patriarch, to whose lessons we have owed such a portion of our intellectual inheritance that we might hardly conceive what human belief would be now had Zarathushtra never existed."

A.V. Williams Jackson, Zoroastrian Studies:

"The typical passage is found in the Hptokht Nask (Yt. 22. 1-36 and compares Vistpsp Yasht, Yt. 24. 53-64). For the first three nights after the breath has left the body the soul hovers about the lifeless frame and experiences joy or sorrow according to the deeds done in this life. On the dawn of the fourth day the soul takes fight from earth. "

Note: compare this to the crucifixion of Jesus on Good Friday, and his resurrection on Monday (the dawn of the fourth day).

"The author has attempted in his article in the Biblical World to show how much the Messiah-idea in Judaism and the Saoshyant-idea in Mazdaism, probably taught by Zarathushtra himself, resemble each other."

"The similarity between it (the Zoroastrian doctrine of the future life and the end of the world) and the Christian doctrine is striking and deserve more attention on the side of Christian theology, even though much has been written on this subject."

Rustom Masani, Zoroastrianism: The Religion of the Good Life:

" `To all good thoughts, words, and deeds (belongs) Paradise, so is it manifest to the pure.' This is the simple admonition given in the prayer Vispa Humata."

Joseph Campbell, The Hero with a thousand faces:

"Persian belief was reorganized by the prophet Zarathushtra according to a strict dualism of good and evil principles, light and dark, angels and devils. This crisis profoundly affected not only the Persians, but also the subject Hebrew beliefs, and thereby (centuries later) Christianity."

James Henry Breasted, The Dawn of Consciousness:

P. 345
"There is plenty of evidence that the post-exilic religious development of the Hebrews was affected by the teachings of Zarathushtra, and that among the international influences to which the development of Hebrew morals was exposed, we must include also the teachings of the great Medo-Persian Prophet."

P. 337
"It was not until the rise of the Chaldean power (Neo-Babylonian) in the 6th century B.C. and the subsequent supremacy of the Persians after Cyrus, that the Babylonians disclosed outstanding intellectual interests and their noble astronomers laid the foundations upon which the astronomical sciences of the Greeks was later built up.

John Gray, Near Eastern Mythology:

p. 16
"The Persians had their own mythology, or rather their own conception of the natural and supernatural order, formulated by the religion of Zarathushtra. this cosmic philosophy, influenced by Babylonian astronomy, had an effect on late Jewish thought and Messianic expectations."

P. 127
"The development of the concept of Satan as the personal power of evil, who had his counterpart in the archangel Michael, the champion of cause of man in God's purpose of creation, was probably developed under the influence of Persian Zoroastrian belief in the two conflicting spirits of good and evil. "

Ninian Smart & Richard D. Hecht, Sacred texts of the world - A universal anthology:

"The (Zoroastrian) dualism between good and evil was to have an impact upon ancient Israel, Judaism, Christianity and Islam."

R.C. Zaehner, The Dawn & Twilight of Zoroastrianism:

P. 20
"Meanwhile in her encounters with the Medes and Persians, Israel had found a kindred monotheistic creed in the religion of Prophet Zarathushtra, and one of her own Prophets, Isaiah, did not hesitate to salute Cyrus, her liberator, as the Lord's anointed. From this religion too she learnt teachings concerning the afterlife altogether more congenial to her soul than had been the gloomy prospect offered her by her own tradition, teachings to which she had been a stranger before."

P. 51-52
"An almost exact parallel to this solution of evil is to be found in the Manual of Discipline, perhaps the most interesting document of the Dead Sea sect of Qumran. That Judaism was deeply influenced by Zoroastrianism during and after the Babylonian captivity can scarcely be questioned, and the extraordinary likeness between the Dead Sea text and the Gathic conception of the nature and origin of evil, as we understand it, would seem to point to direct borrowing on the Jewish side."

P. 57
"Zarathushtra's doctrine of rewards and punishment, of an eternity of bliss and an eternity of woe allotted to good and evil men in another life beyond the grave is so strikingly similar to Christian teaching that we cannot fail to ask whether here at least there is not a direct influence at work. The answer is surely `Yes', for the similarities are so great and the historical context is so neatly apposite that it would be carrying skepticism altogether too far to refuse to draw the obvious conclusion."

P. 58
"Thus from the moment the Jews first made contact with the Iranians they took over the typical Zoroastrian doctrine of an individual afterlife in which rewards are to be enjoyed and punishments endured. This Zoroastrian hope gained ever surer ground during the inter-testamentary period, and by the time of Christ it was upheld by the Pharisees, whose very name some scholars have interpreted as meaning `Persian', that is, the sect most open to Persian influence."

P. 171
"One is tempted to say that all that was vital in Zarathushtra's message passed into Christianity through the Jewish exiles."

P. 172
"It is impossible to revive a religion once the well-springs of the original revelation have been allowed to dry up, and once the sacred language itself has become so sacred that it is no longer understood even by those who set themselves up as its official interpreters."

Paul William Roberts, In Search of the birth of Jesus - The Real Journey of the Magi:

"Without Zarathushtra there would be no Christ. He was the bridge, and the Romans burnt it. "

Leo Trepp, A History of the Jewish Experience

P. 54
"How did the idea of two opposing forces (Satan & God) originate? It too is the result of conditions during the Hellenistic age, a period when ideas were exchanged widely among various religions and nations. The principle of dualism came from Zoroastrianism, . This idea spread through the wide open Hellenistic world the controversy between God and Satan is its reflection in Judaism."

P. 55
". The people have a heavenly representative, a guardian angel. This is a new concept of Zoroastrian origin. Previously the term `Malakh', angel, simply meant messenger of God."

John R. Hinnells, Persian Mythology

"It is thought by many that this doctrine `Zoroastrianism' was a source of influence for both Eastern and Western beliefs - Hinduism and Buddhism in the East, and Judaism and Christianity in the West."

As mentioned earlier, while it is obvious that such influence had considerably affected the recipients culturally, the more overwhelming and significant influence is often overlooked.

Zoroastrianism, through its cultural and socio-political influence carried the seed of a world conception that was previously non-existent and even inconceivable to the affected people, namely the existence of a monotheistic divinity, which is all good, and all light.

A divinity who created a dualistic physicality which for its very existence required dual aspects, for each aspect is only definable and may be experienced in the full context of itself vs. its opposite. And finally a conception that gives our lives purpose and meaning, namely being progressive and working for the Good.

Effectively, this Zoroastrian influence generated a major paradigm shift in the people's thoughts at that time and for generations since. It is therefore quite justifiable to claim that Zarathushtra's world conception and teachings have affected the Western thought and civilization both directly and indirectly.

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The religion of Iran before the time of Zarathustra is not directly accessible, for there are no reliable sources more ancient than those composed by or attributed to the prophet himself. It has to be studied indirectly on the basis of later documents and by a comparative approach. The language of Iran is closely akin to that of northern India, and, hence, the people of the two lands probably had common ancestors who spoke a common Indo-Aryan language. The religion of those peoples has been reconstructed by means of common elements contained in the sacred books of Iran and India, mainly the Avesta and the Vedas. Both collections exhibit the same kind of polytheism with many of the same gods, notably the Indian Mitra (the Iranian Mithra), the cult of fire, sacrifice by means of a sacred liquor ( soma in India, in Iran haoma), and other parallels. There is, moreover, a list of Indo-Iranian gods in a treaty concluded about 1380 bce between the Hittite emperor and the king of Mitanni. The list includes Mitra and Varuna, Indra, and the two Nāsatyas. All of these gods also are found in the Vedas but only the first one in the Avesta, except that Indra and Nāñhaithya appear in the Avesta as demons Varuna may have survived under another name. Important changes, then, must have taken place on the Iranian side, not all of which can be attributed to the prophet.

The Indo-Iranians appear to have distinguished from among their gods the daiva (Indo-Iranian and Old Persian equivalent of Avestan daeva and Sanskrit deva, related to the Latin deus), meaning “heavenly,” and the asura, a special class with occult powers. This situation was reflected in Vedic India later on, asura came to signify, in Sanskrit, a kind of demon, because of the baleful aspect of the asura’s invisible power. In Iran the evolution must have been different: the ahuras were extolled to the exclusion of the daevas, who were reduced to the rank of demons.

Judaism vs. Zoroastrianism

November 28, 2013, 10:36pm

Followers of Yahweh before the Exile were not monotheistic. Indeed, even after the return of the Exiles and the beginning of development of Judaic theology, the Hebrews still maintaining their beliefs in different Gods particularly Phoenician imports.

Phoenicia had a more advanced civilization than the Hebrews, as acknowledged by the myth about King Salomon's import of Phoenician engineers to build the Second Temple. In fact the Hebrews lived surrounded by more advanced civilizations including the Philistines, and later the Arab Nabataeans, and imported from them a considerable amount of cultural features, including Hebrew-Arabic, important used for accounting, and which grew from the commercial relations the Nabataeans had with other countries, in which the Hebrews acted as Middlemen.

The development of Zoroastrianism preceded Judaism by some 700 years. It was prevalent in Persia, which included much of the southern part of Mesopotamia, which is Iraq today.

The identity of the religions, strongly suggests that the Exiles brought back with them the Zoroastrian traditions, including the erection of a Temple, which was carried out in Mesopotamia itself, before the return of (some) of the Exiles.

One observes that upon return, the Judaic theology began to evolve. Indeed, the Torah and the Laws were instituted at that time, and were documented - not in Hebrew, which had begun its disappearance as a language, but in Greek.

One of the major results was the establishment of Judaism as a monotheistic religion, and the demand of the followers of Judaism to renounce other Gods. Even then, this was not adhered to strictly, as King Salomon himself, would give sacrifices to Pagan (Phoenician) gods in the temple.

More and more scholars are inclined to believe that Judaism, like Islam, re-formulated Zoroastrianism as Islam did with Judaism and Christianity.

&mdash 76.✗.✗.6

March 31, 2014, 3:34pm

Zarathustra's birthdate, as well as where he was born, is actually highly disputed and debated to this day amongst various scholars and historians. Besides, many aspects of Zoroastrian dogma and theology predated even his emergence.

&mdash 216.✗.✗.79

September 28, 2013, 3:27pm

Info presented above is not well researched! Zoroaster was not born until 660 BCE. He was the founder. How is it that the dating of the religion is 2000 BCE. Abraham lived approximately 400 years before the exodus of the Jews from Egypt cica (1450). Making the dating of Judaism

1850 BCE. How is Judaism then founded in1350 BCE? Majority of views of monotheism held by the Jews predate the Babylonian exile (586 BCE). At best Judaism would have developed some deeper knowledge of angelology and demonology from Zoroaster. And adopted some of its pharasaical rites. The latter were rejected by Jesus and the early church as false.

&mdash 75.✗.✗.107

The Wise Men were Priests & Astronomers - not Kings or Astrologers

The Magi's story is one of the best loved tales in the Bible. It is possible we would not have the gift giving at Christmas today without the story of their gifts for the young Jesus. The Magi bring the first Christmas gifts. But, today many Christians wrongly believe that the Magi were "Kings". Let's examine how this idea came about.

Early Christian writers said the Magi were Zoroastrian priests (see this Catholic Bible history link). Not a single early Church writer calls the Magi "kings." Their journey from the East, following a magical star is in Chapter two of Matthew. Matthew's gospel was written to Jewish followers. For the Zoroastrian Magi to recognize Jesus would add to the Hebrew belief of Jesus as the Messiah. It was widely believed by the Jews that Zoroastrians prophesied three saviors to be born.
The three gifts they bore may represent the gifts of "Good Thoughts, Good Words and Good Deeds" - the ancient Zoroastrian motto.

To see the Magi as "Kings" is to completely miss the importance of their visit to Jesus. It is the first time in the Christian Bible that Jesus is recognized as a "Savior."
Almost any 1st Century Jew would have understood the significance of the Magi's visit. When we repeat the myth of them being kings we are taking away their importance in Mathew's gospel. A good website about the magi of the Bible is Wikipedia's page:

Even if the Magi visit is completely legend Matthew has created a brilliant literary twist for his 1st century audience. in first chapter Matthew records Jesus' full genealogy, back to King David. Today our eyes gloss over the long genealogies of Chapter One. Yet, these were vitally important to Matthew's audience. He leaves no doubt about his beliefs on who Jesus was and what his mission was to be. The Magi are in Chapter Two confirming what Matthew states in Chapter One - that Jesus is the future ruler and savior of the world. To change the Magi and make them "kings" takes away the power of the opening book of the gospels.

Mathew's first century audience would likely have laughed at a story that made the Magi into kings. However, when the kings story arises, nearly 600 years after the death of Jesus, the Magi were no longer respected - and neither were the Jews. Once Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire it became important to full full the Bible verse which says that all the kings of the earth would bow before Jesus. But, no early church historian taught that the Magi were kings rather than traveling Zoroastrian priests or missionaries. The idea of the three wise men being kings developed much later after Christianity became the religion of the Romans.

Let's read the Gospel of Matthew as he intended it and as his first readers read it. The Magi were priests and astronomers. They were NOT alchemists or magicians (although the term "magic" comes from Magi). However, the word Magi actually means "generous" or "benefactor" - as in the word "magnanimous." The Magi were traveling missionaries - their faith called for them to seek "saviors" and to teach that each of us is a potential savior of our world. The word "savior" had a different meaning to the Magi as it does to today's Christians.

6 The Canaanites

The origin of the Israelite nation is a little vague since the biblical accounts don&rsquot always agree with archaeological evidence. According to the Bible, the Canaanites were a tribe of people who descended from Ham (the son of Noah). They were thought to be a cursed nation that the Israelites destroyed. However, conquests are never that simple, and it is widely accepted that the Canaanite religion had numerous influences on Judaism. Psalms 29 is a hymn that bears so much similarity to Ulgaritic (the language of the Canaanites) poetry that some believe that it was originally an hymn to Baal. Today scholars agree that the Israelites emerged from a Canaanite civilization in the early part of the second millennium B.C.

The last of the Zoroastrians

M y grandfather had never been a tall man, and now he looked absurdly small, no bigger than a child. Swaddled in off-white sheets like a newborn, with just his head and the soles of his feet visible, his eyes were open and mouth disconcertingly agape, as if in surprise. His corpse was slightly raised from the floor, lain atop a rickety wooden stretcher. Beside the body, three priests in white robes intoned in Avestan, the long-dead language of the Zoroastrian scriptures, as a small fire burned in a silver urn in front of them.

It was the height of Mumbai’s monsoon season, and the air in the prayer pavilion was heavy with moisture. The occasional cloudburst outside provided no respite from heat or humidity, and the priests cooled themselves with handheld fans that resembled ping-pong bats as they repeated their sonorous chants. The funeral was the first time I had heard Zoroastrian prayers spoken out loud, though I remembered my grandfather over the years murmuring them under his breath multiple times a day, velvet cap on his head and prayer book in his hand. Besides my mother and me, the small group in attendance was mainly made up of frail friends and distant relatives, almost all of them Parsis, as the Zoroastrians of India are known.

The cremation came later the same afternoon, the heat from the chrome furnace adding to the stickiness. The body was reduced in a matter of minutes to a kilogram of ashes, which were handed to us the next morning in a knotted sack the size of a coconut. Prayers continued the next day, the extended ceremony providing a map for slowly working through the grief.

In the days after the funeral, it struck me with some sadness that my grandfather, who had spent almost a century devoted to the Zoroastrian faith, would be the final Parsi in his family line. Growing up in Britain, I’d read a bit about the history of Zoroastrianism, but only knew the basics: it was one of the oldest religions, based on the teachings of the prophet Zarathustra, who lived thousands of years ago, though nobody knew exactly where or when (Iran, central Asia, perhaps what is now southern Russia and about 1500 BC, give or take a few centuries). The faith he preached, of an epic battle between a powerful deity and an evil spirit, in which his followers should do everything in thoughts, words and deeds to aid the side of light, was passed down orally for centuries before it was committed to parchment. It became the dominant religion of Persia for more than a millennium, until the advent of Islam in the seventh century. Some Zoroastrians who refused to convert fled, and ended up in Gujarat in western India, where they became known as Parsis after their Persian origins. They built new temples to house their sacred fires, which were tended to by priests and could never be extinguished.

The Parsis promised their Hindu hosts they would not proselytise, and over the centuries this morphed into a dogmatic aversion to conversion. The rigorous tribalism kept the small community alive and distinct for more than a millennium, but in today’s world, the same intransigence is killing it off. “You’ve seen four weddings and a funeral – well, for Parsis, it’s four funerals and a wedding,” says Jehangir Patel, who has edited the community’s monthly magazine, Parsiana, for almost 50 years. When he finally retires, he fears the magazine will simply close, as more of its readers are dying off each year. India’s Parsi population shrank from 114,000 in 1941 to 57,000 at the last census in 2011. Projections suggest that by the end of the century, there will be just 9,000 left.

Pestonjee Pader, Shaun Walker’s grandfather, in 2010. Photograph: Zareen Walker

My grandfather, Pestonjee Pader, was a gentle man with a raucous, childish sense of humour, but not far beneath the surface lurked a sense of tragedy. He liked to tell stories, but most of them ended in one of two ways: “… and then, unfortunately, we had to leave”, or “… and then, tragically, they passed away too soon”. Born into a Parsi family in 1922, he grew up in the Gulf city of Aden, a thriving port then under British rule, which attracted many Parsi traders. After his father died in the late 30s, my grandfather took over the family business, supplying food and other provisions to the ships that docked in Aden on their way between Europe and Asia. He also ran the Long Bar, where he watered thirsty soldiers from the British garrison. He negotiated a concession from Carlsberg, importing beer from Denmark and eventually making a handsome profit. By the mid-60s, he was on the verge of setting up an ice-cream factory, a sure money-maker in the punishing Gulf heat. But the plans fell through when revolution came to southern Yemen in 1967, driving out the British and, by extension, the Parsis, too. My grandparents escaped to Bombay, leaving all but a few suitcases of possessions behind.

For my grandfather, the real tragedies were still to come: between 1976 and 1983, he lost his wife and both his sons, leaving my mother as his only surviving child. When we flew out to visit him during school holidays in the 90s, his once-grand apartment on Mumbai’s Malabar Hill felt as if it were occupied by ghosts: a table laid with Carlsberg glasses and coasters, carefully preserved from decades earlier photographs of the deceased on the sideboards. He padded around the too-big apartment, saying Zoroastrian prayers of remembrance for the dead several hours each day, and regularly taking the bus to the fire temple for prayers. In the evenings, he went out for dinner with his mostly Parsi friends, until they, too, started dying off. For as long as I can remember, he would say matter of factly that he was ready to die, but he kept on going, remaining healthy into his late 80s. It was only right at the end, when dementia hit, that he became weak and confused. In summer 2017, the news came that he had finally passed away, shortly after turning 95.

My grandfather stuck to his Zoroastrian faith doggedly, whatever obstacles life tossed into his path, but my mother was ejected from the Parsi fold, officially at least, when she married out. She came to London when she was 17, to go to university and then train as an English teacher. She slipped away from a planned marriage to a good Parsi boy, and later married my dad, another teacher from Southampton. Her parents, unlike many other relatives, quickly came to accept the marriage, but the strict community rules meant she was no longer a Parsi. Partly, she accepted this, and partly, she just ignored it. “No religious bigot was going to define who I was,” she told me, and she continued to feel deeply attached to the cultural aspects of being Parsi.

Although my family often visited India when I was growing up, my sister and I never learned to speak Gujarati, and there was no suggestion among our Parsi relatives that we should partake in Zoroastrian rituals and ceremonies to feel a sense of belonging to the community, or even that we would be allowed to if we wanted. This wasn’t something I fretted about. I liked the idea of a secret, Zoroastrian side of my identity, but in my studies and then my professional life, I gravitated towards Russia, not India or Zoroastrianism. On visits to Mumbai I felt like much more of an outsider than I did when walking the streets of Moscow, where I made my home as a foreign correspondent.

But the funeral stirred in me a new interest in the 3,500-year-old Zoroastrian religion and today’s tiny Parsi community. As the religion’s followers declined, why were Parsis so dogmatic about keeping their doors closed to mixed-heritage children, let alone accepting outside converts? And did this mean that the whole Parsi community was heading for the same fate as my grandfather: a drawn-out but sadly inevitable disappearance?

N early three years later I found a way to seek some answers: a Return to Roots trip, which took a small group of young Parsis to India for an exploration of their history and culture. The idea was loosely modelled on Birthright Israel, which brings young Jews to the Holy Land, though our version was on a much smaller scale and free of attendant geopolitics.

I landed in Mumbai one night in early March, and the next morning the group met for orientation, each of us saying a few words about ourselves and what we hoped for from the next two weeks. Five of the 15 participants were from the dwindling Parsi community of Karachi most of the others were children of Parsi parents who had moved to North America. They were divided between those who had strong connections to the religion and those who had lost touch and wanted to re-engage with it. There was one American-Iranian, whose family came from the small community of Zoroastrians who remained behind in Iran and live there to this day. And then there was me, the only halfie.

Arzan Sam Wadia, the Mumbai-born, New York-based architect who runs Return to Roots, had told me that the tour is emphatically not meant to function as a Parsi dating service, but he added immediately that new couples had indeed formed on previous tours, which was a pleasing side-effect. Certainly, on the first morning there was a tangible feeling of excitement at the presence of so many fellow members of that endangered species, the young Parsi. One of the volunteers accompanying us, Sheherazad, a 25-year-old Zoroastrian priest, told us he would be on hand to help with logistics and answer any spiritual questions, for those who had forgotten the prayers and rituals they learned as children (and for me, who never knew them in the first place). With a crop of bleached blond hair and a mischievous smile, he was far from the humourless, conservative figure I expected of a priest. He told us to call him Sherry.

A Parsi fire temple in the Fort district of Mumbai, India. Photograph: Rainer Krack/Alamy Stock Photo

After the introductions, we headed to the Towers of Silence, a sprawling expanse of forested land in the heart of downtown Mumbai that takes its name from the stone structures inside the grounds, where the bodies of Zoroastrians are consigned after death. The whole area is closed to the public, and I felt a rush of excitement through my jetlag as our bus passed through the guarded gates, adorned with signs warning off non-Parsis. Herodotus, in the fifth century BC, wrote of Persians exposing their dead to vultures, and 2,500 years later the tradition persists: Parsi corpses are laid out inside the stone towers, also known as dakhmas (in fact, they are shaped more like amphitheatres than towers). The first dakhma was built here in 1670, when big cats roamed what was then a wild forest. Today, the grounds are populated with butterflies, parrots and peacocks, and entering the serene space from the urban cacophony outside is pleasingly jarring.

Our guide for the Mumbai leg of the tour was Khojeste Mistree, the intellectual kingpin of orthodox Parsis. Unfailingly polite yet ruthlessly dogmatic, Mistree trained as a chartered accountant before taking up Zoroastrian studies in Britain in the 60s, and later arrived back in India armed with historical knowledge to aid the conservative Parsis who wanted to keep the faith closed.

As we walked through the greenery towards one of the two dakhmas currently in use, Mistree exalted the Parsi method of consigning the dead. “It is the best and most ecologically sound way to dispose of a corpse,” he said, explaining that it prevented the earth being polluted with the evil spirits present in a dead body. Mistree told us that each dakhma could hold more than 250 bodies, laid out on slats inside the round stone structures. When the bodies have fully decomposed, corpsebearers push the skeletons into a hole in the middle, though the high walls meant none of this was visible to us.

“You’re standing here by this dakhma, and what can you smell?” asked Mistree in his distinctive voice, which drops just a hint of Bombay twang into the soaring cadences of an Oxford don. “That’s right. Nothing. Whatever scurrilous gossip you read in the papers about rotting corpses and so on, it’s nonsense.”

Vultures perched on one of the Towers of Silence in Mumbai, circa 1880. Photograph: Chris Hellier/Alamy Stock Photo

As recently as the 80s, hungry vultures had swooped into the dakhmas and picked Parsi corpses clean in a matter of days. Then, in the space of a decade, the birds died out, mainly owing to the use of diclofenac, a drug fed to livestock that poisoned vultures when they fed on the carcasses. Bodies inside the dakhmas were instead left to decompose naturally, which could take several months. On certain days, people living nearby could catch a putrid whiff of decaying human flesh from their windows. In 2006, someone sneaked a camera inside one of the dakhmas and leaked photographs of the gruesome sight online. Even the staunchest advocates of dakhma consignment were horrified, and began thinking up possible solutions. A programme to breed new vultures came to nothing. There was brief excitement at the creation of a specially designed mixture of herbs and chemicals, stuffed into the orifices of the dead, but it was so effective that the dakhma floors became covered in a layer of human slurry, on which the corpsebearers kept slipping, making their unenviable job still more difficult.

Eventually, angled solar reflection panels were installed at the top of the dakhmas to speed up the decomposition process, but a small group of Parsi reformists believed a more dignified option should be available. They raised money for a funeral hall, which was opened in the suburb of Worli in 2015, and that was where my grandfather chose to be cremated two years later. A little over 10% of the Mumbai Parsi community now opts for this method, mainly those who want to ensure that relatives who have married outside the faith will be able to attend their funerals. The priest who presided over my grandfather’s funeral was one of two who agreed to work at the new prayer hall. The conservative majority was furious, and banned them from performing ceremonies at the Towers of Silence.

“I’m sorry to say,” said Mistree, in a tone that was notably unapologetic, “that those Parsis who opt for cremation will go to hell.” Later, he clarified that Parsis who lived abroad could choose alternative methods, though never cremation, as it sullied fire with the evil spirits present in a dead body. But for those who lived in Mumbai, like my grandfather, there was no excuse. In Mistree’s severe reading of Zoroastrianism, a man who had spent most of his 95 years on Earth steeped in prayer, and abiding by the exhortation to good thoughts, words and deeds, had been despatched to hell.

T he next day, we boarded an open-top double-decker bus for a tour of the religious sites and cultural monuments of Parsi Mumbai, and a lesson about the Parsi influence on India’s history. Mahatma Gandhi’s intellectual mentors? Parsis. Biggest philanthropists of 19th-century India? Parsis. The first underground cinema carpark in India? Built by a Parsi. “It is quite mind-blowing how so few people have given so much,” said Mistree over a microphone, as our bus weaved through the jostle of the streets, above the honking cars and the chink-chink of the machines making juice from sugar cane. We lunched at the Ripon Club, a Parsi dining venue opened in 1884, amid grand portraits and busts of illustrious past members and tables seating a few geriatric current ones.

The following morning, in a lecture at Mistree’s apartment, he laid out the basic tenets of Zoroastrianism. I was impressed with its answer to the agnostic’s most vexing question: why, if there is an almighty God, is there so much suffering on earth? The Zoroastrian God, Ahura Mazda, is locked in a permanent battle with Ahriman, an evil spirit. Ahura Mazda is omniscient but not omnipotent, meaning that famine, disease, killings and other evils are not the work of a jealous and vengeful God, but are instead the temporary triumph of Ahriman. Early Zoroastrianism had a great influence on other major religions, and some scholars believe that Jewish eschatology grew out of Zoroastrian thinking. The three wise men of the nativity story are thought to have been Zoroastrian priests.

Mistree moved on to the holy fires, which are central to Zoroastrian worship. Creating the “highest grade” of fire requires the merging of 16 separate fires, he told us, including fire from a lightning strike and fire from the house of a king. The resultant super-fire takes 14,000 hours of prayer to consecrate, and can subsequently only be fed with sandalwood. “I was in England when Coventry cathedral was consecrated and the ceremony was only six to eight hours,” he said, pausing for us to savour the comparison. Mistree also spoke of the importance of the sudreh and kusti, an undershirt and belt tied ceremonially while praying, which had to be worn for any visit to a temple. Mistree insisted that to be a “real” Zoroastrian, a person had to wear their sudreh and kusti every day. Because I hadn’t had a navjote – the Zoroastrian coming of age ceremony – I was not eligible to wear them, and thus not permitted to enter any fire temples. (Since a still-contested reform a century ago, children of mixed marriages in which the father is the Parsi can have a navjote and join the fold, but if the mother marries out, it’s game over.)

A Parsi navjote ceremony in Mumbai in 2016. Photograph: Hemis/Alamy Stock Photo

Beneath the zealous adherence to ritual was a basic theology that seemed both simple and admirable. Zoroastrianism does not prize concepts such as guilt, martyrdom or asceticism. There is, instead, an obligation to work hard, make money, enjoy the proceeds and give generously. “Fasting is a sin. Being unproductive is a sin,” said Mistree. “To be spiritual you have to purposefully generate wealth, do it honestly and then share it.”

The exhortation to make money perhaps helps explain why many Parsis have been so successful in the world of business. My grandfather would speak about the work of lawyers and accountants with a note of wonder in his voice that some might reserve for spectacular works of art. “He is good with money” was perhaps his ultimate compliment. The most famous of the historical Parsi entrepreneurs was Jamsetji Tata, who was born into a poor family of Parsi priests in Gujarat in 1839, made his first money in the opium trade, and eventually became one of the 19th century’s most prominent industrialists and philanthropists. His holdings went on to become Tata Group, which today is one of the world’s largest companies.

Our tour group was granted an audience with Jamsetji’s 82-year-old great-grandson Ratan Tata, who spent more than two decades as chair of the group and still runs its charitable trusts. One afternoon, we drove to an office block in Mumbai’s business district and filed into a meeting room inside. Tata entered soon after, stooped and hesitant, his wavy grey hair in a side parting. Sitting below a portrait of his ancestors, he spoke to us for an hour. He was delighted that we were taking an interest in our Zoroastrian roots, and described his vision of a typical Parsi as “happy and joyful rather than revengeful and destructive”. Yet Tata seemed to have a pall of sadness over him, I thought, as he reflected on his own history as part of the community. When an earnest member of our group asked him to recount a time when his faith had positively influenced his life, he spoke instead of his escape from his overbearing Parsi family to the US, where he was able to study architecture and finally felt free and happy, before he was dragged back to India to be installed in the family business.

The evening before, we had paid a house call on Jimmy Mistry, a Parsi hotelier and bon vivant whose exuberance could hardly be more at odds with Tata’s melancholy, understated vibe. Mistry had built himself an ostentatious tower block in the suburb of Dadar, and had decorated its soaring exterior with oversized motifs of winged lions and bearded warriors, in homage to the grand ruins of Persepolis in Iran, the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid empire, whose dominant religion was Zoroastrianism. On the ground floor of Mistry’s block, there was a newly built fire temple, where our group stopped for a prayer. As this was a private temple, the fire had not been consecrated and so it was a rare case when, as a non-Parsi, I was allowed to enter. But as I went to fix a head-covering, copying the others in the group, Sherry, our young priest companion, accosted me. “It’s better if you wait outside,” he said firmly. I sat alone in a wicker chair, listening to the lilting intonations of the priest waft from the temple without being able to see a thing.

A Parsi woman ties a kusti, the sacred thread worn by Zoroastrians. Photograph: Sam Panthaky/AFP/Getty Images

After the half-hour of prayer, we ascended in a lift and emerged into a dining room on the 19th floor, where a glass sculpture of a horse was suspended from the ceiling. A husky wearing a jewelled cravat padded across the chequered marble floor to greet us, and then came the host, wearing a tight black T-shirt and Louis Vuitton loafers. “Welcome to my humble abode,” Mistry said with a grin. We stepped on to a roof terrace just in time for the hazy sunset, and were then ushered up a floor to yet another terrace, where we chatted with Mistry and his family over canapes. It was a disgrace, he said, that there were so many rich Parsi businessmen who were not following the Zoroastrian command to spread their wealth. “Enough of silent charity, tell us what the fuck you’ve done for the community! We need to start shaming people,” he said. I asked him how money could help reverse the decline in the Parsi population. What about taking a more inclusive line on who can be a Parsi? “Patrilineality is the only thing that has saved us over the centuries and allowed us to keep our identity,” he said, as the city darkened below.

Our programme in Mumbai came to an end, and we left early in the morning for the hill station of Lonavala. Mistry had organised a team-building exercise for us at a retreat he owned, where corporate executives receive military-style counter-terrorism training. After a bumpy hour in a jeep and then a short boat ride, we arrived at the luxury bootcamp, where the rooms had Kalashnikov lamp-stands and hand-grenade door handles, as well as Mistryisms engraved into various fixtures. “‘A gun is like a woman: it’s all about how you hold her’ – Jimmy Mistry” was etched into my bedside table. As the sun set, we were told to stand to attention as the national anthem played, and then the staff handed out fatigues to change into for the exercises, which I decided to skip, feeling a little queasy at the militarism. A billboard informed guests that the complex had been set up to help Indians take revenge for the 2008 Mumbai terror attacks, in which Pakistani gunmen killed more than 150 people.

A sign outside a Parsi temple in Lonavala. Photograph: Shaun Walker

This kind of patriotism has helped the Parsis to remain unscathed as India’s turn towards Hindu extremism intensifies under prime minister Narendra Modi. “Their love is without condition, without any expectation, and therefore the purest possible,” Modi said back in 2011, when he was still chief minister of Gujarat, suggesting that the Parsis were a model minority that others would do well to follow. Money has also helped: the Tata group has been the most lavish donor to Modi’s BJP party in recent years, with one of the Tata trusts giving 3.6bn rupees (£36.2m) in the 2018-19 financial year. The Parsis have long prided themselves on being able to get along with the rulers of the day, whoever they may be, and even the Parsi origin story reflects this knack for astute political messaging. When the refugees from Persia landed, so the tale goes, the Hindu king of Gujarat produced a full glass of milk, to signal that there was no space for new arrivals. The Persians stirred a spoonful of sugar into the milk without spilling any, to show they would sweeten the kingdom without disturbing it.

F or the second half of our tour, we journeyed north to Gujarat. One of our first stops was Sanjan, the port where our ancestors arrived more than 1,000 years ago. A hot wind buffeted us as Sherry led a brief prayer on the sandy banks of the Varoli river, at the spot where the arriving Persians may or may not have produced that spoonful of sugar, and then we continued further north.

There was an energy and excitement inside our tour bus during the long journeys of the next few days, despite the unavoidable theme of ageing and decay that marked much of the trip. We played raucous games of Mafia and danced in the aisle to songs blasted through a bluetooth speaker. Sherry was a ringleader in both the card games and the dancing, rallying the troops and wiggling his hips to the music. A popular choice was Bohemian Rhapsody, sung by the most famous Parsi of them all, Farrokh Bulsara. Born to Parsi parents from Gujarat who resettled in Zanzibar for business, Bulsara went to school near Mumbai, moved to Britain in 1964 and soon took the name Freddie Mercury. He was quietly ignored by much of the community owing to his life choices and sexuality – I remember once perusing a book of 100 Famous Parsis at a relative’s house and finding multiple bridge construction engineers, but no Freddie Mercury – but the young diaspora Parsis on the bus had no qualms in claiming him as one of their own.

Parsi priests outside a fire temple in Gujarat, India. Photograph: IndiaPicture/Alamy

I started to ponder the idea of having a late-in-life navjote, egged on by many of the friendly co-participants in the tour, who thought it would be a fun excuse to all meet up again. I floated the idea with Sherry, but as we got chatting on the bus, I quickly realised I had been mistaken to infer from his bleached hair and carefree demeanour that he was a reformer and would approve of the idea. In Zoroastrianism, there is no need to be ascetic or severe in order to be conservative. Sherry told me that if either parent was not a Parsi, he would not perform a navjote. He did not accept the century-old ruling allowing navjotes for those children who have just a Parsi father. It seemed odd, given that Sherry was clearly devoted to the community’s survival, and spoke with visible passion about his work as a priest. Wasn’t this kind of attitude hastening its decline? “We want to focus on quality, not just quantity,” he said.

I pointed out to him that there were many people on our tour who might end up marrying non-Parsis. Was it really necessary to kick them and their offspring out of the religion? “They know what they’re getting into,” he said, in a tone that brooked no further discussion. Sherry combined a fervent commitment to religious dogma and ritual with a remarkably warm, laid-back attitude to just about every other aspect of life. It was a curious combination, but one I came to recognise in many Parsis we met.

W e arrived late one evening in Udvada, the small Gujarat town that houses the holiest fire in all Zoroastrianism, the Iranshah. Laying eyes on the Iranshah was set to be the highlight of the tour for most of the group. If legend is to be believed, the fire was consecrated shortly after the arrival of the Parsis in India, and has been burning constantly for more than a millennium. The current temple that houses it dates from the 1740s, and before priests are allowed to conduct prayer ceremonies there, they must undergo a nine-day purification ritual, during which they can have no human contact. The narrow lanes that make up the centre of old Udvada are lined with once-spectacular Parsi mansions now mostly fallen into disrepair. Just a handful of Parsi families still live in the town, though there are a number of inns for the pilgrims who come regularly from Mumbai and across the world. We checked into one of them, which had simple rooms that were bare save for a bed, a ceiling fan and a small representation of Zarathustra on the wall.

The next day, while everyone else went to take the requisite pre-prayer shower, I paid a visit to Khurshed Dastoor, the Iranshah’s high priest. He lived across from the temple, in a villa with windows open to the street, through which he was visible sitting at a desk, dressed in white. Dastoor beckoned me into his home with a flick of the wrist. He had a week of beard, and meaty earlobes that reminded me of my grandfather’s. Now 57, he had undergone priestly training at the same time as studying business and economics in Mumbai. On the wall were portraits of his father, grandfather and great-grandfather, and he could trace his lineage back 21 generations, all of them high priests of the Iranshah fire. He took up the role in 2002, when his father died. “Sometimes I thought I didn’t want to do it, but then I realised I had no choice. I think if you are born into this kind of family, you’re stamped that you will become a priest,” he said, brushing away persistent mosquitoes as he spoke.

The Iranshah fire temple in Udvada, Gujarat. Photograph: Dinodia Photos/Alamy

Dastoor told me that nowhere in the Zoroastrian texts does it say children from mixed families should not be allowed to be Zoroastrians. When I asked him about Mistree’s assertion that people like my grandfather who chose to be cremated would go to hell, he became irate. “This is where we’ve gone wrong as a religion,” he said. He told me that while he would personally prefer to be consigned to a dakhma, adherence to ritual and dogma was a secondary concern: “The improvement of your soul, ideas, the kindness you show to people, to help educate and show charity to your family, your whole community and all of society – this is how we should measure a good Zoroastrian.”

I was pleasantly surprised to find that one of the religion’s highest priests was a reformer. I asked him whether, if I did decide to have a navjote from a liberal priest, I would be allowed into his temple to see the Iranshah fire. He shook his head, with perhaps a hint of regret. He was bound by the regulations of the town’s nine-priest council, and while he was open to discussing all kinds of reform, the votes were always eight to one against him. Even his mild utterances in favour of change had got him “in a soup” with traditionalists, he said.

Still, he was adamant that the community would need to make serious changes if it was going to survive. But what, exactly? He sighed. “If I said conversion, I would be torn down. It’s not the right time and not the right place. But we have to think of something. Though, to be honest, I doubt we can make a difference. I don’t see any optimistic future.”

T here was something inspiring about the people we had met who were upholding a tradition that went back more than three millennia. I felt proud of my connection to this heritage, and a little deflated that I could never become a “real” Parsi. Still, it was hardly devastating for someone who had not previously felt a strong connection to the community. I was more interested how some of the others on the trip felt, especially the women. They had grown up practising the religion, had been interested enough to come on this trip, and were being told they would be kicked out if they married out. Many said they would prefer to marry a Parsi, but most accepted this was unlikely, given how few they met in their normal lives. Our tour had not, as far as my sleuthing could detect, resulted in the formation of any new Zoroastrian couples.

“It’s very sad, but it’s only in India,” said Tanya, a 28-year-old film-maker, born in Karachi and raised in Toronto, on being told she was no longer a Parsi if she married out. While she was proud of both her Zoroastrian faith and her Parsi heritage, she thought it absurd to insist that the Parsis should be the religion’s only gatekeepers. In the diaspora communities of North America, fire temples are open to everyone, and there is no controversy over navjotes for children of mixed parentage, she told me. The small community of Iranian Zoroastrians is even more liberal, allowing female priests, and there are also nascent neo-Zoroastrian movements in parts of the Middle East. “Zoroastrianism will always be there, it doesn’t need a race to exist,” she said. “I’d rather the religion flourishes and moves on and affects people positively than it’s a secret club you are born into.”

As the tour approached its end, we visited Navsari, the city from which the Tata family originated, and where both of my Parsi great-grandmothers were born and raised. We stopped at a library that housed ancient Persian and Gujarati Zoroastrian texts, the grand reading room adorned with portraits of illustrious Parsis of yore. We also stopped at the Vadi Daremeher, a seminary that has trained Parsi priests for nearly nine centuries, but no longer has any students.

On my last day before leaving India, I met with the Parsi leader Dinshaw Tamboly, who has long been an outspoken reformist voice, and was the driving force behind the creation of the prayer hall and crematorium where my grandfather’s funeral had taken place. He wanted to be cremated when he died, he told me, and was adamant that new voices would win out over traditionalists in the end. As we spoke, his phone flickered into life with an urgent message. An elderly priest in Mumbai had accidentally set himself on fire while praying in his fire temple, and died.

The Influence of Zoroastrianism on Christianity, Judaism and Islam.

How is it that people are so dedicated and faithful to a religion (ALA Christianity/Islam), yet they do not understand the true origins of their faith? How can we take the Christian faith as the one true religion when it is a copy off of Zoroastrianism?

The main problem at the heart of our species is ignorance. We are unwilling to believe something new. We call it outlandish and not possible, yet these pieces of information are scientifically, historically, and archaelogicaly backed. A Christian won't be willing to believe this information. Why? Because they do not want to.

Christians, please counter this information and tell me WHY The largest three religions on Earth are not copycats of Zoroastrianism. Also, I'm pretty sure we don't want to hear the 'faith' thing please.

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Christians, please counter this information and tell me WHY The largest three religions on Earth are not copycats of Zoroastrianism. Also, I'm pretty sure we don't want to hear the 'faith' thing please.

You will not get it, friend. If it is not in their book, then it doesn't exist, and by the way, every single word in there is "the word of God" and "the words of Jesus," and even though they cannot see through their rose colored glasses, they will continue to preach at you until doomsday by posting endless scripture and witnessing for their "Lord and Master," who to me is nothing but a Reptilian who disguises himself as Christ in visions and such. I too have studied the origins of religions and came to the same conclusions as you did, plus all religion is loosely based on ancient Sun worship.

Great Info. I have been wondering about this . I will look into your info when I have more time. A while back,I was looking through an Almanac and noticed that this religion is still practiced by a minority in Iran.

Thanks for posting this! S&F

Christians, please counter this information and tell me WHY The largest three religions on Earth are not copycats of Zoroastrianism. Also, I'm pretty sure we don't want to hear the 'faith' thing please.

You will not get it, friend. If it is not in their book, then it doesn't exist, and by the way, every single word in there is "the word of God" and "the words of Jesus," and even though they cannot see through their rose colored glasses, they will continue to preach at you until doomsday by posting endless scripture and witnessing for their "Lord and Master," who to me is nothing but a Reptilian who disguises himself as Christ in visions and such. I too have studied the origins of religions and came to the same conclusions as you did, plus all religion is loosely based on ancient Sun worship.

True that. Jesus was most likely a real person but in my opinion an ET.

I don't see why this is anything amazing or new.

If one was to believe in an omnipresent universal God, it would make perfect sense that this God had revealed himself to many peoples of mankind, and the message would be the same.

I accept the challenge of answering the question proposed by the OP.

Isam teaches there were many, many other prophets from God spreading the same message throughout history. Teaches that all parts of the world at different times were sent a Messenger or Prophet. Islam says there are thousands of additional prophets and messengers that were not mentioned in the Bible or Qur'an. New prophets arrived to repurify the earlier prophets message that had been corrupted. But the message was always the same, One God.

So from a "religiously Islamic" point of view, the similarities are expected to occur between different prophets and messengers, from different parts of the world, and different times.

Zoroastrianism is very intereresting I wish I knew all about it. Couldn't bring myself to read the whole Avesta though.

A fascinating offshoot is the heretical branch of Zorastrianism known as Zurvanism. This probably had a very profound impact on all sorts of more "covert" traditions, such as Western esotericism, some extreme forms of Islam and Judaism, perhaps even the thought of the Cathars and Bogomils.

I also think its interesting that the Zorastrians speak of Haoma which seems very similar if not analogous (both in name and meaning) to the Hindu Soma. Lots of hidden links yet to be uncovered in the ancient world.

Originally posted by silent thunder
Zoroastrianism is very intereresting I wish I knew all about it. Couldn't bring myself to read the whole Avesta though.

A fascinating offshoot is the heretical branch of Zorastrianism known as Zurvanism. This probably had a very profound impact on all sorts of more "covert" traditions, such as Western esotericism, some extreme forms of Islam and Judaism, perhaps even the thought of the Cathars and Bogomils.

I also think its interesting that the Zorastrians speak of Haoma which seems very similar if not analogous (both in name and meaning) to the Hindu Soma. Lots of hidden links yet to be uncovered in the ancient world.

While i completely agree that Christianity is a more recent incarnation of Zoroastrianism (hence the symbolic transference of the 'trinity' to the west through 3 magi) Zoroastrianism is no more similar to Judaism than the other pagan religions of the period.

There is an enormous misunderstanding of what Abraham brought to the world. In Judaism its taught that abraham DID NOT invent the concept of monotheism. As we can clearly see, Zororastrianism, Indo European religion, Vedas in the east, Egypt in west and the religion of Sumer, in other words, the ancient world prior to the advent of Abraham ALREADY completely understood in the unity of the cosmos. That was NOT the issue. Polytheism does not imply a disunity. It simply emphasizes plurality in addition to a unity. If any has studied mythology you can see that this is the case, in both the ancient past and today in eastern religions liek hinduism, buddhism, Sikhism etc.

The metaphysical reality of those days were the same as today. This spiritual philosophy has been called "the perennial philosophy" or the "traditionalist school". Its a philosophical appreciation of reality that runs through ALL religions in the world.

To understand what Abraham changed you have to understand what was the dominant spiritual theology of Abrahams day. Prior to Abraham, the nations of the world believed in a unified cosmos. They believed that one spiritual reality permeated all existence. It was this reality that the Zoroastrians defied in the form of Fire and called Ahura Mazda. So, this is a common concept that the profane do not understand. People do not worship fire in itself or water, or stones. These are physical representations of a spiritual concept. Fire is considered the highest element. It is pure 'spirit'. Fire penetrates air as energy(lightning), Air permeates water (bubbles), Water saturates earth. See the obvious heirarchy? The creator imbued intelligence in his creation and a spiritual order. The Zoroastrians were an example of a people who deified the highest element, pure spirit (fire).

The ancients believed as todays mystics and metaphysicians on the whole believe, that spirit and matter are irreconcilably opposed to each other, as much as Fire opposes earth.. There are two remedies to this situation. Both involve the separation and mutual existence of both realities, constrained to their own realm of influence. The first is asceticism. Going up to mountains, caves or groves and renouncing the world. By doing so the spiritual soul is purging itself of all vesitage of attachment to the ephemeral physical. The body languishes because of this to the delight of the soul. The second route taken is not one taken by ascetics. This is a route taken by ARISTOCRATS. This second route is demonstrated by the biblical personality Lavan (a historical noble of ancient babylon). He personifies this very mentality and deliberately so (the Jewish tradition seeks to wipe out this spiritual mentality). Lavan means "white" in Hebrew and has the connotation of self righteous surety. Lavans character is riddled with duplicity. At one moment he seems nice to Jacob, invites him into his home and allows him to stay with him. But later on we discover that this was all a ruse to CONTROL Jacob (keep your friends close but your enemies closer). Lavan is the archetypal deciever. He promises Jacob Rachel but instead gives him Leah. He works another 7 years and after that is impelled to spend another 6 years more with Lavan. Throughout that period Lavan changes Jacobs wages 100 times (theres deep esoteric meaning besides the literal in these stories). Lavans philosophy therefore involves a separation between the spiritual and physical. Lying is a paradigm of this. Lying separates the outer - what you say, from the inner - what you intend. This philosophy is BUILT around a moral subjectivity. Like in asceticism, this philosophy seeks to keep the spiritual and physical apart. Except in this case, the body is relinquished to the earth, that is, physical lusts, while the soul remains separated in its own sphere of influence (philosophical, meditative). In this way, both parts of the personality (this is the psychology of CG Jung btw) physical and spiritual, are fed. They are reconciled through a spiritual reality called the "universal self" - an image of wholeness, which unites good, evil, left, right, in the personality of him who patterns himself after it. This is the symbolic meaning of "christ" in Christianity and the Islamic figure of Al Khadir in the Qoran. Its this state of nothingness, void, that is the essence of their spiritual philosophy. Reality is inherently meaningless, and its that in which man should find enjoyment, peace. In this 'void', there is no evil, or good. There is simply 'now' the present, the eternal nothingness. You can see so many reverberations of this mentality in todays New Age, Theosophical culture (ekhart tolle for instance).

So, Abraham came along and criticized not only this spiritual philosophy, which he considered morally repugnant, but also the social system which was exploitive, manipulative and based on a heirarchy of knowledge. Those at the top, the aristocrats had all the power because they had all the knowledge(in regards to the subtle spiritual nature of reality). Whereas the commoners, like the people of today, were fed a false and constructed version of reality. This is the 'magic tekne' that so titillates the whims of the aristocracy. Theyre chief passion is manipulating the masses, creating 'worlds' for them, than 'destorying' worlds. They in other worlds consider themselves gods.

Thus, the inner - their own duplicity, intending one thing but showing another, is compeltely mirrored in the outer world, as one thing being shown, but a totally different thing intended. This is the world 'made in their image'.

Abraham said that the spirit and matter didnt have to me separate. Infact, they should be united! He intuited and also prophetically understood that this physical world is a container for the spiritual content which enlivens it. Therefore, we are supposed to LEARN from the world. Not only that, but our chief interest should be elevating the physical to the level of the spiritual. The physical is the source of evil. So any evil actions, namely, murdering, stealing, sexual offences, blaspheming the creator, worshipping isolated aspects of the creation (idolatry), hurting animals or eating their raw flesh/blood, and establishing a just legal system are bounds by which we can insure that the physical, can be RAISED to the level of the spiritual. Abraham argued a profoundly distict form of social government. He challenged the aristocracy and elite of his time. And its because of this that he was 'thrown into a furnace'.

Abraham spoke of a monotheism that was much more unified than what the ancient pagans spoke of. The Zoroastrians were cult worshippers. They like their pagan brethern instituted 'moral decrees', but infact their elite like our elite regularly transgressed them. Their moral code was simpyl their to establish a semblance of order in society - deemed necessary. But they themeslves were not contingent on the laws they created,.

Conversely, Abraham placed G-d and not man at the center. G-d had to be honored and in so doing his laws would have to meticulously followed. Later on in Jewish history the Torah mandates a social system that is essentially the prototype of a Republican representative government (see Jethros advice to moses).

So, i agree that every religion is in some way connected to the religions of our past. But this is not the case for Judaism. Judaism is absolutely different and any erudite student of religious philosophy will note that.

The fact that Christianity borrows from and draws on and repackages elements from other myths (just as Judaism before it did) demonstrates that Christianity is fictional.

[Ehrman] correctly declares the non-existence of a single mythic god narrative (before Christianity no one deity was born to a virgin mother and died as an atonement for sin and was raised from the dead) and thereby implies none of its elements existed in any pre-Christian mythic god narratives. That is false. Each of those elements exists in the narrative of one pre-Christian god or another (or something relevantly similar to each element did), and some are shared by several gods. That all three are not shared by any single god narrative is irrelevant.

Ehrman is thus either making a straw man argument (“mythicists who claim Jesus is a copy of a previous god narrative with all three elements are wrong, therefore all mythicists are wrong”) or a red herring argument (“the Jesus narrative is not a copy of a previous god narrative with all three elements, therefore it was not influenced by any other previous god narratives with similar elements”). In fact, when we look at the peculiar features of god and hero narratives surrounding pre-Christian Judaism and the parallel features within Judaism itself, and combine them, what we end up with is a demigod so much like that of Jesus that this cannot be a coincidence. As I wrote in my critique:

He is implausibly implying that it’s “just a coincidence” that in the midst of a fashion for dying-and-rising salvation gods with sin-cleansing baptisms, the Jews just happened to come up with the same exact idea without any influence at all from this going on all around them. That they “just happened” to come up with the idea of a virgin born son of god, when surrounded by virgin born sons of god, as if by total coincidence.

That’s simply not plausible. And it misinforms the public to conceal this fact from them.

Carrier is invoking this in the context of the secular debate about whether there was a even historical Jesus at all on whom the Gospels were based (supernatural notions are not even part of that debate that debate is just about whether there was a real guy the fictional myths were based on or not).

Historicity of Jesus aside, the evidence of the Christian myth borrowing from other myths certainly proves that the Christian myth is fictional. I mean, it's not even original (although it recombines various elements in an interesting way).

Robert Price also makes an amusing point here:

I gotta think, "Why think one of these is historical and the other is not?" Now, the answer of apologists has long been, "Well, maybe the pagans borrowed it from Christianity. They saw it was selling real well and decided to build that into their gospel too."

The problem with that is we have evidence of pre-Christian non-Christian versions of this that go back 100s of years. Baal and Osiris and so forth.

And even if we didn't, the early Christians who tried to deal with this like Tertullian and Justin Martyr, when pagans would say, "Well, this is just the same old thing we've heard before," would say, "Well, you know why that is, don't you? Satan knew that Jesus was going to come and to throw everybody off the track he planted these fake stories, counterfeits, in advance so that people like you would laugh it off."

Ask yourself: Who would mouth such an argument if they knew that the Christian version was the earliest? I mean, if there was any chance that you knew that Mithras or somebody had ripped this off, you would never argue that Satan had counterfeited the story in advance! You're admitting these stories are pre-Christian!

Well, the answer is that there is absolutely no element of the Jesus narrative that is found in any pre-Christian myth. Just because you can find myths of gods that were resurrected is meaningless unless you can show that they have any similirarity in narrative structure with the gospel accounts. For instance one myth about Osiris is that he was torn into pieces, and his wife collected the pieces together, turned into a bird, and used her wings to fan breath into him lomg enouh enough for her to have sex with him, before he dies again. None of this narrative has the slightest thing to do with the gospel writers' accounts of Jesus resurection. The same with any virgin birth or atonement myth. There are zero similarities.

There are tons of similarities. Just check OHJ. See Osiris, Romulus, Inanna, Zalmoxis, Adonis.

Yes. And even so, wouldn't this be textbook post hoc ergo propter hoc? You would need to do two things:
(1) Demonstrate similarities
(2) Demonstrate a mode of transmission that resulted in (1).

Psalm 104 and the Hymn of Aten. The Psalm in many places appear to copy ver batim the ancient Egyptian Hymn. So establishing (1). And the decades the Hebrews lived in Egypt link the two societies together, thus establishing (2).

You have to put a Christian hat on to see this possibility, and then allow it to verge on the somewhat heretical. )

There is a possibility that those myths were prophetic of Christ to some extent. Perhaps the myths were even true. After all, there are plenty of people in the Old Testament who can also be viewed as a foreshadowing of Jesus (eg the Abraham and Isaac sacrifice incident). Why not in other cultures?

Perhaps even, if you embraced the Christ-like aspects of the other stories 1000 years before Christ, God counts you as believing in Christ, because you would have believed if you had known about Christ. It was God's way of giving everyone (or more people than the Jews) an opportunity to hear.

"But I said, Alas Lord, I am no son of thine but the servant of Tash. He answered, Child, all the service thou hast done to Tash, I account as service done to me." - CS Lewis - The Last Battle (not the Bible ))

"Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them." - Romans 1:14-15 (the Bible ))

But why would you go with the more unlikely and complex answer when the most likely answer is that the Bible in some part was based on fables and legends already existing for hundreds of years. Showing that it was just written by men of that time. Suggesting that god had a hand in the Bible or that he planted stories ahead of time of the Bible is just taking a huge leap to keep you from challenging your preexisting beliefs.

How do you tell the difference between this hypothesis being true and being a post-hoc rationalisation?

Think about how much research Carrier has done to uncover parallels in the Gospels. He has access to the Internet, troves of research in giant university libraries and the combined academic work of 2 centuries. Yet his claim is this: some 1st century Jew knew about all of this stuff too, without access to any of these resources (before the printing press by centuries) and pulled it together into a a fictional sorry about a supposed contemporary man and pawned it off as the truth while potential witnesses would be alive.

Yep, and it's not surprising in the least. Trade and intercontinental cross-country relationships still existed back then, at a time where religion was at it's most fickle and susceptible​ to foreign influence.

Old Testament stories were probably more original than New testament ones, mostly because trade wasn't that big and missionaries were fewer and far between with traders. But with the New Testament, it's much easier to spot foreign influence from more major religions of the time such as Buddhism and Egyptian mythology.

TlDr people weren't as cut off from the world as you might think.

Composed AFTER the letters of Paul, Mark and Matthew were INTENDED as symbolic fiction, being written in a symbolic chiastic structure.

Only with Luke-Acts did Christians start to view the four Gospels literally.

The sayings of Jesus in the Gospels are things Paul originally said. See Nikolaus Walter's ‘Paul and the Early Christian Jesus-Tradition’.

The events in Mark and Matthew are based on the LXX, directly borrowing its language:

The Donkey(s) - Jesus riding on a donkey is from Zechariah 9.

Mark has Jesus sit on a young donkey that he had his disciples fetch for him (Mark 11.1-10).

Matthew changes the story so the disciples instead fetch TWO donkeys, not only the young donkey of Mark but also his mother. Jesus rides into Jerusalem on both donkeys at the same time (Matthew 21.1-9). Matthew wanted the story to better match the literal reading of Zechariah 9.9. Matthew even actually quotes part of Zech. 9.9.

The Sermon on the Mount - The Sermon of the Mount relies extensively on the Greek text of Deuteronomy and Leviticus especially, and in key places on other texts. For example, the section on turning the other cheek and other aspects of legal pacifism (Mt. 5.38-42) has been redacted from the Greek text of Isaiah 50.6-9.

The clearing of the temple - The cleansing of the temple as a fictional scene has its primary inspiration from an ancient faulty targum of Zech. 14.21 which changed ⟊naanites' to 'traders'.

When Jesus clears the temple he quotes Jer. 7.11 (in Mk 11.17). Jeremiah and Jesus both enter the temple (Jer. 7.1-2 Mk 11.15), make the same accusation against the corruption of the temple cult (Jeremiah quoting a revelation from the Lord, Jesus quoting Jeremiah), and predict the destruction of the temple (Jer. 7.12-14 Mk 14.57-58 15.29).

The Crucifixion - The whole concept of a crucifixion of God’s chosen one arranged and witnessed by Jews comes from Psalm 22.16, where ‘the synagogue of the wicked has surrounded me and pierced my hands and feet’. The casting of lots is Psalm 22.18. The people who blasphemed Jesus while shaking their heads is Psalm 22.7-8. The line ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ is Psalm 22.1.

The Resurrection - Jesus was known as the ‘firstfruits’ of the resurrection that would occur to all believers (1 Cor. 15.20-23). The Torah commands that the Day of Firstfruits take place the day after the first Sabbath following the Passover (Lev. 23.5, 10-11). In other words, on a Sunday. Mark has Jesus rise on Sunday, the firstftuits of the resurrected, symbolically on the very Day of Firstfruits itself.

Barabbas - This is the Yom Kippur ceremony of Leviticus 16 and Mishnah tractate Yoma: two ‘identical’ goats were chosen each year, and one was released into the wild containing the sins of Israel (which was eventually killed by being pushed over a cliff), while the other’s blood was shed to atone for those sins. Barabbas means ‘Son of the Father’ in Aramaic, and we know Jesus was deliberately styled the ‘Son of the Father’ himself. So we have two sons of the father one is released into the wild mob containing the sins of Israel (murder and rebellion), while the other is sacrificed so his blood may atone for the sins of Israel—the one who is released bears those sins literally the other, figuratively. Adding weight to this conclusion is manuscript evidence that the story originally had the name ‘Jesus Barabbas’. Thus we really had two men called ‘Jesus Son of the Father’.

Further reading

Further reading

Handbook on the Historical books: Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra-Nehemiah, Esther, V Hamilton, Baker Bookhouse Company (2001)

The David Story: A translation with commentary of 1 and 2 Samuel, Robert Alter, W W Norton (2000)

Samuel, Sidney Brichto, Sinclair-Stevenson (2000) - a translation into colloquial English of the book of Samuel

The Collegeville Bible Commentary: Old Testament: First and Second Samuel (The Collegeville Bible Commentary: Old Testament Series), Paula J Bowes, The Liturgical Press (1985)

How are the mighty fallen?: A dialogical study of King Saul in 1 Samuel, Barbara Green, Continuum International Publishing (2003)

Reflections on the Psalms, C S Lewis, Fount (1983)

The Bible Book: A user's guide to the Bible, Nick Page, Harper Collins (2002)

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