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Zoroastrianism and Judaism (was [AUXLANG] We do but jest...)

From:BP Jonsson <bpj@...>
Date:Saturday, July 29, 2000, 10:40
At 02:37 27.7.2000 +0000, Leo Caesius wrote:

>It was a Persian emperor, Cyrus, who brought an end to several hundred >years of warfare, oppression, and dispersion, which the Jews had endured >under the Assyrians and the Babylonians. According to tradition, it was >during this period that Ezra compiled the Law and brought it back to the >Jews. Texts from this period (Esther, Tobit, Judith, etc.) reveal heavy >influences from Iranian dualism, Iranian concepts of salvation and the >afterlife, a detailed angelic (and demonic) hierarchy calqued on the >Iranian hierarchy, and even divine figures from the Iranian pantheon, >such as Asmodeus, make an appearance. One might say that Judaism was >never the same after Ezra was finished with it - although I personally >would not go as far as to say that Judaism is basically a Zoroastrian >sect, as some Bible scholars maintain.
Without trying to imply that there is any such thing as a agreed-upon Iranist position :-) I would like to point out that all this influence was (1) probably much more general throughout the Middle East during persian rule, i.e. affected not only the Jews, but went much wider, including the Greeks, (2) went on for a much longer time than the lifetimes of Kurush/Koresh/Cyrus or Ezra (all of the Achemenid and Hellenistic periods, in fact), (3) the influence between Semitic and Iranian religion was two-way, neither coming out of it the same -- not only modern Judaism, but also Roman Mithraism, Mandaism and Manichaeism (in fact all of Gnosticism) testifies to this, as does Zurvanism(*) on the Zoroastrian side -- and heck it isn't even sure that the Achamenian kings were Zoroastrians in the sense modern adherents are!, (4) the idea of an exclusive or special affinity between Zoroastrianism and Judaism was largely based on wishful thinking on the part of an older generation of Western (Xian) Iranists overestimating the degree to which Zoroastrism was/is monotheistic. The subsequent controversies between Zoroastrian and Muslim theologians make this point clearly! I can see how a similarity may have been discernible in the figures of Ahura Mazda and the Jewish God, but I wonder how much can be made out of it? To take but one example burning sacrifice would be sacrilegious (Daevayasna) to Zoroastrians! Not also that the Zoroastrian iconoclasm is a phenomenon of the Sassanian era, contemporaneous with the beginnings of *Xian* iconoclasm! But what Zoroastrian deity or demonity would Asmodeus correspond to? IMHO Asha or Aeshma showing up as a *demon* in Judaism would speak against any close ties.
>It reminded me intensely of some of the Zoroastrian ceremonies that I >have seen (on tape, of course), and in fact the Mandaean clergy used the >same tools and wore the same clothes as the Zoroastrian clergy.
This is highly intriguing! Could you expand on it? (*) Zurvanism -- as Chollie probably knows, but others maybe don't -- was a Zoroastrian heresy positing Time (Zurvan, Aeon in Greek) as a higher principle above both Good and Evil. The idea in fact undermines the very basis of Zoroastrian theology. I should also point out that the Gnostic/Manichaean dualism positing a good spiritual world and an evil material world is highly distortive from a Zoroastrian point of view, where there are two primeval spiritual worlds, one Light and one Dark, the material world being originally a creation of the Good Lord which was attacked and infected by evil. The cosmic struggle ends with the expurgation of evil from the material world rather than the salvation of souls out of the material world. It is ideed pointed out that the spiritual prototype of the created world -- menog -- is incomplete without its material manifestation -- getig. Thus orthodox Zoroastrian cosmology is much closer to orthodox Jewish and Xian cosmology (and closer still to Tolkiens! :-) Gnosticism owes more, probably, to Platonism! /BP 8^)> -- B.Philip Jonsson (delete X) ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ "Truth, Sir, is a cow which will give [skeptics] no more milk, and so they are gone to milk the bull." -- Sam. Johnson (no rel. ;)