Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Zoroaster in the Guardian

ZOROASTER, the ancient Iranian prophet, gets some press in the Guardian:
Zoroaster – forgotten prophet of the one God

The Abrahamic religions were preceded, and decisively influenced by, followers of an earlier prophet

o John Palmer
o guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 13 July 2010 15.29 BST
o Article history

The tiny world wide communities of Zoroastrians are no doubt pleased to get any mention in Cif belief – even if it is only to provide alphabetical balance to a list starting with the Bahá'ís. Even those who take a close interest in the more exotic or esoteric of religions tend to have a vague grasp on what the followers of the ancient Persian (or maybe Bactrian) prophet, Zarathustra (Zoroaster in Greek) – born around 800 BC – actually believed. This is a great pity since even a non-believer must be impressed with the evidence of how the religious ideas first expressed by Zoroaster were fundamental in shaping what emerged as Judaism after the 5th century BC and thus deeply influenced the other Abrahamic religions – Christianity and Islam.

The exact date of Zoroaster is debated by specialists, as is the degree of influence of Zoroastrianism on ancient Judaism. At the same time, it is undeniable that there was some influence. For example the word "Paradise" (originally meaning "walled garden) is a Persian word, as are a number of other words used in late texts in the Hebrew Bible (such as Daniel) and in the Dead Sea Scrolls. To what degree Zoroastrian eschatology influenced Jewish apocalyptic eschatology is a more difficult question.

It's good to see these issues being discussed in the press. (Cif belief, by the way, is the Guardian blog in which this essay appears.)