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Old 10-24-2003, 11:31 PM   #1
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Zoroastrianism and Judeo-Christianity

I put this in here, rather than "Goal is Soul," because I'm sure this will be more controversial.

I've mentioned before that Judaism was markedly shaped by the Persian Empire and their religion, Zoroastrianism. This was due to the fact that the Israelites had, for nearly 300 years (if I remember correctly), been in exile. This was also the empire that released the Israelites and allowed them to return to their homeland. It is my view that that is what the Old Testament reflects--the beliefs, fears, concerns, and prejudices of this post-exilic society, clamoring to rebuild what was once, to them, a powerful kingdom.

Most puzzling, however, is what Judaism took with it from the Persians. Here is a list of interesting beliefs of Zoroastrianism:

--There are two gods: Ahura Mazda (or Ormasz [where "Ormus" from Salman Rushdie's "The Ground Beneath Her Feet" gets his name from]) and Angra Mainyu, also known as "Ahriman" or "Shaitan." That last name is of most significance to us; it is where we get the name "Satan" from.

--Ahura Mazda, the god of light, is the most powerful of the two gods. From the beginning, he chose good, and, thus, became incapable of evil. He is also the creator of the "ahuras," or "angels." A higher order of "ahura," the seven "Amesha Spentas," are comparable to archangels.

--Angra Mainyu, the god of dark, chose evil. He lives in darkness, in a place where all those who do evil go to after their demise (hell) and his symbol is the snake. He is also the creator of "daevas," or "devils." Separated by a large expanse of space that neither god can cross, Angra Mainyu is tormented by the light that emanates from Ahura Mazda and sends "daevas" to destroy it. There are seven "archdemons" (still "daevas"; no special name). One "archdemon," Aesma Daeva, found its way into the apocryphal Old Testament book of Tobit as "Asmodeus" (Latinized form of the Hebrew Ashmedai; also called "the Demon of Matrimonial Unhappiness").

--Eventually, Angra Mainyu will be defeated by the coming of a "Saoshyant" or "Savior." Ancient texts refer to three great souls who are designated to be Saoshyants. The third of these will destroy evil and bring forth the reign of righteousness. The Savior will be the son of Zarathustra (Persian founder of Zoroastrianism) and will be conceived through a virgin called 'the all-destroying.' He will be assisted by his friends, who are fiend-smitting, well-thinking, well-speaking, well-doing, and whose tongues have never uttered a word of falsehood. After this, the world will be restored, the dead will arise, and life and immortality will come.

--The "magi," who bore three gifts for the infant Jesus Christ, are Zoroastrian priests, although not Orthodox Zoroastrians, as they did not have "magi."

I could go on and on, particularly with the book of Revelation (the "beast" appears to be a derivative of the storm demon, Azi Dahaka--a snake-like monster with three heads and six eyes that will be released from its prison close to the end of time, only to be destroyed in a river of fire at the final end of time) and the Noah flood myth (Ahura Mazda warned Yima that destruction in the form of floods, subsequent to the melting of the snow, was threatening the sinful world and gave him instructions for building a vara in which specimens of small and large cattle, humans, dogs, birds, fires, plants and foods were to be deposited in pairs [although, to be fair, every culture seems to have a flood myth -- http://www.dreamscape.com/morgana/titania.htm]).

Overall, I find much of this to be of great interest. Truthfully, it doesn't shatter my faith at all; in fact, it enhances it. I've always wanted to know where Judeo-Christian beliefs came from, and it doesn't change the fact that I do believe that there is a "Supreme" God out there. Considering the earliest existing Old Testament texts are all post-exilic, it is somewhat of a puzzle as to what the Israelites believed before the Zoroastrian infusion, although there are clues that their beliefs were more modeled around Sumerian theology beforehand.

Thoughts?

Melon
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Old 10-24-2003, 11:40 PM   #2
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Did the Zoroastrian creation myth influence the Bible creation account? Please comment. The more I study, the more it seems this theory is strong.

Anyone have good links to essay/debate?

http://www.essays.cc/free_essays/f3/nyv78.shtml

"Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Christianity share so many features that it seems that there must be a connection between them."

"Most of Zoroastrianism, known and practiced among the people, existed in oral tradition: through word of mouth, not by the study of written scriptures. This oral tradition included stories about God, the Creation, the ethical and cosmic conflict of Good and Evil, the divine Judgment and the end of the world. The tradition would also include the well-known Zoroastrian symbolism of fire, light and darkness, as well as stories and prayers about the yazatas or intermediate spiritual beings and the Prophet Zarathushtra."

"This is how the Jews encountered Zoroastrianism - in private dialogues and political and civic experience, rather than in formal religious studies. And as the Jewish religion was re-made after the catastrophe of the Exile, these Zoroastrian teachings began to filter into the Jewish religious culture. "

"There are other developments, however, in the Jewish faith which are much more easily connected with Zoroastrian ideas. One of the most visible changes after the Exile is the emergence of a Jewish idea of Heaven, Hell, and the afterlife. Before the Exile and Persian contact, Jews believed that the souls of the dead went to a dull, Hades-like place called Sheol. After the Exile, the idea of a moralized afterlife, with heavenly rewards for the good and hellish punishment for the evil, appear in Judaism. "

"The Biblical book of Deuteronomy, like the other early books of the Old Testament, was re-edited and possibly even re-written during and after the Exile. "

"This type of prophecy, after the Exile, evolved into apocalyptic, which comes from the Greek word apokalypsis which means revelation."
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In Mazdayasna, (Zoroastrianism to you) there are 2 distinct and separate religions woven into one. In the original religion, that now in the last 175 years or so is being restored, there are no myths, at least in the Semitic sense of Mystery and Veiling, Creation or otherwise.

In the religion superimposed and more or less integrated to this original one, apparently at first by Vedic impostors and later by Maggi priests, there is a creation story that shows up in the Younger Avesta and in the Pahlavi Sassanian writings

Now it is the Younger Avesta religion, that influenced the Jews after and during the exile period. Through Judaism it influenced , rather heavily in some areas, Christianity and Islam. Afterwards, there might have been borrowings from Paul who, after all, was from Tarsus where there were two humongous Parthian era Zoroastrian fire Temples. Islam's borrowings were a lot more direct Salman I Farsi, one of Mohammed's 'companions' was a renegade Magi Priest.

But the influence goes far beyond a Creation story, the concepts of messiah Judgement after death Hell, Heaven and Devil and demons, were either not present in Judaism, or radically different, after the exile than before,

There are others, like archangels. Even the name Pharisee seems to stem from Phars (Persia) indeed according to the NT recount of Pharisaical beliefs , these are almost exactly those of the Persians.
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Old 10-26-2003, 12:31 PM   #3
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Dude, Melon, you assign even harder homework that I do. I'm reading and digesting, thanks for posting this!

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Old 10-26-2003, 08:19 PM   #4
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I don't find it shattering either. God can choose to reveal himself in any number of ways. In the light of the contacts with Zoroastrinism the Exile coems to have more positive aspects. Through being exposed to another view of God the Jews come to a greater understanding. And I also think that it would be interesting to determine what the pre-Exile faith was like.
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Old 10-26-2003, 08:34 PM   #5
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When I was doing my undergrad, I took a religion course and had to write a paper evaluating a Zoroastrian polemic essay which critiqued other religions. I had to choose one, and chose Christianity, and I honestly don't remember much anymore (it was 4 years ago), but I do recall that the Zoroastrian argument was that Christianity was full of irrational and silly beliefs.

It was an interesting read.
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Old 10-26-2003, 08:44 PM   #6
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I studied Zoroastrianism also, but it's been a long time for me as well. It's fascinating. I still have a couple of the books, maybe I'll read them again if I have the time.
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Old 10-26-2003, 08:49 PM   #7
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Melon,

Correct me if I'm mis-understanding you...

You're saying that the Jews took the belief of two gods?

Judaism has one God.

Light and Dark are one and the same.

There is no HELL in Judaism.

Don't confuse Judaism, Judeo-Christian, and Christianity.
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Old 10-26-2003, 09:02 PM   #8
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Originally posted by Elvis
Melon,

Correct me if I'm mis-understanding you...

You're saying that the Jews took the belief of two gods?

Judaism has one God.
<snip>
Don't confuse Judaism, Judeo-Christian, and Christianity.
Not to put words in Melon's mouth, but the Zoroastrian belief was in one good god and one evil god, comparable to God and the Devil, with the divinity concept a little different. I'm more familiar with arguments that Zoroastrianism influenced Christianity. But I really don't remember them that well, it's been eons since I studied this stuff.
*where are those books??*
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Old 10-26-2003, 09:08 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by verte76


Not to put words in Melon's mouth, but the Zoroastrian belief was in one good god and one evil god, comparable to God and the Devil, with the divinity concept a little different. I'm more familiar with arguments that Zoroastrianism influenced Christianity. But I really don't remember them that well, it's been eons since I studied this stuff.
*where are those books??*

I'll go along with it influencing Christianity... that's fine and dandy.... but what melon wrote/pasted leads one to believe that it influenced Judaism (and in very specific ways as mentioned), which it did not.

Judaism itself is based on a very ancient form of mysticism, which most people (including Jews) are not even aware of... but that's an entirely different conversation.
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Old 10-27-2003, 02:45 AM   #10
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Originally posted by Elvis
I'll go along with it influencing Christianity... that's fine and dandy.... but what melon wrote/pasted leads one to believe that it influenced Judaism (and in very specific ways as mentioned), which it did not.

Judaism itself is based on a very ancient form of mysticism, which most people (including Jews) are not even aware of... but that's an entirely different conversation.
I argue that it did influence Judaism. Rather than take on Zoroastrian beliefs completely, they made it their own. No, they did not believe in two gods at once. Instead, they made Satan a being subordinate to God.

What makes it complicated is the fact that the oldest manuscripts that exist for the Old Testament are post-exilic, and, thus, were re-edited / rewritten with these beliefs in mind. Thus, the "inconsistencies" that we see within some of the older texts are due to these philosophical shifts.

What the evidence, thus far, shows is that Judaism has two distinct belief systems: a pre-exilic religion that reflects more Sumerian beliefs, possibly even believing in the existence of other gods, but only worshipping one (the first commandment, for instance, says that one "shall not have any other gods beside me"; not that the other gods don't exist). It is also my hypothesis that the Genesis creation stories possibly reflect this belief system, and the story of Adam and Eve are the first of the "chosen people," not the first of humanity.

But I do agree. There is also ample evidence to show how Christianity was influenced by Zoroastrianism. I have to wonder if it is a natural outgrowth of Judaism's influence or if Christianity was influenced by it directly, independent of Judaism.

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Old 10-27-2003, 07:51 AM   #11
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sidenote: why do people think there were three wisemen

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Old 10-27-2003, 07:58 AM   #12
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Because there were trhee gifts. People assume three gifts three magi. And that's what you get told as a kid. And with the Magi only being in one Gospel (Matthew's) and given how littel most people actually read the bible it's no surprise that people think there's three. I did until recently.
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Old 10-27-2003, 09:58 AM   #13
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I read the initial post on Friday and have reflected on the concept all weekend. It strikes me as an interesting theory if you want to keep God in a box.

To suggest that Christianity or Judaism is based on or influenced by Zoroastrianism changes Scripture from God's Word to a work of fiction. Scripture then comes to our level - we can take it, leave it, use it as we wish, define God as we choose and negate any accountability to God. It gives us a false sense of freedom or power.

Most religions and cults have some share concepts or ideas. Consider the question, “why we have faith or religion?” All will answer the questions of: 1. “Who is God?” 2. “What is our problem (i.e., why do we need a religion)?” 3. “What is the solution (i.e., how does this religion help me overcome the problem)?” 4. “What is the end result {i.e., what happens to me when I apply the solution)?”

Thus, to draw connections between Judaism/Christianity and Zoroastrianism is not unique or authoritative in any way.

Judaism is a rehash of an old form of mysticism? If find it interesting to suggest that only a few people know this “truth”.
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Old 10-27-2003, 10:30 AM   #14
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Originally posted by melon


I argue that it did influence Judaism. Rather than take on Zoroastrian beliefs completely, they made it their own. No, they did not believe in two gods at once. Instead, they made Satan a being subordinate to God.
First, there is no Satan in Judaism.

Second, the CLOSEST thing you can even find to a 'Dark' side exists only within pre-Genesis stories, which are not even in the Torah, and were not carried on into the modern 'religion' for the most part. Most Jews don't even realize that Dark angels have/had anything to do with Judaism. Heck, most people don't even understand that is was Noah that was corrupt himself, and tricked God, breaking their contract.

Melon, you're making a very general statement, one which has no backing. In Judaism, who do you claim is Satan?



Quote:

What makes it complicated is the fact that the oldest manuscripts that exist for the Old Testament are post-exilic, and, thus, were re-edited / rewritten with these beliefs in mind. Thus, the "inconsistencies" that we see within some of the older texts are due to these philosophical shifts.

Actually, from all of the reading/studying that I've done... I find quite the opposite. I find that many things aren't explained (or understood) because of what was lost in the ages. As I pointed out about Dark angels, most Jews have never even heard of such... not as far as Judaism goes anyway.

Quote:

What the evidence, thus far, shows is that Judaism has two distinct belief systems: a pre-exilic religion that reflects more Sumerian beliefs, possibly even believing in the existence of other gods, but only worshipping one (the first commandment, for instance, says that one "shall not have any other gods beside me"; not that the other gods don't exist). It is also my hypothesis that the Genesis creation stories possibly reflect this belief system, and the story of Adam and Eve are the first of the "chosen people," not the first of humanity.




This may sound strange, but Judaism was never intended on being 'bvelieved', nor a religion.

The Torah was written as a collection of stories and fables, by man, to teach ethics, morals, health, and a basic overall good way to live life.

As well, Kabbalah the root of Judaism (the ancient mysticism I mentioned previously) is today branded as some BS cult like, celebrity fad... by the likes of people such as Madonna. Kabbalah is NOT something that can be taught, despite what many people today may think, and is VERY different than what the masses of the 'regular' Jewish population 'believe'.

The commandments and the Torah, again.. written by man, were tools used to explain to the more common people the lessons which are to be gleamed from a true understanding of Kabbalah.

There is no one belief system in any religion, including Judaism... like any other, there are different sects.

As far as the commandment "You shall have no other gods but me":

a) This is an English translation.

b) At the time, and as you well know, many other religions/groups believed in/worshipped other 'gods' or idols. I seem to think your overly analytical view of this commandment tends to ignore this fact and perhaps keeps you from seeing it as a comparison of what others are doing.

Now of course, I question where the commandments came from. Personally, from what I've studied, I'd say that like the Torah they were written by man in an effort to create society, calm, and control..... explaining good rules to live by, to the 'common folk'.



Quote:

But I do agree. There is also ample evidence to show how Christianity was influenced by Zoroastrianism. I have to wonder if it is a natural outgrowth of Judaism's influence or if Christianity was influenced by it directly, independent of Judaism.

Melon

As far as Christianity goes... the 'new' Testament is no different than a book of Mad Libs. How dare I say that... some are asking, I'm sure.

The translation of the Torah from Hebrew to Greek/Aramaic is where the stories were truly re-written. It is well known that there were atleast 10,000+ words/phrases that could NOT be translated, and were therefore re-written to fit the Christian beliefs.

As I've discussed way long ago here (since I don't often involve myself in these discussions), I was raised Jewish... however as a child I was very interested in other religions, and somehow knew/felt that Judaism was the root of all religions. What I found is that Judaism is perhaps the root of (obviously) modern Judeo-Christian religions..... but Judaism, as well as many other eastern religions, also had their roots.

Many eastern religions all have the same basic belief/moral system, and tend to be based on the same stories, albeit using different names and labels.

What I'm getting to, melon, is that perhaps instead of questioning how the Zoroastrian beliefs may have influenced Judaism, and Christianity, you should be questioning how Kabbalah perhaps influenced Zoroastrian beliefs, and how Kabbalah influenced others.

Now, if you go poking around on the net, or even most books, you're going to find that Kabbalah surfaces after the exile... but don't be mislead. Kabbalah was not to be taught or discussed among those that did not pursue it on their own. It is something within, which leads me to this...

Personally, I feel that most people can't understand what Kabbalah really is, there are currently tooooo many misdirections (which is ironic, seeing as though it's not supposed to be taught, etc). BUT... if you want a pretty good interpretation, just look at George Lucas' The Force.

Unfortunately, as far as Kabbalah goes, I've got no great web sites to quote for you melon, no great books to quote either... what's written is misleading, fiction, assumption, flat out wrong, and is simply that... written.

Language is mans gift, and tragedy.

So, why have I wasted your time? Because I feel it almost pointless to argue, or even discuss, what influenced what, at what point, or where.... why? because when you break it all down, there is Light and Dark, Good and Evil, and a million other linguistical ways to describe the same thing.

Humans have spent so much time philosophising, writing, discussing, arguing, and warring that they have lost sight of the most simplistic things to understand.

Actually... I know why I rarely get into discussions about these things: people end up focusing on timelines, semantics, names, labels, and the tangible, and the more I think about it, the more I realize that I only use the term 'Kabbalah' because it most describes what I'm talking about, without actually being specific, YET, with all the mis-information out there, what I'm trying to convey as Kabbalah (or it's beliefs) are incredibly different than anything you'll read.

I'll leave you with my babble, I've had enough for now
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Old 10-27-2003, 10:35 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally posted by nbcrusader
To suggest that Christianity or Judaism is based on or influenced by Zoroastrianism changes Scripture from God's Word to a work of fiction.
I don't think that way. I think, on the other hand, that God reveals Himself through unorthodox means.

I like how Blacksword looked at this:

"I don't find it shattering either. God can choose to reveal himself in any number of ways. In the light of the contacts with Zoroastrinism the Exile comes to have more positive aspects. Through being exposed to another view of God the Jews come to a greater understanding. And I also think that it would be interesting to determine what the pre-Exile faith was like."

The only thing that this ultimately questions is the Biblical fundamentalist belief that God wrote the Bible and sent it down from the heavens. Considering that the evidence has always run contrary to that (even the Dead Sea Scrolls put that into question, not only having differing text, but having all the so-called "apocryphal" texts included as well), then perhaps it is time to stop limiting what God is capable of doing.

The more I learn about the origins, the more it all starts to make sense.

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