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Author Topic: Zoroastrian influences over Christianity?  (Read 1969 times) Average Rating: 0
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Andrew Crook
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« on: May 12, 2011, 12:32:48 AM »

Dear all,

  I wasn't sure where to post this, so if I have put it in the wrong forum please move it to the right one!

  I've recently run across some claims that Jews never believed in an immortal soul, or the resurrection of the dead until they had spent long enough under Persian rule to be sufficiently influenced by them; after their exile to Babylon.  I've seen the claim time and time again, that the concepts of Good vs. Evil as Ahura Mazda battling it out with the Devil (Angra Mainyu), the Last Judgement, the resurrection of the dead, the belief in an immortal soul.. were all borrowed by Judaism from Zoroastrian influence.  Apparently they claim that, Christians and Muslims carried on these ideas! 

  I know many will make the claim that since a great majority of Zoroastrian scripture was not written down until much after the New Testament; that they borrowed from us, not the other way around!  However it does seem to be apparent that Zoroastrianism predates Christianity, and like many ancient cultures they repeated their traditions orally for quite awhile. 

  Now I firmly believe in Holy Orthodoxy with all of my heart, but I would like to know the Orthodox Christian answer to these claims.   If it is true, does that mean that Zoroaster was somehow inspired?  Or what do you guys think...?

Sincerely,
Andrew
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« Reply #1 on: May 12, 2011, 12:40:03 AM »

I've recently run across some claims that Jews never believed in an immortal soul, or the resurrection of the dead until they had spent long enough under Persian rule to be sufficiently influenced by them; after their exile to Babylon.

Others claim that resurrection of the dead comes from the Egyptians. With ancient history it's a Choose Your Own Conjecture Adventure. Enjoy the endless and pointless ride.
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« Reply #2 on: May 12, 2011, 12:48:08 AM »

I think it is important to remember that St. Justin Martyr was (IIRC) of the belief that all religions have some level of truth to them.  Perhaps Zoroastrianism happens to have a lot of truth to it.  It also is possible (at least from the Jewish stand point, I am not so sure what the Fathers say about it) that Zoroaster was in fact a prophet.  After all, the consider Job (who they also consider to be a Gentile) to be a prophet.  If Orthodoxy also believes in the possibility of prophets outside of Israel (the people not the place) before the coming of the Lord, then one could take the approach that Zoroaster may indeed have been a prophet.

Regardless, it is impossible to be an Orthodox Christian and not believe that at some point Zoroastrianism radically changed its doctrines, if it indeed had an origin in God, as it has radically different views from Orthodoxy on a number of points.  Also, it is quite possible that it did have an impact on Judaism, for instance I recall reading an article some time ago (which had been on that computer's favorites on Firefox, until the computer stopped turning on and I lost everythign on it) in which a Rabbi admitted that it influenced Judaism.  However, there isn't a particularly great reason to believe that any core beliefs of Judaism were changed (as I recall, the Rabbi - an Orthodox Rabbi by the way - mentioned only actions they do, and not beliefs), and also that if they were, there were many varities of Judaism until fairly recently.  While now there is primarily Orthodox (which include a good deal of variety such as Modern Orthodox, Hasidic, Ultra-Orthodox, etc.), Conservative, and Reform Judaism, until the middle ages, there was also a large contingent of Karaite Jews (today they still exist, but are extremely small in number).  During the time of the second Temple, there were a truely massive number of Jewish sects, from the Essenes, to the Phariasees (sp?), to the Sadducees, and several others most likely.  While Zoroastrianism undoubtedly influenced many, the real question is, did it influence the Apostles and Christ Himself?  I would have to say that if at any time the Apostles were - prior to becoming Apostles - incluenced by it, they were not by the time the Church was established on the day of Pentecost.  That is the important thing to rembmer.
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« Reply #3 on: May 12, 2011, 02:12:42 AM »

Dear all,

  I wasn't sure where to post this, so if I have put it in the wrong forum please move it to the right one!

  I've recently run across some claims that Jews never believed in an immortal soul, or the resurrection of the dead until they had spent long enough under Persian rule to be sufficiently influenced by them; after their exile to Babylon.  I've seen the claim time and time again, that the concepts of Good vs. Evil as Ahura Mazda battling it out with the Devil (Angra Mainyu), the Last Judgement, the resurrection of the dead, the belief in an immortal soul.. were all borrowed by Judaism from Zoroastrian influence.  Apparently they claim that, Christians and Muslims carried on these ideas!  

  I know many will make the claim that since a great majority of Zoroastrian scripture was not written down until much after the New Testament; that they borrowed from us, not the other way around!  However it does seem to be apparent that Zoroastrianism predates Christianity, and like many ancient cultures they repeated their traditions orally for quite awhile.  

  Now I firmly believe in Holy Orthodoxy with all of my heart, but I would like to know the Orthodox Christian answer to these claims.   If it is true, does that mean that Zoroaster was somehow inspired?  Or what do you guys think...?

Sincerely,
Andrew
Four points:

1. I think the people who claim such things are erroneously denying Convergent Cultural Evolution-- namely, the notion that two cultures in similar circumstances could come up with the same idea without one having to "inform" the other.

2. People who make such claims rarely cite Zoroastrian texts; usually, they just *claim* things.

3. I do not believe that Zoroastrianism places a great emphasis on an immortal soul.

4. Resurrection was a concept that would make sense to most Semitic language-speaking peoples, who had a sense of the physical nonduality of the person. (Persians, though indo-european speakers, were heavily influenced by Semitic peoples via the Babylonians). People almost never claim that Zoroastrianism influenced Christianity; rather, Judaism.

Heck, why don't you find out from the Zoroastrian texts themselves and tell us your verdict? I'd be interested in what you find, and it would be straight from the horses' mouth rather than via conspiracy theorists.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2011, 02:15:26 AM by NicholasMyra » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: May 12, 2011, 02:46:05 AM »

Heck, why don't you find out from the Zoroastrian texts themselves and tell us your verdict?

Hasn't anyone else already done the work? Can somebody post a link?
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« Reply #5 on: May 12, 2011, 10:30:13 AM »

Good points Nicholas, Alveus, and James;

  It will take me awhile to actually read the Zend Avesta and what not.  I do know that the Persian kings are heavily praised in Esther, and other parts of the Bible make out Cyrus to be God's "emmissary" in restoring Jerusalem to the Jews.  It seems that both Zoroastrianism and Hinduism came from a common Indo-Iranian religion that developed in two different ways.  

  I suppose it basically comes down to what set of assumptions you want to make.  If we believe that the Bible's account is accurate, then that means that when Abraham's sons travelled East they lapsed into more of their ancestral paganism.  This could explain why you can find many similarities between Hinduism and Babylonian paganism.  I've seen enough connections between Abraham and the Hindu god Brahma, to also think that it is possible they transformed the memory of Abraham and his wife Sarah into one of their own deities.  
« Last Edit: May 12, 2011, 10:31:16 AM by AveChriste11 » Logged

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« Reply #6 on: May 12, 2011, 10:44:57 AM »

I was taught in school that there were a lot of influences that had been made upon the Jews while they were in Babylon. Some of these would include the idea of a resurrection, angels/demons, etc... The main evidence seems to be that these elements are missing from texts prior to the captivity in Babylon. (or so they claim)

I indeed accept that there are certain beliefs that the Jews adopted from other religions. This is the same with Christianity, as many of the early Church Fathers took some Platonic ideas, and ideas from other Greek Philosophers.

In Orthodoxy we are taught that every religion, every faith has a bit of truth to it. However, it is only our faith, the Orthodox faith, that holds the fullness of that truth.

Just because something is "new" or "borrowed" doesn't make it wrong. The Jews never really believed in the Holy Trinity. That is something God revealed later on. In the early days of Judaism (or rather, I'd call it the religion of the Hebrews) they were "Henotheists", that they recognized only one God as the true God, but they also believed other Gods existed. As time went on, God gradually revealed to them that he wasn't the only true God, but that he was the only God. And so their henotheism developed to monotheism (belief in only one God). There are some things that the Jews just weren't ready for early on that God had to gradually reveal to them.
This is very clear in the fact that the Jews kept adopting other Gods in addition to their own. They weren't absolute monotheists at the time.

It wasn't until the glorious condescension of God himself that he revealed the complete truth to us. There is absolute truth, and it has been revealed to us. But because of how we humans are, it took time for God to reveal the complete truth to us.

Whether or not he did this through outside sources is irrelevant. Personally I don't have a problem in believing that the Babylonians, or the Greeks, or whoever, had influences on our faith. Because as an Orthodox Christian, I believe that every faith has a grain of truth. But then I also recognize that our faith is the only faith that has the fullness of the truth.

That is why, when we are evangelizing, we don't say "your wrong, you need to change", we use the person's faith by starting with what, in their faith is right, and show how that points to Christ. A good example of this is St. Paul when he was in Athens and in his speech to the Areopagites.

There may be some correct things in Zoroastrianism, and our faith may have been influenced by it. But Zoroastrianism is still a different religion, and is still wrong and faulty. Our faith is still the only true faith.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2011, 10:51:58 AM by 88Devin12 » Logged
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« Reply #7 on: May 12, 2011, 03:49:58 PM »

It seems that both Zoroastrianism and Hinduism came from a common Indo-Iranian religion that developed in two different ways.  
Well, that's a bit tricky. The Vedas came from the Aryan nomads, who spoke an indo-european language that is closely related to Persian.

However, how close their religions were, rather than merely using similar words for vastly different things, is difficult to know. Although the Vedas are quite old, Hinduism as we know it today only appeared with the Upanishad writings in the first millennium BC, and would have been influenced by pre-Aryan (Harappan) religion. Pre-Zoroastrian Persian religion would have been influenced by the Elamites, who lived in Persia before the Indo-Aryans got there; and Zoroaster himself made some changes-- he was the prophet of a new religion, after all.
« Last Edit: May 12, 2011, 03:50:16 PM by NicholasMyra » Logged

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« Reply #8 on: May 12, 2011, 08:05:33 PM »

Devin,

I really do appreciate your answer.  I had never thought of it quite in the way you put it.  My mind can run into very black and white thinking sometimes, that if some concept isn't exclusive to us.. then that means it's somehow wrong or we have the wrong understanding.  I've heard the idea before that a lot of Hindus claim, saying that every religion sprang from them or was at least influenced by them.  I've considered it possible that once upon a time when the continents weren't in the same position as they are now, we could have all had one religious belief system.  

But I also have to remember that if Christ was not really resurrected, then thousands of martyrs died without any reason.  Every single one of the early church Fathers fully believed in what they were saying, and were willing to die for it.  They even said that the Cult of Mithras was a copycat religion borrowed from us.  It's interesting how so called "modern day scholars" always want to come to an anti-Christian conclusion.   If we all listened to them then they would have us think that Abraham, Moses, and many other people and events would have never taken place or existed.

So this was the concept of Justin Martyr, the spermatikos logos that God inspired truth in every single religion.  We can be wrong about some things, but we can never be wrong about every single thing.  It may be that the Zoroastrians are closer to the Truth than others, but that doesn't mean their religion or understanding would be completely true.  If that were the case then God would have never sent his Son to die for us.  
« Last Edit: May 12, 2011, 08:06:53 PM by AveChriste11 » Logged

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« Reply #9 on: January 30, 2013, 01:05:56 PM »

TEHRAN, Iran -- Followers of Iran's minority Zoroastrian religion gathered after sunset to mark Sadeh – an ancient mid-winter feast dating to Iran's pre-Islamic past that is also drawing new interest from Muslims.

Zoroastrian priests, dressed in white to symbolize purity, recited verses from Avesta, the holy Zoroastrian book, before more than 2,000 people on Tuesday.
....
To Zoroastrians, fire represents life and the inherent nature of Ahura Mazda – total goodness.

"Sadeh is a celebration of fire, but we are not fire worshippers. We worship one God," said Ardeshir Khorshidian, another priest.
....
PHOTOS of the Festival
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