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THEO 403 (Su '16) T12 - Zoroastrianism

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Hartmut Scherer

on 14 July 2016

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Transcript of THEO 403 (Su '16) T12 - Zoroastrianism

- Zoroaster,
circa 6th century B.C.
Essential beliefs and practices:
- the Avesta, the oldest part
of which (Gathas) may
contain writings of
Zoroaster himself
Major contemporary divisions:
- Monotheism
- conflict between God

(Ahura Mazda)
and the lesser
evil spirit
(Angra Mainyu)

- adherents side with God
through practices of ethical
purity and ritual cleanliness
A Religion Based on Ethical Dualism
628 B.C.
was a Persian prophet
and priest
600 B.C.
598 B.C.
saw visions
of god
551 B.C.
- distinctions in practice
(based on their geographic
location) are not significant
Life &
of Zoroaster

Later History
Sharing the Gospel
Periods of Zoroastrian history
Zoroaster (Greek); Zarathustra
Ahura Mazda and Amesha Spentas, opposed by Angra Mainyu, monotheism,
moral dualism
, sacrifice
Polytheism, fire sacrifice
558 B.C.
Zoroastrianism mixed with polytheism, administered by magi
330 B.C.
Zoroastrianism dormant, Mithraism
226 A.D.
Zoroastrian orthodoxy, Ohmazd vs. Ahriman,
ceremonial dualism
; also Zurvanism, Manichaeism
637 A.D.
fire temples, orthodox Zoroastrianism passed on through tradition and practice
"Mithraism is a
Roman mystery religion
that flourished in the 2nd and 3rd centuries AD. Much is still unknown about this secretive sect, but scholars have generally been able to determine that it involved the worship of the ancient Persian god Mithras in caves, a communal meal and initiation through seven stages of an astrologically-themed hierarchy."
(Religion Facts; http://www.religionfacts.com/greco-roman/sects/mithraism.htm; retrieved Oct 2, 2012
The basic heresy is the creation of the god Zurvan (Eternal Time) who begets his sons Ohrmazd and Ahriman. As Boyce (1979: 69) notes, "by declaring that Ohrmazd and Ahriman are brothers, the Zurvanites betrayed Zoroaster's fundamental doctrine that good and evil are utterly separate and distinct by origin and nature."
(R.C. Zaehner, The Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies; http://www.cais-soas.com/CAIS/Religions/iranian/zurvanism.htm; retrieved October 2, 2012)
Manichæism is a religion
founded by the Persian Mani
in the latter half of the third century. It purported to be the true synthesis of all the religious systems then known, and actually consisted of Zoroastrian Dualism, Babylonian folklore, Buddhist ethics, and some small and superficial, additions of Christian elements.

As the theory of two eternal principles, good and evil, is predominant in this fusion of ideas and gives color to the whole, Manichæism is classified as
a form of religious Dualism
. It spread with extraordinary rapidity in both East and West and maintained a sporadic and intermittent existence in the West (Africa, Spain, France, North Italy, the Balkans) for a thousand years, but it flourished mainly in the land of its birth, (Mesopotamia, Babylonia, Turkestan) and even further East in Northern India, Western China, and Tibet, where, c. A.D. 1000, the bulk of the population professed its tenets and where it died out at an uncertain date.

(Manichaeism in Catholic Encyclopedia; http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/09591a.htm; retrieved Oct 3, 2012)
Why should anybody study a religion that has no great influence today
- historical interest
- because it is a case study
in the claims for the

development of religion
and ritual
Main Sacred

" ("Book of the Law") is a fragmentary collection of sacred writings
liturgical works
with hymns ascribed to Zoroaster
invocations and rituals
to be used at festivals
hymns of praise
against demons and prescriptions for purification
- they believe in a single god
Ahura Mazda
- Ahura Mazda expresses his will through
the “Immortal Holy Ones” or Amesha Spentas
a Holy Spirit (Spenta Mainyu)
- his opponent is
Angra Mainyu
, the spirit
and promoter of evil
What is
moral dualism
- moral dualism calls all human beings to
choose between good and evil
- Zoroastrianism is originally a
ethical religion
- their acts, words, and thoughts would
affect their lives after death

What is the emphasis in this hymn?
The Sacrifice
- emphasis is on morality in
thought, word, and deed
- the priest Zoroaster led the revolt in Persia
- In the 6. century B.C. people revolted
worldwide against the established priesthood
- between 1500 B.C. and 500 B.C. only
priests were allowed to offer sacrifices
- animal sacrifice was the focal point
of Aryan religion
- he also continued to
a fire ritual
as an act of
worship of God alone.
- Zoroaster retained the
centrality of fire
representing the truth and
purity of Ahura Mazda
Principle of decay:
A religious culture, left without
- monotheism was soon
the still common polytheism
- Zoroastrianism became a
state religion
Iran during the Sassanid period (A.D. 226-637)
strong guidance, will tend toward increased ritual and magic.
Ahura Mazda
What had changed in the teaching about reality itself and the evil spirit
now called
, the greatest of many gods
Angra Mainyu
now called
, the evil spirit, a counter-creator
- reality was divided into good and evil
- keep oneself morally pure and avoid contact
with the negative side of reality
ritual purity
became important
How should corpses be disposed?
- number of adherents is small
(tied to one ethnic group)
- converts are not accepted
(contaminate faith)
Modern Zoroastrianism
Pluralism (westernized Parsi)
Battle between good and evil
- show the
uniqueness of gospel
(grounded in
history; exclusive claims of Christ; atoned for
our sins)
- evil has already been defeated in history in
Christ’s victory over Satan on the cross
- overcome evil by doing good (Hl. Spirit)
Title adopted from David S. Noss, A History of the World's Religions (Prentice Hall, 2003), VIII.
The Zoroastrian Journey
Full transcript