Zoroaster forgottepersian religionn prophet of the one God

Zoroaster forgottepersian religionn prophet of the one GodThose who might doubt how Persian imperial policy so decisively shaped what we know as Judaism should reflect on the remarkable and first ever declaration of belief in one, universal God by the biblical writer known asSecond Isaiahduring this period. Indeed Isaiah describes King Cyrus as a Messiah and the chosen instrument of Yahweh. Interestingly there is evidence that the Persian imperial policy towards the religion of their subject peoples to allow the traditional name of their gods to be retained but to revise the religions themselves in the of Zoroastrianism was also applied in Babylon and Egypt as well as Palestine.

Born at a time when the peoples of the Iranian plateau were evolving a settled agriculture, Zoroaster broke with the traditional Aryan religions of the region which closely mirrored those of India, and espoused the idea of a one good God Ahura Mazda. What became known eventually in the west as Zoroastrianism was also the first to link religious belief with profound attachment to personal morality. InZoroastrian eschatologythere is much which has become miliar from reading the Jewish and Christian testaments heaven, hell, redemption, the promise of a Sashoyant Messiah, the existence of an evil spirit Ahriman and most striking of all the prospect of a final battle for the salvation of man at the end of time between Ahura Mazda and Ahriman leading to the latters final defeat.

he 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 Bahs. 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,ZarathustraZoroaster in Greek born around BC actually believed. This is a great pity since even a nonbeliever 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 th century BC and thus deeply influenced the other Abrahamic religions Christianity and Islam.

The first encounter between the ancient peoples who developed historical Judaism and the Persian religious ideas of Zoroastrianism seems to have come either during or shortly after thecaptivity in Babylon. It was the Persian king of kings, Cyrus, who liberated the Hebrews from Babylon and one of his successors, Darius, who organised and funded the return of some of the captives probably along with many Persians to rebuild the temple in Jerusalem. Nehemiah and Ezra also reorganised the traditional religion of the Judaeans and Israelites. What emerged was a stricter monotheistic version which was consistent with basic beliefs of the Persian imperial religion Zoroastrianism.

What at the very least were the deep affinities between Zoroastrianism and Judaism goes a long way to explain what over the centuries were the close and friendly relations between Persians and Jews. The influence of th century religiouspolitical ideologies have poisoned that relationship. Perhaps a greater acknowledgement by Jews, Christians and Muslims of their Persian Zoroastrian inheritance would be a step to improving those relationships.

The Persian influence onJudaismwas powerful and long lasting. Certainly the profound belief in the end of days exhibited by the Dead Sea Scroll communities in the immediately preChristian era and indeed the s employed by the Christian evangelist, John, in his Apocalypse, a clear continuity of influence.

The main contact between westerners and Zoroastrians came in India where they were known asParseesPersians, descendants of those who took part in a large scale migration from Persia after the Muslim conquest of that country. Zoroastrians were held quite wrongly to worship fire because they kept a permanent flame in their temples. Some even questioned whether they were monotheists at all because Ahriman was referred to as an evil god. But all the Abrahamic religions have also struggled to explain evil in the world which is why they gave Satan an important role.

Some claim that a belief in monotheism in Judea developed a little before the Babylonian conquest and exile. But although there is evidence for a centralisation of the different Canaanite cults into the worship of Yahweh in the capital Jerusalem over this period the most which can be said was that a form ofmonolatry, a belief in one God for a particular people had emerged.

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