Zoroastrians and Judaism

Fall of Assyria’s Empire and Rise of the Moses Legend

Assyria’s great empire lasted no longer than would the empires that began in the late nineteenth century — about seventy-five years. Assyria weakened itself economically by continuous wars to maintain its empire, including defending against invasions by an Indo-European tribal people, the Cimmerians, who came upon the Assyrians from the northeast. The Assyrians spent themselves expanding into Egypt and in quelling the rebellions of Egyptian princes. The Cimmerian menace increased, and more rebellions occurred within the empire. Assyria was burdened by the expense of maintaining its army. Soldiers had to be paid. Massive numbers of horses had to be cared for and fed. Siege engines had to be moved against rebellious cities. Continue reading Zoroastrians and Judaism

Manichaeism : The Prophet Mani

Manichaeism, a Universalist Faith

The Prophet Mani

An artist’s concept of Mani the Prophet

from Wikimedia Commons

The Prophet Mani

Persia was between India and the Roman Empire, and the Silk Road ran through it, making Persia a crossroad of ideas. It had Jews who had had fled from their homeland. After the Jews came Christians. Buddhist ideas were imported from India, and there was the indigenous Zoroastrianism. And into the mix of religious ideas arose a blend the various religions into a universalist faith:Manichaeism (pronounced mani-KEY-ism).

The founder of Manichaeism, Mani, is believed to have been the son of Parthian royalty, born in a village near Ctesiphon and a boy when Ardashir overthrew Parthian rule. As a young boy, Mani might have been taken by his father into a cult called the “Practitioners of Ablutions” — a cult that believed in washing away sins in baptisms. Or the group may have been the Elkesaites, a Jewish-Christian sect that arose around the year CE 100, a group believed to have celebrated the Sabbath, practiced vegetarianism, believed in circumcision, condemned the apostle Paul and criticized what it called falsehoods in Christian scripture and Mosaic law — a sect that died out around the year 400. Continue reading Manichaeism : The Prophet Mani

ZOROASTRIANISM

: A short overview

Zoroastrianism is the ancient religion of Persia. It was founded about 3500 years ago by the prophet Zarathushtra. Arising out of the polytheistic traditions of ancient India and Iran, he was one of the first monotheists in human history. Zarathushtra preached that there was one God, whom he called Ahura Mazda. Ahura means “Lord,” and Mazda means “Wise,” so Zoroastrians call God the “Wise Lord.” Zarathushtra has been known in the West as Zoroaster, from the Greek transliteration of his name; in Persia and India he is known as Zarthosht.
No one knows exactly when Zarathushtra lived. Zoroastrian tradition places him at around 600 B.C.E., but this date is thought by modern scholars to be far too late. The modern estimate of Zarathushtra’s date is anywhere from 1500 to 1000 B.C.E.
The basic scripture of Zoroastrianism is a set of 5 poetic songs called the _Gathas_, which were composed by Zarathushtra himself and have been preserved through the millennia by Zoroastrian priests. Over the years many other scriptures have accumulated around these Gathas. Much of these scriptures were destroyed by the Greek, Muslim, and Mongol invasions, but some remain. The Gathas are still the core text of the faith. They are composed in a very ancient language known as Avestan, which is closely related to Sanskrit. The evidence scholars use to give a time reference to Zarathushtra is linguistic: the language of the hymns composed by the Prophet is similar to the Sanskrit of the Rig-Veda, an ancient Hindu text which has been dated to the period of 1500-1000 B.C.E. Continue reading ZOROASTRIANISM