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Our Own Religion in Ancient Persia[1]
(Zoroaster “Zarathushtra” and the Bible)



Professor Lawrence Mills



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This lecture was delivered by Dr. Lawrence Mills, professor of Avesta philology at Oxford University, United Kingdom, 1910.

Many interested but necessarily hasty readers of the Zend Avesta overlook the fact that in the ancient documents comprised under that name we have works of many different ages; and even scholars eminently endowed with the critical faculty as applied to other specialties sometimes fall into a similar error, and ignore a characteristic which the Avesta possesses in common with nearly all other writings of its description; -for they sometimes turn over its pages without perceiving, or seeming to perceive, that from leaf to leaf matter comes before them made up of fragments nearly or quite dissimilar, and sometimes separated as to the dates of their authorship by many hundreds of years. They are accordingly apt to make themselves merry over absurdities which prevail in the later but still genuine. Avesta, as if they were peculiar to the original Zoroastrian writings.

But the author, or authors, of the earlier Avesta had no immediate or certain connection with the superstitions of later centuries; and as to these quaint myths and trivial ceremonials which are preserved in the less original Avesta, are we not apt to exaggerate the disadvantages which they bring with them? How can their presence affect the value of the nobler elements in these relics of ancient faith?

We are pained to read them, but analogous superfluities survive in many modern systems. And indeed some of the cruder passages in the Zend Avesta which describe the battle with the Demon of Putrefaction, and which might seem to some of us most grotesque, were hardly superfluities, for they showed a sanitation which it would be better for us to follow rather than condemn.[3] In tracing the following analogies, which I take from the genuine, yet still newer, Avesta[4] as well as from the Gathas, I shall leave out these inferior details generally, abandoning them as rare morsels to the collectors of ancient bits. What is here intended is to call attention to the little-known, though long since reported, fact, that it pleased the Divine Power to reveal some of the fundamental articles of our Catholic creed first to Zoroastrians, though these ideas later arose spontaneously and independently among the Jews; secondly, I wish to emphasis the peculiar circumstances of this separate origin among the Jewish tribes of the Exile; -and thirdly, I wish to show that the Persian system must have exercised a very powerful, though supervening and secondary influence upon the growth of these doctrines among the Exilic and post-Exilic pharisaic Jews, as well as upon the Christians of the New Testament, and so eventually upon ourselves.

After this brief preface let me proceed at once to cite the documental facts as to the whole system, only remarking that they are practically uncontested by any persons whose views are worth considering, for it is by no means necessary just here to go into the closer technical linguistic distinctions[5] in such a delineation as this. Let us now first trace the Iranian ideas where their analogy with the Jewish seems most important.

To begin with our excerpts from the-Sacred Book of the Iranians, we may consider the connection where it is also most obvious, that is to say, as to the Nature of the Deity.

I. First of all He is Supreme, and therefore One. The usual throngs of sub-godlets which appear with Him no more impair His Supreme Unity than our own Archangels impair the Supreme Unity of Jehovah of Hosts or of our own misunderstood Tri-Unity. There can be but one[6] Greatest of the Gods who made the others, with this earth and one Heaven, who made man and amenity for him.’[7] But He is a moral God; His Supremacy is limited by His own character, which is not irrationally dishonest; for He is not logically responsible either through origination or through permission, for the existence of sinners and their sufferings, the Universe being divided into two immense departments. “There were two first Spirits, a better (they two), and an evil, as to thought, as to word, and as to deed,-and when these two spirits came together to make life and non-life (they arranged) what at the last the world should be,-the best life of the faithful, but for the faithless the worst mind, . . .[8], a doctrine of mighty import indeed and consequence, and we must discuss it fully and at once. For it would be a clumsy history of philosophy which would allow the present noble monotheism of the Parsis to cheat us of the speculatively precious element of dualism as it exists in their genuine writings. (a) [(As regards the later doctrinal development among the Zoroastrians whereby they entirely extinguished the vital elements of Dualism, making the Supreme Good God at last completely victorious, all evil being eliminated in the final restorations see just below ;-but this was hardly a part of the original concept.)] To resume. The good and morally Supreme Ahura is exalted as the one only real God in our modern sense of the term; but He was One in adoration as well as in definition, supreme because His ‘goodness’ makes Him great, ‘His Unity’ being that of His Truth, Benevolence, Authority, and sacred Energy; see above and below,-though the equally original evil God, as being independent, limits Him, completely exculpating Him from all share in crime ;-in fact, entirely aside from any personal Devil, He would be sufficiently limited by His own Attributes[9]; see above.

(b) Does analogy fail us here as between the Iranian and Jewish concepts? -- and if so, to what extent?

The Jewish pre-Christian, but post-Exilic thought was doubtless as replete with diabolic demonism as the Christian and the post-Christian, though that of the Christian epoch was obviously under the control of the exorcising Redeemer. Does this last particular, which implies the inferiority of Satan, destroy all analogy here between Iran and Christian Israel as to this essential matter? Not fully, in the sense in which we should here view the matter. Though Angra Mainyu was obviously inferior to Ahura in power, neither one of the two could be logically regarded as the possible annihilator of the other; so that the one inferior in power was to a certain point independent; -the Savior might temporarily frustrate, or seem to frustrate his, Satan’s, malign purposes, but He plainly could not annihilate him,-otherwise he would at once have done so. (What is eternally original could not logically be regarded as coming to an end through the power of any other being, though an eternally Original force might yet of course be inferior within the scope of its legitimate affectivity to another equally independent force,-for there can be but one all-inclusive force which has no inferior; yet there can be relatively independent and eternal forces which have no immediate connection with one another, and here inferiority and superiority are greatly widespread; but such a force could have never met any other in the past capable of annihilating it, otherwise throughout a past eternity the meeting must have taken place with the result under consideration): No theology should, however, be pushed too closely to all its logical results; and we might indeed even infer such an ' annihilation ' of the evil powers from those 'restorations ' of all men;-see above; and this from some expressions made use of even in the later but still genuine Avesta as well as in the Gathas themselves, together with those in the later Zoroastrianism ;-see above and below;-though, as seen above, this would sacrifice all logic, for if the Good God could save all men, He should have done this earlier in their career. To allow human, or other spiritual beings to commit revolting crimes for the purpose of letting them see through experience how evil sin is, would be a policy of which a Good and Omnipotent God would hardly be capable. [(-And who of us really believes that he was?--)]

But if, on the contrary, the Good Iranian God, even He of the Gathas, is indeed to bring in universal salvation at the end of any period, however restricted or protracted this period might be supposed to be, then, in that case, the difference between such a phase of Zarathushtrianism and some forms of Judaism and of liberal post-Christianity in this respect fails, and they, these systems, are here, if only illogically, one, -- and but for the ‘forever and forever’ of the Gathic Iranian Hell, one might yet claim for the analogy between the systems a persistent validity even as to this fundamental particular.

But no similarities, however protrusive, should blind us to the real and apparently radical difference here between the creeds as mainly expressed by their original authoritative exponents; and the striking facts of opinion, as they existed among important sections of both parties, remain in all their monumental force.

(c) Can we not, however, in regard to some large sections of the early Jewish population, modify this apparent difference from an opposite and unexpected quarter, abysmal though the difference referred to may well seem to most of us to be? -- It is rather a colossal question never before, so far as I am aware, mooted;-but we must grapple with it none the less.

Is, then, Yahveh Elohim Himself (sic) always actually so supreme as to be independent of all limitation on the part of the evil Gods of the Gentiles? If not, were not the Jews themselves sometimes in a certain essential sense of it 'dualists‘?

I very seriously raise the solemn question whether the Jewish writers of the Old Testament earlier or late at all really believed their Yahveh Elohim to be absolutely supreme in so far as to have been the creator of either Satan, or of Baal , or of any of the Demon-gods. We know indeed that they, the Jewish prophets, accredited the existence of these Beings as a matter only too emphatically real, and by no means uninterruptedly regarded them as being altogether creatures of the imagination (see the frequent comparison of them with Yahveh Elohim). But when, and in so far as, they thus believed them, these gentile gods, to be really existing spiritual beings, in how far did they then suppose their own Yahveh Elohim to have been their original creator, either bringing them into existence as being holy in their nature before a fall like 'Lucifer’s.’ or causing them to arise as being originally of evil character? -The question is very serious. The foolish relief offered us by the doctrine that Yahveh Elohim, as God the Father, was not responsible for the fall of beings who He foresaw would become evil when He created them, is no longer available, and could not have long continued to satisfy any sober-minded sage;-but if the leading Jews in large numbers thus in due sequence unconsciously, or openly, rejected the view that their good God Yahveh originally created the Evil Gods of their enemies -- directly or indirectly, in any shape or chain of causality or responsibility whatsoever, then such ancient Israelites were in verity, though they may not have been consciously, dualists[10], not far indeed from the type of Zarathushtra; - they held to the existence of a Being, or Beings, who was, or who were, originally evil, and so they held, to an original evil principle, which is dualism, and that dualism remains one of the most interesting suggestions which have ever been presented, and one indeed which, in its elements, if not in its detail, is still unconsciously but largely followed.[11]

So much for this most fundamental of all discriminations.

Others of the utmost interest offer themselves here at once as being closely connected,-but, in the leading of a more stringent logic, we should postpone them for later expansion, now facing that other most practical of doctrines which often really gives the whole discussion its immediate importance ;-and this is the great question of the Human Immortality; -although many might indeed well say that the two subjects could be profitably studied quite apart, -- and, in fact, that they ought to be so studied separately.

II. I fear that we too little realize how very uncertain the doctrine of a future life was in the minds of pious Jews, even at the time of our Lord. The Sadducees, as we understand, believed in ‘neither angel, nor spirit, nor resurrection,’ and they quite held their own with the Pharisees;-see even the street riot of Acts xxiii.; -several princely high priests were of their clique, the entire party of the Asmonaean or Hasmonaean princes inclined to this opinion. It seems to many of us most curious that the sect among the ancient people of God, which especially claimed the title of ‘purists'[12] and sticklers for the ancient Pentateuch, should have been well-nigh absolute disbelievers in what are now considered to be the essential elements of religion;-see also the expression 'who only hath immortality,’ and also ' who brought life and immortality to light’ through the gospel, as if the subject had been till lately obscured.

If such a state of things existed at the time of our Lord, when both the doctrine of immortality and that of resurrection had long been familiar as theories, what must have been the condition of opinion upon these subjects while the influence of the Pentateuch, in which these doctrines were

not distinctly revealed at all, was as yet not affected by the large addition to canonical Scripture made later ?

Few scientific theologians will deny that the full doctrine of a conscious and accountable immortality was scarcely mentioned before the later Isaiah[13]; that is to say, not before the Captivity, whereas the Zoroastrian scriptures are one mass of spiritualism, referring all final results to the heavenly or infernal worlds.-We shall return to the details for their necessary amplification further on.

(a) This is, however, also the proper place to emphasise the main essential moral and intellectual elements of this future immortality which we have indeed already inclusively adumbrated. In close accordance with the moral character of God is the deep subjectivity of the Religion.

Holiness is prayed for, and Heaven and Hell are chiefly mental states: - 'O Asha (Angel of the Holy Law), shall I see thee, and Vohumanah (the Good Mind), I finding Sraosha (God’s Heeding Ear and man’s), the way to Ahura (or ' finding His throne '), Y.XXVIII. 5.

The last line in the passage cited above, Y.XXX. 4, seems to imply that the future life of the righteous was the ' Best Mind '; from this the word ' Best’ occurs as used by the Persians for 'Heaven.’ Rewards and punishments are self-induced, Y.XXXI.20; ' and this which is your life, O ye vile, with (your) own deeds your own souls have brought you. 'Cursed by their souls and selves (their being’s nature) in the Druj-Lie-Demon’s Home at last their bodies lie (or, ' their citizenship (?) is),’ Y. XLVI. I 2?*

III. Having endeavored here at the outset to engage-attention by putting the two most vital elements into point, we can now return to the scarcely less imposing extended detail which presents itself in regard to the chief concepts already touched upon.

Ahura Mazda, the Living Lord, the great Creator (or possibly the ' Wise One '), has a most Bountiful, or most Holy Spirit, who is sometimes identical with Him, and there is precisely the same difficulty in distinguishing between Ahura and His Holy (?) Spirit, which meets us in the Semitic when we endeavour to decide positively in the analogous obscurity. (Often we cannot tell whether Yahveh’s attribute or His creature is meant.)

Yasna XXVIII, I:

' With hands outstretched, I beseech for the first (blessing) of Thy most Bounteous or (holy) Spirit.‘[14]

See also Yasna I.I:

'I invoke, and I will complete my sacrifice to Ahura Mazda, the Creator, the radiant, the glorious, the greatest and the best, the most firm, (who sends His) joy-creating grace afar, who made us and has fashioned us, who has nourished and protected us, who is the most bountiful (the most holy) Spirit.'[15]

(b) In the seven Bountiful (or ‘holy’) Immortals (the Amshaspends of literature) we have a union which reminds us of the Sabellian Trinity (Yasht XII I. 82):-‘ We sacrifice to the redoubted guardian spirits of the Bountiful Immortals who are glorious, whose look itself has power (their look produces what they wish), who are lofty and coming on to help us, who are swiftly strong and divine, everlasting and holy, who are Seven[16], and all of one thought, of one word, and of one deed, whose thought is the same, whose word is the same, and whose deeds are the same, who have one Father and Commander, Ahura Mazda;-each of whom sees the other’s soul revolving good thoughts, thinking of good words, contemplating good actions, whose abode is the Home of Sublimity  (or ' Song‘), -and shining are their paths as they come down to us to offering.‘[17]

While they are thus unified, Ahura Mazda being illogically-included within their number, they are yet separate. Vohumanah is the divine benevolence, the good mind of the Deity, likewise alive within. His saints, and later personified as a separate Archangel, while even in the Gathas it represents the holy or correct citizen. Asha, t h e Vedic Rita, is the divine Order, the symmetry and perfection in the Law, the ritual, and in the soul, while at the same time a poetically personified Arch-angel. Khshathra is His sovereign power realised in a kingdom of righteousness, and yet also poetically personified. Ar(a)maiti is our energetic zeal and piety, the Active mind, inspiring energy of the Deity first thought ,of as the 'ploughing of agriculture'; to aratrum, and from this latter called the ‘earth’ in both Veda and Avesta, as against the non-toiling and theft-murder schemes of the raiding Turks. She is also in figurative conception God’s daughter, and this even in the Gathas, where 'God’ is otherwise only in general the ' Father of the good, ’the Fire being' God’s Son,’ exclusively in the later Avesta, She is also implanted within the minds of the faithful as a divine inspiration.

Haurvatat is God’s Perfection consummated through His foregoing Truth, Love, Power and Vital Energy, while the name is borrowed, or promoted from the haurvatat ' wholesomeness‘ --i.e.,. ‘the health and success ' of man. [(It was God’s completeness like that of man’s as reflected in the body’s health, then soon perfected in the weal of soul and mind as well as of body, an idea evidently necessary to the roundness of the scheme, and added in most modern theologies)]; -while Ameretatat is their Immortality, God’s Eternity and man’s Death’s absence, a veritable victory over death begun in its long postponement to old age here, which last was indeed the original point-meaning of the word,-but continued in eternal Deathlessness in a future state.“[18]

From the second to the seventh they are therefore the personified thoughts sent forth from the mind of God to ennoble and redeem His people. That the general description of such notorious and striking conceptions as these, immensely widespread as they were in the dominant power of Asia, and lying at the logical root of Zoroastrianism, should have become known to the Jews of the Captivity and to their descendants before the date of some, if not all, of the Exilic Prophets, is scarcely less than certain, for they were also signally identified by the distant Greeks with the general theology of Persia far and wide, without distinction of provinces,-and the Greeks also heard of them, in their deepest and purest sense, before the date of Daniel (see the ' invaluable’ passage in Plutarch evidently reproducing the ideas of Theopompus, whom he quotes, also cited by me elsewhere). If the priests of Cyrus conferred to the smallest degree with those of Ezra, then not only the Gnostics felt its influence, but the pre-Christian and Christian theology. And in the Book of Tobit, which also contains prominently the name of an Avesta demon, we have an allusion to these Seven[19] Spirits (chap. xii. 15) at Ragha, the Zarathushtrian centre (let it be noticed), one of whom, those Spirits, is actually mentioned as Raphael, the Jewish Archangel, so positively 'identifying' the two 'sets' of 'Seven Spirits,’ though in a somewhat loose manner. So also in Zechariah (iv. IO) we have the 'Seven which are the eyes of the Lord, and which run to and fro upon the earth '; - and this is further expanded in Rev. v. 6: 'And I saw in the midst of the throne a Lamb standing as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the " Seven Spirits " of God sent forth into all the earth.’ (How sublime it all becomes when we look upon it in the light of parallel development in unassisted growth.) --

[((c) Negative arguments as regards the extent of territory reached by these doctrines, drawn from the absence of the named ‘Seven’ from the Inscriptions, are the mistakes of non-experts, as well as are the negative arguments with regard to their dates. These names are equally absent from large portions of the Avesta, and no inference can be made from their absence from the Inscriptions. (Certainly not, as we may pause to state, upon the ground that they, the Inscriptions, are in themselves a completed unit, while they yet omit some of these personifications, which should, as an objector might suppose, be included within all complete documents dealing with the Iranian Religion, and that, on the other hand, the portions of the Avesta which omit these personifications are but parts of a whole, and therefore might not be expected to contain allusions even to leading concepts: -- this negative point has little force, from the fact that the Achaemenian Inscriptions, while perhaps the most important and extensive of sculptured writings upon rocks are yet, nevertheless, necessarily very circumscribed when regarded as literature. (And how long must it have taken to complete them, by workmen who could neither read nor write in any language, while the composers also should not have been expected to mention all particulars.))

The number ' seven,’ together with the very names of the Ameshas, though not visible upon the Inscriptions, found, as we have seen, its way to distant shores, and the report of Plutarch just cited, concerned, as we have also emphasised, the general religion of all Persia, so that it could not have been intended to exclude that form of the so widely extended Faith which prevailed about Behistun and Nakhsh i Rustam. And that these same ideas at least, which are expressed in the names of the Amesha Spentas were prominent in Farsistan is illustrated by the fact that two of them are combined in the name of an Emperor, Artakhshatra, which is Asha (A[r]sha) plus Khshathra.

[(-To be complete it may be well to pause here again for a moment, and on the other hand guard my readers against a false identification.

In the case of Arachosia the eastern province (better Harachosia, as the first s of the Indian Sarasvati requires a corresponding organic h), the name stands only as Harauvati upon Behistun, so in the Elamatic (Susian) there is no A, for the organic second ' s ' of Sarasvati ; h appears only in she Babylonian ;-though in other cases 'h' is a letter easily dropped ; see India-(Greek)-instead of Hindia, compare Hindoo and Sinhu. I think we had better restore the 'h' and read Harauhvati. Otherwise Harauvati might be simply the equivalent of Av. Ha(u)rvatat(i), Indian Sarvatati, the fifth Amesha. Religious names were not unusual when applied to countries; recall Arminiya (adj.), which seems clearly related to Ar(a)maiti, the fourth Amesha; see also the name of the great Province of Azarbaijan (Adarbaijan), named from the ' Fire-altars.’ But, as said, these remarks are a mere interlude.-)]

Angra Mainyu does not indeed occur upon the Inscription, but His Chief Creature, the Female (?) Devil of Deception, the drauga = draogha -- that is, the Druj(k), see above-is present everywhere, though her, or 'his' (?), essential characteristics are more frequently expressed under the verbal than under the nominal form. 'He lied' thunders everywhere from the monumental surfaces; those seprobations must have been constantly repeated in greatly varied forms ; and these ideas in their original, or later, shape may well have helped to mould Jewish and Christian expressions.

Mithra and Anahita too seem to have stepped bodily out of the Avesta. Many turns of speech are strikingly common to the Avesta and the Inscriptions.)] – To resume.

IV. Then as to the attributes of God more definitively considered in their relation to man; He is our Creator (so already necessarily alluded to above upon the Attributes), and perhaps also, in a theological sense, sovereign; cf. Yasna XXIX.4 in S.B.E. XXXI., and in the Gathas:-

‘The Great Creator is most mindful of the utterances or commands which have been fulfilled beforehand hitherto by demon-worshippers,* and by faithful men, and of those which shall be fulfilled by them hereafter; He, Ahura, is the discerning arbiter, so shall it be to us as He shall will (see also Y.XXXI. 14). -- He is omniscient (see Y. XXXI.13, 14). He is our lawgiver (Y.XXXI.II) and teacher (Y.XXXI. 5; Y.XXXII. 13) -- He will establish a kingdom (Y.XXIII.4). It is for the poor (Y.XXXIV. 3): “What is your kingdom, what are your riches, that I may become your own in my actions with the righteous order, and thy good mind, to care for your poor.?" (Y. LI I I. g): -- "O Mazda, Thine is the Kingdom, and by it Thou bestowest the highest of blessings on the right-living poor." -- It is endangered, and yet in the end victorious. It has propaganda (Y. XXXI. 3): “With tongue of thy mouth do thou speak, that I may make all the living believers.” God is our friend, protector, strengthener, and unchangeable (Y.XXXI. 7). "These, O Spirit, mayst thou cause to prosper, Thou, who art for every hour the same." -- He is our Judge (Y.XLIII. 4).[20] -- There is a day or period of judgment (Y. XLIII. 5, 6): "Yea, I conceived of Thee as Bounteous, O Ahura Mazda, when I beheld Thee as supreme in the actions of life, when, as rewarding deeds and words, Thou didst establish evil for the evil, and blessings for the good by Thy great virtue or 'great wisdom ' in the creation’s final change. In which last changing Thou shalt come, and with Thy bounteous Spirit, and thy sovereign power (see also Y.XLIV.19).'

V. Then to return for expansion to the evil element in the dualism, we have again, upon the other hand, the more detailed description of Satan’s counter-activity toward man. While criticism casts its doubt upon the presence of Satan in the serpent of Genesis, we gather from the Genesis of the Avesta that the Scriptural reptile may well be recognized as that ‘old Serpent, the Devil. ’A serpent tempts in Genesis, and the consequence is sin and the expulsion from Eden. In the Vandidad, the Evil Spirit[21] opposes every good object of creation, and the implied consequence is an expulsion; the point is closer here.

Vendidad I. Ahura Mazda said unto Zarathushtra Spitama:

'I. O Zarathushtra Spitama, made the first best place, which is Airyana Vaejah, -- thereupon Afigra Mainyu (the Evil Spirit) created a counter-creation, a serpent in the river, and frost made by the demons… The third place which I, Ahura Mazda, made the best was Mouru; thereupon Afigra Mainyu (the Evil Spirit) created a counter creation, which was backbiting and lust… The fifth place which I, Ahura Mazda, made the best was Nisaya ; thereupon, in opposition to it, Angra Mainyu (the Evil Spirit), full of death, created a counter creation, which was the curse of unbelief… As the seventh best place I, who am Ahura Mazda, created Vaekereta… there-upon, in opposition to it, Afigra Mainyu (the Evil Spirit), full of death, created the evil fairy who clave to Keresaspa… As the ninth place, I, who am Ahura Mazda, created Khnenta as the best… thereupon Afigra Mainyu . (the Evil Spirit) created a counter creation, the inexpiable deed of Sodomy[22]… etc.’

These memorable fragments must have struck the attention of every learned Jewish scribe who studied the Lore of his great Persian Protectors; and what Zarathushtrian who was at all religiously instructed had not at least known of these items in their earlier form ? See the allusions to them swarming everywhere.

(a) Then the Asmodeus (Asmodai) of the Book of Tobit (see above) is positively the Aeshma-daeva of the Avesta and Aeshma was the Wrath-demon of Invasion contending with the Seven Spirits in the Gathas, as he did with other fell aims against the same Seven Spirits in Tobit (see Y.XXVIII.7, etc.; see above and below).

(b) A ‘fall of man’ is included in the successive expulsions just above related, but we have also in the original Avesta, which was written still earlier than the Vendidad, a fall of man, as of spiritual beings, distinctly stated (Y. XXX. 3): ‘Thus are the primaeval Spirits (see above) which, as a pair, each independent in his actions, have been famed of old (as regards) a better and a worse, as to thought, as to word, and as to deed ; and between these Two, the demons (or ' their worshippers') could make no righteous choice, since theirs (was) deception ;-as they were questioning (in their hesitation) the Worst Mind approached them that he might be chosen.-Thereupon they rushed together unto Aeshma, the Demon of Rapine, that they might pollute the lives of mortals.’

(c) So much for the more definitive, and, so to speak, 'applied,’ attributes of the Evil Deity, the 'God of This World.’ The fell characteristics here manifested are not indeed so categorically arranged in a recognised order in the Gathas, nor in the later, but still genuine, Avesta.

The ‘Good’ Immortal Seven are so constantly presented together in those productions that a formal correspondence in antithesis is more nearly approximated in the later Zoroastrianism, yet we may easily trace out a marked and most important informal grouping of the opposed intellectual forces even in the Gathas. As Angra Mainyu there is opposed to Ahura Mazda, the One, the first, being the God of Heaven, and the second the God of Hell, so the D ruj Lie- demon of the Infidels is opposed to Asha (Arsha) the Truth - Law everywhere; the Akem, evil, (sometimes called Achishta= ' the worst') Mind is opposed to Vohu Manah, the Good Mind, at times Vahishta, ' the best.’ The Dush-Khshathra = evil Kings, are opposed to Khshathra, Archangel of the Sovereign Authority ; Taromaiti, surpassing insolence, is opposed to Ar(a)maiti, the zealous Piety ; while Av(a)etat = ' dejection,’ etc., opposes Hauravatat the Universal Weal of Health and of Salvation, and Ameretatat, the deathless-long-life, here and hereafter, is opposed everywhere by Merethyu, ' death,’ etc.

VI. As to Soteiology, a virgin conceives. It is not however, to produce Zarathushtra, but the restoring Saviour of the latter age ;-nor does she conceive without seed although she is still a virgin. She conceives from the seed of Zarathushtra, which has been miraculously preserved. The details, which show a gross deterioration from Gathic times, are presented in their rounded form only in the Bundahish, which is perhaps as much as a thousand years later than the date of the original passages in the genuine but still later Avesta. 'Zarathushtra approached his wife Hvov… the angel Neryosangh received the brilliance and strength of that seed, and delivered it with care to the angel Anahid, and in time it will blend with a mother. Ninetynine thousand nine hundred and ninetynine myriads of the guardian spirits of the saints are intrusted with its protection’ (see the Bundahish. S. B. E., vol. v., p.144). It is preserved in the Lake Kasava till, at the end of the earthly cycle, a maid Eretat-fedhri, bathing in the lake, will conceive from it, and bring forth the last Saoshyant, or future benefactor, while two of his predecessors are similarly engendered. These several items are likewise visible in a scattered state in the ancient but still comparatively later Avesta. In Yasht XIII.142, we read:

'We worship the guardian spirit of the holy maid Eretat-fedhri, who is called the all-conquering, for she will bring him forth who will destroy the malice of the demons and of men.‘[23]

While in Yasht XIX. 92, we read that ‘Astvat-ereta (the Saviour of the Restoration) will arise from the waters of Kasava, a friend of Ahura Mazda, a son of Vispataurvairi, the all-conquering, knowing the victorious knowledge which will make the world progress unto perfection.'[24]

And in Yasht XIII.62, we learn that many myriads of the spirits of the faithful watch over the seed of Zoroaster.[25] [(That we have here the hope of a virgin-born Redeemer admits no doubt. Whether such intimations, repeated under various forms, came from the hint of the Israelitish prophets or vice versa is of course a question, but that Zoroastrian or Mazda-worshipping Magi, if they came from the East to do honor to the virgin-born babe of Bethlehem, were familiar with them is certain. And as they expected a virgin-born Savior themselves, it is but reasonable to suppose that this pious hope may well have lain at the foundation of their divine call to discover him who was born 'King of the Jews. ‘)]

VII. According to the record, evil Powers aroused themselves at the birth of the Semitic Deliverer, and so at Vendidad XIX., 43 we have: ' He shouted, and shouted forth again, he Angra Mainyu, the evil Spirit who is full of death. He pondered, and he pondered deeply, the demon of the demons, and he thus said, he who was the evil-minded Angra Mainyu, “What! Will the demons be assembled in an assembly on the top of Arezura[26], they the wicked, evil-minded?’ …

They rushed and they shouted, b they, the demons, wicked, evil-minded, and with the evil eye: -- 'Let us assemble in an assembly on the top of Arezura, for born indeed is He who is the holy Zarathushtra of the house of Pourushaspa. Where shall we find destruction for Him? -He is the demon’s wounder, -- He is the demon’s foe. He is Druj of the Druj (a destroyer of the destroyer). Face downward are the demon-worshippers, prostrate is the death-demon.d and down is the Draogha of the lie. ‘[27]

(a) Then as to the Temptation. -- If our Lord approached that great event in the spirit of a wide humanity, one would surmise that he felt some sympathy with sages who had gone before Him in similar signal encounters, -and there exists a temptation of Zoroaster of which He may have known through supernatural cognition, and to which for colour that of Hercules, for instance, bears no comparison. The myth containing it doubtless expresses in its fragments what was once a real struggle, which, if it in any sense saved Zoroastrianism, was one of the world’s crises. Zoroaster is besought by the Evil One to abjure the holy Mazdayasnian religion, and to obtain a reward such as an evil ruler got (Vend. XIX.I). A rally from a first defeat having been made, Angra Mainyu, the evil Spirit coming from the 'north region of the North[28]‘? Orders the Lie-demon to assault and slay the holy Zarathushtra, now no longer just born, but in the vigor of his age. The demon, again discouraged, returns to Angra Mainyu. She says:

'O baneful Evil Spirit, I see no death for him, for glorious is the holy Zarathushtra.'[29]

Zarathushtra (seeing through their thoughts, says within himself) :

‘The Demons plot my death, they, evil-doing as they are.’

Then Afigra Mainyu again heads the throng.

'He (Z.) arose, he went forth uninjured f by their plan and the hardness of their words. And Zarathushtra let the Evil Spirit know:-‘

O evil-minded Afigra Mainyu, I will smite the creation made by demons ; I will smite the Nash (putrid demon); I will smite the evil fairy (that seduced the early sages), till the Saviour is born victorious from the waters of Kasava, from the utmost region of the East.[30]--

And Aiigra Mainyu answered, shouting as he spoke:-‘

Slay not my creatures,g holy Zarathushtra. Thou art Pourushaspa’s son, for from thy birth have I invoked (thee).[31]

Renounce the good religion of those who worship Mazda. Obtain the reward j which Vadhaghan, the murderous (ruler), gained.' –

And Zarathushtra answered :

‘Never shall I abjure the good faith k of those who worship Mazda: (no), let not my body, nor my life[32], nor my senses fly apart.' –

And to him then shouted the Evil Spirit of the evil world: With whose word wilt thou thus conquer? -With whose word will thou abjure? With what weapon as the best formed wilt thou conquer these my creatures?

And Zarathushtra answered:-‘

With the sacred Haoma plant, with the mortar, and the cup, with the word which God pronounced.’ With these my weapons (will I slay thee), they are best. With that word shall I be victor, with that word shall I expel thee, with this weapon[33]  as the best made, O evil Afigra Mainyu. The most bounteous Spirit forged it; in boundless time He made it; and the Bountiful Immortals gave it, they who rule aright, who dispose (of all) aright.'

And Zarathushtra chanted: --

‘As the higher priest is to (be revered and) chosen, so let the lower chief (be one who serves) from the righteous order, a creator of mental goodness, and of life’s actions done for Mazda, and the kingdom of is to Ahura, which to the poor may give their nurture.’ [34] --

Here we may well introduce the closing verse of the chapter (XIX. 147): [35]-‘

The demons shouted, the demons rushed, the evil-doing and the wicked; they rushed and they fled to the bottom of the place of darkness ; that is, of frightful Hell.'

Few Medo-Persian subjects in the streets of Jerusalem being presumably Mazda-worshippers, like their Emperors, here lingering in the Persian subject city soon after, or long after the Return, could have failed to know this striking myth probably in a much fuller form; and none who knew it could have failed to tell it, if creeds were at all discussed.

VIII. We can now trace the records of the soul's individual experiences in its salvation, and here the astonishing subjectivity of the system comes once more fully out. In Vend. XIX.30, the soul is met on its arrival after death at the: Chinvat, or Judge’s, Bridge by a female form accompanied with dogs,[36] and in Yasht XXII. We learn who this female was. It was none other than the believer’s conscience.

The figure presents the typical features of female attractiveness; she is beautiful, she is noble, and in the flower of her youth. ‘What maiden art thou,’ he asks her,' who art the most beautiful of maidens that ever I have seen? And she, who is his conscience[37],’ answers: 'I am verily, O youth, thy conscience, thy good thoughts, and words, and deeds, thy very own.’ But he asks her: -- 'who hath desired thee hither with his love, coming with thy majesty, thy goodness, and thy beauty, triumphant and an enemy of grief?’ And she answers: -- ' Thou hast loved me[38] and desired met hither, O youth, even thy good thoughts, and words, and deeds. For when thou sawest idol-worship… thou didst desist, chanting the Gathas, and sacrificing to the good waters and to Ahura-Mazda’s fire, contenting[39] the righteous saint who came to thee from near and from afar. It is thus that thou hast made me, who am lovely, still more lovely, and me who am beautiful hast thou made still more beautiful, and thou hast made me who am beatified still more beatified… through thy good thoughts, and words, and deeds.’ (Here we may observe, in passing, the same element of pleased surprise which we have in the sublimer Matthew XXV. 37; the soul is incredulous: ' When saw we Thee a hungered and fed Thee? ‘,-and the answer is, 'Thou hast fed and lodged me;' so here there is surprise: ‘who hath desired thee hither with his love?' And the answer is: ‘Thou hast;-for thou didst content the righteous man coming from near and from afar. ‘) As the soul proceeds further, it passes the Judge’s Bridge and comes before the golden throne, where the Good Mind is seated[40] (Vend. XIX.31). He rises to meet it, and welcomes it: ‘When didst thou come hither from that perishable world to this imperishable world? ‘-and the saints who have passed away before him ask him the same : -- 'How long was thy salvation?' Then said Ahura Mazda: ‘Ask him not what thou asketh of that cruel way which is the dividing of the soul and body’ (Yasht XXII.). And the first step, as he advances, places him in the entrance of the three-fold Heaven, which is again the Good Thought, and the second step places him in the Good Word, and the third in the Good Deed.-Then the soul passes on contented to the souls of the saints, to the golden throne of Ahura Mazda, and to the golden thrones of the Bountiful Immortals, and to the abode of Sublimity (or ' Song '), even to the home of Ahura Mazda and His blest[41] (Vend. XIX.33). A corresponding evil spirit awaits the wicked; a hideous female is his conscience,-the wicked and Angra Mainyu mock him, and he rushes at last into the Hell of evil thoughts, and words, and deeds.[42]

IX. Corporeal resurrection seems to be placed after the reception of souls into Heaven as if they returned later to a purified earth.[43]

As to this doctrine,-which is, properly speaking, not identical with that of ' immortality,’ but which may be said to be closely associated with it,-aside from the constant implication of it throughout, we have in Fragment IV., ' Let Angra Mainyu, the evil spirit, be hid beneath the earth,-let the Daevas disappear, let the dead arise, and let bodily life be sustained in these now lifeless bodies.’ And, in Yasht XIX.83, we have resurrection together with millennial perfections: - 'We sacrifice unto the Kingly Glory which shall cleave unto the victorious Saoshyant and His companions, when He shall make the world progress unto perfection, and when it shall be never dying, not decaying, never rotting, ever living, ever useful, having power to fulfill all wishes, when the dead shall arise, and immortal life shall come, when the settlements shall all be deathless.’ Contrast this with the earlier Scriptural passages, void as they are of any genuine statement of this important dogma; compare these, then, with statements which appear after the return from the Captivity, a captivity during which the tribes had come into intimate contact with a great religion[44] in which the passages cited express predominant convictions; what do we find in them? First, we have the jubilant hope expressed by the later Isaiah: 'Let thy dead live, let my dead body arise; -- Awake and sing, ye that dwell in the dust; for thy dew is as the dew of herbs, and the earth shall cast forth the shades.’ And then the full statement in Daniel: 'And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.‘ And yet God’s people, as we have seen above, had by no means universally accepted the meaning of this language even at the time of Christ. We draw the inference-the religion of the Jews was originally Sadducaic.[45]

X. Such then are the historical literary facts, -- uncontested for the most part, the great mass of them (see above), and also incontestable; and this, whatsoever may be their possible or impossible, exterior historical connection or disconnection with the Hebrew theology, or with our own. The points deduced from them clearly show that they contain the very most essential elements of 'our own religion' in its advanced, if still formative, condition, from the date of the Captivity, or before the time of Christ, and after the Restoration from the Exile. [(--Let us now for convenience compactly collect the points made in the above copious citations. First of all there was God’s unity as the greatest of the deities and with a name far more appropriate than our own for Him.-He has the Attributes of Justice, Benevolence, Authority, Inspiring Energy (compare the Holy Spirit), Universal Weal and Eternity. There were these latter at times personified as Archangels: sO, rhetorically or otherwise; there was His ‘creationism' of ' this world and yon Heaven,’ as of man, with optimistic aims and results, no evil appearing as His product, and of the other Gods and Archangels, these last having been at first His Attributes; there was a human Immortality also certified as to the eternity of its duration by the application of the word 'Amesha' in the next oldest portion of the Avesta to the 'Immortal' Archangels, 'amesha’ being an adjective to Ameretatat. There was a dominant subjective susceptibility in all the three personified better elements, God, the archangels, and sanctified man, extending to thought, word, and deed. –

There was a Demonology with the most pronounced Satan of all literature, a very ' God of this world' as against the ' God of Heaven.’ He has his evil Attributes in antithesis to the beneficial ones of Ahura Mazda. One of them is positively personified in the Gathas, and perhaps two of them ;-there is a fall of man as of other spiritual beings from successive Edens through his, Angra Mainyu’s, malign influence. –

There was to be a judgment personal and universal, discriminating thoughts, words, and deeds, with an approval experienced in the saved man’s soul, and continued as a recompense, and also a future Heaven itself partly consisting in the person’s own good thoughts, and words, and deeds, but with various additional particulars of beatification. Millennial periods of intermitting righteous felicity here intervene, with a final restoration upon a renewed and supernaturally beatified earth. This latter seems to take place as a sequel to the first beatific reception of the soul in Heaven, a resurrection being an essential element in this restoration, while the entire redemption is brought about by a Virgin-born Beatifier. (There may be some possibility of a ‘sevenfold ' gradation of felicity, in connection with the Seven Karshvars of the Earth, or with the Seven Spirits); For the evil, a corresponding Hell exists in equal grade.-These are, as I need hardly repeat, the vital essentials of 'our own religion’ as it existed in its earlier stages in the Exilic period during and after the Captivity and before Christ, being conspicuously manifested in the orthodox Pharisaism, while these elements existed in the Persian documents for unknown previous ages; see also the Veda at places.[46])] (a) It can now be fully seen why I used the expressions in the title to these lectures. Contrary, however, to many acute and sincere searchers, I hold that the two forms of this same religion were originally each of separate origin -- see again above and below,-each being a regularly spontaneous and parallel development from unchanging universal laws, proving the original man-unity, and strongly supporting the view that it was impossible to prevent the origin and development of similar ideas, entirely aside from all borrowing of them from one nation to another. (b) But while I hold that these views arose from ' parallel development ' having been caused by the disastrous afflictions of the Captivity, I lay no illogical straw in the way of those who hold to the view that the doctrines were, under God, taught directly to the Jews by their protectors. In fact, I would strenuously repeat, and with emphasis, what I wrote in 1894-viz., the principle, that any, or all of the historical, doctrinal, or hortative statements recorded in the Old or the New Testament might, while fervently believed to be inspired by the Divine Power, be yet freely traced, if the facts would allow of it, to other religious systems for their mere mental initiative, that the historical origin of particular doctrines or ideas which are expressed in the Old or the New Testament does not touch the question of their inspiration, plenary or otherwise- (c) [(That, for instance and to illustrate, as St. Paul freely discloses his mental peculiarities, and (as to citations) quotes a poet of his youth, so our Lord Himself also reveals a mental constitution, and to a certain degree expressed, as all others express them, the convictions and enthusiasms which he has absorbed from earlier associations. And still more than this, unless we are prepared to accede to a docetic heresy doubting the very reality of our Saviour’s human nature, every sentiment of veneration ought to induce us to trace, if it be possible to trace them, not only the fountain-heads of His human convictions, but the supplying rills of His expression. (If we carefully study the genealogy of His body, with how much greater earnestness should we examine that of His mind.-) For it was His thoughts, humanly speaking, and sometimes His earlier ones, which not only constituted a part of His momentous history, but actually determined His career. In the source of His thoughts, therefore, the great motives of His subsequent history are to be sought. (d) Recall, for instance, what I also have just alluded to above in the citations as to the recorded temptation of the Persian Saint: as He was gathering up his re-solves for such a mental scene as that described in the fourth chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel; see above[47], in which He purposed to meet in one decisive encounter a spiritual power which, as He believed, was threatening His creation, as there had been something memorable of a similar kind in the experiences of prophets of kindred religions, and if these were known to Him, as I have suggested, through His omniscience[48], it does not seem to me to be at all deniable that such preceding 'temptations' (as He revolved them, with all that they signified) influenced Him, if He possessed that larger intellect which could see over the trivial paraphernalia of superstition, and look at the soul struggling in its sincerity for spiritual life, and for the spiritual lives of many who revered it, then the humblest of His forerunners must have led him on. It would seem, therefore, to be a very pious act to search, diligently for everything which Christ hallowed by His reverence, and it would seem a very mistaken religious sentiment which would arrest one in such a course.)]

The most obvious place to search for the doctrines and opinions amid which our Lord grew up, has been, as of course, the Jewish literature of His period, and of that which preceded His appearance; this has been examined to a considerable extent, and much of the greatest interest has been brought to light; the theologies of Babylon and Egypt should be also searched as well as those of Greece and Rome. From India we have what seem a throng of rich analogies from the Buddhist Scriptures, but our highest authorities upon the subject are, or were, inclined to doubt the possibility of the historical connection ; there remains then this ancient Persian theology, where, as we have seen, an effective historical connection amounts, at one stage of it at least, to historical identity,-and it is as such, I believe, universally recognized Cyrus took Babylon, say, about the year 539 B.C. and with it the Jewish slave colony, whose tribes continued to be Persian subjects till the Achaemenian power broke. Jeremiah, foreseeing this future invasion of the dominant and restless Aryan, voiced his anathemas against his Semitic Babylonian oppressors in view of it; the 'Kings of the Medes' were to avenge him, and in due course they did so, and, later sent the Jewish people back from their Captivity, rebuilding the Holy City when it had become an ' heap,’ decreeing also the restoration of the Temple. The later Isaiah speaks in most astonishing terms of this Restorer; the Book of Nehemiah discloses further scenes with Persian monarchs; section after section of the Bible dates from their reigns, while Magian[49] priests, who were of the religion of Cyrus, came later to do honour to the Son of Mary, and one of the last words uttered by Christ upon the Cross was in the Persian tongue[50]” [(-The fact that Cyrus may have coquetted politically with the Babylonian priesthood, if it be a fact, is one which redounds somewhat to his credit and corroborates our argument. How much better that he should show some respect to the religion of his fallen enemies, who now became fully acquiescent in their submission, than to crush them all wholesale with the usual slaughter. Were it even true that he was accurately depicted upon a stele as present at the worship of one of their chief deities, this would be but one proof the more of his considerate courtesy. He did not conquer to annihilate.


Whether the precise form of Mazda-worship now upon the Inscriptions was that of Zoroaster exactly or not is just at this point of our inquiries again a question which we need only glance at, as it is of little moment.[51] It seems likely, indeed, that it was an especially original form of Mazda-worship remaining undeveloped in an original simplicity, while elsewhere throughout Media and South Persia the particulars of the general creed advanced till they became identified with those of the Zoroaster of Plutarch. But whether this was the fact or not, it must have possessed the main features which have been more or less exactly preserved to us in the Zend Avesta.)] Further.

The word Mazda (perhaps -dah), meaning ‘the Great Creator,’ or ‘the Wise One,’ is, as said above, with Ahura, the Life-spirit-lord, an especially well-adapted name for God, much more so than a name derived from a Heathen Deity, it being the name used for Him by that great Mazda-worshipper, who, under the providence of God, determined the entire later history of the Jewish people. For had Cyrus, the Mazda-worshipper, not brought the people back, the later prophets might not have spoken at Jerusalem, nor might Jesus have been born at Bethlehem, nor taught in the region. Indeed, the influence of the Great Restorer and his successors over the city was so positive that in the opinion of some writers Jerusalem was for a considerable period after the Return in many respects almost ‘a Persian city.‘[52]

Supplementary Lecture
Many indeed have been the erroneous statements made by well-meaning tyros in Christian pulpits, as by myself too, once among them, with regard to the 'impossibility' of all later connections between our great doctrines and analogous truths once held by nations foreign to the Jews who may yet have been brought into connection with them ; and the fervent novice may well be pardoned if, in his first sincere efforts, he is too decided in a negative sense ; but in men of maturer years let us hope for better things. For surely to be sentimental, if only for a moment, -- the first object of religion next after the suppression of unlawful violence or appropriation should be the suppression of inaccurate statement, and to deny without any effort to become an expert what every expert knows to be the truth is, so it seems to me, to commit a crime in the name of Christianity for which Christianity will be one day called upon to account. It is therefore to help the Church against well-furnished gainsayers, and to reestablish her character for conscientious investigation, that Christian specialists in orientalism have given the best years of their lives, to save the endeared religion which once inculcated every honourable principle from continuing herself to be a victim if not the agent of that most sinister of equivocations known as ‘pious fraud.' [53]

My procedure is thus, I hope, now clear to all. The connection between Persia and Israel has been found to approach identity, as was only to be expected from the fact that the two nationalities,-if indeed the Jewish could really be called a ' nationality, ‘were parts of the same Empire for close on, or more than two hundred years. As this is a point unquestioned a posteriori, so the doctrinal analogies were as probable a priori as presuppositions, as they have been proved to be historically actual through our Oriental research. And with this, note the unparalleled expressions of theological sympathy. If we have found a pictorial sculpture representing Cyrus as worshipping in a Babylonian temple, a sort of political manifesto,[54]  -- and, if we regard this as showing clearly a strong leaning toward the Babylonian Baal-worship, what shall we say as to the astonishing language of this same Cyrus, with that of Darius, and Artaxerxes recorded in our Bibles, rereading also what the Jewish prophets and historians have left written in response to it.

I hardly think that anything of their kind approaches these extended statements in the history of literature as an expression of religious identity of feeling between two peoples similarly situated, or even more closely connected, certainly not at their date ;-that is, not, when all the other circumstances are held in view. Recollect that the Bible is beyond all other documents regarded as hyper-sacrosanct, and by nearly, or quite one-third the human race; -- even septices as to its detail acknowledge harmoniously its unspeakable influence-then let us re-read attentively what the Bible records of its own great Jewish-Persian Emperors. The psychology of the development was, more distinctly, this: During the shock and sorrows of the Captivity Gods people turned their thoughts from earth to Heaven, just as we so often do, for the eventualities had proved that the emporal rewards so persistently promised to the ‘righteous,’ had in some way, and for the time being, proved illusory. Then came their Deliverer with His thronging forces, and with a change in their immediate circumstances which might well have re-assured them that the Psalmist had indeed ‘never seen the righteous forsaken'; see above. And also that very same enormous event, which might well have convinced them that this world should at last show them better times as a reward for their fidelity, actually itself brought with it the same settled and worked out doctrine of another  life which the Jews had just acquired, but which had been believed in from their birth by those same large masses recruited from all parts of the Iranian Empire, while priests of this Immortality accompanied every battalion, or made many groups for each corps, with an illustrious King of Kings at the head of all of them, who never dictated a word for an Inscription without attributing every victory to the ' Life-Spirit-Lord, the Great Creator, Auramazda'; see Behistun and else-where. What wonder then, as 1 have so often implied, that the Jews listened to the unconscious expressions of their new-found friends, whose fire-altars at times glowed at evening widely, and that, listening, they began the more to vie with these Persian fellow-believers in the hopes and fears of what was now the common Faith, and so the doctrine grew. While the historically more conservative party amidst the Jews, that of the Zadokians, (the Sadducees) clung with aristocratic tenacity to the old simplicity, and opposed this growing Zoroastrianism of the masses. Yet the new views, adapted as they were to appeal to the feelings of an afflicted humanity, prevailed, having first concentrated themselves in a sect which termed itself, or which was termed by its indignant predecessors Pharisees, Farsees, Persians,[55] hardly ‘separatists,’ 'dividers.’[56] So that, at the time of Christ, it could be said, and upon His own authority, that ‘the Scribes and Pharisees sat in Moses’ seat,’ and it was from him ' who lived a Pharisee 'that our own future hopes were chiefly handed down to us.[57]

For additional literary focus to our results, I would say, as if speaking from the orthodox point of view, that while the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments are unrivalled in their majesty and fervour, constituting perhaps the most impressive objects of their kind known to the human mind, and fully entitled to be described as ' inspired,’ yet the greatly more widely-extended, and as to certain particulars, long prior religion of the Mazda-worshippers was supremely useful in giving point and body to many loose conceptions among the Jewish religious teachers, and doubtless also in introducing many good ideas which were entirely new, while as to the doctrines of immortality and resurrection within a restricted sphere the most important of all, it certainly assisted and confirmed, though it did not positively originate belief.

But the greatest and by far the noblest service which it rendered was the quasi-origination and propagation of the doctrine that ‘virtue is chiefly its own reward,’ even in the great religious reckoning, and ‘vice its own punishment.’ The time is now past, let us hope for ever, when the

Christian apologist recoiled from recognizing the very important services which have been rendered to the holy faith by peoples foreign to the Jews. And surely no one will look askance at the happy fact that not only a small nation to the west of the Jordan held to those great truths on which rest our hopes beyond the grave, but that the teeming millions of Persia also held to them in successive generations Gong earlier than the prophets. These considerations entitle their ancient lore to our veneration and investigation. It now lies open not merely to the laborious specialist but to the intelligent student,-and it is to be hoped that from the mass of human energy devoted to so much that is trivial, some fraction may yet be pared for the study of this rich and influential monument of the past which holds such a conspicuous place among the records of our own religious history.


[1] The third edition appeared in the Asiatic Quarterly Review for October, 1911, and in a later number under the title ‘The pre-Christian Religion in Ancient Persia.’

[2] It is even not uncommon to speak, or write, of the Avesta as if it were identical with the later Zoroastrianism, the revived system of Sassanian times, which is, however, as different from both the earlier and the later Avesta as the ' Lives of the Saints,’ for instance, are from the New Testament record.

[3] Consciously or unconsciously they anticipated much modern theory upon this subject, and led the way in the most practical of all sciences-sanitation, and their suggestions as to this particular seem to some disinterested critics to have been indirectly reproduced in the Book of Leviticus.

[4] The earlier Avesta consists of the Gathas, the remnants of the original hymns of Zarathushtra and his immediate associates or followers. They are most dissimilar to the rest of the Avesta and still more so to the apocryphal Zoroastrianism. They were carefully translated by me in the Sacred Books of the East, Vol. XXXI., so long ago as October 1887, and their Zend, Pahlavi, Sanskrit, and Persian texts were edited, and the first three translated, by me with a Commentary in my Study of the Gathas, some 650 pages, 1902-04. They may be provisionally placed at about 700 to 900 B.C., though they astonishingly ignore the cults of Mithra, Haoma (Soma), and of the sun, moon, etc., etc., which might argue a still earlier date for them. The remaining parts of the Avesta are of different ages, say in their origins at least from 600 to 300 B.C., while, as in the case of every other ancient book, interesting additions of an indefinitely later origin occur here and there. Some writers, while holding the Gathas to date from about 700 B.C., put even vigorous parts of the later but still genuine Avesta at a thousand years later. What happened then in that long gap;-did Iranian literature produce nothing?

[5] While even the original passages could be learned by any apt scholar with a competent teacher in the course of a very short time.

[6] See also the very name of the so-called and really one God ; it was Elohim, meaning ' Gods,‘-and it once referred to a recognized plurality in Deities; while Ahura created the highest of the sub-gods, even Mithra, at times otherwise His close companion.

[7] See Behistun. Dualism in the Inscription? -Auramazda is signally the creator of what is ‘good.‘ -- ’He did not make evil’ as Yahveh Elohim is said to have done in Isaiah xliv. , xlv.

[8] See Y. XXX, 4.

[9] As a God of Honor.

[10] Recall also the very expression ‘God’ applied to Satan as the ‘God of this world.’ If Satan was a ‘God of this world,’ and Yahveh was the ‘God of Heaven, we have here at once something extremely like the ‘Pair’ at Y.XXX.

[11] What is the present advancing pessimism (so called) but the recognition of the original necessity of evil co-existing with good? T h e Avesta here anticipates momentous distinctions; -recall the later schemes of the Gnostics; as to which see also Jakob Boehume, Fichte and Hegel. Some writers have here indeed compared the supposed Babylonian dualism especially in regard to Isaiah xliv. xlv., etc., but such 'pairings' of the throngs of Gods should hardly be here mentioned.

[12] Though the name, being derived from the proper name of some prominent teacher, Zadok, did not necessarily imply any especial claims to 'Righteousness’, - yet the force of the word, as analogously elsewhere in similar cases, was doubtless sometimes felt.

[13] The future existence of souls after death was as dim in the pre-exilic Bible, as it was in the older Greek classics;-in fact this latter, the Greek immortality, seems to show rather the more of animation.

[14] About 700 to 900 B.C., or earlier.

[15] Somewhat later.

[16] Literary confusion; -they were seven only with Ahura.

[17] Say 300 to 100 B.C., in its origins at least, or greatly earlier?

[18] The ' hundred autumns ' of the Rik were the hope of all, and this idea of a preternaturally extended life upon earth-that is to say, of a ' temporal immortality ‘-merged into that of another' deathlessness' beyond the grave, becoming an universal aspiration with the Irano-indians, as it is, indeed, elsewhere; -for what nation ever existed without some form of it?

[19] One edition (!) omits the word 'Seven' amply supplied elsewhere.

[20] These Gathic passages may be placed at about 700 to 900 B.C.

[21] Though hardly Azhi Dahaka, who was nevertheless a serpent

[22] About 500 to 300 B.C.; in its main prior elements greatly earlier; but, except where guarded by the metre, extraneous matter universally finds its way in places into ancient texts; many portions of the later Avesta must have been repeatedly, seldom fatally, written over.

[23] In its origin, say 300-500 B.C. (?), or greatly earlier.

[24] In its origins, at about 300-500 B.C.; the much later repetition of this myth argues its long previous growth through centuries.

[25] Compare this drivel with the grandeur and simplicity of the Gatha, S.B.E. XXXI., pp. I-194.

[26] Recall the ‘exceeding high mountain.’

[27] In its origin, say about 300 or greatly earlier (?). The footnote signs expressed in letters refer in each case to the corresponding analogy; see the note below, p.23; (recall, 'cried with a loud voice').

[28] An accursed quarter.

[29] Recall: ' I know Thee who Thou art, the Holy One of God.’

[30] A blessed quarter.

[31] First aorist mid. 'all these things will I give thee.’

[32] Other translators introduce an ‘if' to gain a better meaning ' Not if my body, nor my life, nor my senses fly apart.’

[33] Recall 'the sword of the Spirit.’

[34] The texts cited are all of them metrical, from this the rhythm of the renderings.

[35] For detailed analogies in the above citations, which are not very close, recall perhaps (a) 'the exceeding high mountain'; (b) 'cried with a loud voice, My name is Legion, for we are many'; (c) 'Art thou come hither to destroy us before the time?' (d) 'Death and Hell shall be cast into the lake that burneth'; (e) ' The Holy One'; (f) 'was led up into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil'; (g) 'And the devils besought Him,’ etc.; (h) 'I know Thee who Thou art'; (i) 'All these things will I give Thee if Thou wilt fall down and worship me'; (j) 'I will give Thee this authority’; (k)' Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God'; (l) 'It is written'; (m)' Get thee hence’; (n) 'The sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God'; (o) 'him only shalt thou serve'; (p) 'Then the devil leaveth Him‘; ‘into the abyss.’ 

[36] Related to Cerberus (?).

[37] Some writers render, the believer’s 'soul'; others, the believer’s self, ’so varying the identical idea.

[38] 'Invited me.’

[39] The later Zoroastrianism explains ' lodged and entertained.’

[40] Recall the 'Son of Man'; V.M. also equaled ' the good man.’

[41] About 300 B.C. in its origins at least, probably greatly earlier.

[42] A perhaps misunderstood echo of this would be Rev. XXII. II: ' He that is unrighteous, let him be unrighteous still: and he that is filthy, let him be filthy still.’

[43] Recall the same uncertainty among Christians as to the detail of their future beatification.

[44] Within a vast Empire in which they had become citizens.

[45] Sadducees before ‘Zadok.

[46] Further citations on the contents of the Vedas are given later in the lecture by the author upon 'The Avesta and the Veda.’

[47] Page 21. 

[48] See the Talmud article by Dr. Deutsch (Remains, 1874).

[49] The word 'Magian' is with little doubt Avestic; the Maga was ‘the Holy Cause,’ occurring repeatedly in the Gathas; the changed suffix u in Magu is of no importance, and the o of the Avestic moghu results from epenthesis; cf. vohu for vahu, Sk. vasu ; gh also = Gathic g. Maga, as being pre-Gathic by centuries, may have been carried down to Akkad by Turanians; cf. Y.46,12. Some writers have, I believe, assumed that the expression rab mag in Jeremiah could not have originated from across the border; that it was purely Semitic;-but no one doubts that the Magi of the Gospels were Aryan and Persian. And they naturally came into once-Persian Judaa. Here is the same word as mag beyond all doubt non-Semitic: the mag of rab mag may well be one of the hundred odd Persian words in our Semitic Bible.

[50] Luke XXIII.43 Paradise -Av. pairi-d(a)eza.

[51] See my remark in Vol. XXXI., S.B.E., Introduction, p. 30.

[52] THE AGE OF THE GATHAS. - I have omitted to place the present note under the text, not wishing to accumulate too much of such matter at the foot of the pages.

My argument for the age of the Gathas has been very carefully thought out. First, any verbal statement within the Hymns them-selves directly mentioning their age would be regarded by me as a mere curiosity aside from internal evidence ;-it is what the documents reveal of themselves, as it were, in passing and without intention, which alone possesses validity in my eyes.

Secondly,-as to this internal evidence.-Are the Gathas the productions of a person or persons living amid the actual scenes to which they unconsciously allude? If they did so allude to interests which were real, immediate, and vital, the Hymns must have been composed in a language generally spoken as vernacular at the time. Reasons :-first (a), they are twice formally addressed to assemblies ' coming from near and from far ' (see Y. XXX., I, and Y. XLV., I) ; secondly(b), they allude pointedly in the first, second, and third personals to persons immediately and vitally involved in the religious-political situation of which the Hymns are the expression (see Y. XXVIII., 8, ‘to Vishtaspa and to me,’ ' to Frashaoshtra and to me‘;-see even a vocative in Y. XLVI., 15, 16); while their whole tone, so personal and at times impassioned, clearly precludes the hypothesis of a ' dead language ' in a scene so rudimental and in a climate so severe as Iran, where energies would be directed rather to the necessities of life than to a hyper-artificial literature of such a character as would use a dead language for a careful imitation. Even in swarming India a fabricated structure exactly of such a type as the Gathas would be if artificially composed, is really unheard of. There was nothing there like such a supposed worked-up romance. Sanskrit when a dead language was, indeed, widely used; but never in close fraudulent imitation of a personal crisis. It would have demanded inimitable art to imagine and fabricate such a forgery. If, then, the Author or Authors of the Gathas used a language familiarly spoken at the time, we know at once when they used it. For, thirdly, no one doubts the date of the Achaemenian Inscriptions, nor that the language in which they were sculptured was that spoken by Darius and the Persians of his day and neighbourhood;-and this language is well preserved on the mountain rocks; but upon comparing it with the Gathic we see that it appears in a form much degenerated from it. Two hundred years, say, more or less, are needed as time to account for the change; for that change was almost as great as that from Anglo-Saxon to Elizabethan English. If, then, the Gathic language was in vernacular use at the time at which the Gathic were written, and that vernacular could not have prevailed at Behistun later than 200 years (about) before Darius had his Inscriptions chiselled, we have at once the latest date at which the Gathas could have been produced, say 700 B.C.

To suppose them written in a vernacular near the time of Christ is therefore wholly absurd, for the Gathic language had been dead for centuries, Pahlavi having taken its place;-and to regard them as having been written in a dead language preserved among the priests is likewise excluded by the nature of the compositions; see above. The language must, indeed, have lingered amid the priestly schools as Sanskrit and Latin did, and much later Avesta must have been written or rewritten in it. For such matter as we have throughout the later Avesta would be naturally reproduced from time to time amid the priestly schools written over in the then ‘dead language'; cp. again the Sanskrit literature. Yet the intense ' personality,’ so to express it, of the Gathas could hardly have been so radically reconstructed, much less fraudulently originated, with the metres, had he even so much desired it, by anyone living at the time of Christ; [(such an hypocrisy would imply an advanced cynicism incredible in the circumstances)].

Pious fraud of the type indicated would have also no visible motive; and without such an artificial misrepresentation intentionally practised, the authorship of the Gathas at about the time of Christ is unthinkable. Even if the allusions to the Gathas which occur in the other books may have been, some of them, later inserted and incorporated with them, yet it cannot be denied that they pointedly suggest a very early date for them;-while the full view that the Gathas were genuinely composed at the time of Christ by a then living Zarathushtra of a then living Frashaoshtra and Jamaspa, etc., needs hardly to be considered; see above ;-no living poem composed in a contemporaneous national crisis could have been popularly spoken in an unknown tongue. And as to the personality of Zarathushtra, not only is it irresistibly implied in every allusion to the Persian religion from Herodotus down, but we have Zarathushtra mentioned by Plutarch as if his name were positively familiar to Theopompus, circa 350 B.C.

To sum up: the Gathas could not have been written in a vernacular tongue later than 700 B.C., and they may have been written much earlier; and they could not have been written in the 'dead language' at all.

[53] To emphasise such a point should be hardly our secondary object throughout such discussions as the present.

[54] See above.

[55] The modern name of the original province of Persia is Farsistan.

[56] It is bad etymology to trace words to an abstract.

[57] Of course our Lord Himself as an eschatologist adhered to the tenets of the Pharisees; this while He denounced the practices of some of their chiefs who were contemporaneous with Him.