Concepts that Christians and Hebrews Got from Zoroastrians
I am often amazed at how similar we turn out to be with people we thought were so different.
In ancient Iran there was a religion that predated Islam. This group could be found all over the Middle East but seemed to have a strong center in what is now Iran. Indeed, there are references in ancient documents that the Zoroastrians went to a place and worshiped near a “black rock” that fell from the heavens. The location was similar to what is now known as Mecca.
When the ancient Hebrews were sent to Babylonia, they organized what we now call Judaism using many of the teachings of the Zoroastrian religion. There is a story in the Holy Bible of the Christians about a Jewish woman who begged the King of Babylon to have mercy on the Jews who had been in captivity there. Both the Bible and history confirm that Cyrus the Great had compassion on the Jews who had been forced to "Sing our songs in a strange land." He decreed that they should be honored, and he even helped pay for them to return to Israel and rebuild the temple there. Cyrus, we are told, was a follower of Zoroaster, and the Jews while in ancient Babylonia (now Persia) learned and imitated much of that religion.
Today's Christians and Jews still practice inherited concepts of Zoroaster. Let me point out a few:
- The concept of Satin was promoted by the Iranian prophet Zarathustra (Zoroaster) between 1500 and 1000 BC.
- God alone was the “Lord of Wisdom” (not multiple Gods). They called him Ahura Mazda (see image on the left). This may have been the first monotheistic religion of history.
- The idea of Heaven and Hell came from Zoroaster.
- The Judgement Day came from Zoroaster.
- Angels and demons originated with Zarathustra, and the Holy Book of Zoroastrians.
- The conflict of Goodness and Light with Darkness and Evil, first taught by Zoroastrians.
- Man’s choice, his ability to decide which he will follow, an idea of Zoroaster.
- "Paradise" is an old Persian word, and its blessings might even be bestowed upon sinners in the mercy of God. Zoroaster.
- Cyrus the Great, one of Iran’s greatest leaders, was a follower of Zoroaster, and he was so moved that the decreed that Iran (Persia) would pay expenses to send the Jews back to their holy Jerusalem. This is documented by Iranian history and also by the Holy Bible of the Christians. Jews in Iran learned from Zoroaster that they were masters of their destinies and could make their own decisions and map their own direction in life.
- Before Dante’s Divine Comedy, the Book of Arda Viraf described a journey to Heaven and Hell in the 10th century. The similarity of the two books is amazing.
- Zoroastrians used water and fire in ritual cleansings, similar to the baptism of Christians.
Zoroastrians worship in fire temples, such as this one in Yazd, Iran. They believe that fire and water are the twin agents of purity and necessary for ritual cleansing (Credit: Alamy)
Zoroastrians had a saying, "worship the light of the world." Christ later said: "I am the light of the world."
Zoroastrians said: "The light will teach you and light up your mind." Christians and Jews (and some Buddhists) said: "Seek enlightenment; follow the light."
Of great interest to us at BootheGlobalPerspectives is that militant Islam/Muslim leaders were threatened by Zoroastrians and their religion. They killed Zoroastrians by the thousands. They wanted to wipe the religion off of the face of the Earth. But we notice in reading history that Christian leaders, including crusaders and high-level national leaders from Turkey and Europe, also waged violent attacks on Zoroastrians. Both killed the people and destroyed their houses of worship. Ironically, some of the best known surviving temples of the religion are in Iran today, and there is a large number of Zoroastrians and places of worship in Mumbai, India. They keep the flame going in their fire temples. When one dies, they believe in "recycling" and have sacred places where they allow birds to consume the body.
The Zoroastrians play an important and interesting role in history. I have spent days with friends, "people of the flame" in India, and have found that community to be largely of Iranian ancestry. They are a well-educated and spiritually-minded people. One of the wealthiest families in all of India is the TATA family, Zoroastrians. I have met some of the Tatas as well as many other leading Zoroastrians. After you get to know them, you will find that the TATA family and most of the Zoroastrians came to India from Persia (Iran). They are a great family and owners of TATA Industries, the largest truck manufacturing company of India, as well as a host of other industries.
Wouldn't it be well if more Americans could understand and appreciate what we have inherited from ancient Iran, and know that Iran, (Ancient Persia) helped rebuild the Temple of Jerusalem at the orders of Cyrus the Great and his follower Darius the Great of Persia? A policy that the radical "religious police" of Iran would hate, as some of them preach the destruction of Israel. No doubt, both Americas and Iranians would do learn from history and remember that we should respect and love one another.