Outline of Zoroastrianism

A post for your review. Please see the Christian reaction and reply at the end of the post.

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Zoroastrianism: The Big Picture

Era

Dates

Features

Aryan Before End of Second Millennium BCE Two Migrations: into India (Hinduism and Vedas) and into Iran (Zoroastrianism and Avesta);

*Comparison of

Vedas and Avesta:

(1) Sacrifices and Priests

(2) Polytheism

(3) Soma v. Haoma

(4) Deva (god) v. Daeva (demon)

(5) Asura (demon) Ahura (Lord)

Achae-menian c. 600 to 331 BCE (to Alexander the Great) Rulers, e.g., Cyrus (r. 559-30); Darius (r. 521-485); Artaxerxes II (r. 404-358); Z prob. lived; Z-ism is strong; Ahura Mazda (*Wise Lord) found in inscriptions; ideas may have influenced Israel; Persians attempt to conquer Greece; Alex Great conquers Persia
Parthian 246 BCE to 226 CE Rulers, e.g., Mithradates (r. c. 171-138); god Mithra emerges as chief god, which influences Rome, but Ahura Mazda still important part
Sasanian 226 to 633-642 CE Z-ism is in classical form; Avestan scriptures collected and more written; Islam invades Persia
Z-ism since Antiquity Islamic world shrinks Z-ism 100-250k Z’s today

Avesta Scriptures

Parts Features
Yasna (“Worship”) 72 main hymns recited daily; 17 hymns at core, arranged in five groups called *Gathas, written by Z himself; ethical demand for righteousness, worship of Ahura Mazda as personal god
Yashts (“Hymns”) Some hymns to deities known to Vedas and far more ritualistic than moral
Videvdat (“Law against demons”) A k a Vendidad; prose texts that counter evil thru detailed implementation of purity laws
Khorda (“Shorter Avesta”) Most frequently used prayers; common among Z’s who are not priests
Sirozah Lists deities governing thirty days of the month
Hadhokht Nask (“Sayings”) Description of soul’s fate after death

Life of Zoroaster

I. Not much info

A. Possible Dates

1. Text: born btwn 1400-1000 BCE

2. Or just before 600 BCE

B. Somewhere in Iran (ancient Persia)

C. Iran has religious tradition of prophets / reformers

1. Saoshyants

II. Possible Events in Z’s Life

A. Birth and family

1. Zarathustra (Zarathushtra) Spitama

2. Warrior clan connected to royal family in ancient Persia

B. Wandering and meditating

1. Angel Vohu Mana

a. Only One God: Ahura Mazda

b. Z will be his prophet

2. Archangels appear for 10 years

C. Preaching

1. 10 years and no converts

2. Cousin, Maidhyomah, converts

3. Converts Vishtaspa and his court and kingdom

D. Death

1. Soldier kills Z while Z is preparing sacred fire (77 years old)

Teachings of Zoroaster

I. Nature of God

A. Ahura Mazda (Wise Lord)

1. Aryan Supreme High God among many gods

2. Monotheism (radical)

a. Z says all other gods false

3. Creator of all

4. Invisible, intangible

B. Six Modes (Seven counting Spirit)

1. Amesha-Spenta

Names

Modes, Attributes, Function

Maleness
1. Asha Knowing law of God and law itself; right, truth, order; created fire
2. *Vohu-Mana Love, good purpose, good thought; created cattle
3. Kshathra Loving service, desire; power, dominion, kingdom; created sky of stone (stone pestle, mortar, flint knife)
Femaleness
4. Armaiti Piety, devotion; created earth
5. Haurvatat Wholeness, health, perfection; created water
6. Ameretat Immortality, long life; created plants (haoma)
***Keys of Interpretation:

*Called Divine Heptad (= seven with Spirit—see below)

*God created world with six lesser divinities, whom He brought into being

*After creating, the six (seven) enter their own creation

*Six are aspects of God’s nature

7. Spenta Mainyu Spirit of God; created a Just Man (priest)

C. Yazata (“Adorable Ones”)

1. Host of angels

2. Sraosha: Guardian of humanity

3. Ashi Vanguhi: sister of Sraosha, and Rewarder of good deeds

4. Mithra: strongest angel, ideal of soldier; deeply influences Romans

II. God of Evil

A. Z’s greatest contribution to world religion

B. Monotheism v. Dualism

1. Two spirits emanate from Ahura Mazda

2. Spenta Mainyu: Good, beneficial Spirit

3. Angra Mainyu (or Ahriman, Shaitan, Satan): Evil spirit commanding host of demons; Z says devas (daevas) are demons

4. Mutually interdependent, like yin and yang

5. Two not independent of Ahura Mazda, co-exist from beginning of time

(1) Truly for seekers I shall speak of those things to be pondered, even by one who already knows, with praise and worship for the Lord of Good Purpose, the excellently Wise One, and for Truth . . . . (2) Hear with your ears the best things. Reflect with clear purpose, each man for himself, on the two choices for decision, being alert indeed to declare yourselves for Him before the great requital. (3) Truly there are two primal Spirits, twins renowned to be in conflict. In thought and word, in act they are two: the better and the bad. And those who act well have chosen rightly between the two, not so the evildoers. (4) And when these two Spirits first came together, they created life and not-life, and how at the end Worst Existence [hell] shall be for the wicked, but (the House of) Best Purpose for the just man. (5) Of these two Spirits the Wicked One chose achieving worse things. The most Holy Spirit, who is clad in hardest stone, chose right, and (so do those) who shall satisfy Lord Mazda continually with rightful acts. (6) The Daevas indeed did not choose rightly between these two, for the Deceiver approached them as they conferred . . . .

III. Nature of Humankind

A. Cooperate with good or evil

1. Born innocent, sinless

2. Free to decide which side to take in cosmic struggle, good or evil

3. All will be held accountable for choices

B. Humans can achieve perfection in this life

C. Ethical conduct determines eternal destiny

IV. Destiny of Humankind

A. Repaid evil for evil deeds, good for good deeds

B. Eschatology (study of end things, of the End)

1. End of world (not just individual’s end)

2. Ahura Mazda M will destroy all evil

3. Souls in hell freed

4. New Cycle of History (w/o Angra Mainyu)

C. Balancing Act

1. More bad deeds, to hell!

2. More good deeds, to heaven! (bliss, light, pleasant scents, noble souls)

3. Chinvat Bridge

a. For evil ones: narrow to razor’s edge

b. For good ones: wide, easy path

D. Influences Ancient Israel? (and thereby later Christianity & Islam?)

1. Satan

2. Eschatology (= “Study of End Things”)

V. Ethics

A. Based on sacredness of earth, fire, water, air

1. Avoid pollution, maintain purity

B. Goodness in thought, word, and deed

VI. Worship

A. Fire is symbol of divine presence

B. Fire in temple burns perpetually

C. Blood sacrifices end, petitionary prayer begins to Ahura Mazda

D. Burial

1. Dakhma = Tower of Silence = Sacred Enclosure

2. Vultures

VII. Amesha Spenta

A. Six divine modes or attributes of Ahura Mazda

B. Human can participate in divine attributes

1. E.g., Asha is Good Purpose and he created fire, which brings ritual purity

C. Participation in divine attributes also brings goodness in thought, word, and deed

D. Spenta-Mainyu (Spirit) also helps follower

E. This ensures Chinvat Bridge to heaven

Zoroastrianism Today

I. Where and How Many

A. India: 100k

B. Iran: 11k

II. Place in society

A. India: prosperous

B. Iran: infidels

1. Persecuted since Islamic Revolution of 1979

III. Future

A. No extensive proselytizing

B. Low birthrate

C. No outside marriage

D. Iran: Bleak

E. India: Soon may be only surviving community

 

Christian Reaction and Reply

First, let’s mention what we can learn from Zoroastrianism.  Let’s use bullet points to keep things simple and clear.

  • Zoroastrianism preaches moral law, which benefits society.
  • Zoroastrianism teaches that people should do religious good works. When people do good in a religious sense, society benefits, if the religion is decent.
  • Doing good offers practioners mental well being also.
  • Final judgment resembles Christianity, though the details differ.

Now here are the differences between the two religions:

  • Satan or an Evil Spirit is in no way co-equal with God.
  • Zoroastrianism teaches that good works earn a follower a place in heaven. However, biblical Christianity in its New Covenant Scriptures teaches that no one can work his way into God’s grace. Instead, God reaches out to them by sending Christ who died for people’s sins and half-baked good works.
  • Biblical Christianity is grace-based; it is not mixed with working our way up to God by piling up barely 50.001% of good works to be accepted.
  • God’s grace offered to us without our works show how much he loves us.
  • The written Gospels about the ministry of Jesus show that evil spirits exist and oppress people. When one worships deities or a deity outside of Christ, then one opens the door to these evil beings. The spirit in Zoroastrianism may be one of these bad spirits.

It is always the right time and never too late for a follower of this religion to give his life to Christ and be filled with his Spirit. All the seeker needs to do is repent of his sins, state from the heart that Jesus is Lord, and believe that God raised him from the dead.

KEY SUMMARY ARTICLE

Ten Big Differences between Christianity and Other Religions

RELATED

Articles in World Religions Outline Series (in alphabetical order):

Outline of Buddhism

Outline of Christianity

Outline of Confucianism

Outline of Hinduism

Outline of Islam

Outline of Judaism

Outline of of Shintoism

Outline of Sikhism

Outline of Taoism

Outline of Zoroastrianism

Each of those posts has a Christian Reaction and Reply at the end.

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