October 16, 2018

Zoroaster and Monotheism

As a kid, I liked watching Zoroaster, as portrayed by Guy Williams. He wore a mask, fought for justice in Spanish California, and slash a Z with his sword —

"No, Cowboy Bob! You're thinking of Zorro!"

Oh, right. I was wondering why he started a religion over yonder, in Persia and India.

Now it's time to stop playing with words and get serious. The history of Zoroaster (Zarathustra, and other names) is controversial, and is generally considered to have lived long before Jesus. Some two-bit tinhorns say that Christianity stole concepts from Zoroastrianism and Mithraism, but examinations of source documents show that such is not the case.

Zoroaster began a religion that has some similarities with Christianity.
Public domain image attributed to Clavis Artis,
an alchemy manuscript, via Wikimedia Commons
Zoroastrianism is considered monotheistic, but that is not entirely accurate because. They have a God, but also have an immortal counterpart for evil. Christianity does not have Satan as God's equal, but as a created being who turned evil and is defeated at the end. Their god, Ahura Mazda, was a creator, but there are very distinct differences between that creation account and the true creation found in Genesis.

Stories of the Genesis Flood that are spread all over the world and many still have elements of the true account, and people most likely carried some form of the narrative with them after the dispersal at Babel. Not only are people born with a knowledge that God exists, but I suspicion that some semblance of accounts of the one true God were dispersed as well. That may explain some similarities between religions. Also, it is likely that later versions of Mithraism and Zoroastrianism borrowed from Christianity.

Y'all might be wondering why I'm posting something about this obscure Eastern religion. One reason is to challenge the foolish claim that Christianity stole from Zoroastrianism. Another one is because the religion may seem obscure in the West, but is has very many adherents in India, Iran, and other places. Also, there are mixtures of cultural religions and Zoroastrianism, and even some modifications of Islam. Don't be surprised if those folks moving in next door have some shades of this religion. They need Jesus too.
The early history of Zoroastrianism is much in dispute. The religion was founded by Zoroaster, but it is not certain when he lived, where he lived or how much of later Zoroastrianism came from him. Tradition puts him in western Iran in the sixth century BC, a little earlier than the Buddha in India, but it is now thought that he lived in northeastern Iran, in the area on the borders of modern Afghanistan and Turkmenistan. An alternate theory dates him much earlier, somewhere from 1700 to 1500 BC, and places him in the plains of central Asia, perhaps before the first groups of Aryans moved south from the plains into Iran and India.
. . .
This religion obviously has aspects similar to Christianity and may have been influenced by events from Genesis forward as they were passed down from generation to generation.
. . .
Regardless, Zoroastrianism is considered one of the world’s oldest monotheistic religions — the doctrine or belief that there is only one God. However, while Zoroastrians say they believe there is one supreme God whom they call Ahura Mazda, they also recognize another immortal deity, known as Angra Mainyu, who represents the epitome of evil. So using the traditional definition of monotheism, many religious scholars would say it is more accurate to describe this religion as polytheistic. 
As Christians, it is important to understand that when God created us in His image, He wrote monotheism into our “spiritual DNA.” In helping us to understand this reality, the Apostle Paul explains in the first two chapters of the book of Romans that the existence of only one true God is evident to everyone in one of two ways.
To read the rest (it's a bit long, but very interesting), click on "World Religions and Cults: Zoroastrianism".


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