Discuss the Influence Zoroastrianism.....

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ARAB1055: INTRODUCTION TO THE MIDDLE EAST

Discuss the influence that Judaism, Christianity and Zoroastrianism had on the areas surrounding Arabia

Word count (excluding headers and footnotes) : 2192
Teacher: Dr. Hendrik Kraetzschmar

Before discussing the issue of religious influence between Zoroastrianism, Judaism and Christianity, a good starting point would be to explain what these influences might be. If these influences did occur, which we cannot be sure of, what arguments do we have to address the issue, i.e. what evidence either linguistic or written do we have in helping us determine a point of view? (Barr, 1985) Many scholars believe that because these Abrahamic religions arose in Arabia they must have influenced each other; on the other hand other scholars disagree. Questions like did Zoroastrianism influence Judaism and thus Christianity, or was it solely Judaism that affected Christianity have been asked. These questions have recently begun to be discussed more deeply and in this essay we will address these issues. The only way to way to understand formal religious influences from a historical perspective is to study religious practices of the times. And, attempt to prove that different religions have had an influence on religious practices of the time such as the Judaic faith that absorbed elements of Zoroastrianism in the Parthian period (Boyce, 1977) Understanding when each religion emerged and its background is essential to understanding each religions timespan. Firstly, Zoroastrianism emerged around 2000BCE (no one is entirely sure) and took on variant forms with Zoroastrianism remaining as the central core. Zarathustra or Zoroaster could be compared in many ways to Jesus. According to hagiographic images, Zoroaster had an auspicious birth, fought off evil spirits and left his hometown in Iran for about a decade. Afterwards Zoroaster received revelations from a spiritual goddess named Vohu Manah. Her coming, as Gabriel’s to Jesus, shows her as a fount of wisdom and many comparisons to Jesus have been drawn here. When followers of Zoroaster, and Zoroaster himself, were opposed by his own tribe in the region they fled to a neighbouring area whose lord was called Vishtaspa. Again comparisons have been made such as Jesus fleeing to Nazareth. Vishtaspa was a great success for Zoroaster gaining him many followers, up and till his at the age of 77 (around 1923BCE) by a priest of another cult. This violent demise is reminiscent of Jesus’s crucifixion. (Choksy, 2003) The following religion Judaism, undoubtedly the most influential, emerged around 1500BCE. Israelites share a common ancestry through the 12 sons of Jacob, the grandson of Abraham who built the secret Ka’ba stone which all 3 faiths regard as sacred. Early Jewish peoples worshipped many gods, such as Yahweh (YHWH), Anath (a fertility goddess), Hokhma (a wisdom goddess), El (a sky god) and Baal the storm god. These gods were once venerated by the Jews but were eventually deserted with the focus on YHWH as the supreme god. Prose written in 590BCE, on ostraca, unearthed in Lachish (south Israel), reveal the emergence of YHWH as the single Israelite god. This concluded commencement of the monotheistic Jewish Faith similar to the one we know today. (Choksy, 2003) 590 years later the prophet Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and so the Christian faith emerged. Unlike similar past religions, Christianity commenced as a monotheistic faith which spread rapidly throughout the Eurasian steppe and by the 4th century Constantine 1st had made it the religion of the Roman Empire. By this point, different forms of Christianity had emerged, especially Monophysitism and Nestorianism which gained footholds in Armenia and Iran. The tribes of the Magi, at some point, would have been living amongst or encountered Christians, either through contact with missionaries or simply through the church. During the Sasanian era (AD 224 to AD 651) Nestorianism was common...
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