Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest monotheistic religions in the world today. Its adherents number 250,000, but thousands of years ago it was the state religion of the mighty Persian Empire and one of the most powerful religions in the world. In this paper I will tell you about the history of Zoroastrianism and its founder, Zoroaster, also known as Zarathushtra. I will discuss their scripture, doctrines, and end by examining in detail the commonalities in both doctrine and legend which will illustrate the influence that Zoroastrianism has had on more modern monotheistic religions. Zarathushtra
Zarathushtra was the founder of Zoroastrianism. There is some mystery around who he was and when lived, but he is generally accepted as a historical figure, where he fits into history is disputed. Sources that look at archaeological digs, linguistic analysis, and social customs noted in the writings of Zarathushtra suggest that he lived between 2000 B.C.E and 1000 B.C.E. Adherents to the religion believe he lived as early as the 7th millennium B.C.E. There are some scholars who would date him as late as 100 B.C.E. (Wikipedia, 2006) He was born in present day Iran to the Spitama family. He is thought to have died at approximately 77 years of age. Zarathushtra had a wife, 3 sons and 3 daughters who eventually converted to his newly founded religion. He spent many fruitless years in his homeland attempting to gain additional convert but he met with rejection at nearly every turn. He eventually decided to take his followers and move on to another land where he hoped he would be better received, Bactria, the land of King Vishtaspa. His teachings were accepted by the king and his wife and, from this point, the teachings and religion of Zarathushtra began its spread across Iran and began to emerge as the state religion. (BBC, 2005) As is consistent with Zoroastrian beliefs today, Zarathushtra did not attempt to destroy all other existing religions, rather he attempted to make Ahura Mazda the recognized author of salvation amongst the current population. (Konig, n.d) The History of Zoroastrianism
The founding of Zoroastrianism began with a vision of God that Zarathushtra had when he was 30 years of age. " one early morning, he went to fetch some water from the river. It was around dawn. The sky had just turned color and the sun was about to rise. As he had gone into the waters of the river, Vohu Mana (the angel of the Good Mind) appears to him, and opens the portal to the Divine Light of Ahura Mazda. This was the first moment of Illumination and the first Revelations of Zarathushtra. In his vision, he perceived Ahura Mazda as the Wise Lord of Creation, and the six emanations of Ahura Mazda, the Amesha Spentas as the guardians and artisans of this physical world. He perceived the laws upon which the universe operated, and understood the inter-relationship between Ahura Mazda, the Amesha Spentas, and the Creation." (Shahriari, 1998)
This vision is one of the first of similar revelatory beginnings to religions such as the visitation of Gabriel to Mohammad and the appearance of God the Father and Jesus Christ to Joseph Smith in Mormonism.
Zoroastrianism first became the state religion of Persia when King Vishtaspa and Queen Hutosa heard Zarathushtra debating with local religious scholars. From this point Zoroastrianism grew until the conquest of Alexander the Great in the 4th century B.C.E when many priests were killed and sacred texts destroyed.
Zoroastrianism came back to power with the rule of Ardashir, the Sasanian. With the rise to power of Ardashir, "a single Zoroastrian church was created under Persian control and a single canon of Avestan texts was created." (BBC, 2005) A major blow hit Zoroastrianism with the Muslim conquest in the 7th century where Zoroastrians were coerced to accept Islam through the levying of taxes. Some Zoroastrians fled to India and came to be known as Parsis. Others remained in...