Tag Archives: Zoroastrianism

Reinventing Mosaic Torah in the Light of the Law of Ahura Mazdā and Zarathustra

Leningrad Codex text sample, portions of Exodus 15:21-16:3

Kiel, Yishai. 2017. Reinventing Mosaic Torah in Ezra-Nehemiah in the light of the law (dāta) of Ahura Mazda and Zarathustra. Journal of Biblical Literature 136(2). 323–345.

In this study I examine the linguistic and theological contours of the term (tôrâ) in Ezra-Nehemiah—particularly the identification of with the law () of God promulgated by Ezra (Ezra 7:14)—through the lens of Old Persian and Avestan notions of “the law set down (dāta)” by Ahura Mazda and revealed through Zarathustra. While the basic notion of divine revelation of laws through the mediation of Moses emerges already in preexilic biblical texts, I posit that the innovative link drawn by the authors of Ezra-Nehemiah between the Old Persian and Avestan term dāta (via Aramaic ) and the Hebrew reflects a broader and more comprehensive impact of Avestan traditions, mediated by Achaemenid ideology, on the construction and conceptualization of Mosaic in Ezra-Nehemiah. Weighing in on the ongoing debate over the range of imperial authorization of local legislation and cult in Judea, Egypt, and Asia Minor, I argue that the Achaemenids, who were probably involved in certain aspects of the codification and canonization of textual, legal, and theological manifestations of Zoroastrianism, functioned as agents (whether actively or passively) in facilitating and reinforcing the adaptation by the Babylonian-Judean scribes of Avestan notions of divine revelation of the law and scriptural unity linked to personal authority.

A Seal Imprint from Old Nisa and the (Apollonian) Iconography of Mithra

Sinisi, Fabrizio. 2017. A seal imprint from Old Nisa and the (Apollonian) iconography of MithraStudia Iranica 46(1). 9–30.

A seal impression from Old Nisa / Mithradatkart bearing the image of a deity is reexamined. It is suggested that the figure is depicted in the guise of Apollo in order to portray the Zoroastrian god Mithra. Other images of Apollonian derivation are discussed to track the iconographic development of the solar traits of Mithra.

The Coherence of Yasna

Zoroastrian fire ceremony.

Ahmadi, Amir. 2017. On the coherence of Yasna: A critical assessment of recent arguments. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 1-26.
DOI

In recent years a number of scholars have proposed more or less detailed schemas of the formation of the Zoroastrian ritual. These schemas offer accounts of the arrangement of the texts in the liturgy, the process of its formation, and even its function from an endogenous perspective. One way or another, they argue that the official Zoroastrian liturgy is an integrated ritual with a coherent text, and that the function of the ritual and the intention behind the arrangement of the texts can be determined by means of philological, literary and comparative analyses. The questions of formation and meaning of the Zoroastrian liturgy these scholars have placed on the agenda are important not only for the study of Zoroastrianism but also for the history of religions and ritual theory. I consider their accounts with respect to the texts they invoke and the methods they use, and show that their arguments suffer from fatal flaws.

The Imagery of the Ritual Landscape at Persepolis

Garrison, Mark B. 2017. The ritual landscape at persepolis: glyptic imagery from the persepolis fortification and treasury archives. (Studies in Ancient Oriental Civilization 71). Chicago, IL: Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago.

There are, perhaps, no more contentious issues within the study of Achaemenid Persia than those surrounding its religion(s) and religious iconography. Owing to the role that fire plays in Zoroastrian beliefs in later periods in Iran, almost any discussion of the subject of Achaemenid religion will eventually turn to the identification of sacred fire, fire temples, fire worship, and fire altars in the archaeological, epigraphic, and literary records.

The focus of this book is a corpus of glyptic imagery preserved as impressions on two large archives of administrative tablets from Persepolis, the Persepolis Fortification archive (509-493 BC) and the Persepolis Treasury archive (492-457 BC). The glyptic imagery here published concerns representations of what have been traditionally termed “fire altars” and/or “fire temples.” Most of this glyptic evidence has never been published; many of the structures and the scenes in which they occur are strikingly original.
The goals of this study are to introduce a new corpus of visual imagery concerning religious ritual in the Achaemenid period and to explore the significance of this visual language for our understanding of ritual traditions emerging within the heart of the empire at its most critical formative period, the reign of Darius I. This study seeks also to use the Persepolitan glyptic evidence as a springboard to re-visit the most famous “fire altar” depicted in Achaemenid art, that on the tomb relief of Darius I at Naqs-e Rostam.

This study is an initial step in the development of a religious topography for the zone encompassing Persepolis and Naqs-e Rostam, both a topography on the imaginary level (through images) and a topography on the physical level (through the built space). The glyptic images assembled in this study are the most numerous, the most visually complex, and the best dated and contextualized evidence that currently exists for the study of fire in ritual, and religious ritual more broadly, in early Achaemenid Iran.

You can download and read this volume here.

Corpus Avesticum Berolinense

Today, the Institute of Iranian Studies, Freie Universität Berlin, received the confirmation of funding for Corpus Avesticum Berolinense (CAB), a long-term project funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) for 12 years . The goal of CAB is to edit all Zoroastrian rituals preserved in the Avestan language. This is excellent news for the institute and the discipline. The BiblioIranica team congratulates Prof. Alberto Cantera for this achievement. It is more than well-deserved.

See the institute’s announcement for more information.

A Zoroastrian Doctrine in the Manichaean Reception

Panaino, Antonio. 2017. The end of time and the ‘Laws of Zoroaster’. A Zoroastrian doctrine in the Manichaean reception. In Francesco Calzolaio, Erika Petrocchi, Marco Valisano & Alessia Zubani (eds.), In limine. Esplorazioni attorno all’idea di confine, 61–68 (Studi e Ricerche 9). Venezia: Edizioni Ca’ Foscari.

Zoroastrian theology clearly insisted on the assumption that historical time was limited and that in its borders ‘evil’ should be destroyed. Practically, ‘time’ and ‘space’ were a sort of weapon used by Ohrmazd in order to entrap Ahreman and his demonic army. In this spatio-temporal frame – work, the end of historical time involved also the end of Ahreman himself, so that one of the actions enacted by the ‘Antagonist Spirit’ would be that of trying to delay and stop its regular course. Recent studies on the Manichaean Coptic Kephalaia of Dublin confirm the importance of this Mazdean doctrine and present a direct witness of this theological dogma, which was presented in a way conveniently fitting for the Gnostic religion professed by Mani.

Bulletin of the Asia Institute 27

Issue 27 of the Bulletin of the Asia Institute will be published this December. The information on this issue is not yet available on the journal’s website, but the content has been circulated, which we are publishing here.

Bulletin of the Asia Institute 27

December 2017

Articles

  • Frantz Grenet, “More Zoroastrian Scenes on the Wirkak (Shi Jun) Sarcophagus”
  • Yaakov Elman and Mahnaz Moazami, “PV 5.1–4 in the Context of Late Antique Intellectual History”
  • Harry Falk, “The Ashes of the Buddha”
  • Peter Skilling, “Śrāvakas, Buddhas, and the Buddha’s Father: Inscribed Artefacts in the U Thong National Museum”
  • V. H. Sonowane, “Rock Paintings Depicting Stupas in Gujarat, India”
  • Domenico Agostini and Shaul Shaked, “Sasanian Seals of Priests”
  • Nicholas Sims-Williams, “A Bactrian Document of the Fifth Century c.e.”
  • Salman Aliyari Babolghani, “Achaemenid Elamite dayāuš (~ Old Persian dahyāu̯-š)”
  • Dieter Weber, “Accountancy of a Zoroastrian Craftsman in Early Islamic Times (662–664 CE)”
  • Stefan Zimmer, “The Etymology of Avestan 2čiqra- ‘Descent, Progeny'”
  • Zhang Zhan, “Kings of Khotan During the Tang Dynasty”

Reviews

  • Lieu and Mikkelsen, eds. Between Rome and China (Albert E. Dien)
  • Hansen. The Silk Road: A New History with Documents(Jenny Rose)
  • Mair and Hickman, eds. Reconfiguring the Silk Road: (Jenny Rose)

v + 170 pp.

Individual orders $80 + shipping or pdf online $50

The Dēnkard Against its Islamic Discourse

Rezania, Kianoosh. 2017. The Dēnkard Against its Islamic Discourse. Der Islam 94(2).

The Dēnkard is the most exhaustive Pahlavi work ever produced in Zoroastrianism. Due to the large amount of information included in it, this body of work has often been referred to within the field of Iranian Studies as a ‘Zoroastrian Encyclopedia’. This article discusses two main points. First, it holds that it was not the intention of the Dēnkard’s authors and editors to compose a Zoroastrian encyclopedia in the 9th and 10th centuries. By contrast, the independent texts which serve as the basis of this compilation deal with other religions or present a Zoroastrian apologetic. It also claims that the Dēnkard has not been perceived as an encyclopedia in later Zoroastrianism. Second, the article scrutinizes the editorial process that led to this book. It furthermore argues that the Dēnkard, in its current form, has been structured to resemble the Zoroastrian world history comprising nine millennia. This article aims, moreover, to show that the last three books of the Dēnkard aim to depict Zoroastrians as belonging to the People of the Book. The article finally argues that the Dēnkard should be considered entirely a theological apologetic within an inter-religious context, which was mainly carried by Muslim theologians.

 

 

Descent and Inheritance in Zoroastrian and Shiʿite Law

A Zoroastrian family in Qajar Iran, circa 1910 © The National Geographic Magazine © The National Geographic Magazine

Macuch, Maria. 2017. Descent and inheritance in Zoroastrian and Shiʿite law: A preliminary study. Der Islam 94(2). 322–335.

The Twelver Shiʿite law of inheritance constitutes one of the most distinctive features of the legal system in comparison with Sunni law. Although there are major and even irreconcilable divergences between the Sunnite law of succession according to all four legal schools on the one hand and Twelver Shiʿite law on the other, no convincing explanations for this striking development within Islamic law itself, leading to two fundamentally distinct systems, have hitherto been put forward. The aim of this preliminary study is to call attention to several remarkable correspondences between the complex Iranian (Zoroastrian) law of succession, conceived to support the specific needs of aristocratic descent groups in the Sasanian period, and Twelver Shiʿite regulations, reflecting a very similar underlying concept of family ties and descent groups as a whole. The question is, whether these congruencies are purely coincidental or based on age-old social and traditional norms, which continued to be practised in the regions of the former Sasanian empire after the Islamic conquest. As Sasanian norms remained operative in customary law (now documented by Pahlavi legal documents from 8th century Tabarestān) during the formative period of Islamic law and the Sunnite regulations, being based to a large extent on pre-Islamic tribal law in Arabia, contrast sharply with the Shiʿite concept, it would be consistent to assume that certain precepts in the pre-Islamic Iranian system had an important impact on the development of the Twelver Shiʿite law of inheritance.

Apostasy and Repentance in Early Medieval Zoroastrianism

8th cent. Tang dynasty Chinese clay figurine of a Sogdian © Museum of Oriental Art (Turin)

Kiel, Yishai & Prods Oktor Skjærvø. 2017. Apostasy and Repentance in Early Medieval Zoroastrianism. Journal of the American Oriental Society 137(2). 221–243.

The Middle Persian (Pahlavi) literature from the early Islamic centuries frequently deals with practical theological issues faced by the Zoroastrian communities under foreign domination. Here, we present a number of questions regarding a Zoroas- trian’s conversion to Islam and his subsequent repentance and desire to return to Zoroastrianism and answers given by ninth- and tenth-century Zoroastrian priestly authorities. It is shown how the priests cite ancient traditions found in the Pahlavi versions of Avestan texts to justify their answers, and then apply them to the contemporary social reality.