Tag Archives: Pahlavi Literature


Albino, Marcos. 2019. Mittelpersisch namāz ,Ehrerweisung‘. Münchener Studien zur Sprachwissenschaft 73(1). 7–15.

The word namāz “reverence” is first attested in Manichaean Middle Persian and Parthian (namāž). It is survived in New Persian namāz originally denotes a respectful adressing to a socially superior person or to God.

Pregnancy in Middle-Persian Zoroastrian Literature

Delaini, Paolo. 2019. Pregnancy in Middle-Persian Zoroastrian Literature: The Exchange of Knowledge between India, Iran, and Greece in Late Antiquity. In Costanza Gislon Dopfel, Alessandra Foscati & Charles Burnett (eds.), Pregnancy and Childbirth in the Premodern World, 29–51. Turnhout: Brepols Publishers.

In Late Antiquity Sasanian court patronage attracted philosophers, medical doctors, and teachers from the former Roman Empire. Contemporary observers noted that the court of the Sasanian King Xusraw I (AD 531–79) was a meeting place open to philosophical debates and to the diffusion of medical knowledge. According to tradition, King Xusraw welcomed the Greek philosopher Damascius and the ‘seven sages of Byzantium’ to his ancient capital of Ctesiphon at the time of their expulsion from Athens’s school of philosophy. It seems that this king was deeply interested in medicine; he invited and hosted numerous Byzantine doctors and financially supported Abraham of Beth Rabban, director of the influential Nisibis School, in his endeavour to build a hospital (xenodocheion).

Delaini offers in his article a cross-cultural analysis of pregnancy and childbirth traditions in Middle Persian Zoroastrian Literature.

Menstrual Impurity and Difference in Babylonian Judaism and its Sasanian Context

Secunda, Samuel. 2020. The Talmud’s red fence: Menstrual impurity and difference in Babylonian Judaism and its Sasanian context. New York: Oxford University Press.

The Talmud’s Red Fence explores how rituals and beliefs concerning menstruation in the Babylonian Talmud and neighboring Sasanian religious texts were animated by difference and differentiation. It argues that the practice and development of menstrual rituals in Babylonian Judaism was a product of the religious terrain of the Sasanian Empire, where groups like Syriac Christians, Mandaeans, Zoroastrians, and Jews defined themselves in part based on how they approached menstrual impurity. It demonstrates that menstruation was highly charged in Babylonian Judaism and Sasanian Zoroastrian, where menstrual discharge was conceived of as highly productive female seed yet at the same time as stemming from either primordial sin (Eve eating from the tree) or evil (Ahrimen’s kiss). It argues that competition between rabbis and Zoroastrians concerning menstrual purity put pressure on the Talmudic system, for instance in the unusual development of an expert diagnostic system of discharges. It shows how Babylonian rabbis seriously considered removing women from the home during the menstrual period, as Mandaeans and Zoroastrians did, yet in the end deemed this possibility too “heretical.” Finally, it examines three cases of Babylonian Jewish women initiating menstrual practices that carved out autonomous female space. One of these, the extension of menstrual impurity beyond the biblically mandated seven days, is paralleled in both Zoroastrian Middle Persian and Mandaic texts. Ultimately, Talmudic menstrual purity is shown to be driven by difference in its binary structure of pure and impure; in gendered terms; on a social axis between Jews and Sasanian non-Jewish communities; and textually in the way the Palestinian and Babylonian Talmuds took shape in late antiquity.

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Zoroastrian Scholasticism in Late Antiquity

Zeini, Arash. 2020. Zoroastrian scholasticism in late antiquity. The Pahlavi version of the Yasna Haptaŋhāiti. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

In late antiquity, Zoroastrian exegetes set out to translate their ancient canonical texts into Middle Persian, the vernacular of their time. Although undated, these translations, commonly known as the Zand, are often associated with the Sasanian era (224–651 ce). Despite the many challenges the Zand offers to us today, it is indispensable for investigations of late antique exegesis of the Avesta, a collection of religious and ritual texts commonly regarded as the Zoroastrians’ scripture.

Arash Zeini also offers a fresh edition of the Middle Persian version of the Avestan Yasna Haptaŋhāiti, a ritual text composed in the Old Iranian language of Avestan, commonly dated to the middle of the second millennium bce. Zeini challenges the view that considers the Zand’s study an auxiliary science to Avestan studies, framing the text instead within the exegetical context from which it emerged.

Sūtkar-Nask and Varštmānsar-Nask from Dēnkard 9

Tafażżolī, Aḥmad. 1398 š [2019]. Taṣḥīḥ-o tarǧome-ye Sutgar nask va Varšt-mānsar nask az Dēnkard-e 9 va sanǧeš-e in do nask bā matnhā-ye avestāʾi [An Edition and Translation of Sūtkar-Nask and Varštmānsar-Nask from Dēnkard 9 in comparison with the Avestan texts]. (Ed.) Žāle Āmuzgār. Tehran: Center for the Great Islamic Encyclopedia.

The Middle Persian Dēnkard “Acts of the religion” is a summary of 10th-century Zoroastrian knowledge of religion, considered as the “Mazdean encyclopedia”. It is divided into nine books of which, the first two and the beginning of the third are lost. The Book IX of Dēnkard consists commentaries on the three great Mazdean prayers: Ahunwar, Ašem vohū, and Yeŋ́hē hātąm from the gathic nasks of Sūtkar, Varštmānsar, and Bagnasks. Tafażżolī’s edition comprises the first two nasks, which are of mythical and historical contents.

Aḥmad Tafażżolī (1316 š/1937-1375 š/1997) was a prominent scholar and philologist in the field of Middle Iranian studies. His works deal with lexicography and the edition of Middle Persian (Pahlavi) texts and Iranian mythology, most of which, regretfully now lost. This volume is his for the first time postmortemously published doctoral thesis in ancient Iranian languages, defended on 1965 under the direction of Ṣādeq Kiā at the Tehran University. Furthermore he left nearly a dozen books, more than a hundred articles, and many book reviews, which those in Persian are also recently publihsed in The Collected Writings of Ahmad Tafazzoli.

Rivalry and conflicts between Christians and Zoroastrians

Hutter, Manfred. 2018. Rivalität und Konflikte zwischen Christen und Zoroastriern. Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Religions- und Kulturgeschichte 112. 91–104.

The encounter of Christianity with Zoroastrianism in the Sasanian Empire started already in the 3rd century. But it was only since the 5th century that a sizable number of Zoroastrians, mostly from the upper classes, converted to Christianity. This led to reactions by the Zoroastrian clergy against the adherents of the agdēn, the «false» or «bad» religion, as this religion was seen as unfitting to Iranian culture. Thus, Middle Persian texts discuss the necessity to avoid contacts with members of agdēn. This term is not restricted to Christianity, but can also be applied to other religions. It is only from the early Islamic period in Iran that two Middle Persian texts, the Dēnkard and the Škand Gumānīg Wizār, discuss (and refute) Christian teachings more systematically. The reason for this theological discussion about Christianity can be seen in the minority situation which Zoroastrianism faced in the Islamic period.

Anti-christological Zoroastrian polemics. Mechanisms of deconstruction (ŠGW 15)

Timuş, Mihaela. 2018. Polémique mazdéenne anti-christologique: Mécanismes de déconstruction (ŠGW 15). Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Religions- und Kulturgeschichte 112. 105–122.

The present article proposes the analysis of some of the anti-christological arguments to be found at the beginning of the 15th chapter (namely the paragraphs 18–30) of the Zoroastrian polemical treatise Škand Gumānīg Wizār (The Doubt-dispelling Explanation, E. W. West 1887). This treatise was originally written in Middle Persian, but its first version was lost. Nowadays, one works mainly with the reconstruction after the Pāzand (Middle Persian in Avestan characters) version of the text. The article has two parts. On the one hand, the article upholds the hypothesis which states that Zoroastrian anti-christological polemics was done case by case, referring to three groups of Oriental Christians: the Melkites, the Jacobites and the Nestorians respectively. Three main arguments are brought forward. On the other hand, the article provides a description of the logical structure of this polemical attack. It appears that the reasoning follows a syllogism-likpattern, which betrays the influence of Greek logic. It is still a matter of debate whether such influence dates from the Sasanian period and was then passed on to the later Mazdeic exegesis during the first centuries of the Islamic period, or whether it took place after the Arab conquest by the transmission of Muslim theologies and philosophies (eg. the mu’tazilites).

The Middle Persian Book of Kings

Hämeen-Anttila, Jaakko. 2018. Khwadāynāmag: The Middle Persian Book of Kings (Studies in Persian Cultural History 14). Leiden: Brill.
The Khwadāynāmag is often conceived of as a large book of stories, comparable to Firdawsī’s Shāhnāme, but Hämeen-Anttila convincingly shows that it was a concise and dry chronicle. He also studies the lost Arabic translations of the book, which turn out to be fewer than hitherto thought, as well as the sources of Firdawsī’s Shāhnāme, showing that the latter was only remotely related to the Khwadāynāmag. It also becomes clear that there were no separate “priestly” and “royal” Khwadāynāmags.

ره‌آورد هند

صادق هدایت. ۱۳۹۶. ره‌آورد هند: برگردان هفت متنِ پهلوی به فارسی. تهران: کتاب کوله پشتی. به‌کوشش: خسرو كيانراد.

سفر صادق هدایت به هند و اقامتش در بمبئی که حدود یک سال (١٣١٥-١٣١٦خ.) به طول انجامید، به‌جز انتشار رمان «بوفکور» دستاورد دیگری نیز برای او به‌همراه داشت و آن فراگیری زبان و خط پهلوی و ترجمه‌ی چند متن از پهلوی به فارسی بود. برخی از این متون در هند و برخی در بازگشت به ایران ترجمه و در قالب کتاب‌ها و مقالات پراکنده‌ای منتشر شدند. چندی از این ترجمه‌ها امروزه نایابند و در دسترس نیستند. از آنجا که سال‌های زیادی از ترجمه‌های هدایت می‌گذرد و در این مدت دانشمندان و زبان‌شناسان دیگری هم به سراغ این متون رفته‌اند، در مقدمه‌ی کتاب حاضر ضمن اشاره به دیگر ترجمه‌ها و پژوهش‌های صورت گرفته، خوانش هدایت در برخی موارد ازجمله اصطلاحات، اسامی خاص جغرافیایی و اشخاص مورد بررسی قرارگرفته و گاه پیشنهادهایی مطرح شده است.
عناوین این متون که در کتاب حاضر برای نخستین‌بار به‌صورت یک‌جا و در مجموعه‌ای مستقل گردآمده‌اند عبارتند از: «گجسته ابالیش»، «زندِ وهومن‌یسن»، «شهرستان‌های ایران»، «کارنامه‌ی اردشیرِپاپکان»، «گزارش گمان‌شکن»، «یادگار جاماسپ»، «آمدن شاه بهرامِ ورجاوند».

Hedayat, Sadeq. 2018. Rahāvard-e Hend. Edited by Khosro Kiyanrad. Tehran: Ketab-e KoolehPoshti.

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Dēnkard and the Socio-Religious Identity in the Early-Islamic Iran


The aim of the present paper is to illustrate as a case study, the linguistic and stylistic peculiarities characterizing the third book of the Dēnkard, one of the most authoritative texts in Zoroastrian Pahlavi literature (9th-10th CE). The analysis will consider these features as part of a coherent system, styled to serve the dialectic strategies pursued by the Zoroastrian high priests in response to the pressures their own community was facing in the early Islamic period. In order to provide a more comprehensive overview on DkIII language distinctiveness, the research will underline the outward/inward dynamics, addressing both the relation of this theological dialectic with the surrounding socio-cultural environment and the leadingrole claims of a group within a politically subordinated community.