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Books

The “Sūdgar Nask” of “Dēnkard” Book 9

Vevaina, Yuhan Sohrab-Dinshaw. 2023. The Sūdgar Nask of Dēnkard Book 9. Text, Translation and Critical Apparatus (Iranica 31). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

The Sūdgar Nask of Dēnkard Book 9 is one of the most enigmatic and yet fundamental texts of Zoroastrianism. It is a commentary on the ‘Old Avesta’ of the 2nd millennium BCE produced in Pahlavi (Zoroastrian Middle Persian) in the Sasanian (224–651 CE) and early Islamic centuries. This commentary purportedly based on earlier Pahlavi translations and commentaries of lost Young Avestan tractates commenting in turn on the ‘Old Avesta’ is a value-laden, ideologically motivated discourse that displays a rich panoply of tradition-constituted forms of allegoresis. This terse yet highly allusive text mobilizes complex forms of citation, allusion, and intertextuality from the inherited Avestan world of myth and ritual in order to engage with and react to the profound changes occurring in the relationships between theology, religious praxis, national identity, and imperial politics in Iranian society. Despite its value and importance for developing our nascent understanding of Zoroastrian hermeneutics and the self-conception of the Zoroastrian priesthood in Late Antiquity, this primary source has attracted scant scholarly attention due to the extreme difficulty of its subject matter and the lack of a reliable translation. This volume represents the first critical edition and translation of this formidable text which will contribute to the philological, theological, and historiographical study of Zoroastrianism in a pivotal moment in its rich and illustrious history.

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Books

The Religion of the Rigveda

Oberlies, Thomas. 2024. The religion of the Rigveda. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

This comprehensive new presentation of the religion of the Rigveda is the result of a thorough-going endeavour to extrapolate historical circumstances from that literary text and present them chiefly from the perspective of the adherents to this religion. For them society, social life, and religion were inextricably bound. This helps to explain the meanings of rights and rituals. Which rituals are to be performed at what times is influenced by the way of life of these Vedic tribes which alternates between peaceful settling and predatory raids. The ‘priests’ who carry out the rituals embody the gods of the Rigvedic pantheon.

In telling the story of these rituals, Thomas Oberlies highlights particular connections — such as the association of the war god Indra with the priest who recites the hymns which invite the gods — that help us solve many of the riddles which the text of the Rigveda still poses to this day. The Religion of the Rigveda includes a wealth of quotations from primary sources which form the basis of this approach to a religion that would later become Hinduism. A comprehensive index of subjects makes the book eminently accessible for use in further studies.

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Books

The making of Syriac Jerusalem & Soul and body diseases

Two books that have been published in 2023 and will be of interest to the readers of our site:

Popa, Catalin-Stefan. 2023. The making of Syriac Jerusalem: Representations of the Holy City in Syriac literature of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages (Routledge Studies in the Early Christian World). London and New York: Routledge.

This book discusses hagiographic, historiographical, hymnological, and theological sources that contributed to the formation of the sacred picture of the physical as well as metaphysical Jerusalem in the literature of two Eastern Christian denominations, East and West Syrians.

Popa, Catalin-Stefan (ed.). 2023. Soul and body diseases, remedies and healing in Middle Eastern religious cultures and traditions (Studies on the Children of Abraham 10) Leiden: Brill.

Aiming to develop a less studied literary genre, this book provides a well-rounded picture of spiritual and physical diseases and their remedies as they were ingrained in the imagination and practices of Middle Eastern Abrahamic cultures, with a special emphasis of Christian communities (Greeks/Byzantines, Syrians, Armenians, Georgians, Ethiopians). The volume traces traditions dealing with the onset of a disease in the body and soul, the search for remedy, the maintenance of healing, and the engagement of these processes with faith—either through their affirmation in the public sphere or remaining within the personal framework, as in monastic traditions. A recurring presence in religious literature and the history of the intellectual world, the confrontation between disease and healing may well still be current for our modern understanding of the paths to seeking and maintaining the health of one’s body and soul, without excluding the factor of faith as a core principle.

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Books

Der Manichäismus

Hutter, Manfred. 2023. Der Manichäismus. Vom Iran in den Mittelmeerraum und über die Seidenstraße nach Südchina. Anton Hiersemann Verlag.

Das erste umfassende deutschsprachige Handbuch der unterschiedlichen religionsgeschichtlichen Ausformungen des Manichäismus seit 1961.

Der in der Mitte des 3. Jahrhunderts u.Z. entstandene Manichäismus war die erste „weltweit“ verbreitete Religion. Mani (216-277) präsentierte seine aus biblisch-gnostischen und iranisch-zoroastrischen Vorstellungen schrittweise entwickelte Lehre als den älteren Religionen überlegen, um die Lehre Jesu im Westen, Zarathustras im Iran und Buddhas in Indien abzulösen. Dieser Überlegenheitsanspruch wurde jeweils lokal spezifiziert, was von christlichen Theologen, zoroastrischen Priestern und chinesischen buddhistischen Gelehrten nicht unkommentiert blieb. Dadurch lässt sich diese Religion durch religionsinterne Quellen sowie externe Fremdbeschreibungen facettenreich rekonstruieren.

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Events

Zoroastrian Conversations

Prof. Yuhan Vevaina will be hosting the 3rd ‘Zoroastrian Conversations’ with Dr. Céline Redard, Lecturer for the Institute of History of Religions at the University of Strasbourg, France.

Saturday, 07 October 2023; 12 Noon Eastern time; 9 AM Pacific time; and 5pm UK time.

Zoom Info: https://fezana.org/conversations/

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Books

Chapters 11–12 of the Škand Gumānīg-Wizār

Sahner, Christian C. 2023. The definitive Zoroastrian critique of Islam. Chapters 11–12 of the Škand Gumānīg-Wizār by Mardānfarrox son of Ohrmazddād (Translated Texts for Historians). Liverpool: Liverpool University Press.

Zoroastrianism was the religion of the ancient Persian kings and following the Arab conquest, it remained the religion of a significant portion of the population in Iran and parts of Central Asia. This book investigates the most important polemical treatise in the Zoroastrian tradition, the Škand Gumānīg-Wizār (“The Doubt-Dispelling Disquisition”), which was written by the theologian and philosopher Mardānfarrox son of Ohrmazddād. The text was composed in the ninth or tenth centuries in a language known as Middle Persian.

A sophisticated work of rationalist theology, the Škand Gumānīg-Wizār systematically critiques several rival religions of the late antique and early medieval Middle East, including Islam. The critique of Islam found in chapters 11 and 12 is the only sustained, systematic polemic against Islam in premodern Zoroastrian literature, one that attacks monotheism by focusing on the problem of evil. The text is of fundamental importance for understanding Iran’s transformation from a predominantly Zoroastrian society to a predominantly Muslim one during the Early Middle Ages.

This is the first book devoted to the Islamic sections of the Škand Gumānīg-Wizār. It provides a new translation and commentary of these important sections along with introductory chapters that explore Zoroastrians’ relationship with other religions in Late Antiquity and the early Islamic period; Mardānfarrox’s intellectual milieu (especially the influence of Islamic theology and interreligious debates); and the history of Zoroastrian polemics against Islam.

About this book
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Events

The Columbia University Seminar on Religion and Writing

The Columbia University Seminar on Religion and Writing holds their regular meetings as hybrid events, so that the sessions will be accessible to ZOOM participants. The meetings are open, but a RSVP is required.

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Events

Summer Course in Zoroastrian Studies

The University of Bergen (Norway) and the Shapoorji Pallonji Institute of Zoroastrian Studies at SOAS, are jointly offering international students the opportunity to immerse themselves in the study of Zoroastrianism in modern and contemporary Iran.

The course will take place in Rome, starting 20 June 2022, and the deadline for applications is 27 March 2022. The instructors are Prof. Michael Stausberg (Univ. of Bergen), Dr Sarah Stewart (SOAS) and Dr Jenny Rose (Claremont University). You can find more information by visitng the summer school’s website.

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Books

Jews and Syriac Christians

Butts, Aaron Michael & Simcha Gross (eds.). 2020. Jews and Syriac Christians: Intersections across the first millennium (Texts and Studies in Ancient Judaism 180). Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck.

Der vorliegende Band enthält sechzehn Studien, die ein breites Spektrum an Themen untersuchen – von Fragen zum
Ursprung bis zur Entwicklung kommunaler Grenzen, von zwischenmenschlichen Interaktionen bis zu gemeinsamen
historischen Bedingungen, die Juden und syrische Christen im ersten Jahrtausend n. Chr. betraf.

Mohr Siebeck

The publisher offers links to a flyer and a table of contents. ~AZ

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Books

Artifact, Text, Context

Tang, Li & Dietmar W. Winkler (eds.). 2020. Artifact, text, context: Studies on Syriac Christianity in China and Central Asia (orientalia – patristica – oecumenica 17). LIT Verlag.

This volume is a collection of papers highlighting recent researches on Syriac Christianity in China and Central Asia. The topics range from artifacts to texts and their historical contexts, covering the period from the 7th to the 18th century. As the studies on Syriac Christianity in China and Central advance, focus has shifted from a general historical survey and textual translation to a more micro and meticulous study of specific concepts and terms and particular names of persons and places.