Zoroastrianism is one of the oldest religious and spiritual teachings in the world which are based on the idea of dualism of two opposite forces of the Good and the Evil and on the concept of monotheism. This conception is also clearly reflected in such religions as Judaism and Christianity, and this fact contributes to the discussion of Zoroastrianism as the religion influential for the development of these religions. In spite of the fact that connection between Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Christianity is a controversial question discussed by theologians and philosophers, it is important to focus on such basic beliefs as the vision of God and Evil and resurrection which are shared by these three religions in order to speak about the reflection of the ideas of Zoroastrianism in the subsequent religious teachings.
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Zoroastrianism became the result of developing the religious teachings by prophet Zarathushtra who concentrated on the idea of two opposite forces ruling the world. Thus, Ahura Mazda was discussed as God and the Good and Angra Mainyu was described by the prophet as the opposing destructive force. During a period of the Exile, the Jewish people were influenced by the Iranian culture, and it is possible to focus on sharing the views on monotheism by those Jews who had the closest contacts with the Iranians to learn the particular features of their spiritual world (Boyce, 2007). According to Barr, “the development within Jewish religion of such matters as angels, dualism, eschatology, and the resurrection of the body is commonly attributed to the impact of Iranian religion” (Barr, 1985, p. 201). Thus, the religious thinking and beliefs of the Jewish people were significantly influenced by their cultural contacts with the Iranians whose views were more progressive in comparison with the Jews’ visions at the certain stage of the historical development.
The main ideas of Zoroastrianism were also shared by Christians in the form of oral knowledge. The visions of the world’s creation, development, and end typical for Zoroastrianism were followed by Christians because they were based on the same spiritual ideas proclaimed by Christians. However, the beliefs of Zoroastrianism influenced two religions differently, and in spite of the same vision of the world’s origin, various aspects of the teaching were reflected in Judaism and Christianity. It is important to pay attention to the fact that the principle of dualism is realized in Zoroastrianism with references to good Ahura Mazda as the Universal Wisdom and bad Angra Mainyu as the Universal Evil. This conception of dualism affected the development of monotheism in its variety because it is characterized by different features in Judaism and Christianity (Hopfe & Woodward, 2012). Thus, the role of Angra Mainyu in Zoroastrianism has a lot of resemblances with the role of Satan in the Jewish tradition as well as there are similarities in the teachings about the Messiah.
Nevertheless, Judaism reflects the Zoroastrian tradition only in few aspects associated with the concept of dualism. According to the Zoroastrian tradition, Ahura Mazda and Angra Mainyu are two opposite forces which have different origins and develop according to different principles when the Jewish origin of the Good and the Evil is in one God. This idea is the key one in the Jewish monotheism. However, the Jews followed and developed such visions which are typical for the Zoroastrian tradition as the focus on the resurrection and the teaching about paradise and hell.
The vision of the Evil origin in Zoroastrianism and Judaism is different, but it is similar while comparing beliefs of the Christians with the Zoroastrian tradition. Those persons who follow both the traditions believe that Satan and Angra Mainyu have different origins of the destructive force in relation to the origin of God (Barr, 1985). That is why, there are similarities in visions of the Evil’s influence on the world and people in it. The relations of the two conflicting spirits described in Zoroastrianism are also reflected in the Christian tradition while discussing the conflict between the Good and the Evil.
It is significant to note that a lot of similarities in Christianity and Judaism can be also discussed through the prism of the direct impact of the Zoroastrian tradition because the basic religious ideas and principles are common for three religions without references to possible differences in their interpretation. From this point, Zoroastrianism provided Christianity and Judaism with the key ideas which were later developed in the doctrines of these two world religions. Thus, the cultural and religious visions and beliefs of the Iranians influenced the development of the spiritual world in a unique manner.
Barr, J. (1985). The question of religious influence: The case of Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and Christianity. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, 53(2), 201-235.
Boyce, M. (2007). Zoroastrians: Their religious beliefs and practices. London: Routledge.
Hopfe, L. M., & Woodward, M. R. (2012). Religions of the world. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson.