« PreviousContinue »
Alleged Affinities of the Medo-Persian Creed. 183
gressive, tendency. 'The Lord God of their CHAP. fathers sent to them by His messengers, rising up betimes and sending...but they mocked the messengers of God and despised His words and misused His prophets, until the wrath of the Lord arose against His people, till there was no remedy' (2 Chron. xxxvi. 15, 16.) Yet penal Effects of though it was, the isolation of the Hebrews in the 'wilderness of the nations' had been also meant as a corrective discipline, and actually conduced by visible stages to the culture and the exaltation of the Church. Henceforth, as Jew and Christian have alike acknowledged, there was far less disposition to relapse into the bondage of the old polytheism. Closer contact with the creed and institutions of his heathen taskmasters had wakened in the spirit of the Hebrew exile a more deep and passionate longing not for Salem only, but the worship of his fathers' God. He bowed no more in adoration of the graven image, nor of elements and heavenly bodies: he no longer substituted a personification of recurring processes in animal or vegetable nature for the God of the spirits of all flesh.' It is again observable that New phases the trying period of captivity, when the Hebrew of doctrine. could no longer celebrate the ritual worship of his fathers, was selected as the aptest time for inculcating lessons of Divine wisdom on the subject of a new œconomy and a truer service of the heart: while prophecies of the Messiah, in accordance with the law of progress and expansion which obtains in all their earlier stages, had been now detached more plainly from the thought of national
1 Part I. pp. 147-149.
CHAP. triumph or disaster, and invested with their fullest form and their most spiritual expression.
the effect of
But while sacred writers on the one hand trace respecting that exile to the heathenish temper of the chosen people, and attribute on the other hand the restoration of the Hebrews to a signal act of mercy following their profound repentance, the assailants of revealed religion have persisted in affirming that the sojourn of the Jews in Babylonia was the time when, most of all, they had deflected from the creed of Abraham and David, when the priest and prophet also, equally besotted by the popular love of heathenism, had joined in the adulteration of the choicest truths committed to their keeping. With the sole exception of a faithful remnant, whose descendants must be sought for (it is now discovered) in the sect of the Sadducees, the great community returned from Babylon, so infected with the superstitions of the foreign despot, that the doctors of the subsequent period (not excepting Christ and the Apostles) had been all unable or unwilling to shake off the dominant delusion. As the traces of Egyptian heathenism were freely pointed out, by this class of critics, in the ritual institutions of the ancient Hebrew, they proceed to argue that a worse corruption in respect of doctrine had resulted from his long familiarity with the Zendic literature of Medo-Persia.
were the Hebrews
Now in estimating this momentous question it heathenism is doubtless of the first importance to observe that any influences exerted on the Hebrews by the votaries of the Ormazd-religion must have always, in the period of the exile, been extremely slender
and indirect. The principal scene of transportation CHAP. was not Persia Proper; and although the natives of some Median cities where those exiles were dispersed might then have been, in part at least, related ethnologically to their Perso-Aryan neighbours, the religion which prevailed in Media', before the accession of Darius Hystaspis, and perhaps still later, was the element-worship of the Scythic Magi,—not the formal and elaborate dualism connected with the name of Zoroaster and proclaimed at large in the Avesta. It would further seem that actual conquerors of the Hebrew nation, the Assyrians or Chaldæo-Babylonians, not the MedoPersians, are the people to whose creed we should most reasonably turn in searching for an explanation of the change alleged to have passed over the theology of the conquered. Is there, then, General enough of general similarity in the ideas of ancient of BabyBabylonians and of Hebrews after the Captivity, to warrant us in carrying this investigation far into details? I answer, that no contrast could have well been greater. The mythology of Babylonia from the oldest period to the Achæmenian conquest' will exhibit scarcely any trace of dualism, which forms, as we have seen, the most distinctive property of the Persian system, and which Hebrews are supposed to have eventually adopted. That religion, on the contrary, had ever been 'a very
1 See above. pp. 153, 154. 2 Its main identity at very different periods is affirmed by Sir H. Rawlinson, Journ. As. Soc. XV. 253, n. 3. In a special Essay on the subject (Rawlinson's Herod. I. 584 sq.) the absence of all trace of dualism is more distinctly pointed out.
Perhaps one of the most remarkable
CHAP. gross polytheism,' which is said in general grouping to have borne no small resemblance to the mythological systems of Greece and Rome';' and therefore must have differed toto cælo from the creed of the Old Testament, alike before and after the Babylonish captivity. I shall accordingly dismiss at once the oft-repeated fallacy which professes to connect the Hebrew exiles with the advocates of the Ormazd-religion, or, despairing of this pretext, throws together' into one the motley tenets of Magi, of Perso-Aryans and of Babylonians, gives the general name of 'dualism' to the incongruous compound, and concludes by arguing that the Jews who 'spent the long years of their captivity' in the midst of it 'returned not unimbued with the superstitions of their masters.'
Existence of resem
tween the Hebrew
The unfairness of such arguments must not, blances be- however, tempt us to deny the fact that striking parallelisms do really exist between traditions now and Per surviving in the sacred books of Persia and some doctrines of the Hebrew and Christian Scriptures. What may be the real ground of such resemblances, the age when they are first apparent, and the aspect they are calculated to assume in reference to the character and claims of Christianity, are questions calling for minute investigation: but since no competent scholar is prepared to say that the Avesta in its present shape is clearly traceable further back than the third century after Christ, and since the
1 Rawlinson's Herod. 1. 586.
reader that 'dualism was the creed of the Medes, Persians and Babylonians.' If by 'creed of the Medes' we are to understand pure 'Magism,' the assertion is still further incorrect.
fact is growing more indisputable every year that a CHAP. variety of Semitic, if not Christian, elements were intermingled with the faith as well as with the language and literature of the Sassanian period, we are surely not at liberty to urge, before a strict examination of particulars, that traces of revealed religion which exist in sacred books of Persia must be treated as in every case original, and as proving the existence of an imitative spirit only in the Jewish nation. It is antecedently as probable that the Persian borrowed largely from the Hebrew as that the Hebrew borrowed from the Persian.
If resemblances in question should be found Possible too many or too minute to be regarded as entirely such resem accidental,—such, that is, as men might, under similar circumstances, have originated independently of each other, three suppositions can alone be urged in explanation of the strange phenomena. We may hold that the traditions common to the Persian and Hebrew (1) are equally a portion of original truth,' which both alike inherited from fathers of the human family: or (2) the Persians, at the period of the exile, and still more in later and post-Christian times, when their own system reached its full proportions, were conversant in some degree with Hebrew and Christian learning: or (3) the Jewish doctors in the course of their dispersion at, and after the Captivity, contracted an unnatural fondness for the sacred books of Persia.
(1) The first of these three suppositions may Were they of course be held concurrently with the second; yet primitive by many Christian writers of our own and foreign traditions? countries, it alone has been regarded as the key to the affinities we are considering. When the