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CHAP. genuine works of the Avesta, and still more the Bundehesh' itself, a Pehlevi compilation, were first brought to light by the adventurous Duperron, men were startled by the suddenness and brilliance of the grand disclosure. They beheld in it a series of most venerable relics, each at least coeval with the Persian monarchy. Nor at present, when it is completely ascertained that some of the results to which Duperron pointed with especial satisfaction were due to his inaccurate version of the sacred texts he had assisted in recovering, is there any lack of Christian writers who affirm that the traditions of the Avesta are well-nigh commensurate with those of the Old Testament. 'Of the King of Heaven' it is asserted and the Father of eternal light, and of the pure world of light, of the eternal Word by which all things were created, of the seven mighty spirits that stand next to the throne of Light and Omnipotence, and of the glory of those heavenly hosts which encompass that throne; next, of the origin of evil and of the Prince of darkness, the monarch of those rebel
1 See above, p. 159.
Persia far above most other regions; 'Such we find in nations most infected with polytheistic error: and much more we might well conceive to exist in one by which the grosser forms of idolatry were ever held in peculiar abhorrence: a nation whose greatest Prince is signally honoured by Divine prophecy [cf. the motto at the head of this chapter] in being named as the future restorer of God's people to their ancient seat and whose sages were summoned from afar, before the great and wise of Israel, to adore the infant Redeemer.'
lious spirits the enemies of all good; they [the CHAP. Persians] in a great measure entertained completely similar, or at least very kindred, tenets to those of the Hebrews.' We may see hereafter that all statements of this kind are both exaggerated and overcoloured; yet no student of the question who considers the proximity of Persia to the cradle of the human race and the existence of a similar cluster of traditions' in the kindred tribe of IndoAryans, will be likely to relinquish the belief that there, as well as in the darker depths of gentilism, the echoes of primeval truths had lingered ages after they had lost all practical effect.
to the ac
(2) The next hypothesis accounting for those Were those common elements of thought and worship was at blances due first supported mainly by insisting on the synchro- tion of the nism of Zoroaster and the Hebrew prophets of the Captivity; a further supposition being that if Persians? Daniel and Zoroaster had not actually communicated with each other, as doctor and disciple, the reputed author of the Avesta had at least been versed in 'sacred writings of the Jewish religion'. It was felt by the adherents of this view, especially when regard was had to the minute disclosures of the Bundehesh, that many representations so closely resemble 'those of the Hebrew Scriptures, as to
1 See Part II. ch. III.
2 See, for instance, Prideaux, Connection, I. 216, Lond. 1718, who adds that the whole system was extracted thence; 'only the crafty impostor took care to dress it up in such a style and form, as would make it best agree with that old religion of the Medes and Persians, which he grafted it upon.' It is
curious to observe, in connexion
CHAP. leave no doubt of their real origin, through whatever channel ideas so analogous, or almost identical, can have been derived. The analogy is not of that kind which may be attributed to a similar derivation of tradition from a common source. It is more precise, and evidently belongs to a period not very remote'.' So long, however, as the history of Zarathustra is involved in the obscurity thrown over it by recent criticism, we are unable to refer the introduction of Semitic thoughts among the Medo-Persians to supposed effects of his communication with the Hebrew exiles. Like uncertainty is felt when we compare some striking texts of the Avesta with the kindred language of the Old Testament; for owing to the numerous gaps in Persian history and the changes which the Persian writings have undergone, there is good reason for suspecting the antiquity of certain passages on which our predecessors had implicitly relied. If, on the other hand, we start from the idea that many of the Persian stories which resemble Hebraism were not the product of remote ages, but obtained their earliest credit in the first three centuries after Christ, the history of the period will be found in many different ways to favour such hypothesis.
Peculiar state of religious feeling in the first three centuries after Christ.
That age was characterised far more than all before it by a spirit of religious syncretism, an thirst for compromise. To mould together thoughts which differed fundamentally, to grasp
1 Prichard, Researches, IV.45, where, however, the so-called 'mythus of the Zendavesta' is taken chiefly from Rhode's uncritical work entitled Die
heilige Sage des Zendvolks (Frank-
2 Cf. Part I. pp. 29, 30.
if possible the common elements pervading all the CHAP. multifarious religions of the world, was deemed the proper business of philosophy both in East and West. It was a period, one has lately said, 'of mystic incubation, when India and Egypt, Babylonia and Greece, were sitting together and gossiping like crazy old women, chattering with toothless gums and silly brains about the dreams and joys of their youth, yet unable to recall one single thought or feeling with that vigour which once gave it life and truth. It was a period of religious and metaphysical delirium, when everything became everything, when Máyá and Sophia, Mithra and Christ, Viráf and Isaiah, Belus, Zarvan and Kronos were mixed up in one jumbled system of inane speculation, from which at last the East was delivered by the positive doctrines of Mohammed, the West by the pure Christianity of the Teutonic nations'.' Out of this remarkable ferment of the human spirit issued both the Bundehesh and the Minokhired, which though strongly Persian in their tone, are also strongly tinctured by Semitic and Hebraic notions. For Jews on Influence the destruction of the holy city planted some of their chief schools in Babylonia, and even were at times promoted to high places in the Persian court; in learned centres, like Edessa, were discussed the various tenets of all known religions, Christianity in the number; and the Gnostic Bar- of Chrisdesanes, writing from that city in the time of Marcus Aurelius, draws attention to the early
1 M. Müller's Last Results of the Persian Researches,' as before, p. 119: although I cannot acquiesce
entirely in some of the expressions.
2 Spiegel, Avesta, I. 17, 25.
and of early heretics.
Were the Hebrews
corrupting their old
progress of the Gospel', not in Parthia and in Media only, but in Persia Proper and in Bactria. Passing by the other traces which the new religion left behind it in those far-off regions, we may notice as of vast importance the long-thriving sect of Manichæans, who accepted Christianity as the groundwork of their composite belief: while stress may equally be laid upon the fact that one favourite writing of the later 'Zoroastrians' is only a Parsee adaptation of the apocryphal or quasi-Christian work entitled the Ascension of Isaiah; where the prophet, on recovering from his rapture, narrates a journey to the 'seventh heaven,' in which his eyes were gladdened by the vision of Christ and of the Holy Spirit, and beheld inscribed upon a roll the wondrous story of the birth and passion of the Saviour.
(3) In exact proportion to the strength of the hypothesis just mentioned is the weakness of a third account which has been rendered of resemreligion? blances between the Persian and the Biblical traditions. Assuming even that the captive tribes were brought into familiar intercourse with the Ormazd-religion; assuming also that the Hebrew people as a body, still unweaned from old corruptions, had come back to Sion lusting after 'their fathers' idols;' in other words, assuming two positions which both militate against a long array of
1 Euseb. Præpar. Evangel. VI. IO (Vol. II. pp. 92, 93, ed. Gaisford): cf. Neander, Ch. Hist. I. 111.
2 See the comparison between the two works (the Arda-viráf-náme and the 'Αναβατικὸν Ησαίου) in Spiegel, as before, pp. 21 sq. His closing remark is: Die Verwandtschaft der
beiden Bücher wird wol Niemand ableugen, doch scheint die christliche Gestaltung die ältere zu sein. Die Lehre von sieben Himmeln ist nicht parsisch, die spätere Parsenlehre kennt blos drei, über ihnen ist der Gorothmán, die Wohnung Ahuramazdas.'