« PreviousContinue »
CHAP. fuller light is thrown upon the mystery of our IV. future being, in proportion as the 'mystery of
No trace of it in the A vesta.
Statements of Theopompus.
godliness' itself was gradually unfolded, those irreverent critics have not scrupled to conjecture that instead of such ulterior light proceeding from the supernatural source, it must have had an earthly origin among the ancient votaries of Ormazd.
And here, as in some other cases, the supposed 'discovery' of the doctrine in the Zendic books had been facilitated by the mistranslations of their first editor. It is since established by more competent scholars', that in passages where Anquetil Duperron rendered 'till the resurrection,' the words really signify 'for ever,'-an important rectification, which, as soon as it is generally made known, will silence not a few of the objections borrowed from this quarter. Like results have also followed from the critical examination of some other Zendic texts; until at present all who are entitled to pronounce a judgment on the question may be heard affirming that no glimpses of a resurrection of the body can be traced in extant books of the Avesta.
Still that Persians did not long continue strangers to the thought of some ulterior re-embodying of the souls departed, may be argued with great shew of reason from the testimony of the historian,
cis et imperfectis hominum incul-
1 Burnouf, Études, in Journ. Asiat.
borated by Spiegel, Zeits. Deutsch. morg. Gesell. (1847), I. 260, 261; Avesta, I. 15, 248, n. 2. According to the Vendid. Farg. XIX. 89 sq., as there translated, the good or 'pure' spirits are removed on the third day after death to a place of perfect happiness, and the bad spirits to a place of torment: cf. Wilson's Pársí Religion, pp. 337, 338.
Theopompus', who died about the year 300 B. C. CHAP. He has declared that in accordance with the Persian creed, as soon as the great struggles of Ormazd and Ahriman are all exhausted, Hades will become a void; and that mankind attaining to true happiness will then 'require no nourishment and will cast no shadows.' And elsewhere his language is still more explicit; for he says that if we may believe the Magi, men will come to life again and be immortal:-both which statements fairly indicate that at the close of the 'great year' of Persia, every thing, it is believed, will have reverted to the primitive condition and that the human body, no exception to this general law, will have itself experienced the refining and exalting process.
ries of the
There are reasons, it is true, for urging2 that Two theotwo different lines of thought existed in the schools body. of ancient Persia: one, proceeding from a rigorous form of dualism3, akin to that of Mani, and so, as in the convents of northern India, making of the human body a mere prison-house in which the soul was doing penance for her past misdeeds; the other mourning over the dissolution of the body as a victory won by Ahriman, and so including
1 The testimony of this writer has been examined at some length by J. G. Müller, Theol. Studien und Kritiken (1835), pp. 482 sq. in an article entitled 'Ist die Lehre von der Auferstehung des Leibes wirklich nicht eine alt-persische Lehre?' The discussion turns in a great measure on the force of avaßioûv in the following passage: Θεόπομπος, ἐν τῇ ὀγδόῃ τῶν Φιλιππικῶν, καὶ ἀναβιώσεσθαι, κατὰ τοὺς Μάγους, φησὶ τοὺς
ἀνθρώπους καὶ ἔσεσθαι ἀθανάτους (in
2 See Döllinger, Heidenthum, p.
3 Above, p. 174.
CHAP. the idea of re-embodiment among the blessings that would ultimately flow from the subversion of his empire. But the testimony of Theopompus may be viewed as an expression of the 'orthodox' belief, especially when we bear in mind that subsequent language of the Bundehesh' is strikingly in favour of the resurrection-theory.
The Hebrew doc
On the other hand, assuming, as in previous trine ante- instances, that Hebrew prophets would have seen no difficulty in borrowing novel tenets from the creed of their enslavers, it appears to me indisputable that the doctrine of the resurrection of the body was believed to some extent among the members of the sacred family long before the period of the Babylonish exile. I shall lay no stress at present on debateable texts2; of which, however, it is no exaggeration to affirm that while incapable of proving that the doctrine of a resurrection was fully or definitely held, they nevertheless bear witness to the fact that the idea of resurrection had never been repugnant to the feelings of the ancient Israelite, but rather coincided with the expectations that arose in him from a belief in God's redemptive and restoring mercy. It will here suffice to mention that the words which Daniel is said to have indited under the inspirations of the Medo-Persian system are in perfect unison with declarations of Isaiah two centuries before. For instance, if the prophet of the Captivity was pointing onward to a crisis when 'many of them that sleep in the dust
1 The passages are collected in Rhode, as before, pp. 465 sq.; but, as Spiegel remarks, a correct and critical edition of the Bundehesh
will doubtless modify the old assertions on this point also.
2 Cf. Fairbairn's Ezekiel, pp. 356 -359.
of the earth shall awake' (Dan. xii. 2); the jubilant CHAP. prophet of the reign of Ahaz had already comforted his audience by the promise that the Lord 'will swallow up death in victory' (Is. xxv. 8); nay, the words which, in a second passage, are employed by him have found their literal echo in the words of Daniel just recited; for Isaiah also has proclaimed in no ambiguous language "Thy dead men shall live, together with my dead body shall they arise; awake and sing, ye that dwell in dust' (xxvi. 19).
§ 5. Doctrine of a Benefactor and Mediator.
(1) Connected with the re-awakening of the Early mention of dead, at least in some of the more recent, or post- Sosiosh. Christian, writings of the Persians, there is frequent mention of a glorious hero-prophet, by whose ministry, as one chief organ of Ormazd, the empire of the devs shall be subverted, earth herself shall be restored to something of her pristine glory and the wrongs of man redressed. The name of this expected champion of the Perso-Aryan race is Sosiosh (Saoshyans', 'the Benefactor'). He is first of all presented to our notice in a passage of the Vendidád, which, if the new translation of it be accepted, is found to run as follows: Zarathustra gave warning to Agra-mainyus (and said):
1 Spiegel, Avesta, I. 244, n. 1, informs us that the root of the word is su ('to profit'), to which it is related as the future participle: hence 'der nützen werdende' 'der Helfer.' It was not, however, a proper name nor limited to an individual worthy, but rather marked a
series or class of benefactors, and
2 Farg. XXI. 16-19: cf. Zeits.
Expansion of the idea.
"Base Agra-mainyus! I will smite the creation, which is fashioned by the devs: I will smite the Nasus, whom the devs have fashioned. I will smite the Pari whom men worship (?), until Sosiosh the Victorious, is born out of the water Kansaŏya, from the eastern clime, from the eastern climes." The meagre hint of Sosiosh, thus communicated in the early part of the Avesta, was expanded and embellished in the works of the Sassanian epoch and especially in the Bundehesh'. That benefactor was from first to last a man; and like two other beings, his precursors, now associated with him in the work of liberation and each reigning in succession for a thousand years, he was distinctly held to be the offspring of the holy Zoroaster; yet the name of Sosiosh alone, as greatest or as last in order of the hero-prophets, was the rallying-point where Persians were accustomed to find refuge from the miseries of their present lot. The time assigned for his appearance (say the authors of the story) is the time when evil and impiety of every kind have grown to an appalling magnitude. Approaching with a noiseless step, he will evince the
1 See the passages in Rhode, pp. 465 sq. Spiegel (Avesta, I. 32 sq.) has also drawn attention more especially to the full-blown eschatology of the Persians and compared it with that of the later Jews, which, in his opinion, it strongly resembles (p. 35). The main points, according to his representation, are as follows: 'Die Erwartung eines sowol weltlichen als geistlichen Herrschers, der sowol sein Volk zum herrschenden macht, zum Regenten über alle seine Bedrücker, der aber auch die Reli
gion wieder reinigt. Dass das Reich tausend Jahre dauern soll, ist überall bestimmt ausgesprochen :'points indeed which may remind us not only of the Messianic tenets prevalent among the later Jews, but also of the modified Judaism which in the form of Chiliasm (or sensuous Millenarianism) was current more or less in various branches of the early Christian Church, and only repressed with great difficulty: see Neander, Ch. Hist. II. 395–401.