This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves. This is a preview of subscription content, log in to check access. Apologists, like Justin Martyr, recognized Greek philosophy, especially Middle Platonism, as a source of revelation and should not be discarded a priori. He believed that Christianity, as an arbiter of truth, can be supplemented by Platonism. See Leslie W. Tertullian, however, argued for a radical separation from Greek culture.
The struggle to preserve religious truth in light of pagan culture, however, was not unique to the second-century Church. Google Scholar. See Lester L. CrossRef Google Scholar. Scott B. Consequently, Babylonians addressed the planets and stars in two ways: their astral designation or the actual deities to which they correspond Reiner, 5.
It appears souls can be drawn down to it but not as a part of the will of God and the angelic spirits under him. She is the author of the book entitled Eschatology in the Indo-Iranian Traditions: The Genesis and Transformation of a Doctrine, in addition to numerous articles, presentations, public speaking, and community teaching. Through an illustrated presentation Dr. Zoroastrian Attitudes toward Animals. The theory of universal restoration apokatastasis , the eventual eviction of evil and the purification, conversion and salvation of all rational creatures, was prominent in early Christian thinkers and present in more Patristic theologians than is commonly assumed.
John J. Scott Littleton, ed. See also Evans, Aristotle, On the Heavens , II. See also Kelley and Milone 36; Evans Tylor, and Herbert Spencer, attempted to uncover the origins of religion, but, as E. Evans-Pritchard pointed out, these theories are largely speculative and lack substantial evidence. The challenges of discovering the origin of religion caused a major shift in religious studies in the twentieth century when focus was directed to studies regarding the function of religion.
This may be attributable to a Jewish adaptation of Babylonian and Hellenistic astronomy and astrology. Translation taken from Loren T. See John J. Here Collins argues that the righteous are lifted to join the hierarchy of angels. His house was attacked by Greek raiders and a beacon was lit which brought a Persian neighbour to his aid, with his own body of fighting men, and some official forces also, and the marauders were driven off. The incident suggests a number of Persian estates in this, and doubtless other, fertile regions of western Asia Minor, with mutual support among the landowners and in general effective Persian vigilance and control.
Persian nobles must have brought skilled farmworkers with them from Iran, for still, in the fourth century AD, many villages scattered about Cappadocia were entirely inhabited by Iranians, descendants of the original colonists. Achaemenid armies were generally accompanied by women, and the long survival of some of these settlements must owe much to their being ethnically and culturally homogeneous, founded by Iranian families.
Cuneiform Another practical policy adopted by the Persians and useful to commerce and diplomacy alike was to use the popular and widespread language, Aramaean, rather than Persian as a lingua franca. Few people in the world at the dawn of the Achaemenid age knew Persian and, since it was not a written language, a special script now called Old Persian script was invented from Assyrian cuneiform script.
The kings used it on inscriptions but for pragmatic reasons they used Aramaean otherwise, and helped to spread it as far as India.
Mesopotamian languages after the Sumerians were all Semitic and Aramaean was Syrian Semitic which gradually spread naturally then got a boost when the policy of transportation was introduced. Many Aramaean speakers were transported into the areas of Old Sumeria and Elam, as well as elsewhere, and it became the language everyone picked up a bit of, until it became the language everyone spoke.
Significantly, the traditional script of the Hebrew language is this Aramaean script introduced by the Persians, and it differs from the Old Hebrew script used by the Samaritans. A Persian Daric The Persian empire above all improved commerce. The Persians introduced standard taxation, introduced coinage, first used by king Croesus of Lydia. Persian coinage did not catch on everywhere, so Darius introduced accurate weights and measures to ensure fair trading. This is almost years before darics were invented, but shows when and by whom the myth of David was written. Darics were gold coins but a lesser silver coin was called by a Babylonian word, segals—shekels.
Darius employed people in public works in mines, roadmaking and canal digging, drained swamps, spread useful animals and plants including domestic fowl and doves, promoted other useful activities in foodstuffs like the drying and pickling of fish so that it could be transported inland. They took pistachios to Aleppo, sesame to Egypt and rice to Mesopotamia. Persian kings were interested in public welfare. Later, the Greek kings continued this policy.
The standard of living rose throughout and was higher in the centres of Persia than it was in the Greek cities we so much admire. Partly this was because the greater volume of trade and enterprize took goods downmarket that had previously been the exclusive interest of the rich. More people benefited and standards as a whole rose. Banking boomed also. Banking had traditionally been the prerogative of the temples in, for eaxample Babylonia, but there were private bankers too.
It was private banking that boomed, although the general swell of wellbeing spread so far as Greece and the temples of Delos, Delphi and Olympia all opened as banks based on Asian models. Darius specified fair wages for workers and, since wages were often paid in kind, the values of standard goods were also specified so that the worker knew they were getting the right weight.
Some serfs were tied to the estates but many were free and workers moved around in an extensive labour market. Tablets at Persepolis speak of workers from all over the empire. There must have been a labour exchange. There was certainly an imperial direct labour force working on palaces, temples and other large projects for the king.
After BC, Persian names are increasingly found in the city rolls of Babylonia, a result of the displacement of Persian smallholders from the plateau by the larger more efficiant estates. Deportations continued and some were depicted as having been voluntary.
Herodotus tells of Milesians transported from Ionia to the Persian gulf to establish sea-going routes to India and Egypt but little impression was made, perhaps simply because the wood to make ships was not readily available. The Peonians of Thrace were deported to Phrygia by Darius, but Herodotus says that many were shortly able to escape back home during an uprising encouraged by the Greeks.
Alexander used the same policy after the end of the Persian empire and, in the second century BC, it was still being used by the Parthians. All of the imperial powers that the Iranians met had a powerful national god. Maybe it was a reason that the Achaemenids adopted Zoroastrianism. It meant that generally an imperial state like Assyria would respect the gods of vassal states—the gods the vassal called upon as its witnesses to the vassalage treaty. The suzerain would make votive offerings to the gods of a subject people as a sign of good-will, most notably if they had surrendered rather than resisted.
They fully realized how much better it was to promote a sympathetic party in a nation than to batter it head-on with armies. Such methods were necessarily subtle because they would obviously not work if people realized they were being manipulated. These great conquering powers were not unsubtle—subtle enough to fool Jews and Christian scholars for millennia! Western historians, especially Biblicists, persuade themselves that ruthless soldiers like the leaders of these imperial nations became pussy-cats when it came to religion.
Out of pure kindness, they rebuilt temples, restored gods that had been suppressed, and returned plundered divine images stolen centuries before to the renovated temples. All in the hope the people would be grateful. It just does not hack. They knew human nature was more perverse than that. They did it, but the god restored and the ritual presented as proper were what suited the conquerors! And it is most unlikely that the restored priesthood were independent.
They were agents of the conqueror. The Persians doubtless reached a point where they questioned the Elamites adherance to daeva gods, the people having been closely linked for a long time, but whatever the cause it shows that Persians were interested in other people taking up the worship of Ahuramazda. He had been satrap of Babylonia for ten years but, on accession, had to put down rebellions in Egypt, then one in his former satrapy of Babylonia. He put them down with ruthlessness and no religious niceties.
In Babylonia he destroyed the temple at Esagila that Cyrus had endowed, and even destroyed the statue of Marduk! It had been the centre of the official religion and therefore of religious and state ceremonial, so it was a punishing blow. Some scholars see in the action a new policy of intolerance, but the intolerance was of ingratitude or ineptitude by priests who had been granted favoured positions to make sure such rebellions never happened.
Tolerance was always shown towards those who co-operated but not towards those who caused trouble. There was no change in policy because Xerxes otherwise continued to favour temples and priesthoods that remained loyal and did their job of keeping people obedient. Herodotus confirms this, saying that when Xerxes marched through Greece, he allowed the destruction of the temples of those who were hostile but respected those of people who submitted. Destruction of temples is recorded only as a punitive measure after political provocation.
The tale does not hold water. It is propaganda to cover his own murder of his cousin.
The whole tale is written for everyone to read on the great monumant he erected at Behistun. It was also circulated widely in the regions. To cover his crime, Darius said Cambyses had murdered his brother before he left for Egypt, and that the uprising was led by an imposter, a magian called Bardiya Greek, Smerdis who looked like the dead prince and so pretended to be him, yet the imposter would have had to have fooled close family and courtiers. It is impossible. The man was who he claimed to be, and was really killed by Darius.
Cambyses therefore was blackened as a fratricide while Darius became a hero for righting an awful wrong. Boyce draws the parallel of the propagandists of Henry VII blackening the character of Richard III so successfully with the help of Shakespeare that the calumny has only recently been exposed. At Behistun, Darius followed the convention used by the Assyrians of attributing his success to the main god, here Ahuramazda, whose symbol floats above the scene, because the god recognized the victor as true and just—the upholder of Asha, righteousness.
The example is clearly one of rationalization of the outcome. Darius had schemed and murdered, but for the greater good, it was necessary and right. His success proved that Ahuramazda approved. In the Zoroastrian scheme, misdeeds could be atoned for by a greater weight of good deeds, so Darius would escape with his soul in the balmy place by living righteously for the rest of his life. Darius had six princes helping him in his plot and he set up them all as special advisers with great privileges.
This by accident, or more likely intent, matched the six Amesha Spentas of Ahuramazda, showing again that the Shahanshah was the reflexion of God on earth. The kings from Darius were depicted on royal tombs supported by these six nobles, three on each side, and slightly to the back but looking toward the king. The winged figure of Ahuramazda does not represent the god, but his grace or blessing, responsible for wealth and success.
The figure in the winged ring often looks like a miniature of the king, often wearing the same kind of crown as Darius on his monuments, though sometimes it has an Assyrian crown. When the sun makes his light shine… the invisible yazatas stand ready… They gather up that kvarenah, they store up that kvarenah, they distribute that kvarenah over the Ahura-created earth to prosper the world as Asha. Y The sun is providing divine grace that the yazatas distribute. The figure on the disc might be the king rather than the god, thus symbolising the earthly manifestation of the god, or that, at any rate, is what Darius wanted to remind his subjects of.
Legally, the divine Ahuramazda could not be pictured, so if the image was not the king it had to be a representation of the grace of the god, but that could be pictured as the king! Simple folk and children might have seen it as god, but the magi would have known it was a symbol of one of his attributes. It is shown offering or accepting the divine ring, the bond or promise of god.
Evidence that the Persians were great propagandists, and used prophecy for propaganda purposes, comes from an oracle delivered to Nabonidus of Babylon about BC. Cyrus had ruled about five years, and the discovery of the oracle shows that in the eight years from his accession to the time when he defeated Astyages the Mede, he was carefully preparing the ground for it. The oracle prophesied that in three years time the gods of Babylon would cause Cyrus to rise against the Medes and take them into bondage.
Conceivably this oracle could have been propaganda after the event pandering to the Babylonians via their gods, and doubtless the Persians did this too, but scholars are sure this oracle preceded the event, so its aim was to predispose the Babylonian king to favour Cyrus in his uprising against the Medes. Nabonidus would have been glad to see the power of the Medes weakened, and would have been inclined anyway to favour the rebels, but Cyrus was making sure. Boyce comments:. In other respects Cyrus prepared the ground too—by marrying into the Median royal family, Mandana, daughter of Astyages, by promoting Zoroastrianism, the religion of the Medes when Astyages might have favoured the older Iranian gods, and generally selling himsef to Median nobles as a man worth supporting, because many Medes were glad to accept his leadership.
The question that this use of prophecy to influence events raises is whether the prophets of the Jewish scriptures served the same role. Yehouah picked Cyrus Isa ,13 and the Chaldaeans and Babylonians are punished ; In reality, they were not because they surrendered with no trouble. It was also not true that Cyrus conquered Egypt and Nubia Isa The passage was written by a Persian propagandist. Though Cyrus is depicted as messiah, and historical errors occur, it does not necessarily mean that Cyrus had prepared the ground in advance, as he did with Nabonidus.
He might have done, true, but the legend might with more likelihood have been built up later, when Babylon had been punished for its own rebellions and Egypt had long been conquered by Cambyses. It was found! The same ploy was used regarding Deuteronomy, but they pretended the discovery of it was before the Babylonian conquest! To this striking usage, Second Isaiah joins startlingly original theological utterances… markedly Zoroastrian in charcter. Plainly they were not original in Iran but Boyce means they were in scriptural terms. This originality in Judaism is what makes Isaiah such a notable prophet for Jews and Christians.
Since Genesis and the Psalms are later than second Isaiah, the idea of Yehouah as the creator appears here in the bible for the first time too. It is a main theme of Isaiah even though it is not directly relevant to the objective of assuring the Jews of deliverance by Cyrus as the agent of Yehouah. The implied power of the god as the creator would help assure the Jews that the prophecies would be upheld, but the extent to which the prophet dwells on the creation story shows it was not familiar to the audience.
The fact that he claims it is old Isa ;28 is a familiar theme of this type of propaganda. So, the stories had to be presented as the ancient legacy of the people. Morton Smith sees second Isaiah as drawing on a specific Gatha of the Avesta. Yasna 44 is the source. Isaiah only differs in that the talking is done by Yehouah rather than the prophet. Tell me truly Lord, who in the beginning, at the creation was the father of Justice?
GY Isa Who established the course of the sun and the stars? Through whom does the moon wax and wane? Consider who created it all, led out the host one by one. Isa What craftsman made light and darkness? There is no other. I make the light. I create darkness. Isa The passages in Isaiah are not merely translations of the Avesta but their relationship is too close to be coincidence. Someone has paraphrased the content of the Yasna for a different audience and purpose. Ahuramazda is the Zoroastrian creator, this being his main title, and this title is being given to the local Ahuramazda—God of the Heavens, identified with the Greek Zeus, just as Yehouah was.
We get the biblical story of the Edict of Cyrus being sought and found in Egbatana Hamadan. It sounds like typical Persian cunning—an application of their popular technique of finding ancient documents that upheld their foreign policy.
Whether the edict was original or not, it suited Darius to find it and uphold it. Ezra explains that the priests were to be rewarded for offering sacrifices and praying for the life of the king and his sons. Ezra says the task was completed in four years. As for generosity, the cost was initially from tribute raised, a loss-leader, so to speak because when the tradition of obligatory sacrifice and tithes had been accepted, the temple became self-supporting, and indeed the centre for collecting tribute. Anaximander lived just before Cyrus conquered Ionia, but Persian magi seem to have been propagandising before—the priests to the shrine of Apollo at Magnesia on the Meander welcomed the Persians and Cyrus rewarded the inhabitants of the town with tax breaks and freedom from forced labour.
Satrapal coins issued at Tarsus in the fourth century BC bore the figure of a god in Persian dress identified in Aramaic letters as Nergal of Tarsus. Originally it was an artificial mount surrounded by a wall, typical of the sort of high open space favoured by Zoroastrians for worship. From then on, for a thousand years, Zoroastrian temples existed in Asia Minor. After securing the east in several years of campaigning, during which his agents prepared the ground in Babylonia, raising dissention among the priests of Marduk who had been slighted by Nabonidus, who favoured the god Sin, Cyrus moved against Babylon.
The whole of Chaldaea surrendered with little resistance! In AD, a cylinder was found in Akkadian script, the usual writing of Babylonia, with 45 lines of an edict of Cyrus. The initial lines berate Nabonidus, but are incomplete. They speak of a weakling, dishonour, enmity, stopping the daily offering, presumably to Marduk, and instead offered daily hostility, all the dwelling places had become ruins and the people of Sumer and Akkad were like corpses.
He brought all of his people to ruin through servitude without rest. Because of their complaints, the lords of the gods became furiously angry and left their land. The gods, who dwelt among them, left their homes, in anger over his bringing into Babylon. It seems Marduk took pity on his people and searched everywhere in all lands….
He called Cyrus, king of Anshan, by name. He appointed him to lordship over the whole world… Marduk, the great lord, looked joyously on the caring for his people, on his pious works and his righteous heart. To his city, Babylon, he caused him to go. He made him take the road to Babylon, going as a friend and companion at his side. His numerous troops, in unknown numbers, like the waters of a river, marched armed at his side. Without battle and conflict, he permitted him to enter Babylon.
He spared his city, Babylon, a calamity. Nabonidus, the king, who did not fear him, he delivered into his hand. All the people of Babylon, Sumer, and Akkad, princes and governors, fell down before him and kissed his feet. They rejoiced in his sovereignty. Their faces shone.
The lord, who by his power brings the dead to life, who amid destruction and injury had protected them, they joyously blessed him, honouring his name. I am Cyrus, king of the world, the great king, the powerful king, king of Babylon… Eternal seed of royalty whose rule Bel and Nabu love, in whose administration they rejoice in their heart. When I made my triumphal entrance into Babylon, I took up my lordly residence in the royal palace with joy and rejoicing.
Marduk, the great lord, moved the noble heart of the residents of Babylon to me, while I gave daily attention to his worship. My numerous troops marched peacefully into Babylon. In all Sumer and Akkad I permitted no enemy to enter. The needs of Babylon and of all its cities I gladly attended to… and the shameful yoke was removed from them. Their dwellings, which had fallen, I restored. I cleared out their ruins.
Marduk, the great lord, rejoiced in my pious deeds, and graciously blessed me, Cyrus, the king who worships him, and Cambyses, my own son, and all my troops, while we, before him, joyously praised his exalted godhead. May all the gods, whom I brought into their cities, pray daily before Bel and Nabu for long life for me, and may they speak a gracious word for me and say to Marduk, my lord, I permitted all to dwell in peace.
A long poem apparently by a priest of Esagila praises Cyrus and curses Nabonidus. Interestingly, the Seleucid king, Antiochus I, did exactly the same as Cyrus, restoring these two temples and making sure everyone knew about it. Cyrus told these defeated people that he ruled them through the wishes of their gods. Since Cyrus plainly did not believe that these gods were legitimate, being a believer in Ahurumazda, it has to be admitted that he was simply using the foreign gods to manipulate their worshippers.
Did he restore them in their previous rites and beliefs or did he change them in the process? The Jewish scriptures should be proof enough that he changed them utterly. Supposedly, Cyrus allowed deported people to return home as the scriptures say Ezra Several different peoples are mentioned on the cylinder seals and it is assumed that each of them would have had similar promises to those given above or in the Jewish scriptures. Frightened Biblicists attribute the whole of this Persian imperial policy to the magnanimity of the Achaemenids, with no conditions or ulterior motives.
They dare not accept that religion was used for the purpose of foreign policy, to control the subject people. In the days before mass communication, it was mass communication! Few people would not go to their temple or place of worship on the prescribed occasions and hear the words of their god read out. The strategy of the Shahanshahs was to ensure that what they heard inculcated respect for the Great King, the god that had picked him out to rule the world, and the laws that they formulated and presented to the people.
To be rewarded the people must be obedient, and to pay their tithes and taxes was a duty to god. People who did this were righteous. The belief in the universal dominion of a supreme god, the idea that a local deity, let us say, Koshar of Ugarit, reigns also over Crete and Memphis, changed the formula of homage but left intact its content. A new ruler received the lordship from each universal god simultaneously, and established his relations to each god separately as before.
E J Bickerman The Persian kings paid dutiful homage to each local god as the universal god. They had control of the land in fact through conquest, but sought to confirm it in law—the law of God, whatever name he had locally. So, their policy was to restore what had previously been national gods that approved local rulers, as a universal god that approved the Persian rulers. Obviously, this was a long-term policy. It was winning the hearts and minds, and simple people had to be treated differently from clever ones.
That was the purpose of deportation. Clever people were removed from their power base and given a power base elsewhere that they held contrary to the local people and only with the support of the empire. They were made princes and priests in a strange country to control the local people on behalf of the Great Kings. They were privileged but precarious. As Mary Boyce says:. It would have been impossible for the Persians to have imposed their own religion on the numerous and diverse peoples of the ancient lands they now ruled.
Cyrus and his descendants were not so crude. But curiously enough, the old one had significant features of the Persian religion once restored. Boyce knows that Cyrus was an expert propagandist and there was no better propaganda than religious propaganda. The religious right in America know it still. People of religious conviction are convinced that what is good for their god is good for everyone. Doubtless Persian kings felt the same way. Cyrus and Darius were not so foolish as to try to force people to worship an unknown god, but the Jewish scriptures testify to the fact that the restored god might not have been recognizable to the local population, despite a familar name and certain traditional trappings.
Pace Bickerman, they rather changed the content of the old religions towards Zoroastrianism while leaving symbols intact. No doubt there were such people too, but obviously imperial policy could hardly have been openly known without being self-defeating. Why leave out Cambyses? No reason, despite the bad press he had from the Greeks and Egyptians. They claimed he was a madman who knifed the Apis bull and had destroyed Egyptian temples. It seems not to have been true. Like his father, Cambyses was keen to use religion. He restored the priesthood of Sais, presented libations for Osiris and venerated Neith, the goddess of the city.
Royal inheritance in Egypt remained in the female line until this point in history. The well-known letter from the priests of Yeb dated about BC claims the temple to Yehouah there had been established before Cambyses. The priests over a hundred years later probably accepted the falsehoods of the Egyptian priests as history.
After Darius had succeeded him, the Persians had no interest in countering such propaganda. Darius was the legitimate successor of Cyrus. It is easy to see why the priests of Yeb did not want to admit their foundation by Cambyses. That Cambyses, a man with a dishonourable reputation, had set up their own temple was denied by their claiming the temple to Yehouah had preceded his campaign and victory.
Cambyses had intended to conquer Ethiopia but had failed. He will have left Jewish troops there to guard the border because Egyptians were unreliable, having just been defeated and resentful, and that will be when the Yeb temple was set up BC. Since this is before the Jewish temple at Jerusalem had been established, and long before Ezra, the Jews of Yeb worshipped something closer to the original Canaanite Yehouah and his family.
The layman who had a problem would come here for priestly advice. There was an important house of life at Edfu, a great temple dedicated to Horus. Edfu, from the Ptolemaic period that followed the Persian period, is the best preserved temple in all of Egypt, as it was covered in sand until recent times. On one of the walls of the temple is engraved a list of the sacred books kept there. Along with the books on rules of the temple, inventories of the temple holdings, and religious calendars, there were numerous books on magic:.
He was a learned man, an elder of the temple, an accomplished administrator and politician. Bob Brier in Ancient Egyptian Magic tells us that a function of the priests was caring for the cult statues of the gods. Oracles were so called because they would nod their heads in answer to questions, and even talk. No one knows how this was done. Priests, called by the Greeks Stolists, offered the god food several times a day, clothed him in the morning and sealed the chamber in the evening.
The priests would interpret dreams, supply incantations, prayers, magic spells, amulets, charms, or love potions, dispense cures for illnesses, and counteract malevolent influences. The books were for priests, and were kept from the few laymen who could read, using hieroglyphs as a secret code long after they had ceased to be generally used, having been replaced by hieratic and demotic—just as the Christian priests wrote only in Latin to keep their knowledge from the uneducated.
Why should the Persian king have been interested in Egyptian medicine, law or theology? In restoring these schools and libraries he had carte blanche to change what was written down to whatever suited him.
Doubtless during the restoration, the priests will have found invaluable lost books! Should there be any doubt he also commanded that Egyptian law should be recorded. Egyptologists seem not often to consider whether the papyri they find are pseudepigraphs written by the Persians to further their own policies. Historians must ask themselves whether this was pure altruism, kindness and concern for an alien culture or whether here was a chance to strengthen Persian rule through the religious base.
We find Egyptian inscriptians that, just as the scriptures say that Yehouah put Cyrus in charge of the world, Ra made Darius king of Egypt. To curry favour with the priests, Darius restored to them the revenues that Cambyses had imposed upon them. He built a large new temple to Amun-Ra, the Egyptian god closest in nature to Ahuramazda, at the oasis of el-Khargeh, and signs of a widespread influence in such matter are found elsewhere.
He also supported the cult of the Apis Bull. Finally, a letter to his Egyptian satrap tells him to intervene in the appointment of high priests, proving what ought to be obvious, that great emperors like Darius could not avoid interfering in hugely influential positions like the priesthood. Darius is properly Darayavahu. Vahu is the Iranian god of the wind, that became, like the Hebrew, to mean breath and so life, so Yavahu literally means the same as YHWH.
So, Zara in Hebrew is seed. Yet it is used in different senses either through metaphor or through the introduction of the same word with a new usage. Indeed it is virtually the same as Israel seed, progeny of El except that the general word for god, El, has been replaced by the specific Yehouah.
And they shall hear Jezreel. And I will sow ZR her unto me in the earth; and I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, Thou art my people; and they shall say, Thou art my God. Adopting a people who are not his own people! Oddly enough, sowing is scattering seed. These people that have been sown in the earth can just as easily be scattered. So it is also used in almost an opposite sense too, making it ideal as a poetic word that can be positive or negative according to the response of the people.
Just the intention of the Persians. Having noted this it is perhaps hardly surprising that the same letters signify divine help, rescue or even salvation. In the scriptures, the salvation is often from enemies in battle. Chronicles, books usually put in the same school as Ezra and Nehemiah, is particularly emphatic of divine saving help. The Psalms too. Psalms makes it clear that the help is salvific, not merely assistance:. But the salvation of the righteous is of the Lord: he is their strength in the time of trouble.
And the Lord shall help them, and deliver them: he shall deliver them from the wicked, and save them, because they trust in him. Ps The parallels in these verses show that the help given is salvific. They wanted it to seem like a salvation and in their propaganda depicted it in no uncertain way as such. If the people, though, were ungrateful, the tables would turn. It seems most unlikely that Darius would not have used the coincidence of the sound of his name in his propaganda to the worshippers of Yehouah, that the Persians were building up as loyal subjects in Palestine. Artaxerxes succeeded his father aged 18 when his father was murdered in a palace coup in BC.
In BC, he abandoned Elamite as the language of the official records and introduced Aramaic. Doubtless the traditional Elamite scribes had been prepared for the change but more Persian scribes were being trained, initially in priestcraft, then specialising as scribes. These were all hereditary professions. He shielded the Athenians whom he had fought and defeated in Egypt, until he was ordered by the queen mother Amestris, to kill them. In BC, Artaxerxes sent Nehemiah to Jerusalem, instructed to bring the people into the fold of worship of Yehouah, a universal god of heaven.
Morton Smith wrote:. Since Artaxerxes, as a devout Zoroastrian, could not have touched let alone drunk from a ritually unclean cup, Nehemiah must himself have been a Zoroastrian.
The king particularly required this protection, and we can be sure that his servants had a duty to keep him pure. The Zoroastrian priests had instituted a rigourous cleanliness code to protect the devout. Indeed, cupbearer to the king would hardly have been a menial position and Nehemiah must have been a Zoroastrian priest, not a mere servant. Nor would a mere servant have been sent to a colony with such an important position and task. Nehemiah introduced these same purity codes to the Jews, and devout ones live by them still, though they do not understand the reason for them.
The point here is that Nehemiah could not have been a Jew himself, if he was the royal cupbearer, unless the religion of the Jews was Mazdayasnism by another name. Ezra was sent too in BC or BC, from the bible which says year seven of the king, but there were two kings called Artaxerxes. Some think the number is corrupt and should be 37, making the year BC, allowing for an apparently close association with Nehemiah. Or was it year seven of Darius II BC , the name of the king having been mistaken from an association with Nehemiah? For the Persians the god of heaven was Ahuramazda, but the title was interpreted to mean Yehouah.
Ezra reads out a copy of the letter that the king Artaxerxes gave him explaining the authority for his position.
The letter emphasizes that people go only by their own free will, a statement that implies that it is not normally the case. One is led to ask why this case should be different. And I, even I Artaxerxes the king, do make a decree to all the treasurers which are beyond the river, that whatsoever Ezra the priest, the scribe of the law of the God of heaven, shall require of you, it be done speedily, Unto an hundred talents of silver, and to an hundred measures of wheat, and to an hundred baths of wine, and to an hundred baths of oil, and salt without prescribing how much.
Whatsoever is commanded by the God of heaven, let it be diligently done for the house of the God of heaven: for why should there be wrath against the realm of the king and his sons? Also we certify you, that touching any of the priests and Levites, singers, porters, Nethinims, or ministers of this house of God, it shall not be lawful to impose toll, tribute, or custom, upon them. And thou, Ezra, after the wisdom of thy God, that is in thine hand, set magistrates and judges, which may judge all the people that are beyond the river, all such as know the laws of thy God; and teach ye them that know them not.
And whosoever will not do the law of thy God, and the law of the king, let judgment be executed speedily upon him, whether it be unto death, or to banishment, or to confiscation of goods, or to imprisonment. The rest of it shows the king is purporting to placate the people, making sure there is no wrath against the king—it has a political purpose. But who benefits financially—the priests and temple officials who are exempt from taxes.
Its indebtedness to Zoroastrianism is plain but never observed upon. Ezra also added the creation in Genesis a, the sophisticated one. Genesis 1 is strikingly Zoroastrian in two ways:. The active principle of creation is the spirit of God, just as Ahuramazda creates through the Good or Holy Spirit. The creation in both was in seven stages, surely an astonishing coincidence, though the descriptions of the creations are different.
A puzzle is the absence in the Jewish scriptures of teachings of fate after death, individual judgement, heaven and hell. Death brings Sheol. Mary Boyce writes:. Since Zoroastrian apocalyptic finds its counterpart in Jewish and Christian eschatology, not disjointedly but as part of the same fixed scheme which is to be discerned in the Gathas, it is difficult not to concede to Zoroastrianism both priority and influence. Judaism has Satan as an Evil Spirit, although he seems not to have an existence independent of Yehouah, and Yehouah claims to create both good and evil Isa Presumably Satan has his own inclination to create evil, independently of Yehouah, otherwise it is hard to see how he is such a trouble.
That makes Judaism exactly equivalent to Zoroastrianism. What appear to be differences might be simply because we have two sources, neither of which is complete and both of which have had independent histories of compilation and redaction, so that they have evolved differences, but their identity at the centre is still obvious. Our knowledge of Jewish apocalyptic with the discovery and translation of the Dead Sea Scrolls shows that Judaism was much more dualistic than the scriptures suggest.
Professor Mills says that even if there had been no historical contact between Judaism and Persian religion, the closeness of these themes would demand their careful study by Christians and Jews believing their own religions to have been revealed, because He must have revealed them somewhere else too! He concludes:. In fact the Jews were subjects of the Persian kings for years, and the Jewish scriptures declare that a Persian priest called Ezra had to give the Jews a law!
Ammianus Marcellinus, from earlier unnamed sources, says that Darius replaced the heads of the priesthood by seven more cautious holy men, after they had tried to usurp the throne. The whole story is probably propaganda, and actually the Magi who supported Darius in what was his own successful coup were rewarded. Either way, a board or commission of seven Magi were the supreme religious authorities and located in the Persian capital. They consecrated a Persian king when he succeeded to the throne and suppressed heresy. Xerxes, who succeeded his father in BC, desecrated the great temple of Marduk in Babylon, slaying a priest and carried off the huge statue of the god, which was said to be of solid gold.
His purpose was political, to destroy the god who was traditionally the protector of Babylon and would serve as the focus of a separatist movement and revolt, but Xerxes had such confidence in Ahuramazda that he feared no reprisals from Marduk. Xerxes proves that the Persian kings were religious zealots not pussy cats as Christians and Jews want us to believe from a reading of the bible.
They rewarded collaboration and punished defiance. Herodotus and Cicero report that Xerxes destroyed the temples on the Acropolis. Many historians disbelieved it until the discovery of an inscription at Persepolis in which Xerxes boasts of his conquest of Greece, of his godliness in destroying the temples on the Acropolis in which the Greeks had worshipped devils, and in commanding them to worship them no longer:.
There was a place in which devils were formerly worshipped. And in the very place in which devils had once been worshipped, I piously and with Righteousness worshipped Ahura Mazda. The Persians also destroyed the Greek temples at Branchidae, Naxos, Abae and other places not reported. They spared Delphi because the priests there advised the Greeks to yield to the Persians. The Persian governors and priests in Jerusalem thereby caused a schism in the worship of Yehouah in the Hill Country. The native Israelites, the Samarians who, under Persian coercion it seems, had accepted the law as the Torah, built their own temple on Mount Gerizim, and Jerusalem is insignificant in their Pentateuch.
The Sadducees were nothing to do with the original worship of Yehouah or they would have been Samaritans. Darius was a Babylonian by culture. Achaemenian kings took foreign wives but it was not common, the main wife was not usually foreign and others would have had to have converted or at least observed the Zoroastrian purity laws.
The Achaemenid kings were pious but practical men. Their foreign marriages were likely to have been diplomatic, and not for the generality to copy. Darius was the son of a Babylonian woman. The royal line was no longer Persian but half Babylonian and influenced strongly by their Babylonian mothers and upbringing.
Babylonian customs now began to assert themselves more strongly. There the Magi would have come into direct contact with the cult of the god Marduk, who might have been the model for the revival of Mithras, previously seen as the equal of Shamash. It was a superstition which at that time, and indeed for many centuries thereafter, could plausibly claim to be a scientific observation of the heavens, and thence the world.
Chaldaean astromancy was taken up by the Magi. Darius killed the assassin and took the throne. He continued the Achaemenid interest in restoring religions, but he was particularly interested in preseving temple archives, doubtless a job of some practical value. The records of the bank of Murashi cover half a century up to about BC. It shows how cosmopolitan Babylonia was. It was policed by foreign garrisons stationed permanently in the country, so the Persian kings were taking no chances even in what was the centre of their empire. Darius favoured the Jerusalem priesthood.
A revealing scrap of papyrus written from Darius to Arsames, his long-serving Egyptian satrap in BC, and found at Elephantine, ordered that the Jews of Elephantine must keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days. It is a surprising order for those brought up believing myth is history. Why was it necessary? These traditions were supposed to have been almost a millennium old even then.
Apologists say the feast had been forbidden so it was not an order to Jews but to the satrap himself. Why then was it phrased as an order to the Jews that they must obey? The Jewish messanger was a man called Hananiah, a Babylonian name Eanna and the name, by another of those coincidences that litter biblical history, of the brother of Nehemiah.
A sandstone stele from Aswan dated itself precisely to June BC. It records that the commander of the garrison at Syene had built a place of worship. Rather than an enclosed temple it might have been an enclosed space open to the massy heavens. In BC, the Jewish military governor at Elephantine, probably a grandson of the man who built or restored a temple there, the command of the Syene garrison seems to have been inherited, colluded with the priests of Khnum to cut off the water supply from the Jewish garrison, then they destroyed the temple to Yahu.
The satrap was absent at the time. Subsequently, the priests wrote to the Jerusalem priesthood and to the governor of Judah, Bagoas, for help in rebuilding the temple. It seems it never was given. The whole events look suspicious. Arsames absents himself and a Persian military governor immediately helps to destroy a Jewish temple with the aid of Egyptian priests, even though Jews are loyal allies of the Persians, and this has been a Persian outpost manned by Jewish soldiers for a century.
The truth must be that this older temple at Syene, being polytheistic, was an embarrassment to Persians and Jews and had to be ended. It is always presented as caused by the jealousy of the Egyptian priests, or their annoyance that the Jews would have been sacrificing sheep when the ram was the sacred animal of Khnum. Yet it was done with the help of the local Persian governor, and under a fancied policy of religious toleration in general and admiration for the Jews.
It proves that there was no religious toleration in general. Religion was a policy option, and the kings had opted to support one temple to Yehouah—at Jerusalem. It was a conscious foreign policy to get political control of subject people who had every reason to be resentful. It was to preserve the Persian peace, the Iranian sense of universal order. Garbini notes that the Demotic Chronicle of Egypt, a papyrus dated in the third century BC but speaking of the sixth and fifth centuries BC, takes the same attitude of the judgement of God on Egypt as the Deuteronomic History does on the Jews.
It seems unlikely that a Jewish history should have inspired an Egyptian one, but not that Persian propaganda should have been used in Egypt as well as elsewhere. If this papyrus is accurately dated to the third century then it could be an edition of an earlier Persian work. The Persians will have done in Egypt what they did in Yehud, a finding with possibly profound consequences for Egyptology.
The sun rising each morning drove away the powers of darkness, symbolic of order driving away chaos. Rebellion is chaos, a product of the Evil Spirit, while order is good, an attribute of God. A lesser parallel with what the Persians did in Jerusalem might have come to light in Asia Minor. A monument was found in declaring that the citizens of Orna had agreed to set up a cult of the god of Caunos, a nearby town. Plainly this was not a Zoroastrian god, but had been granted certain Zoroastrian features, including an Iranian title of unknown meaning but used of Mithras.
Zoroastrian worship always had to be done before noon, and this habit perhaps predisposed non-Iranians particularly to see Mithras as the visible face of Ahuramazda. It seems to be an early example of Apollo-Mithras syncretism, which was popular in the region a hundred years later and for many centuries thereafter. Apparently a unifying formula, it is reminiscent of Yehouah being the god of Israel and of Judah.
The scroll scholar, A Dupont-Sommer, said it showed the Persians had an office of state for overseeing and regularizing the religious affairs of subject people:. Not to impose on them Iranian divinities and cults but to ensure good order and security in a domain which in ancient societies was politically so important and often vexed. Dupont-Sommer is sidelined nowadays mainly because Christians do not like his ideas about the Essenes and Christianity in interpreting the scrolls, but this insight shows him to be a perceptive man.
The Persians had to approve the High Priest of any cult, and we can be sure he was not appointed purely for his piety. These were political appointments, and the practice of religion was a political act. The Reverend Professor Lawrence Mills detected a ministry or religious affairs, and Professor Boyce sees a chancellery department to deal with Zoroastrian foundations from at least the fourth century BC. It is difficult to see them as separate institutions.
The traditional view is that Cyrus and successive Persian kings of the sixth and fifth centuries BC were being religiously liberal in allowing the Jews to reconstruct their temple and its religion after they had been kindly returned from their exile in Babylon. But the religion of Yehouah, whose worshippers were called Jews, was remodelled thoroughly by the Persian world conquerors. Their real aim was to spread the religion of Mazdayasnaism, or Ahuramazda worship, to consolidate their empire. Historians of the Persians often seem over eager to insist that the Persian kings had no wish to impose the religion of Ahuramazda on to subject people.
The reason can only be to avoid any suggestion that Judaism might have been revealed by the Persian kings and not by Yehouah in person. Why then did they destroy some gods? Note here the proper distinction held by Zoroastrians between devils and gods. As Creator of good things, Ahuramazda was the creator of good gods—the gods considered good of foreign nations. Bad gods were, of course, created by the Evil Spirit. This is why the Persians cannot be assumed to have had a favourable or even neutral stance to foreign gods. In fact, the judgement was purely practical.
When people opposed the forward march of the Persians their gods were of the Evil Creation. If they welcomed them, they were of the Good Creation. The Persian kings would destroy when their opponents had offered strong resistance. Alexander had the same policy. The destruction of a people who resisted included destruction of their gods. But sanctuaries were destroyed in Babylon in BC, long after Cyrus had conquered it bloodlessly. Xerxes declares on an inscription that he had destroyed a sanctuary of false gods and worshipped Ahuramazda instead.
It shows that Persian kings had no sacred regard for the religions of subject people when they had reason to categorize their gods as devils. It seems that the Persians had decided that god of the Jews was of the Good Creation and so could be treated with favoritism. The Jews therefore were permitted to make the universal religion in their own image, guided by Persian officials because it had to be a religion made up of the essential truths handed down to Zoroaster by Ahuramazda, albeit presented in a way adapted to the local god. In the history of later Persia, the Jews were honoured under the Arsacids, the Jewish Exilarch being fourth in rank after tha king.
Under the Sassanids, however, they came to be treated as Zoroastrian heretics.