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Rhode (one of the first of scholars of his day in this departinent) says: “ There is not the least doubt that these are the books ascribed in the most ancient times to Zoroaster.” Of the Vendidad he says: “It has both the inward and outward marks of the highest antiquity, so that we fear not to say that only prejudice or ignorance could doubt it.” *
§ 4. Epoch of Zoroaster. What do we know of him?
As to the age of these books, however, and the period at which Zoroaster lived, there is the greatest difference of opinion. He is mentioned by Plato (Alcibiades, I. 37), who speaks of “the magic or religious doctrines) of Zoroaster the Ornazlian” (μαγείαν - Ζωροάστρου του Ωρομάζου).+ As Plato speaks of his religion as something established in the form of Magism, or the system of the Medes, in West Iran, while the Avesta appears to have originated in Bactria, or East Iran, I this already carries the age of Zoroaster back to at least the sixth or seventh century before Christ. When the Avesta was written, Bactria was an independent monarchy. Zoroaster is represented as teaching under King Vistaçpa. But the Assyrians conquered Bactria B. C. 1200, which was the last of the Iranic kingdoms, they having previously vanquished the Medes, Hyrcanians, Parthians, Persians, etc. As Zoroaster must have lived before this conquest, his period is taken back to a still more remote time, about B. C. 1300 or B. C. 1250.
* And with this conclusion the later scholars agree. Burnouf, Lassen, Spiegel, Westergaard, Haug, Bunsen, Max Müller, Roth, all accept the Zend Avesta as containing in the main, if not the actual words of Zoroaster, yet authentic reminiscences of his teaching. The Gâthâs of the Yaçna are now considered to be the oldest part of the Avesta, as appears from the investigations of Haug and others. (See Dr. Martin Haug's translation and commentary of the Five Gâthâs of Zarathustra. Leipzig, 1860.)
't Even good scholars often follow each other in a false direction for want of a little independent thinking. The Greek of Plato was translated by a long succession of writers, “Zoroaster the son of Oromazes," until some one happened to think that this genitive might imply a different relation.
# Duncker (Gesch. des Alterthums, B. II.) gives at length the reasons which prove Zoroaster and the Avesta to have originated in Bactria.
& Duncker (B. II. S. 483). So Döllinger.
It is difficult to be more precise than this. Bunsen indeed * suggests that “the date of Zoroaster, as fixed by Aristotle, cannot be said to be so very irrational. He and Eudoxus, according to Pliny, place him six thousand years before the death of Plato; Hermippus, five thousand years before the Trojan war,” or about B. C. 6300 or B. C. 6350. But Bunsen adds: “At the present stage of the inquiry the question whether this date is set too high cannot be answered either in the negative or affirmative." Spiegel, in one of his latest works,† considers Zoroaster as a neighbor and contemporary of Abraham, therefore as living B. C. 2000 instead of B. C. 6350. Professor Whitney of New Haven places the epoch of Zoroaster at“ least B. C. 1000,” and adds that all attempts to reconstruct Persian chronology or history prior to the reign of the first Sassanid have been relinquished as futile. Dollinger $ thinks he may have been “somewhat later than Moses, perhaps about B. c. 1300,” but says, “it is impossible to fix precisely ” when he lived. Rawlinson merely remarks that Berosus places him anterior to B. C. 2234. Haug is inclined to date the Gâthâs, the oldest songs of the Avesta, as early as the time of Moses. Rapp, after a thorough comparison of ancient writers, concludes that Zoroaster lived B. c. 1200 or 1300. In this he agrees with Duncker, who, as we have seen, decided upon the same date. It is not far from the period given by the oldest Greek writer who speaks of Zoroaster, - Xanthus of Sardis, a contemporary of Darius. It is the period given by Cephalion, a writer of the second century, who takes it from three independent sources. We have no sources now open to us which enable us to come nearer than this to the time in which he lived.
Nor is anything known with certainty of the place where he lived or the events of his life. Most modern
• Egypt's Place in Unirersal History, Vol. III. p. 471. † Eran, das Land zwischen dem Indus und Tigris.
Journal of the Am. Or. Soc., Vol. V. No. 2, p. 353. $ The Gentile and Jew, Vol. I. p. 380. # Five Great Monarchies, Vol. III. p. 94.
Essays, &c., by Martin Hang, p. 255. * Die Religion und Sitte der Perser. Von Dr. Adolf Rapp. (1865.)
writers suppose that he resided in Bactria. Haug maintains that the language of the Zend books is Bactrian.* A highly mythological and fabulous life of Zoroaster, translated by Anquetil du Perron, called the ZartushtNamah,t describes him·as going to Iran in his thirtieth year, spending twenty years in the desert, working miracles during ten years, and giving lessons of philosophy in Babylon, with Pythagoras as his pupil. All this is based on the theory (now proved to be false) of his living in the time of Darius. “The language of thé Avesta,” says Max Müller, “is so much more primitive than the inscriptions of Darius, that many centuries must have passed between the two periods represented by these two strata of language." These inscriptions are in the Achæmenian dialect, which is the Zend in a later stage of linguistic growth.
§ 5. Spirit of Zoroaster and of his Religion It is not likely that Zoroaster ever saw Pythagoras or even Abraham. But though absolutely nothing is known of the events of his life, there is not the least doubt of his existence nor of his character. He has left the impress of his commanding genius on great regions, various races, and long periods of time. His religion, like that of the Buddha, is essentially a moral religion. Each of them was à revolt from the Pantheism of India, in the interest of morality, human freedom, and the progress of the race. They differ in this, that each takes hold of one side of morality, and lets go the opposite. Zoroaster bases his law on the eternal distinction between right and wrong ; Sakya-muni, on the natural laws and their consequences, either good or evil. Zoroaster's law is, therefore, the law of justice ; Sakya-muni's, the law of mercy. The one makes the supreme good to consist in truth, duty, right; the other, in love, benevolence, and kindness. Zoroaster teaches providence: the monk of India teaches prudence.
* Bunsen, Egypt, Vol. III. p. 455.
+ Written in the thirteenth century after Christ. An English transla tion may be found in Dr. J. Wilson's “Pârsî Religion."
Chips, Vol. I. p. 88.
Zoroaster aims at holiness, the Buddha at merit. Zoroaster teaches and emphasizes creation : the Buddha knows nothing of creation, but only nature or law. All these oppositions run back to a single root. Both are moral reformers; but the one moralizes according to the method of Bishop Butler, the other after that of Archdeacon Paley. Zoroaster cognizes all morality as having its root within, in the eternal distinction between right and wrong motive, therefore in God; but Sakya-muni finds it outside of the soul, in the results of good and evil action, therefore in the nature of things. The method of salvation, therefore, according to Zoroaster, is that of an eternal battle for good against evil; but according to the Buddha, it is that of self-culture and virtuous activity.
Both of these systems, as being essentially moral systems in the interest of humanity, proceed from persons. For it is a curious fact, that, while the essentially spiritualistic religions are ignorant of their founders, ail the moral creeds of the world proceed from a moral source, i. e. a human will. Brahmanism, Gnosticism, the Sufism of Persia, the Mysteries of Egypt and Greece, Neo-Platonism, the Christian Mysticism of the Middle Ages, — these have, strictly speaking, no founder. Every tendency to the abstract, to the infinite, ignores personality.* Individual mystics we know, but never the founder of any such system. The religions in which the moral element is depressed, as those of Babylon, Assyria, Egypt, Greece, Rome, are also without personal founders. But moral religions are the religions of persons, and so we have the systems of Confucius, Buddha, Zoroaster, Moses, Mohammed. f The Protestant Reformation was a protest of the moral nature against a religion which had become divorced from morality. Accordingly we have Luther as the founder of Protestantism ; but mediæval Christianity grew up with no personal leader.
* So Mr. Emerson, in one of those observations which give us a system of philosophy in a sentence, says,
• The soul knows no persons." Perhaps he should have said, “The Spirit.”
+ Islam is, in this sense, a moral religion, its root consisting in ohe. dience to Allah and his prophet. Sụfism, a Mohammedan mysticism, is a heresy.
The whole religion of the Avesta revolves around the person of Zoroaster, or Zarathustra. In the oldest part of the sacred books, the Gâthâs of the Yaçna, he is called the pure Zarathustra, good in thought, speech, and work. It is said that Zarathustra alone knows the precepts of Ahura-Mazda (Ormazd), and that he shall be made skilful in speech. In one of the Gâthâs he expresses the desire of bringing knowledge to the pure, in the power of Ormazd, so as to be to them strong joy (Spiegel, Gâthâ Ustvaiti, XLII. 8), or, as Haug translates the same passage (Die Gâthâs des Zarathustra, II. 8): “I will swear hostility to the liars, but be a strong help to the truthful.” He prays for truth, declares himself the most faithful servant in the world of Ormazd the Wise One, and therefore begs to know the best thing to do. As the Jewish prophets tried to escape their mission, and called it a burden, and went to it " in the heat and bitterness of their spirit," so Zoroaster says (according to Spiegel): “When it came to me through your prayer, I thought that the spreading abroad of your law through men was something difficult.”
Zoroaster was one of those who was oppressed with the sight of evil. But it was not outward evil which most tormented him, but spiritual evil, - evil having its origin in a depraved heart and a will turned away from goodness. His meditations led him to the conviction that all the woe of the world had its root in sin, and that the origin of sin was to be found in the demonic world.
He might have used the language of the Apostle Paul and said, “We wrestle not with flesh and blood,”.
that is, our struggle is not with man, but with principles of evil, rulers of darkness, spirits of wickedness in the supernatural world. Deeply convinced that a great struggle was going on between the powers of light and darkness, he called on all good men to take part in the war, and battle for the good God against the dark and foul tempter.
Great physical calamities added to the intensity of this conviction. It appears that about the period of Zoroaster, some geological convulsions had changed the climate of Northern Asia, and very suddenly produced severe cold where before there had been an almost tropical tem