The Star of the Magi

Courtney Roberts, M.A.

Astrological World Ages
Zurvan, the Zodiac & the Millenium

     The L'Oulama-i Islam is known in English as the second Ulema i Islam, or the Doctors of Islam. The text itself dates from the 12th or 13th century (Boyce, 1984, 98), and was written in New Persian, but the material contained within it is probably considerably older. It recounts a debate between the doctors of Islam and ‘one who was learned in the Zoroastrian faith.’

     Verse 8 contains this declaration:

"In the religion of Zoroaster it is thus revealed. Except Time all other things are created. Time is the creator; and Time has no limit, neither top nor bottom. It has always been and shall be for evermore."

     The story continues, for within the abode of limitless Time, Ohrmazd, the good god; the bright, pure, sweet-smelling and beneficent comes into being. But he eventually looks down into the depths and detects the presence of Ahriman, the bad god; black, foul, stinking and maleficent. Ohrmazd realizes he must destroy Ahriman, before Ahriman destroys him, and begins to consider how. In Verse 12, Time comes to his aid, for 'all the excellence that Ohrmazd needed had already been created." Continuing,

"And Ohrmazd made Time of the long Dominion manifest which has the measure of twelve thousand years, and within it he attached the firmament, the artificer (and heaven).

(13) And each of the twelve Signs of the Zodiac which are bound to the firmament he appointed for a thousand years. During three thousand years the spiritual creation was made; and Aries, Taurus, and Gemini held sway each for a thousand years.

     Ahriman was so intimidated by this display of righteousness that he rushed back to hell empty-handed and could not move for three thousand years, so that in verse 15:

"...during these three thousand years material creation was made. The control of the world passed to Cancer, Leo, and Virgo. In this matter, much has been said."(Zaehner, 1955, 410-411)

            Al-Buruni (d. 1048 A.D.) had something to say on this matter. In his Chronology, when referring to the religion of the Magians, he reported that they had a cycle of '12,000 years, corresponding to the number of the Signs of the Zodiac and of the months' (Zaehner, 1955, 97).

The Cosmic Theogony

     This story in the Doctors of Islam is a relatively late recapitulation of the elaborate Zurvanite cosmogony, in which finite time is set apart from infinite time and arranged into millennia to accommodate the battle between good and evil, led by Ohrmazd and Ahriman.

     Although often classified as a heresy, Zurvanism is perhaps better described as a sect, school, branch, or stream, for it endured for well over a thousand years and played a significant role in the development of “orthodox” Zoroastrianism.

     The origin of Zurvanism is usually traced back to the late Achaemenian period or approximately the 6th-4th century BCE (Ghadially, 2000, 1) (Boyce, 1984, 96). For instance, in the 4th century BCE, references to the standard millennial features of the Zurvan myth appear in the work of Theopompus (Boyce, 1984, 96-97).

     The Zurvan birth story appears in several different forms throughout the Zoroastrian corpus, and may have originated as an attempt to resolve the theological problems naturally arising from the religion’s extreme dualism. From the earliest Gathic literature, this quote from Yasna 30.3-4 presents the contending duo as twins, and could conceivably have spurred thinking Zoroastrians on to creative theological solutions.

3. Now the two primal Spirits, who reveal themselves in vision as Twins, are the Better and the Bad, in thought and word and action. And between these two the wise ones chose aright, the foolish not so.

4. And when these twain Spirits came together in the beginning, they created Life and Not-Life, and that at the last Worst Existence shall be to the followers of the Lie, but the Best Existence to him that follows Right.
Yasna 28:1 Ahunavaita Gatha 
From a Manuscript in the 
Bodleian Collection (MS J2)

     Zurvan emerged as a deified version of the concept of infinite Time, although his name may have been borrowed from an earlier Phoenician deity (Ghadially, 2000, 1). Additionally, Zurvan’s name is interpreted as ‘fate’ or ‘fortune,’ at least according to a text attributed to the Armenian Christian apologist, Eznik of Kolb (Boyce, 1984, 97).

     The god Zurvan does appear in the early Avestan texts, for instance, in the Vivedat, 19.29, he is credited with creating the paths that lead the wicked and righteous alike to the Cinvat bridge for judgement. InVivedat 19.13. he is called the Infinite Zurvan, while in Yasna 72. 10, he appears in dual form and is called both the Infinite Zurvan and the Zurvan who “for a long time follows his own law.” Nyayisn, 1.8. also refers to the ‘two Zurvans.’ (Zaehner, 1955, 275).

     Zurvan (Time) alone has infinite being, but when he gives birth to the good and evil twins, the battle between Ahura Mazda and Ahriman begins. It is Ahura Mazda, as indicated in the Ulema i-Islam version above, who needs to create finite time, the ‘Time of the long Dominion,’ which is always astrological, in order to set a limit to the battle between good and evil which will inevitably lead to his victory.

     However obscure its origins, Zurvanism enjoyed royal patronage under the later Sasanians, and obviously survived the orthodox purges of powerful priests like Kartir, to continue to influence later generations. This is evidenced not only by the elaborate cosmologies contained in the Bundahisn and the Greater Bundahisn, by also by the appearance of many passages relative to Zurvanism throughout the entire corpus of Pahlavi literature including the Denkart, the Menok-i Xrat, and the Selections of Zadspram.

     Further, polemical references to the Zurvan mythology and cosmogony abound in Christian texts. Amidst the aberrations and diabolical origins attributed to this religious competitor,  one can still distinguish the more legitimate traces of Zurvanism, especially in the works of Eznik of Kolb, in the late 6th century A.D. treatise, The Cause of the Foundation of the Schools, by Mar Barhad Besabba, Bishop of Halvan, from On the True Religion by Theodore Abu Qurra, Bishop of Harran (d. 820 A.D.), and the anonymous late 6th cenutry A.D. Christian Syriac text referenced by both Boyce and Zaehner (Boyce, 1984, 98) (Zaehner, 1955,439-40).

     Islam could not escape Zurvan’s influence, especially after placing the Islamic capital in Baghdad. References within later Islamic literature include the 11th century A.D. mention by Al-Buruni, the 13th century Ulema-i Islam, and the mystical time speculation found within Firdausi‘s epic, the Shahnameh (Zaehner, 1955, 444-5).

     As Dr. Richard Frye puts it in his rigorous article, ‘Emperor Ardeshir and the cycles of history,

“...orthopraxy was more important than orthodoxy under the Sasanians, and Zurvanism, or time speculation, was not a heresy in the same manner as Mazdakism, which was a threat to the practices and the organisation of society as well as the church... From Christian authors writing in Syriac and Armenian it would seem that the Sasanians primarily followed Zurvanism,...(which) was not a full- fledged heresy with doctrines, rites and a 'church' organisation separate from the Zoroastrian fold, but rather a movement to be compared perhaps with the Mu'tazilites of Islamic times. There were basically two features of Zurvanism which have been preserved for us, time speculation (eternity, etc.) and the myth of the birth of both Ohrmizd (Ahura Mazda) and Ahriman from their father Zurvan. The first was widespread and certainly by itself would not form the basis for a separate sect... Undoubtedly the Zurvan birth story was widespread among 'orthodox' Zoroastrians in Sasanian times“ (Frye, 2001, 2).

     Of the two features of Zurvanism Frye mentions above, the birth stories are interesting, but it is the time speculation that most concerns us in this attempt to trace the roots of astrological eschatology. We are digging in fertile ground here, for the material in the later Pahlavi compilations, both the Bundahisn and the Greater Bundahisn, reveal the Zurvanite obsession with the origin of finite time from infinite time, with its arrangement into millennial ages ruled over by the signs of the zodiac, and with its eschatological culmination in the ultimate battle between good and evil.

     All of these themes are described in unabashedly astrological detail and their influence on developments in Christian eschatology is hard to ignore. The astrology is not in any way separate from either the cosmogony or the eschatology; instead it permeates the entire theology in a surprisingly holistic manner. The good God created the material universe with an implicit astrological order that is there to assist him in his ultimate defeat of evil and to help keep track of exactly when that will come about.

     These verses from the Greater Bundahisn communicate the Sassanian reverence for the holiness and purpose of Time :

42. For, verily, Time, which is the Lord of duration, is the first creature that He created forth; for, before the mingling, it was infinite, the Eternity, which Ohrmazd created as finite; on account of that is it infinite that, from the original creation, when He created the creatures, up to the end, when the Evil Spirit will be inactive, is a cycle of twelve thousand years, that is finite, which will finally mingle with and be transformed to infinity...

43. As one says, in the Scripture: "Time is more powerful than both the creations, the creation of Ohrmazd and even that of the Evil Spirit; Time is accessible for work and regulation; of accessible beings, Time is the most accessible of beings worth inquiry, Time is the most worthy of inquiry," -- that is, determination can be made by Time--; "It is by Time that a temporal dwelling is erected; by Time, the ornamented is dilapidated; and of mortal men, none can escape from it, neither when he flies above, nor when he digs a well in the depth below and sits within it, nor when he goes down underneath the spring of cold waters."

     In Chapter II of the Greater Bundahisn, after describing how Ohrmazd created the twelve constellations of the zodiac and the twenty-eight lunar asterisms, verse 2 proclaims that he created them specifically:

“so that when the Adversary would arrive, they might fight against their own enemy and the creatures might be saved from their antagonist; each of these constellations is a specimen of a soldier and veteran, who is posted for battle;”

     Ohrmazd goes on and creates the chief stars, again to guard his creation and to fight the good fight against Ahriman, which would eventually lead to the ultimate battle at the end of time.

3. Over these constellations, He appointed four chieftains, in four directions; He appointed a chieftain over these chieftains; He appointed many innumerable stars that are recognized by name, in various directions and various places, as givers of vigour, by cooperation, to these Constellations.

4. As one says: "Sirius (Tishtar) is the chieftain of the East, Sataves (Aldebaran) the chieftain of the South, Antares (Vanand) the chieftain of the West, the Seven Bears (Haptoring) the chieftain of the North; the Lord of the throne, Capricornus, whom they call the Lord of Mid-Heaven, is the chieftain of chieftains;...

7. He appointed the Seven Bears (Haptoring) in the Northern direction, thither where Dozakh (hell]) was, when the Adversary came in; ...

9. Again, He arrayed, above them, the unmixable stars, so that, when the Adversary would arrive, they might repel him in the combat, and would not let him mingle with the higher sphere; He appointed the Glory of the good Mazdayasnian Religion, as chieftain over them;”

     However, Ahriman is just as busy, creating bad creatures and evil forces to counter every good thing that Ohrmazd creates. While Ohrmazd created the Sun and the Moon, appointing them as chieftains over the stars and binding the stars in loyalty to serve the two luminaries in his cause, it is Ahriman who creates the planets.

of the 
backwards through
the constellations
of the 

 The theology of the planets is described in both the Bundahisn and theGreater Bundahisn in significant detail, but it is very simply stated in the following passage, the 17th through the 21st verses of the eighth chapter of the Menok-i Xrad:

“17. Every good and the reverse which happen to mankind, and also the other creatures, happen through the seven planets and the twelve constellations. 18. And those twelve constellations are such as in revelation are the twelve chieftains who are on the side of Ohrmazd, (19) and those seven planets are called the seven chieftains who are on the side of Ahriman. 20. Those seven planets pervert every creature and creation, and deliver them up to death and every evil. 21. And, as it were, those twelve constellations and seven planets are organizing and managing the world.

The planetary theology of the Greater Bundahisn is a bit more complicated. In Chapter V, verse 4, after describing how for every good thing that Ohrmazd created, Ahriman created a corresponding evil, it tells how Ahriman created a dark Moon and a dark Sun to oppose Ohrmazd’s luminaries, and how Ahriman’s seven planetary chieftains were created to oppose and attack Ohrmazd’s good stars and constellations.

“...such as the Planet Mercury (Tir) against Sirius (Tishtar), the Planetary Jupiter against the ‘Seven Bears' (Haptoring), the Planetary Mars against Antares (Vanand), the Planetary Venus against Sataves (Aldeberan), Saturn (who is the Chieftain of) the Planetary (Chieftains) against the Lord of Mid-Heaven, even the tailed Dragon and Mush Parik against the Sun, Moon, and Stars.“

     Then, in Chapter 5A, the Greater Bundahisn introduces ‘the horoscope of the World, which is set for the moment that the Adversary arrived, at noon on the vernal Equinox. Verse two describes the chart by listing the signs on the cusps of the twelve houses, (in terms that contemporary Western astrologers would recognize) and lists the positions of the planets within them.

     The sign Cancer was rising on the ascendant (19 degrees) marking the house of Life, and Jupiter was placed there.  Libra, on the “house of the foundation” contains the planet Saturn. Mars is disposed in Capricorn in the house of partnership while Venus and Mercury are in Pisces in the ninth house of “Activity.” The Sun was in Aries at the Mid-heaven and the Moon was in Taurus in the house of “Auspiciousness.“ Verse two also includes the Dragon’s Head in Gemini in the house of Misfortune and “the thief Dragon’s tail” is in Sagittarius in the house of Servants.

Verse 3 states that as the planets came into the firmament in this manner, they were immediately engaged in combat with the constellations, and reiterates the adversarial relationships given in verse 4. However, as it transpired:

“the Seven Bears (Haptoring) and Sataves (Aldeberan) happened to be of greater vigour than Jupiter and Venus; they disabled Jupiter and Venus from doing harm. For this reason the astrologers call them beneficent. Mars happened to be more vigorous than Antares, and Saturn than the Lord of the Throne; their harmfulness is evident. Therefore, astrologers reckon them as maleficent; and Mercury, who is Apaosh dev, came against Sirius (Tishtar); both happened to be of equal strength and of equal vigour. Therefore, astrologers say "Mercury is beneficent with the beneficent ones, and maleficent with the maleficent ones..."

     In all of this is revealed a complete theological system which rationalizes many of the traditional rules of astrology (still used by practicing astrologers today) while continually weaving all the astrological considerations into the ongoing and ultimate battle between good and evil.

    In the Selections of Zadspram, Ch. 4, vs. 5-10, the author elaborates on this idea of the World Chart, but this time in reference to the creation of the first man, Gayomard, by Ohrmazd. Ahriman is intent on destroying Gayomard, and directs his evil creatures to launch a treacherous series of attacks upon him. However,

5. Gayomard was not secured by them, and the reason was because it was a decree of appointing Time (zurvan) in the beginning of the coming in of Ahriman, that: 'Up to thirty winters I appoint Gayomard unto brilliance and preservation of life.'...

7. For in the beginning it was so appointed that the star Jupiter (Ohrmazd) was life towards the creatures, not through its own nature, but on account of its being within the control (band) of the luminaries; and Saturn (Keyvan) was death towards the creatures. 8. Both were in their supremacy (balist) at the beginning of the creatures, as Jupiter was in Cancer on rising, that which is also called Jivan ('living'), for it is the place in which life is bestowed upon it; and Saturn was in Libra, in the great subterranean, so that its own venom and deadliness became more evident and more dominant thereby.

9. And it was when both shall not be supreme that Gayomard was to complete his own life, which is the thirty years Saturn came not again to supremacy, that is, to Libra. 10. And at the time when Saturn came into Libra, Jupiter was in Capricorn, on account of whose own lowness, and the victory of Saturn over Jupiter, Gayomard suffered through those very defects which came and are to continue advancing, the continuance of that disfigurement which Ahriman can bring upon the creatures of Ohrmazd.”

     The full system of zodiacal world ages is explained in several different places throughout the Pahlavi literature but it receives particularly detailed treatment in both the Bundahisn and the Greater Bundahisn. While the various systems are fairly consistent on the idea of twelve millennia, there are inconsistencies between the documents in the way that historical events are parcelled out among the various millennia. For instance, the following verse from the Greater Bundahisn, Ch. Vb, communicates the general idea of astrological world ages, but in this particular system, the evil god doesn’t arrive until the seventh millennium.

15. Again, there is this that till the advent of the Adversary, six thousand years of time had elapsed: three thousand years in spirituality, and three thousand years of materiality in purity; and those six thousand years were from Aries up to Virgo, and each constellation ruled a thousand years.

16. As the rule of the millennium came to Libra, which is the house of fall, the fall of the Sun, the Adversary entered from underneath.

17. Saturn was disposed in Libra; on account of having been in his own exaltation, which is in Libra, Saturn accepted the rule of the millennium; as Aries is above Libra, Saturn the ruler of darkness, the Sun the ruler of light, adverse to darkness: so, too, is Libra the exaltation of Saturn and the fall of the Sun, and Aries the exaltation of the Sun and the fall of Saturn.

     Nearer the end of the Greater Bundahisn is Ch. XXXVI, subtitled:  ‘As regards the (Taji) year reckoning of time, of twelve thousand years.’  The first two verses recapitulate the same six millennia ruled by Aries to Virgo that we found earlier in Ch. V.  Again, the adversary entered in the Libra millennium, but in this chapter, much fuller details are given, describing the first man, Gayomard, and the first man and wife, Mashye and Mashyane, and their first child, Hooshang.

In verse 6, the millennium came to Scorpio, and verse 7, the millennium came to Sagittarius. Again, a certain amount of history is included, describing the reigns of kings and leading up to the rule of Kay Vishtasp, the ruler who was converted by Zoroaster. In verse 8 when the millennium came to Capricorn, Zartosht of Spitama appeared. Verses 9 and 10 list the rulers and the length of their reigns from Vishtasp through the Sasanians:

“till the brood of the Tajis (Arabs) gained the position up to the Parsik year four hundred and forty-seven.   10. At present it is the Parsik year five hundred and twenty-seven.”

     While it is hard to resist pursuing the fascinating implications about the date of Zoroaster’s ministry that are raised in this chronology, they must remain beyond the scope of this paper. I rather doubt that the author of this chapter of the Greater Bundahisn was reckoning with any intent to authoritatively date the historical Zoroaster. His numbers reveal an alternative agenda.

Verse 9 lists the length of the Sasanian dynasty, beginning with Ardashir, son of Babag (Papak), as 460 years. If we reckon the beginning of Ardashir’s reign and his defeat of the Arsacids as approximately 224 A.D., (Frye, 2001, 2), that brings us to the year 684 A.D., or 62 years post-Hegira, for the coming of the Arabs (Tajis). At the same time, adding up the years of the reigns as they are given between the appearance of Zoroaster at the beginning of the Capricorn millennium to the coming of the Arabs yields a figure of 1016 years.

     That is, just a little bit more than an exact millennium from the appearance of the prophet of the Capricorn age, to the coming of the new, millennial revelation of Islam. Of course, the author is reckoning from the coming of the Arabs, not from any particular event in Mohammed’s ministry, which would have been a few decades earlier. Either way, he slots the birth of Islam right into the beginning of the Aquarian millennium, but without ever overtly saying so and instead, letting his numbers speak for themselves. Of course, this chapter could be a later Islamic insertion.

     In the earlier Ch. XXXIII, entitled ‘As regards the calamities which befell Iranshahr {The Iranian Empire}, in each millennium’ the more orthodox Zoroastrian version of the millenniums is presented, complete with the three subsequent World Saviours.  In Ch. XXXIII, the Adversary comes in the first millenium and Zartosht and his revelation arrive in the fourth. Verse 29 says that in the fifth millennium, Aushedar, son of Zartosht...,

“...the true messenger, will come from Ohrmazd. He too will bring the Revelation (Den) just as Zartosht had brought, and promulgate it. And privation and drought will diminish, and liberality, peacefulness, and unrevengefulness will increase in the whole world. He will give greenness to the trees for three years. And the river Vataeni will flow with a horse's strength. And the springs and the sea of Kayansah will flow again. For ten days and nights the sun will stand at the zenith of the sky, and all of the wolf species will perish...”

     Unfortunately, at the end of the fifth millennium, Ahriman unleashes one of his evil minions, Malkus, to undo all the good. Then, at the beginning of the sixth millennium comes the second of the sons of Zartosht, Aushedar-mah. He is even better than his brother, and makes the trees green for six years and causes the sun to stand still at the zenith for twenty days.

     Even though Aushedar-mah destroys many of the evil and noxious creatures of Ahriman, at the end of his millenium even more evil ’Great Beasts” are unleashed on the world. Then the Saoshyant, the third and greatest son of Zartosht, appears and begins his millennium.  Chapter XXXIII of the Greater Bundahisn ends with this reminder of how these millennial sons of Zoroaster came about.

“36. As regards these three sons of Zartosht, such as Aushedar, Aushedar-mah, and Soshyant, one says, “Before Zartosht wedded, they had consigned the glory (khwarrah) of Zartosht for preservation, in the sea Kayansah to the glory of the waters, that is to the Yazad Anahit." 37. They say, "Even now they are seeing three lamps glowing at night in the bottom of the sea. And each one of them will arrive when it is their own cycle." 38. It will so happen that a virgin will go to the water of Kayansah in order to wash her head; the glory (khwarrah) will mingle within her body, and she will be pregnant. They will one-by-one be born thus in their own cycle.

    Chapter 34 of the Bundahisn presents the same 12 millennia ruled over by the zodiac signs as they are given in both Ch. Vb and Ch. XXXVI of the Greater Bundahisn. The Adversary enters in the seventh millennia under Libra. The Bundahisn also lists the same rulers and reigns as the Greater Bundahisn, resulting in the same 1016 year millennium between "the coming of the religion" in the reign of Kay Vishtasp, until "it went to the Arabs," and with that, both the chapter and the Bundahisn come to an end.

     So from the pages of the Pahlavi texts arises an astrological eschatology in which time is divided into millennia which are ruled over by the signs of the zodiac. The revelations of new religions and the appearance of great religious leaders are also linked to this astrological millenarianism, both in the original Zoroastrian concept of World Saviours and in later Islamic millennial extrapolations. Zurvan Zoroastrianism appears to be the specific context in which these ideas arose, and subsequently influenced the same Islamic astrologers whose work was imported into Europe and further developed into Christian astrological millennialism.

     While we do get a strong sense of the impact of the coming of Islam on these works, it is difficult to determine an accurate age for the material contained in them. As Frye concludes,

"It must be emphasized that we have no old manuscripts of the Avesta, none earlier than thirteenth or fourteenth century, but the existence of a written Avesta in Sasanian times much as we know it today seems assured in spite of the overwhelming importance of the oral tradition." (Frye, 2001, 2)

     Verse 14 of Ch. 33 of the Greater Bundahisn recounts the real problem with dating Zoroastrian material:

"Then, during the reign of Darius son of Darius, the emperor Alexander came to Iranshahr, hying from Arum, killed king Darius, destroyed all the families of rulers, magi, and public men of Iranshahr, extinguished an immense number of sacred fires, seized the commentary (zand) of the Revelation of Mazda-worship, and sent it to Arum, burned the Avesta, and divided Iranshahr among ninety petty rulers."

Questions of Priority

The ancient Avestan language

used in 



indicates that 


were composed

sometime between

1200 - 1400 


     So which came first, Judeo-Christian millenarianism or the Zurvan Zoroastrian brand? 

Obviously, it is difficult to date any Zoroastrian ideas on the basis of textual evidence, because of the destruction of their traditional literature during the invasions of Alexander. Still, there is the intriguing reference to the Persian millenniums attributed to Theopompus, dating from the 4th century B.C. (Boyce, 1984, 96-97).

      Said Amir Arjomand makes a case for the priority of Persian ideas in his article, “Messianism, Millennialism and Revolution,” concluding that:

“...the earliest apocalyptic texts, especially early parts of the Book of Enoch, predate the mid-second-century BCE Maccabean revolt considerably. At least some of the Zoroastrian apocalyptic ideas are older still. Let me mention the cosmological notion of the glorious renewal of the world (frasho-kereti) at the end of time, the view of world history as the succession in world dominion of the four empires in the Bahman Yasht, and the millennial division of time into twelve periods of 1,000 years, each under the domination of an astral divinity of a sign of the Zodiac. These Persian notions spread widely in the Hellenistic era and gave rise to a particular oracular form of resistance to Hellenistic domination that was absorbed into intertestamental apocalypticism.”

(Amanat & Bernhardsson, 2002, 107)

     Naturally, the more orthodox Jewish and Christian sources claim priority, but their claims are equally hard to establish on the basis of textual evidence. Still, it stretches credulity to contend that somehow the Christians needed a divine revelation to provide them with beliefs their Persian neighbours had already held for generations. Any objective analysis of the origins of Jewish or Christian millenarianism must thoroughly consider the Persian context.

     Norman Cohn, in Cosmos, Chaos and the World to Come, places the development of both Judaic and Christian eschatology squarely upon Persian roots. For example, the word, Raz, which the writers of the Qumran community used in their scrolls to mean the secret knowledge of God's plan for the end of time, is a Persian loan word, borrowed from Zoroastrian teachings where it was regularly used to mean the same thing (Cohn, 1995, 224). Cohn comments on the similarities between Zurvan Zoroastrianism and the Qumran Community Rule, with its emphasis on the two warring spirits, the prince of light and the prince of darkness, leading to the Essene apocalypse (Cohn, 1995, 227). Even the Pharisees, (or Farsis) revealed their Persian influences in their belief in the Zoroastrian resurrection of the body.

     Of course, everything changed after the destruction of the Temple in 70 A.D. While the surviving remnants of Judaism made a conservative and gradual return to the Torah in the following centuries, the Jewish sect we now know as the Christian Church stayed closer to its Persian roots.  Cohn points out that the book of Revelation shares many of the same symbolic representations of Ahriman and his creatures as the Zoroastrian scriptures, including (in Ch. 16) the evil dragon with frogs coming out of its mouth which closely resembles the Zoroastrian dragon, Azi-Dahaka.  Cohn concludes that these resemblances between Iranian legends and Christian prophecy are “too close to be mere coincidence” while there is nothing comparable within the religion of ancient Israel (Cohn, 1995, 230).  Cohn challenges the common assumption that places the origin of “linear time” among the Hebrew prophets, and concludes that the Christian belief in the ultimate battle between Good and Evil and the Last Judgement was a direct result of the impact of Zoroastrian teachings on the Jewish community at crucial points in their history (Cohn, 1995, 231).

      Perhaps the strongest arguments for the priority of the Persian ideas are derived from context. The ultimate battle between good and evil only becomes necessary within the Zoroastrian context. There, the apocalypse is implicit within the creation and consistent with the whole body of religious teachings. On the other hand, the problem of the existence evil and its ultimate resolution is entirely tacit in early Judeo-Christianity. The role of the devil and his true origins are never fully explained, but rather, only hinted at in disparate pieces of folklore that have no real theological authority or consistency. Much is made of the serpent in the Garden of Eden, of the angel blocking Balaam’s path, of Job’s accuser, or of apocryphal tales about the fall of Lucifer, but there is nothing in canonical Judeo-Christian scripture that specifically explains who Satan is, where he got his demons, or why he is so necessary. We call that "the problem of evil." 

 In comparison with Zoroastrianism‘s incipient dualism, it looks more and more like a cut-and-paste job.

Sources can be found in the Bibliography

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