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Religion & Spirituality
Ancient Religions

What are the concepts of Zoroastrianism?


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May 30, 2009 11:22PM

Zoroastrianism is possibly the oldest continuing monotheistic religion. Like all religions, it underwent change over time, but an essential feature is the worship of one supreme god, Ahura Mazda. In ancient practice, Zoroastrians placed great store on honesty and commitment. As we find in the Bible, when the Jews told King Darius of a promise once made by his predecessor Cyrus, Darius unquestioningly fulfilled that promise. It would be hard to find evidence of any ruler, past or present, placing such store on keeping an assumed commitment. There are many striking similarities and many differences in beliefs and practice between Judaism and Zoroastrianism. Some of the ancient beliefs of Zoroastrianism that are found in post-Exilic Judaism include angels and Satan. However, the Jews seem to have baulked at Satan being an autonomous adversary to God, as he is in Zoroastrianism, instead seeing him as a loyal servant of God, whose role is to tempt and test the faithful. The modern Christian concept of Satan more closely reflects the Zoroastrian 'Hostile Spirit' Angra Mainyu. The four sacred elements of earth, wind fire and water are found in Zoroastrianism. Zoroastrian temples kept an eternal flame, and would protect it from invaders. Traditionally, Zoroastrians could neither burn nor bury the dead, because the soil and fire are both sacred; instead, they exposed the bodies of the dead, so that vultures could dispose of them without defiling the elements. The Jews went through a phase when the dead were exposed, but this was only to allow the flesh to rot, after which the bones were stored in an ossuary - once again to avoid defiling the elements. Judaism looks forward to the arrival of the Messiah, but Zoroastrianism teaches that the coming saviour, the Saoshyant, will be born of a virgin and lead humanity in the last battle against evil. The duality of heaven and hell are also found in Zoroastrianism.