The Judeo-Christian World



"You worship the fire and sacrifice to it. How has it given you being since you give life to it with wood and other material which feeds it?"
The Rad replied: "We do not take fire to be God; but we worship God through the medium of fire, as you worship God through the Cross ..."

(From the Martyrdom of Mar Giwargis, the St. George of the Persian Christians)

Contact between the Jewish and Iranian worlds began in the 6th century BCE at the time of the Achaemenid king Cyrus the Great who conquered Babylonia and allowed the exiled Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild their temple. Contact continued throughout the Parthian and Sasanian dynasties with ideas from Zoroastrianism permeating Judaism and later Christianity and Islam. In particular, the increased emphasis on the struggle between good and evil emerges in the Intertestamental literature, for example the Testament of Judah refers to the spirit of truth and of deceit, an idea further developed in the Dead Sea scrolls of the Qumran community. Moreover, the doctrine of individual judgement at death, the weighing of good and bad deeds and the separation of the righteous from the wicked is a theme that has its first and fullest expression in Zoroastrian theology, doctrines which are familiar to Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Conversely it seems likely that Judaeo-Christian ideas entered Zoroastrianism when Iranian dynasties ruled the Near East. In the Zoroastrian account of creation the myth of the first man and woman, Mashya and Mashyana, is intended to caution mankind against temptation. Muslim Iranian painters depicted the pair in a garden being tempted by Angra Mainyu (the Zoroastrian Satan) in the form of an old man offering a pomegranate.

Tomb of Esther Three magi in Persian dress Temptation of Mashya and Mashyana Adoration of the Magi, Armenia Last Judgement, Kariye Camii, Istanbul