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Zoroaster Amalgamated

Zoroaster Amalgamated

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Published by: مرتزآ بهرامی on Oct 16, 2012
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01/27/2014

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Zoroaster Amalgamated: Notes on Iranian ProphetologyAuthor(s): William R. DarrowSource:
History of Religions,
Vol. 27, No. 2 (Nov., 1987), pp. 109-132Published by: The University of Chicago PressStable URL:
Accessed: 11/03/2009 01:16
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WilliamR. Darrow ZOROASTERAMALGAMATED:NOTESONIRANIANPROPHETOLOGYAlthoughZoroaster declares himselfin thegdthasamaOrdnYasna[hereafterabbreviatedY.]50:6),1one whoconveysmantras,andapriest(zaotar) (Y. 33:6),thetendencytoview Zoroaster asafoundingprophetis common.There is noquestionthatZoroaster wasviewedas theeponymousfounderofhis tradition andthat each memberproclaimshim- orherself"aZoroastrianMazdaworshiper"(Y. 12:1).Unfortunately,the slimnessofourevidenceandthelackof com-parativecontextconcerningthe"historical" Zoroastermeansthatitwillnever bepossibleto elucidateveryclearlywhatnotionsoffounderandreligious communityinformedtheearly historyof the tradition.Thecategoryofprophecyhasbeenemployedtodescribe Zoroaster'sself-conceptionandactivity.Wemaybroadlydistinguishtwointer-twinedfeaturesof thecategoryofprophet,thehistoricaland thesociological.Thehistoricaldimension was createdbythetranslationoftheHebrew nabf'bythe Greekprophetes,thusconnectingtwodifferent butcomparablereligiousinstitutions.2 Greco-Romaninstitu-tions oforacular divination differfromthe ancientNear Eastern and
An earlier version ofthispaperwas delivered attheAmerican OrientalSocietymeetinginAustin,Texas,March 1982.IZoroastrianwritingsarecited within text. Translationsare mineunlessotherwisenoted.
2
For an excellentsurveyof the evidenceonGreco-Roman, Israelite,andearlyChristianpropheticcults andpropheticforms ofspeech,cf.DavidE.Aune,Prophecy
1987byTheUniversityofChicago.Allrightsreserved.0018-2710/88/2702-0001$01.00
 
Zoroaster AmalgamatedIsraelite institutionsofprophecy,buttheydo sharecertain commonfeatures. These includetheuseof trance and ecstatictechnique,setforms ofspeechfordeliveringoracles,andcontinuingculticinstitu-tions.Itisbyno meansclearthatZoroaster'sactivityshouldbe seenaccordingtothesecultic institutions.Therole of trance in Zoroaster'spoeticcreation ishotlydebated.3The mantricform ofspeechrepre-sentedbythegdthdsdiffers ratherdramaticallyin formandcontentfromthe formsofpropheticand oracularpronouncements.Finally,Zoroaster leftnocontinuingculticinstitutionofdivinationorprophecy.Sociologically,theprophetis anindividualwhoestablisheshisauthoritybyvirtue ofhis charisma and standsincontrastto thepriestandthemagician.The"ethicalprophet,"toemployMaxWeber'ssubcategory, proclaimsauniversal ethicalmessagethat containsatrenchantsocialcritiqueand seeksto maintain areligioculturalidentitythroughfundamentalreform.4The ethicalmessageoftheHebrewprophetsand the career of Muhammadare centralexamplesofthiscategory.In thepastfewyearsanthropologicalcasestudiesofprophecyinmore recentperiodshave enrichedthisdiscussion.5Thosewho have stressed the socialcritiqueandethicalmessageof thegdthdshavehadtheimageoftheHebrewprophetsclose at hand.6Those who view Zoroasteras a critic and reformer ofanearlierpolytheisticcult havethe careerof Muhammadnottoo farinthebackground.7Eventhosescholars whohavedenied that Zoroaster's
inEarly Christianityand the Ancient MediterraneanWorld(GrandRapids,Mich.:Wm. B. EerdmansPublishingCo.,1983).3The most famousproposalconcerningZoroaster'suseofhempandgeneralshamanic character was madebyH. S.Nyberg,DieReligionendesaltenIran,trans.H. Schaeder(1938;reprint,Osnabruck:OttoZeller,1966),and was attackedbyW. B.Henning,Zoroaster-PoliticianorWitch-Doctor?(Oxford:OxfordUniversityPress,1951).Theobtainingof mantrasinIndo-Iranianreligionsdoes not seem to have beendependentontechniquesofecstasyortrance.
4
MaxWeber,TheSociology of Religion,trans.EphraimFischoff(Boston:BeaconPress,1963),pp.46-59.
5
CompareThomasW.Overholt,Prophecyin Cross-culturalPerspective,SBLSourcesfor BiblicalStudyno.17(Atlanta:ScholarsPress,1986),for arecent collectionofprimarymaterialsfrom theAmericas,theArctic,India,andthePacific and ausefulbibliography.The roleplayed bythe model ofearlierprophetsin these morerecent movements is sometimesoverlookedin anattemptto makethese movementspurer laboratorycases.
6
A focus on thegathasasprimarilycontainingan ethicalmessageinformsStanleyInsler'stranslation,TheGathdsofZarathustra,ActaIranicano.8(TehranandLiege:BibliothequePahlavi,1975).
7
Forexample,R. C.Zaehner,TheDawn andTwilightofZoroastrianism(London:Weidenfeld &Nicolson, 1961).
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