Hi, Sorry if this doesn't quite fit the current debate. I just wanted to post that I have a website "www.millennium-angel.co.uk" that is about a 2 metre high sculpture that I have had manufactured by computer. This is based on Zoroastrian and Greek imagery and explores how the Zoroastrian and Greek perspectives have influenced modern thought. I hope you might take a look. It is part of a larger project contrasting mystical/eternal and moral/historical spirituality - www.theism.co.uk.
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Why the Judeans? The Persians decided to set up a temple state in Yehud to collect taxes from Abarnahara, their satrapy that covered the Levant and Syria. The people living in this extended area were called Hebrews (effectively 'The Beyonders' meaning beyond the Euphrates river), an appellation that came at least from Assyrian times and was probably ancient. The Jews were the administrators of the temple state which is why they considered themselves a nation of priests. They were the privileged colonists under the protection of the Persian state because they had a serious duty to undertake. Hebrew is really Canaanite or Phoenician which was adopted as the language of Abarnahara, but when the Persian empire collapsed it had already been superseded by Aramaic which was the Persian chancellery language and the language of commerce, so Hebrew remained only as the sacred language of the Jewish scriptures. The priestly people of Yehud therefore came to be understood as Hebrews as well as Jews, but originally it meant a much wider population.
There is no doubt that the Persians spread similar religions to Judaism, in Asia Minor, for example. The cults of Mithras which later emerged into the Roman empire were other such religions with a lot in common with Judaism, and the Persians called all who worshipped these religions the Juddin, quite possible the real origin of the word Jew. All of these Juddin in Hellenistic times and later seemed to consider themselves Jews and placed their loyalty to the temple in the Palestinian hills. This explains the mystery of the Jewish diaspora. There were no 'Jews' before the 'exile' but a few hundred years later, there were millions of them. They had not been breeding like rabbits as the scriptures likes to make out, nor had they been evangelising, but the Persians had been forming the Juddin as the acceptable non-Zoroastrian religion. Unacceptable gods were devils (daevas) but acceptable gods were Ahuras or Lords, and by directing them towards an ethical monotheism, the Persians hoped to have a more easily controlled population.
Why did the Old Testament writings acquire the race-centered, xenophobic character that they have? It was because the nation of priests set themselves up as a nation under the Maccabees. By then the Juddin from Medea to Egypt considered themselves as loyal to Jerusalem, and the Maccabees declared themselves a nation as well as being a religion. Judaism was a religion, but from this time, Jews considered themselves a nation and the confusion began. So, the universal religion that the Zoroastrians aimed for became a narrow religion of an artificial ethnos. Christianity succeeded in universalising it again, and that was through the other arm of Zoroastrianism, Mithraism. Mithraism was strong in Asia Minor and it was here where Christianity took hold first. Mithras is the archangel Michael who is Jesus returning on the clouds with the host of heaven!
Hope this helps, Mike Magee
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Undoubtedly, this site has some of the best information I have found on the formation of western belief systems and their dependency on the Zoroastrian world view. With perhaps a few exceptions based on traditions of pre-exilic days, I wholeheartedly agree with the idea that Judaism and Christianity are nothing but outgrowths of the Iranian religion. But I have a few questions, and if they have already been answered in the text I apologize.
My first question would be: Why the Judeans? Why were the people of Judah in particular selected to be exclusive monotheists? I understand that the Persians promulgated their ideas among other peoples, but we don't hear of monotheism (monolatry?) erupting among Egyptians or Lydians or Syrians, do we?
My second question is : Why did the Old Testament writings acquire the race-centered, xenophobic character that they have? The Persians taught a cosmic faith, not a faith based on ancestry. At what point and why did this sort of thinking evolve?