The Avesta is, indeed, our principal source for the doctrine of Zoroaster; on the subject of his person and his life it is comparatively reticent; with regard to his date it is, naturally enough, absolutely silent.
According to Darmesteter, the Zarathustra of the Avesta is a mere myth, a divinity invested with human attributes, an incarnation of the storm-god, who with his divine word, the thunder, comes and smites the demons.
Darmesteter has failed to realize sufficiently the distinction between the Zoroaster of the later Avesta and the Zoroaster of the Gathas.
It cannot be denied that in the later Avesta, and still more in writings of more recent date, he is presented in a legendary light and endowed with superhuman powers.
The Gathas alone within the Avesta make claim to be the ipsissima verba of the prophet; in the rest of that work they are put into Zoroaster's own mouth (Yasna, 9, 1) and are expressly called "the Gathas of the holy Zoroaster" (Yasna, 57, 8).
According to the Avesta (Yasna, 9, 17),, Airyanem Vaejo, on the river Daitya, the old sacred country of the gods, was the home of Zoroaster, and the scene of his.
On this point the Avesta is wholly silent: only one obscure passage (Yasna, 53, 9) seems to intimate that he found an ill reception in Rai.
Already in the later Avesta he has become a half-mythical figure, the last in the series of heroes of east Iranian legend, in the arrangement of which series priestly influence is unmistakably evident.
His first disciple, Maidhyoimaongha, was his cousin: his father was, according to the later Avesta, Pourushaspa, his mother Dughdova, his great-grandfather Haecataspa, and the ancestor of the whole family Spitama, for which reason Zarathushtra usually bears this surname.
His death is, for reasons easily intelligible, nowhere mentioned in the Avesta; in the Shah-Nama he is said to have been murdered at the altar by the Turanians in the storming of Balkh.
The most striking difference between Zoroaster's doctrine of God and the old religion of India lies in this, that while in the Avesta the evil spirits are called daeva (Modern Persian div), the Aryans of India, in common with the Italians, Celts and Letts, gave the name of deva to their good spirits, the spirits of light.
Thus, in the later Avesta, we find not only Mithra but also purely popular divinities such as the angel of victory, Verethraghna, Anahita (Anaitis), the goddess of the water, Tishrya (Sirius), and other heavenly bodies, invoked with special preference.
Under the name of Mouru this place is mentioned with Bakhdi (Balkh) in the geography of the Zend-Avesta (Vendidad, ed Spiegel, 1852-1863), which dates probably from at least 1200 B.C. Under the name of Margu it occurs in the cuneiform (Behistun) inscriptions of the Persian monarch Darius Hystaspis, where it is referred to as forming part of one of the satrapies of the ancient Persian Empire.
- The cult goes back to a period before the separation of the Persians from the Hindus, as is shown by references in the literatures of both stocks, the Avesta and the Vedas.
In the Avesta, after the separation of the Iranian stock from the Hindu and the rise of Zoroastrianism, which elevated Ormazd to the summit of the Persian theological system, his role was more distinct, though less important; between Ormazd, who reigned in eternal brightness, and Ahriman, whose realm was eternal darkness, he occupied an intermediate position as the greatest of the yazatas, beings created by Ormazd to aid in the destruction of evil and the administration of the world.
- The sources of present knowledge regarding Mithraism consist of the Vedas, the Avesta, the Pahlevi writings, Greek and Latin literature and inscriptions,.
In 1771 he published his Zend-Avesta (3 vols.), containing collections from the sacred writings of the fire-worshippers, a life of Zoroaster, and fragments of works ascribed to him.
In the Avesta (Vendidad, Fargard xix.
In the more ethical religion of the Avesta the creator is more clearly distinguished from the creature: " I desire to approach Ahura and Mithra with my praise, the lofty eternal, and the holy two."
Cp. the "fair shepherd" Yima of the Avesta (Vend.
It may be noted that in all the ceremonies in the religion of the Avesta, incantations, prayers and confessions play a very large part.
2) showed that one at least of the fundamental myths of Mani was borrowed from the Avesta, namely, that which recounts how through the manifestation of the virgin of light and of the messenger of salvation to the libidinous princes of darkness the vital substance or light held captive in their limbs was liberated and recovered for the realm of light.
Here we recognize a technical term of the Avesta - namely, the "Frasho-kereti," that is the reanimation of the world or resurrection of the dead (Darmesteter, op. cit., p. 239).
In the Avesta Sraosha is the angel that guards the world at night from demons, and is styled "the righteous" or "the strong."
Just as the background of Christianity was formed by the Hebrew scriptures, and just as the Hebrew legends of the creation became the basis of its scheme of human redemption from evil, so the Avesta, with its quaint cosmogony and myths, formed the background of Mani's new faith.
In both the Rig Veda and Zend Avesta soma is the king of plants; in both it is a medicine which gives health, long life and removes death.
As an expression of the Iranian mind we have the Avesta and the Pehlevi theological literature.
Unfortunately in a question of this kind the dating of our documents is the first matter of importance, and it seems that we can only assign dates to the different parts of the Avesta by processes of finedrawn conjecture.
And even if we could date the Avesta securely, we could only prove borrowing by more or less close coincidences of idea, a tempting but uncertain method of inquiry.
Taking an opinion based on such data for what it is worth, we may note that Darmesteter believed in the influence of the later Greek philosophy (Philonian and Neo-platonic) as one of those which shaped the Avesta as we have it (Sacred Books of the East, iv.
As there can be scarcely any doubt that it was in these regions, where the fertile soil of the mountainous country is everywhere surrounded and limited by the Turanian desert, that the prophet Zoroaster preached and gained his first adherents, and that his religion spread from here over the western parts of Iran, the sacred language in which the Avesta, the holy book of Zoroastrianism, is written, has often been called "old Bactrian."
ZEND - AVESTA, the original document of the religion of Zoroaster, still used by the Parsees as their bible and prayer-book.
The name " Zend-Avesta " has been current in Europe since the time of Anquetil Duperron (c. 1771), but the Parsees themselves call it simply Avesta, Zend (i.e.
Justi (Leipzig, 1864); editions for the Avesta by N.
The Zend is said to be a branch of the Lak tribe, dating from the time of the Kaianian kings, and claims to have been charged with the care of the Zend-Avesta by Zoroaster himself.1 The tree attached to Markhams chapter on the dynasty contains the names of eight members of the family only, i.e.
Our Zend-Avesta does not mean the Avesta in the Zend language, but is an incorrect transcription of the original expression Avistgk Va zand, i.e.
In its present form the Avesta is not the work of a single author or of any one age, but embraces collections produced during a long period.
These songs form the true kernel of the book Yasna; they must have been in existence long before all the other parts of the Avesta, throughout the whole of which allusions to them occur.
These gthas are what they claim to be, and what they are honored in the whole Avesta as beingthe actual productions of the prophet himself or of his time.
If, then, the gathas reach back to the time of Zoroaster, and he himself, according to the most probable estimate, lived as early as the 14th century B.C., the oldest component parts of the Avesta are hardly inferior in age to the oldest Vedic hymns.
The Avesta is divided into three parts: (I) Yasna, with an appendix, Visparad, a collection of prayers and forms for divine service; (2) Vendidad, containing directions for purification and the penal code of the ancient Persians; (3) Khordah-Avesta, or the Small Avesta, containing the Yasht, the contents of which are for the most part mythological, with shorter prayers for private devotion.
The language of the other parts of the Avesta is more modern, it not all of one date, so that we can follow the gradual decline Z Zend in the Avesta itself.