Zoroastrianism and Biblical Religion
By Charles David Isbell
Jewish Bible Quarterly, Vol. 34:3 (2006)
Introduction: In two previous articles, I have addressed the current debate among biblical scholars about the historical reliability of the Bible. In “Minimalism: The Debate Continues: Part I” I surveyed briefly the arguments upon which the proponents of Minimalism rely in efforts to defend their theory that the literature of the Hebrew Bible is essentially a product of the Persian era or the even later Greek period. I offered the opinion that if one presumes that the Bible was composed as a political document to induce the Persian government to grant leadership to a particular group, the story of the Bible is ill suited to such a purpose. In “Minimalism: The Debate Continues: Part II” I offered a critical review of one of the major books written by the influential minimalist Thomas Thompson.
In this article, I shall offer a cursory survey of the questions of dependence, borrowing, and influence between Zoroastrianism and biblical religion.
For the past 200 years, scholars of Scripture have recognized the literary relationships between biblical narratives and various extra-biblical sources. Rich archaeological recoveries have illustrated that the literary format of the Bible belongs to a diverse family of ancient Mediterranean literary traditions from Mesopotamia, Egypt, Asia Minor, Syria-Palestine, and Phoenicia. Here I have chosen to offer illustrations from only two of these sources, Egypt and Mesopotamia, and to give only a brief sample of the rich cultural exchanges that these two mighty lands had with the people of the Bible.
Despite any differences in the theological arguments being made by the respective accounts, it is difficult to avoid the literary relationship between biblical narratives like stories about Creation and the Flood and similar accounts now recovered from Babylonian and other Mesopotamian sources. One of the most striking examples occurs in the accounts of a great and universal Flood found both in the Bible and in Sumerian and Babylonian sources.