Move over Christianity and Judaism – was Zoroastrianism a more popular monotheistic religion?
Q: Zoroastrianism was probably the most followed monotheistic religion for at least a thousand years. Yet to my knowledge, the Christian Bible and Jewish Talmud is silent on its existence. Why? Did either the Jews or the early Christians recognize the similarities between their religions and Zoroastrian beliefs?
A Historian’s Take: “So, to start, it’s really arguable whether Zoroastrianism can be described as monotheistic (it’s a little bit perspective-dependent), but I think the more salient point is that it didn’t historically construe itself as monotheistic. Let’s make a simple comparison – consider Christianity and its trinity, and especially Catholicism with its veneration of saints. Are these obviously monotheistic from an outsider’s point of view? Well, early muslims for one had their doubts about that, and Islam has a more limited conception of monotheism (centering on the ‘one-ness’ of God) that it applies to itself and Judaism, but not necessarily to Christianity. Certain Christian sects, like Jehovah’s Witnesses, even reject the trinity out of these concerns.
“So the point I’m making with this is that ‘monotheism’ is, in a sense, more of an ideological statement than one that objectively describe a religion (as opposed to the set of texts, traditions, rituals, etc that makes up the religion’s contents). And, crucially for this discussion, it is an ideological statement that Zoroastrianism did not historically concern itself with. Zoroastrianism includes the veneration of a whole array of deities that represent manifestations of moral concepts (e.g., “devotion”), elements (e.g., ‘fire’), and social order (e.g., ‘power’)… So while I tend to believe there was interaction and transmission of cultural and religious notions between early Jews and Christians and Persian Zoroastrians, it probably would not have taken the form of engaging directly with theology produced a religious elite, or anything similar.” (Zoroastrianism states that they have “belief in Supreme and Universal God. Ahuramazda is the supreme, omniscient and omnipotent God, who symbolizes truth, radiance, purity, order, justice, courage, strength and patience.” But that does not mean they do not have other deities, this is just the reigning god.)