Does Zoroastrianism predate Christianity and is the idea that Christianity borrowed the resurrection of Jesus from the religion believable?
Do you have any good sources to find the truth out about Zoroaster and the claims that it predates Christianity and we stole a lot of our claims from them including a resurrected Lord? If you could in brief give an answer as well, I would appreciate your time.
First of all, there is no doubt that Zoroastrianism predated Christianity. Zoroaster (also known as Zarathustra) was most likely an actual person who lived in ancient Persia, probably before 600 BC, and possibly before 1000 BC. The fact that scholars do not even know the century when he lived is worth noting. His religion was dualistic–meaning that the world view of Zoroaster was a battle between forces of good and evil which the good does not win. Zoroastrian worship is directed toward Ahura Mazda, including fire worship. It includes an evil god of essentially equal power to Ahura Mazda. This was the dominant religion in the ruling class of the Persian Empire in the sixth to fourth centuries BC. Zoroastrianism has been virtually eliminated in Iran today by Islam, but there is a very small remnant of the religion today in India. There is some evidence that Zoroaster was building on a native religion that goes all the way back to the second millennium BC. This religion influenced the Aryan religions that infiltrated India, having some effect even on modern Hinduism.
The claim you have come across is that Zoroastrianism, with its dualism, influenced Judaism and, therefore, also Christianity. It is hard to prove either that Zoroastrianism influenced Judaism or that Judaism influenced Zoroastrianism. It is even harder to prove that they did NOT influence each other. What we can say is that Abraham and Moses both lived long before Zoroaster. The Mosaic Law, the Psalms of David and many of the prophets wrote before Zoroaster was even born. Therefore it is common sense to conclude it is more likely that Judaism influenced Zoroaster than vice versa. Judaism is avowedly monotheistic, while Zoroastrianism is dualistic and emerged from polytheism. There is no obvious connection between these religions, but scholars can speculate some connections of they so choose to. In any case, I believe the evidence for the inspiration of the Bible is sufficient that this unproved claim need have no major impact on our understanding of the Bible.
Some who teach the Christ Myth Theory (such as Robert Price who debated Douglas Jacoby at one of our conferences. The DVD is available at www.ipibooks.com), claim that the early church created a mythical Jesus by borrowing from many of the god/man myths in the Near East at the time, including the Zoroaster myth. This theory falls apart pretty quickly if we consider the fact (not theory: fact!) that Jesus was a real person. We know where he was born, where he lived, where he had his ministry, how and when he died. We also know the names of his father, mother, cousin, aunt and uncle, four of his brothers and dozens of his personal friends. Some of his personal friends recorded their eye-witness testimony about what he said and did. This includes Matthew, John and Peter. If the Jesus story is a myth, then some of the greatest, most honest and sacrificial people who ever lived, such as Paul, John, Matthew and others were blatant liars. The reason the Bible says that Jesus was raised from the dead is that there were more than 500 eye-witnesses to the fact, as reported by Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:6. The historical fact is that the tomb where they lay Jesus was empty. The early church did not borrow the idea of the resurrection from a religion which radically contradicts the Christian message. The fact that some are willing to propose this ridiculous idea tells you something about the ones who make this claim, not about Jesus. Besides, the claims of parallels between Zoroaster and Christ are either exaggerated and taken out of context or downright fabrications. There are many books on world religions. I suggest you get one from your local library and read the section on Zoroastrianism. Any of these will do. You will not find any of the claimed parallels between Jesus and Zoroaster in these books. For example, the claim that Zoroastrians believe Zoroaster was resurrected simply is not true. As for good sources on this, you will find no “good” sources on the parallels because there are none. I invite you to visit some of the web sites of these Jesus-Myth people and see what they have to say.
Let us consider some facts about Zoroastrianism and its scripture. First of all, the earliest writing down of the scripture of Zoroastrianism was in the fourth century AD (yes, AD). The oldest manuscript we have of the Avesta–the principle scripture of Zoroastrianism–is from the fourteenth century AD. Most of the claimed parallels between Jesus and Zoroaster are not found at all in the Avesta. The few which are can more easily be explained as coincidence (in other words, different religions will sometimes have similar characteristics) or because of borrowing from Christianity into Zoroastrianism, rather than the reverse, because the Christian scripture predates the Zoroastrian scripture. As for parallels, there is an idea of bodily resurrection in Zoroastrianism. Whether this was included in the religion before the time of Christ is hard to say, but what we can say is that, in any case, the Avesta does not claim that Zoroaster himself was resurrected from the dead. So much for the parallel between Jesus and Zoroaster and for the idea that the church got the idea of the resurrection from the Avesta. Other parallels have been claimed by Jesus-Mythers. They claim that Zoroaster was baptized in a river. There is no mention of this in any Zoroastrian scripture. They claim that his was a virgin birth. The Avesta refers to a “kingly glory” that was inherited by Zoroaster through is mother, but it is hard to see this as equivalent to a virgin birth. Another claim is that Zoroaster, like Jesus, was tempted by Satan in the wilderness. There is perhaps some parallel here, as Zoroaster was tempted for ten years (rather than forty days) by a sub-demon named J. Buiti, not by the Zoroastrian equivalent of Satan (who, by the way is not equivalent to Satan, but who is equal to Ahura Mazda in power).
The analysis could continue, but if one considers the claims of parallelism, they are generally non-existent or over-blown. The ones which are perhaps arguably indeed parallel are more likely explained by borrowing of Zoroastrianism from Christianity than vice-versa, given the date of the writing of these scriptures. More likely, they are simply independent writings. Either way, the idea that the resurrection of Jesus was a fabrication of the early Christians, stolen from Zoroastrianism is absolutely untenable. No rational person could accept this thesis unless from some sort of extreme bias.
I hope this will get you started.