Was Christianity created by borrowing from Zoroastrianism? Did Muhammad borrow from Zoroastrianism? How do you explain the parallels?
Is it true that Zoroastrianism created Christianity? Also, did Mohammed get his influence from Zoroastriansism? How is it that this religion is so close to Christianity and Islam? Were they living in the same place? How is it the Zoroastrians believe in a virgin birth and a Son of God? How is it that Zoroastrians pray 5 times a day and Muslims do as well? What’s going on here? Who influence whom? Islam claims that every religion originally claimed the same thing, but that the other religions were later corrupted. Is it possible that the similarities result from this? I don’t see how God could allow his word to be corrupted. For this reason I’m leaning toward concluding that Mohammed stole his ideas. What about the claim that they believe in a savior that will come back? Could it be true that Islam’s claim is right–that they originally came from one religion? Please help me! Did Christianity /Judaism really come from Zorostrainism? How do people know how old the religion is if we don’t even know when Zoroaster was born. Some say 600BC but some say 1000BC to 15000 BC. Can you please please clear this up for me?!
I have answered questions nearly the same as yours a couple of times at the web site and am copying and pasting those Q & As below. Let me add just a few things to what is below.
First of all, the idea that Christianity borrowed from Zoroastrianism is completely untenable, given the evidence. That Judaism borrowed from Zoroastrianism is harder to disprove, but we know that Judaism began well before 1000 BC and Zoroastrianism was founded by Zarathustra some time around 600 BC (it is NOT true that he lived 1000 or 1500 BC, by the way. There was a nascent religion similar to Zoroastrianism in Persia earlier, but Zoroaster lived in the 600s or 700s BC). Therefore it is more likely that Zarathustra/Zoroaster borrowed from Judaism than vice versa. I deal with this question below.
Next, Zoroastrianism does not have a virgin birth of a savior. This is a false rumor created by those who like to push bogus god/man myths. This is extremely bad scholarship. I challenge anyone who claims that Christianity borrowed the idea of the virgin birth of Jesus from Zoroastrianism to produce even the thinnest shred of evidence that this belief was contained in Zoroastrianism before the time of Christ. Such evidence does not exist, plain and simple. Christianity and Zoroastrianism are not close at all. Zoroastrianism is formally dualist–proposing a nearly equal battle between the forces of good and evil. There are many reasons to conclude that these religions have very little in common. There is also no Son of God in Zoroastrianism. Zoroaster is a kind of prophet for this religion, but as far as I know, no Zoroastrian claims that he is God-made-flesh. The parallels between Zoroastrianism are either grossly exaggerated or simply invented.
About praying five times per day, it is true that Islam and Zoroastrianism both include the command to pray five times per day. In neither case is this part of their essential theology, but they do have the practice in common. This might be a coincidence, but it is possible that Muslims borrowed this idea from their Zoroastrian neighbors. The fact is that the Muslim armies conquered Persia, where Zoroastrianism was strong, about 640 AD, so it would not be a shock if the Muslims borrowed the five times/day from their Zoroastrian friends. It is worth noting that Muhammad never commanded praying five times a day and this command is not found anywhere in the Quran. Therefore, we must assume that the practice came later. It is fairly likely that the practice came out of influence from Zoroastrianism, but this would be hard to prove. Did Muhammad himself take his religion from the Zoroastrians? I say no. Both scholars of religion and Muslims will agree that Muhammad borrowed or at least shared ideas in common with Christianity and especially with Judaism. Islam includes Moses, Abraham, Adam, Noah, Jesus, David, Jacob, Isaac and Ishmael. There is no similar relationship between Islam and Zoroastrianism. Early Muslims tolerated Judaism and Christianity, but persecuted Zoroastrians. Therefore, it seems very unlikely, both based on the evidence in their scriptures, and from history, that Muhammad borrowed extensively from Zoroastrianism for his religion, even though it is certain that he had some contact with this religion.
I add much below, but to summarize what I have said so far, there is little if any evidence of either Christianity, Judaism or Islam borrowing significant elements of theology or important teaching from Zoroastrianism. The probable borrowing of the number of times of prayer in Islam from Zoroastrianism is not an essential part of the religion. It is well known that Muhammad borrowed from Christianity and Judaism, as the Quran itself acknowledges. Whether this lessens one’s willingness to accept Islam is to be decided by the individual, but I see no fundamental reason why borrowing from Judaism, in and of itself, makes Islam a false religion.
Islam does not contain the idea of a Messiah, but the Quran does agree that Jesus will come back and that his return will signal the end of time and final judgment. Clearly, Muhammad got this idea from Christianity.
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.
Is the Old Testament plagiarized from the Zoroastrian scriptures?
Is the Old Testament plagiarized from the Zoroastrian scriptures?
Quite simply, no. Many wild theories are thrown about by theologians
looking for something to put into their ThD theses, and this is one of
these ideas. The Zend Avesta is the principle scripture of Zoroastrianism,
the pseudo-monotheistic sun-worshiping religion which began in Persia in
about the seventh century BCE. One principal problem with this theory is
that most of the Old Testament was written long before the Zend Avesta.
The origins of the Zend Avesta are obscure, but the earliest evidence for
its existence comes from about 600 BCE. Assuming that there are parallels
between the Old Testament and the Zend Avesta which require one to
conclude that one borrowed from the other (and this is a big assumption)
the logical implication would be that the Persian scripture borrowed from
the one which preceded it?the Old Testament! The reason theologians are
not attracted to this theory is that it would not provide an interesting
and controversial ThD thesis topic.
Another problem with this theory is that most of the original Zend Avesta
has been completely lost. In fact, it is difficult to prove that Zoroaster
(also known as Zarathustra) himself is even an historical person, as his
origins and even the time of his life are controversial. The Zoroastrians
now rely principally on the Gathas, which are supposed sayings of
Zoroaster. I say supposed sayings of Zoroaster because this book was
written hundreds of years after the Zend Avesta when most of the original
writings had already been lost to posterity. For this reason, it is
difficult to say what was in the Zend Avesta in the first place. This
would make it hard to prove either that the Bible writers borrowed from
the Zoroastrian scripture or vice versa. With little solid evidence in
either direction, much room is left for those who like to speculate and
who make a living out of finding supposed problems with the Bible. You
would do well to be extremely skeptical of such claims. You should look
for some sort of solid evidence to back up the claim that the Bible
writers borrowed from Zoroastrian scripture. To date, I have seen no
reliable evidence to support the claim, but if you find something, I would
request you send the information my way. I will not be holding my breath.
John Oakes, PhD