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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Baha'i Faith and Zoroastrianism

In 19th-century Iran, the founder of the Bahá'í Faith, Bahá'u'lláh, was acclaimed by a significant number of Zoroastrian converts, mainly from Yazd and Kerman, as the promised Sháh Bahrám Varjávand, a Zoroastrian messianic king foretold in several Pahlavi and New Persian texts. Later, still other Zoroastrians, primarily from the Írání Zoroastrian community in India, were won over to the nascent faith. (There were actually few converts from among the Parsis.) Indeed, Zoroastrians were among the first non-Muslim converts to the Bahá'í Faith in its formative era.

Recognition of the advent of this promised saviour depended greatly on one's perception and acceptance of Bahá'u'lláh's fulfilment of Zoroastrian prophecies. This fulfilment was not literal at the level of text, which required certain prodigies to establish prophetic warrant, and had laid out a scenario wherein the Zoroastrian religion and the vanquished Sasanian empire would be restored and the golden age of Zoroastrianism reign triumphant. 

Sháh Bahrám was supposed to be a Zoroastrian warlord, who would fight an apocalyptic battle of cosmic proportions. But Bahá'u'lláh was a prisoner and exile during his forty-year ministry (1852-92). He did not restore Sasanian Iran, nor did he re-establish the Zoroastrian religion. Nor did he reinvest Zoroastrian high priests with their former authority, nor has the golden age of Zoroastrian Iran been revived as the messianic era, the Renovation. A messiah is supposed to be a victor, not a victim. In Judaism, for example, the notion of a crucified messiah was absurd, incredible. (St. Paul calls the idea of a crucified messiah a "scandal" among Jews.) In traditional Zoroastrian terms, an imprisoned messiah was no messiah at all. Drawing from the Jewish ideal of the three highest offices (tria munera), which gave rise to an expectation of three messiahs at the time of John the Baptist (note the three questions addressed to the Baptist in the first chapter of the gospel of John), Bahá'u'lláh was neither a "royal" messiah, nor was he a "priestly" messiah. But was he a "prophetic" messiah? Read More

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