A State of Mixture: Christians, Zoroastrians, and Iranian by Richard E. Payne

By Richard E. Payne

Christian groups flourished in the course of past due antiquity in a Zoroastrian political process, often called the Iranian Empire, that built-in culturally and geographically disparate territories from Arabia to Afghanistan into its associations and networks. while earlier stories have appeared Christians as marginal, insular, and infrequently persecuted individuals during this empire, Richard Payne demonstrates their integration into elite networks, adoption of Iranian political practices and imaginaries, and participation in imperial associations. the increase of Christianity in Iran trusted the Zoroastrian idea and perform of hierarchical, differentiated inclusion, in keeping with which Christians, Jews, and others occupied valid locations in Iranian political tradition in positions subordinate to the imperial faith. Christians, for his or her half, situated themselves in a political tradition no longer in their personal making, with recourse to their very own ideological and institutional assets, starting from the writing of saints’ lives to the judicial arbitration of bishops. In putting the social heritage of East Syrian Christians on the heart of the Iranian imperial tale, A nation of combination is helping clarify the persistence of a culturally various empire throughout 4 centuries.

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Nevertheless, there are significant methodological and legalistic parallels between this collection of late Sasanian case law and the corpora of Zoroastrian scholarly literature edited in the ninth century. These works, most famously the definitive collection of Zoroastrian thought known as the Dēnkard, preserved the myths, speculations, arguments, and rulings of Sasanian scholars in the manner of medieval florilegia. Like their medieval Christian counterparts, the editors organized earlier materials to suit the circumstances of their communities in the Abbasid era.

30 BA D R E L IG IO N S If humans found themselves collectively in a state of mixture, there was only one Good Religion that could bring the world to a state of perfection. Every other system of ritual and belief was “bad religion,” agdēnīh, whose institutions were irredeemably deficient and potentially maleficent. ”31 The Middle Persian term agdēn became common in the discourse of Zoroastrian scholars in the Sasanian period as a blanket designation for non-Zoroastrians, collapsing the distinctions among Christianity, Judaism, and other religions into a single binary opposition between the single Good Religion and the various bad ones.

Every component of the material world of necessity participated in the cosmic struggle. But humans played a special, even determinative, role. As fundamentally good creations, they contributed to Ohrmazd’s restorative work by means of their mere existence, like flora and beneficent fauna. The revelation of Zoroastrianism, however, gave humanity a package of rituals and actions through which men and women could not only support the efforts of the good deity but also accelerate the gradual victory of good over evil, tipping the balance in the interim in favor of Ohrmazd even as humans continued to await the frašgird.

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