What Spake Zarathustra?

by Yair Davidiy

         There is a danger in learning about pagan religions since we are usually influenced by what we learn. God commands us to be careful in this matter:


          The founder of Zoroastrianism was called Zoroaster in Greek and Zarathustra in Persian. The German philosopher Nietsche wrote a book called "Thus Spake Zarathustra" in which Nietsche placed his own philosophy in the mouth of Zarathustra
           Zarathustra and the religion he founded is of some importance to us since we believe that Zarathustra was an Israelite from the Lost Ten Tribes and his original intention was to reform the pagan practices of his fellow Israelites.


             The Assyrians conquered the northern kingdom of Israel and exiled the Ten Tribes. The Israelite Exiles became identified as the Scythians and related peoples. The Scythians rebelled against the Assyrians and then became their allies and protectors. After that the Scythians took over the Assyrian Empire. The Scythians established contact with King Josiah ben Amon of Judah. Some of the Scythians returned temporarily to the Land of Israel and established their center in Beth Shean. King Josiah ben Amon sent the prophet Jeremiah and other emissaries to the Scythians in their places of exile to encourage them to return and also to reform their religious practices and beliefs. The appearance of Zarathustra was a result of this and so too was the original doctrine of Buddha. At all events the Scythians lost control of the Assyrian Empire. They joined Babylon and the Medes in attacking Assyria. The Scythians took the major role in destroying the Assyria cities but were betrayed by the Medes and Babylonians and obliged to begin moving out of the Middle East. The small Scythian settlement in the Land of Israel was abandoned. The Creed of Zarathustra was left over from this period. It had originally been preached to Israelites and intended for them but they apparently did not take to it. Non-Israelite peoples adopted this religion but changed it in accordance to their pagan beliefs. The Israelite origin of this faith is an historical curiosity testifying to what might have been.

             Zarathustra (ZOROASTER) appeared from eastern Iran in the region of Hara and Bactria. His original doctrine was monotheistic and even Biblical in character (1). After Zoroaster's death, his religion was paganised by the Median tribe of Magi, even though the original message had been Hebraic. Zoroaster, according to Iranian tradition had been taught by the prophet Jeremiah or by one of Jeremiah's pupils (2). Zoroaster himself had Scythian familial connections (3) yet some reports identify him as an Israelite (4) .

             Historically, "Zoroastrianism" is the term given to the ancient religion of Persia. At present there is a sect of people, named Parsees in Iran and in India. These people descend from Persian followers of the Zoroastrian religion as it was at a later date. The religion of these people (according to our sources) is quite different from the beliefs of its founder.

             The Jews in Persia as well as the early Christians in Iran had traditions that Zarathustra was Jewish. It was said that he had been taught by Jeremiah or by Baruch ben Neriah who was a pupil of Jeremiah. The Moslems in Persia also repeated similar ideas. This indicates that even at a later stage there still existed something in Zoroastrianism that suggested Hebrew influence.


            The Scythians, Medes and Babylonians had conquered Assyria. The Medes got the Scythian leaders drunk and massacred them. The Medes and Babylonians then divided the Assyrian Empire between them and drove the Scythians away. The Babylonians later conquered Judah and exiled all the Jews to Babylon.
The Medes lived in Media in northern and western Iran. They ruled over the Persians. The King of the Persians was married to the daughter of the King of the Medes. When his son, Cyrus, became king of the Persians he rebelled against his grandfather, the king of the Medes, and took over the kingdom. After that Cyrus ruled over the Medes and Persians. Cyrus conquered the Babylonian Empire. Cyrus allowed the Jews to return to Judah, which they did, led by Ezra and Nehemiah. Cyrus the Great (550-530 BCE). was followed by his son, Cambyses (530-522), who died in Egypt after attempting to destroy all the idols there and killing the sacred bull. The brother of Cambyses became king but a distant cousin named Darius claimed that this king was an impostor and killed him and made himself king. He is known to history as Darius the Great (522-486 BCE).

             The dynasty that Cyrus had began is known as the Achaemenid dynasty. It has been assumed that Cyrus followed Zoroaster but it is not certain. Cyrus in an inscription celebrating the fall of Babylon mentions Marduk and Yahweh of Israel. After Cyrus came Cambyses (530-522), who went about destroying idols. After Cambyses came Darius the Great (522-486 BCE). Darius the Great (522-486) mentions Ahura Mazda, which is the name of God in Zoroastrianism. Under Cambyses the building of the Temple had been interrupted but Darius ordered the building to go ahead.

Ninian Smart (5), mentions four major Stages of development in Zoroastrianism:

1. The Religion of Zarathustra himself.
2. The religion of the Achaemenean monarchs of Cyrus and Darius who introduced elements that compromised the original monotheistic character.
3. The Arsacid (Parthian) and Sassanian dynasties: The Parthians were indifferent religiously and often inclined towards Judaism and Christianity. The Parthians were followed by the Sassanians who ruled Iran from 211 C.E. to 641 C.E. The Sassanians were ardent Zoroastrians and Zoroastrianism was revived and regulated.
4. Modern Period.

             The Zoroastrian Scriptures are known as the Avesta. Parts of the Avesta:
a. Yasna: liturgical writings including the GATHAS. The Gathas were written in a unique dialect. Some perhaps go back to Zarathustra. At all events, the GATHAS may well reflect the original doctrine of Zarathustra.
b. Visparad: invocations of all the lords for use at festivals.
c. Yashts: collection of hymns to various deities.
d. Venidad: prescriptions about purifications, etc.
The Avesta was completed in the 300s CE. Additional religious texts were written in Sassanian times in the Pahlavi dialect.

Parts of the Gathas are attributed to Zarathustra himself and from these the original beliefs of Zarathustra can be reconstructured.

             Zarathustra was a monotheist. He denounced other gods as devils. He emphasized opposition to Druj, who was the personification of evil or the Satan. He believed in Angels. His religion has been described as resting on four main points: 1. Worship Ahura-mazda 2. Magnify the archangels 3. Damn the demons 4. Marry your nearest relative [If Zarathustra was an Israelite, this last injunction would have the effect of helping the Israelite exiles retain their ethnic origins].

(c.630 - c.550 BCE) (or c. 628 BCE c. 551 BCE).

Zoroaster (Zarathustra) was probably born at Rhages (now Rayy, a suburb of Tehran), a town in Media - which is the region covered by modern-day Iran and Iraq. His Persian name, Zarathushtra, has been explained to mean "camel handler". [It could also be derived from the Hebrew, Zerah]. His father, according to tradition, was the owner of cattle. According to the 'Zend Avesta', the sacred book of Zoroastrianism, he was born in Azerbaijan, in northern Persia, into the Spitama family. His father's name was Pourushapa. At the age of 30 (or 40 according to other sources) he received the first of a series of revelations of a new religion (ca 600 BCE). He is said to have received a vision from Ahura Mazda, the Wise Lord, who appointed him to preach the truth. Zoroaster began preaching his message of cosmic strife between Ahura Mazda, the God of Light, and Ahriman, the principle of evil. According to the prophet, man had been given the power to choose between good and evil. The end of the world would come when the forces of light would triumph and the saved souls rejoice in its victory. Zarathustra preached for two years to the religious leaders of his country. His attempts to proselytize at home failed, and he fled east to ancient Chorasmia, now largely Persian Khorasan. There were ten long years between the revelation and the first convert who was his own cousin, Metyomah. For two years following the conversion of Metyomah, Zoroaster made little or no progress. He then succeeded in converting King Vishtaspa of Chorasmia to the new faith. King Vishtaspa has been identified with Hystaspes, the father of Darius the Great (6). After this Zoroaster led crusades for 25 years to persuade Scythian and related peoples to accept his new religion. He was killed fighting.

             Zarathustra according to the most commonly accepted sources lived in the period c.630 - c.550 BC. He received his first vision around 600 BCE. King Josiah of Judah reigned according to conventional dates around 640-609 BCE. The Scythians lost control of the Assyrian Empire somewhere around 614-609 BCE. These dates are estimations and are not certain. Zarathustra lived at the time of King Josiah and Jeremiah the Prophet. Jeremiah the prophet, according to the Talmud, was sent to the Lost Ten Tribes. Zarathustra was born in an area of the Lost Ten Tribes and later moved to another area which was also a Lost Ten Tribes center. He had family connections to the Scythians whom we identify as being at least in part identical with the Lost Ten Tribes (7). There are traditions that connect Zarathustra to Jeremiah the Prophet. The original doctrine of Zarathustra was similar to that of the Bible. We can therefore conclude that Zarathustra really was probably an Israelite.

Beliefs and Parallels with Scripture and Israel

             Scholars agree that there are similarities between the original doctrines of Zarathustra and the Bible but they claim that this is because the Bible was influenced by Zarathustra and not the other way around. This is wrong but it is fashionable. If you said anything else not many people would listen to you and if you were an academic you might not get a job. Zoroaster taught Biblical Principles including the doctrines of an individual judgment, Heaven and Hell, the future resurrection of the body, the general Last Judgment, and life everlasting for the reunited soul and body.


1. One God.
2. Resistance to evil.
3. Satan and Devils. Other gods = devils. Demonic forces.
4. Angels. Angels appointed over abstract principles.
5. Saoshian= Messiah.
6. Resurrection of the Dead.
7. Last Judgment.
8. Zarathustra was linked with Rhages in Media which is a Ten Tribes area (as explained in "Ephraim" 8) associated with the Tribe of Naphtali. He later moved to Chorasmia and was active in Herat which was also a Ten Tribed area [see "The Tribes"].
9. There were Parallels between the doctrines of Zoroaster and Essene teachings. The Essenes were a Jewish sect in Qumran by the Dead Sea. The Essenes however were not influenced by Zoroastrianism but rather both developed from a common Hebraic source.

M. Coventsky (9): <<Many experts contend that the emphasis in post-exilic Judaism on rewards and punishment, heaven and hell, the struggle between the forces of good and evil, and the notion of an individual afterlife were derived from Zoroastrianism. There is a striking similarity between the Manual of Discipline, of the Dead Sea community, and Zoroastrianism, regarding the problem of evil. But other scholars maintain that there is enough in Pharisaic Judaism to justify the search for origins of these ideas with Palestinian tradition specifically, or even exclusively.>>

This is the opinion that we adhere to. Zarathustra preached an Israelite doctrine because he was an Israelite. Similarities between Zoroastrianism, the Bible, and Judaism arose because they all came from the same Hebrew sources.
10. The father of Zarathustra was Pourushapa.  This name has been explained to be derived from "Purushain" (Sanskrit), which means man and "Aspa", which means a horse. "Aspa" however is derived from the root "asep" which is also found in names from Scythian areas and associated with the Hebrew name "Joseph" (10).
11. Zarathustra supposedly had a vision at age 40 wherein he received a vision from God, (Ahura Mazda), who appointed him to preach the truth, cf . Moses
12. Many scholars (e.g. Franz Altheim, Boyce, Morton Smith) have analysed passages of the Gathas and found parallels in language, style, and content with Biblical passages especially those of Isaiah.

             Isaiah prophesied about Cyrus (Isaiah 44:27-45:4) and the punishment of the Babylonians (43:14;47:14) that Cyrus in part carried out. Josephus says that Cyrus was shown the prophecies of Isaiah mentioning his name and was influenced by them. It may be that the early Persian kings held the Book of Isaiah in reverence and this influenced whoever wrote the Gathas. Cyrus started the Achaemenid dynasty. The Achaemenids belonged to the Pasargadae clan. The early Persians like the early Medes were a confederation of different tribes. Not all these tribes had the same origins. The Pasargadae were the ruling clan of the Persian confederation. They were a small ruling body. Aramaic was the lingua franca of the Persian Empire. The name "Pasargadae" in the local Aramaic dialect of the time would have connoted, "Pasar-(sons of)-Gad" (11). They may originally have been Israelites from the Tribe of Gad. This would explain why they were so attracted to the religion of Zarathustra as it was originally intended.

             Morton Smith saw a parallel between Isaiah and a specific Gatha of the Avesta:

 From Morton Smith: <<Yasna 44. In Yasna 44, Zoroaster asks Ahuramazda questions to which the god replies simply such as "I am" or "I do." Isaiah has similar passages. Tell me truly Lord, who in the beginning, at the creation was the father of Justice? (GY 44.3.1-2) Rain justice you heavens & this I, Yehouah, have created. (Isa 45:8) Who established the course of the sun and the stars? Through whom does the moon wax and wane? (GY 44.3.3-5). Lift up your eyes to the heavens. Consider who created it all, led out the host one by one. (Isa 40:26) What craftsman made light and darkness? (GY 45:5.1-3) I am Yehouah. There is no other. I make the light. I create darkness. (Isa 45:7)13.>>

             The father of Darius had been converted by Zarathustra. Jean-Claude Brinette, "Religion in Ancient Persia", points out that the name "Darius" in Persian was pronounced as Darayavahu. Brinette says:

<<Darius is properly Darayavahu. Yavahu is uncommonly like Yehouah (YHWH), and must have sounded similar. Vahu is the Iranian god of the wind, that became, like the Hebrew, to mean breath and so life, so Yavahu literally means the same as YHWH. Scholars admit the etymology of "DR" ("ZR") is puzzling. [In Aramaiac and Iranian the d and the z could interchange, e.g. Manda= Manasseh]. Literally, "zara" refers to the action of sowing seed in the fields (Gen 26:12; Isa 37:30), and seems to be a Semitic root. So, Zara in Hebrew is seed. & Darayavahu can be read in Hebrew meaning "seed (progeny) of Yehouah," "seed of the living god." >>

Brinette also points out that,

<<Nehemiah was the "cupbearer" to Artaxerxes (Neh 2:1). Since Artaxerxes, as a devout Zoroastrian, could not have touched let alone drunk from a ritually unclean cup, Nehemiah must himself have been [considered the same as] a Zoroastrian. Pollution in the Zoroastrian scheme was the result of the Evil Spirit who caused "dust, stench, blight, disease, decay and death." Devout people were obliged to stay clear of these noxious things to protect themselves as Ahuramazda's good creation. The king particularly required this protection, and we can be sure that his servants had a duty to keep him pure.>>

In other words, in the eyes of Artaxerxes, Nehemiah the Israelite must have been considered ritually pure from the point of view of Zoroastrianism. The "Holiness Code" of Leviticus 18 to 26 is a code of purity from pollution that has similarities with practices of Zoroastrianism.
Brinette points out that:

<<Darius favored the Jerusalem priesthood. A revealing scrap of papyrus written from Darius to Arsames, his long-serving Egyptian satrap in 419 BC, and found at Elephantine, ordered that the Jews of Elephantine must keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread for seven days.>>

We thus see that it may well be that Zarathustra was an Israelite and his religion was originally of Biblical character but the pagan Gentiles changed it. We have also seen that the early kings of Persia may also have been of Israelite descent.


Buddha may also have been a Israelite and also have been influenced by the emissaries of King Josiah and Jeremiah. We do not know. We do know that according to Buddhist tradition the first Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama, lived around about the same time as Jeremiah, Josiah, and Zarathustra. He was born in ca. 563 BCE. He was known as Shakya-muni. He belonged to the Shakyas who according to the Greeks were Scythians.  The Lost Ten Tribes were in Scythia. The original doctrine of Buddhism appears to have been that all suffering is caused by bad deeds and bad mental energies. By doing good and training your energies to be positive you can eliminate suffering. This was not necessarily a religious doctrine but rather a moral philosophy that was later adapted to religious concepts.  Buddhism as practiced at present is a pagan religion.

             From our point of view all this does not matter very much at present since the overwhelming majority of exiled Israelites did not remain in Persia or anywhere near it but moved away and went to the north and later to the west into Europe. Zoroastrianism and Buddhism became paganized. We do not really need them nor do we need to know much or anything about them. It is enough for us to study the will of God as revealed in the Bible and if necessary as explained by legitimate commentaries on the Bible.



Adapted from "Ephraim" ch.2

             After the Israelite Tribes were exiled by the Assyrians these Tribes were re-settled in different areas of the Assyrian Empire. Many groups from the Israelite Tribes retained their original Tribal Identity. They usually federated with other Israelite entities and are identifiable as part of the Scythian forces. Most of the Israelites were due to be pushed northwards as part of the Scythian hosts though some groups retained a presence for some time in the Iranian area. In Scythia one group identified by its neighbors as Israelite called itself Nephtali. The Nephtali were also referred to as Cadussi. This people had first been recorded close to Mannae southwest of the Caspian Sea. The area was one of the major regions to which Northern Israelites had been transported by the Assyrians. The Apocryphal Book of Tobias mentions Israelite exiles from the Tribe of Nephtali in Ecbatana and Rages of Media both of which adjoined the Cadussii area.

This is the story of Tobit, son of Tobiel, son of Hananiel, son of Aduel, son of Gabael, son of Raphael, son of Raguel, of the family of Asiel, of the tribe of Naphtali. He was taken captive in the time of Enemessaros [i.e. Shalmanessar] king of Assyria, from Thisbe which is south of Kedesh Naphtali in Upper Galilee above Hazor, behind the road to the west, north of Peor.(Tobit 1;1-2). After the deportation to Assyria when I was taken captive and came to Nineveh..(Tobit 1;10). All my kinsmen grieved for me, and Ahikar looked after me for two years until he moved to Elymais (Tobit 2;10).

Sarah, the daughter of Raguel who lived at Ecbatana in Media (Tobit 2;7).
I have often travelled into Media and used to lodge with Gabael our fellow countryman who lives there at Rages (Tobit 5;6).

             The Book of Tobias (Tobit) thus testifies to the presence of Israelite Exiles from the Tribe of Naphtali in the Cadussi area. Later we have evidence of a people to the north in Scythia who were known as Naphtalites also being referred to as Cadussi or Kadussi. The very name Kadussi may be derived from the ancient Israelite city of Kadesh in the Land of Naphtali:

             The Nephtalites were called Cadussi by the Greeks, Romans, and Persians but Pliny reported that they termed themselves Gaeli. "Gaeli" is also one of the names that the Celtic Hiberi called themselves. The Gaeli had migrated to the British Isles from the Middle East via Spain. The Cadussi-Gaeli were related to the Sacae Scythians according to Xenophon. [We identify the Sacae as ancestors of the Angles and Saxons who invaded Britain]. The Cadussi (or Kadussi) later moved northwards into Scythia east of the Ural mountains where they were also referred to as Nephtalites or Nephtalite Huns though some sources still referred to them as "Kadassaye" i.e. Cadussi. Legends, their Tribal names, and additional factors link them to the Israelite Tribes of Nephtali, Dan, Judah, and other Israelite Tribes. After a series of wars and migrations the Cadussi-Nephtalites (also known as "White Huns" and sundry other names) split up into several groups. The majority went westward and entered Scandinavia to form what later became the Danes and Norwegians. Another portion remained in Scythia to eventually merge with the Khazars who converted to Judaism.

1. Franz Altheim, "Alexander und Asien", Germany 1953, p.13.
Mary Boyce, "A History of  Zoroastrianism Leiden/Koln1975, p.195.
2. Josef HOROVITZ, "Hebrew Iranian Synchronism," Bombay 1931, p.12ff.
3. Gherardo GNOLI, "Zoroaster's Time and Homeland. A Study on the Origins of Mazdaism," Naples, Italy 1980, p.96.
4.HOROVITZ, p.12ff.
5. Ninian Smart, "The Religious experience of Mankind", NY, 1969, p.241.
6. E. Herzfeld, "Zoroaster and His World" 1947;
R. C. Zaehner, "The Dawn and Twilight of Zoroastrianism", 1961.
7. For more details and references concerning King Josiah, the exiled Ten Tribes of Israel and the Scythians see "The Tribes" by Yair Davidiy.
8. "Ephraim" by Yair Davidiy.
9. Milton COVENSKY, "The Ancient Near Eastern Tradition", NY, 1966.
10. This was explained by Yair Davidiy in "The Tribes" (1991[3],1999) and in more detail by IRMA HAYNMAN, "The Syncretic Creed of Hellenized Jews From Tanais", 1994, World Union of Jewish Studies.
11. Le Comte de GOBINEAU, "Histoire Des Perses", Paris 1869.


See also:

Was Buddha an Israelite? by Cam Rea

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