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Reitzenstein and Qumrân Revisited by an Iranian

  • Richard Nelson Frye (a1)

The following remarks are intended to be merely general indications of overall problems which nonetheless, I believe, are necessary before one investigates specific words or concepts which may be borrowed by one culture from another.

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1 I use the term ‘Iran’ in an historical context, to mean the vast area where Iranian languages and Iranian culture were dominant. ‘Persia’ would be used for the modern state, more or less equivalent to ‘western Iran.’ I use the term ‘greater Iran’ tomean what I suspect most Classicists and ancient historians really mean by their use of Persia — that which was within the political boundaries of states ruled by Iranians, including Mesopotamia and usually Armenia and Transcaucasia. One must be careful, of course, in using political conceptions in the history of religions.

2 Cf. Nyberg, H. S., ‘Sassanid Mazdaism according to Moslem Sources,’ Journal of the K.R. Cama Oriental Institute 39 (1958), 32.

3 Cf. Boyce, M., ‘Zariadres and Zarēr,’ BSOAS 17 (1955), 463 ff.

4 When Widengren, Geo in his ‘Der iranische Hintergrund der Gnosis’ in Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte 4 (1952), 18 (Sonderdruck) says, “der iranische Hintergrund der Gnosis sich in vielen Fällen eben als ein parthischer erwiesen hat,” I cannot follow him. There is no evidence that the Parthian horsemen brought new philosophical or religious ideas from eastern Iran and spread them in the West.

5 See the summary, with references, in Duchesne-Guillemin, J., The Western Response to Zoroaster (Oxford, 1958), 7278. It is interesting to recall that Reitzenstein was in Göttingen with F. C. Andreas when the Iranian Turfan texts were being deciphered. At the time there was uncertainty about many fragments, whether they were Zoroastrian, Christian, Manichaean, Buddhist or other in content. If he had had our greater knowledge of Manichaeism of today, Reitzenstein might have proposed different theories, and might not have characterized Manichaeism as basically an Iranian religion.

6 Cf. Kerschensteiner, J., Platon und derOrient (Stuttgart, 1945), 211, contraJaeger, W., Aristoteles (Berlin, 1923), 133 ff.

7 There is no Iranian influence in the Midrash except a few stereotyped formulae, according to Torczyner, H., ‘The Foreign Words in Our Language,’ Our Language (Lšwnnw in Hebrew) 8 (Jerusalem, 1937), 99109.

8 Ginsberg, L., The Legends of the Jews 3 (Philadelphia, 1913), 165 ff.

9 Cf. the introduction p. xci and xcviii to vol. 3 of his translation Le Zend Avesta (Paris, 1893).

10 Cf. the works of Stave, E., Über den Einfluss des Parsimus auf das Judentum (Haarlem, 1898),Böklen, E., Die Verwandschaft der jüdisch-christlichen mit der parsischen Eschatologie (Göttingen, 1902) and others.

11 Cf. G. Widengren (note 4) for a summary, plus Gershevitch, I., ‘A Parthian Title in the Hymn of the Soul,’ JRAS (1954), 124126.

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Harvard Theological Review
  • ISSN: 0017-8160
  • EISSN: 1475-4517
  • URL: /core/journals/harvard-theological-review
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