The Founder of Faith
The key figure in Zoroastrianism is the prophet Zoroaster (the Greek form of the Iranian Zarathushtra). He lived somewhere between 1500 and 1200 BCE in north east Iran. He was a priest, had visions of God (Ahura Mazda meaning ‘Wise Lord’) and believed he had been set apart ‘from the beginning’ to work as a prophet to his people. His teaching is contained in 17 hymns known as the Gathas which are located at the heart of the Yasna, liturgical writing found in the sacred book, the Avesta.
Zoroaster taught that Ahura Mazda created the world, but that at the centre of existence there are opposing twin spirits, the most holy of whom created life. He believed that both his message and his followers would transform the world, as humanity will choose the best above the worst.
His exhortation to practise Good Thoughts, Words and Deeds is seen as a clear moral guidance that can be followed in any age. It is the duty to care for the good and oppose all that is evil, with the source of inspiration being the visions of Ahura Mazda.
Myths and legends have grown up about him. He is said to have laughed at birth; while offering worship at the age of 30, a radiant being appeared to him and led him to heaven where he saw Ahura Mazda. His teaching was at first rejected, and jealous rival priests had him imprisoned. However, following a miracle of healing the king’s favourite horse, the religion spread through the realm.
Zoroaster is considered to be human not divine although he is more than simply a role model. He was chosen by Ahura Mazda to be the divinely inspired teacher of ‘the Good Religion’.
Zoroaster’s life came to an end at the age of 70, when he was murdered by his enemies.
There have been no other prophets as Zoroaster was unique, although later Middle Persian texts foretell the coming of other saviours as the end of history approaches.