Achaemenid Creation and Second Isaiah

in Journal of Persianate Studies
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For many years, scholars have entertained the idea that monotheism appeared in Second Isaiah as a result of Zoroastrian influence. Since the issue of monotheism is inappropriate for either the Persian or the Judaean contexts, this paper argues that a more fruitful angle to pursue the Persian context of Isaiah is through analysis of the concept of creation. This paper takes the Achaemenid creation prologues in the Old Persian inscriptions as a comparator for the use of creation in Second Isaiah, and places these two in a broader ancient Near Eastern context of creation mythology. It is argued that both share distinctive features in the way creation is presented and understood. Given the novel and similar concepts visible in both corpora, it is argued that the vision of creation and form of yhwh as creator are the earliest attested instance of “Iranian influence” on the Judaean tradition.

Achaemenid Creation and Second Isaiah

in Journal of Persianate Studies



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  • 8

    See for example Delitzsch 1881220 = Delitzsch [1877] II 174; Mills 1905–6 276–7; Simcox 1937 169; Carter 1970 50–1; Bergman et al. 1975 248; Otzen 1990 264; Albertz 1994 418; Ringgren 2001 391; Smith 1990 201; Boyce 2000 283. Earlier however Boyce thought it was instead similar to Y. 44 (Boyce 1982 44). Blenkinsopp (2002 250) claims this interpretation cannot be ruled out but he later rejects it (Blenkinsopp 2011 499 n. 21 506). It has become more common to reject a direct polemic; e.g. Elliger 1978 501–2; Koole 1997 441; Nilsen 2008 22–25 and Nilsen 2013 6 reject any relevance of Zoroastrianism. Paul (2012 257) notes that Saʿadyah Gaʾon already saw an anti-Dualist polemic here (though Paul rejects it). A couple of critics still see it as anti-dualist however without specifying whose or which dualism they mean. Westermann (1969 162) says against all dualisms as does Baltzer (2001 227). Goldingay (2005 269) only sees “latent” dualism here.

  • 12

    The exception is Mitchell 2014305–308. Smith (1963 420) citing oral communications with Bickermann briefly noted the appearance of creation in an inscription of Xerxes but failed either to take it into account or to note that it in fact appears in Darius’s inscriptions. Blenkinsopp (2011 503) briefly notes its appearance but makes no use of it in the article. A perusal of the handbooks on ancient Near Eastern creation or mythology shows that they routinely leave Iran out.

  • 14

    Lincoln 201210 cites 23 though only 21 in OP. These are DEa DNa DNb DPd DSe DSf DSt DSab DZc XEa XPa XPb XPc XPd XPf XPh XPl XVa D2Ha A2Hc A3Pa cf. DSi.

  • 25

    Lincoln 2012 10 447. Kellens (1989) argues that in OAv. dā- does not signify “create” but “put in place” but refrains from certainty in terms of Old Persian (228 n. 20). Even if this is true for Old Persian as well the semantic distinction remains.

  • 26

    See Hale 198829; Skjærvø 2009 96–8. Kent (1961 96 §310) does not comment on this. Pompeo (2012 166–9) thinks rather that this placement disambiguates between “give” and “create” for the root dā-.

  • 28

    Herrenschmidt 1976reprinted in English in Herrenschmidt 2014 24; Herrenschmidt 1977. Though the precise argumentation Herrenschmidt uses to reach this conclusion is unconvincing the parallelism and usages confirm the basic insight.

  • 31

    Lincoln 2012262–265. Sims-Williams (1981 6) retroverts the attested Aramaic ṭuvkhā to šiyātiyā; he is followed by Schmitt 2009 111 (here §12).

  • 38

    DSa. DSf. DSi DSo DSz. Cf. Lincoln 201250–1.

  • 39

    Y. 30:7–9; Yt. 19:11; cf. Bailey 1971viii–xvi.

  • 41

    See Lincoln 2012174–5. Text and translation in Weissbach 1911 85–7; translation in Lecoq 1997 229–230; Kuhrt 2009 483.

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