Achaemenid Creation and Second Isaiah

In: Journal of Persianate Studies
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  • 1 University of Helsinki

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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.

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  • 8

    See, for example, Delitzsch 1881, 220 = 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 2014, 305–308. 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 2012, 10 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 1988, 29; 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 1976, reprinted 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 2012, 262–265. 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 2012, 50–1.

  • 39

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

  • 41

    See Lincoln 2012, 174–5. Text and translation in Weissbach 1911, 85–7; translation in Lecoq 1997, 229–230; Kuhrt 2009, 483.

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