Breaking the Rules: Considerations on Zoroastrian Terminology Related to the Idea of Heresy

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Abstract

The present article is a part of a wider project devoted to the Zoroastrian Middle Persian terminology often translated in European languages as “heresy” or “heretic.” I offer here an analysis of the Middle Persian ahlomōγ according to only one text of the exegetical literature of this religious tradition, written down after the Arab conquest of Iran, namely Dēnkard 7. I propose a hypothesis according to which the majority of the contexts in which this term is used refers to Mazdak and the Mazdakites, suggesting that the author of Dēnkard 7 here draws a historical scheme of this sectarian movement. Other meanings, though not so many, can be found, such as “apostasy.” Among the methodological considerations, one finds that the same notion may have slightly changed meaning from one text to another, from one period to another. The Avestan ašǝmaoγa, for which the Middle Persian ahlomōγ is a translation, does not clearly lead to the idea of heresy, understood as schism or sect.

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