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Zoroastrianism in Greek and Latin Literature
This is the first full treatment of the Greek and Latin references to Zoroastrianism since the pioneering works of Benveniste, Bidez & Cumont, and Clemen. It focuses on the possibilities offered by the classical reports on Zoroastrianism to reconstruct the history of that faith.
The book is divided into three sections. The first section deals with introductory problems concerning ancient religious ethnography and current views of the history of Zoroastrianism. The second section consists of commentaries on five selected passages. The third section offers a thematical overview of the materials and their relevance for the history of Iranian religions.
Apart from offering introductions to a wide range of debates and topics in Classics and Iranian studies, the book aims to illustrate the diversity of beliefs and practices in ancient Zoroastrianism.
Author: Albert de Jong

This article claims that we are in need of alternative ways of modelling religious diversity in the Middle East. This region is characterized by a high level of religious diversity, which can only be partly explained by the persistence of religions that were already in existence when Islam arose. Many communities came into being since the Islamization of the area. The communities addressed in this article therefore include one pre-Islamic tradition, the Mandaeans, and five communities that crystallized (much) later: the Yezidis, the Ahl-e Haqq, the Druze, the Alawis, and the (Turkish) Alevis. These have often been discussed in conjunction with each other, in ways that are historically and conceptually problematic. A focus on two characteristics these communities share—endogamy and a “spiritual elite” structure—makes it possible to discuss the processes in which these communities have come into being, have crystallized, and relate to the wider Islamic setting in a new light. Three communities have continued to distance themselves from Islam, and three have been in a constant process of negotiating their relation with more mainstream versions of Islam. This has consequences for the maintenance, or gradual dissolution, of religious pluralism in the Middle East.

In: Sociology of Islam
In: 'Mission is a must'
In: Sacrifice in Religious Experience
Author: Albert de Jong


Since the Greek word magos (a loan-word from Old Persian magu-) is semantically polyvalent, interpretations of the role and the literary function of the magi in Matthew’s narrative on the birth of Jesus and the Star of Bethlehem have tended to be very different. The important role of the Star of Bethlehem in Matthew chapter two has led many scholars to assume that the magi must appear in this story because they were widely known as experts in astrology. Knowledge of astrology, however, is not commonly attributed to the magi in Greek literature; this is the case independent of the question of whether the magi were seen as Zoroastrian priests or as practitioners of what has been called, after them, the art of ‘magic’. In the absence of convincing arguments for an astrological role of the magi, both in historical reality and in the Greek literary imagination, this chapter argues that the role of the magi in Matthew’s story must be interpreted in the light of their connection with kingship. This was a connection they had both in historical reality and in the imagined Persian courts of authoritative Greek authors.

In: The Star of Bethlehem and the Magi
In: Transformations of the Inner Self in Ancient Religions
In: The Letter of Mara bar Sarapion in Context