Now shall I preach, and do you give car and hear,
Ye who hither press from near and from afar,
Therefore lay ye all these things to heart as clear
Nor let the wicked teacher your second life destroy-
The perverted sinner your tongues with his false faith.
at fravaxshya nu gushodum nu sraota
yaecha asnat yaecha durat ishatha
nu im vispa chithre zi mazdaong-hodum
noit daibitim dushsastish ahum meranshyat
aka varana dregva hizvao avareto
Now shall I preach of the world’s Two primal Spirits
The Holier One of which did thus address the Evil;
‘Neither do our minds, our teachings, nor our concepts,
Nor our beliefs, not words, nor do our deeds in sooth,
Nor yet our consciences, nor souls agree in aught,
at fravaxshya ang-heush mainyu pouruye
yayao spanyao uiti mravat yem angrem
noit na manao noit speng-ha noit xratavo
naeda varana noit uxja naeda shayothana
noit daenao noit urvano hachainte
A.V. Williams Jackson, Avesta Grammar, Stuttgart, 1892
1) Avesta as a Sacred Book
2) Allusions to the Avesta: its Discovery and History of research.
The Avesta, or Zend-Avesta, as it is more familiarly, though less accurately called, is the name under which,
as a designation, we comprise the bible and prayer-book of the Zoroastrian religion. The Avesta forms to day the Sacred
Books of the Parsis or Fire-Worshippers, as they are often termed, a small community living now in India, or still scattered
here and there in Persia. The original home of these worshippers and of their holy scriptures was ancient Iran, and the faith
they profess was that founded centuries ago by Zoroaster(Zarathushtra), one of the great religious teachers of the East.
The Avesta is, therefore, an important work, preserving as it does, the doctrines of this ancient belief and the customs of the
earliest days of Persia. It represents the oldest faith of Iran, as the Vedas do of India. The oldest parts date back to a period
of time nearly as remote as the Rig-Veda, though its youngest parts are much later. The religion which the Avesta presents was once
one of the greatest; it has, moreover, left ineffaceable traces upon the history of the world. Flourishing more than a thousand years
before the Christian era, it became the religion of the great Achaemenian kins, Cyrus, Darius, and Xerxes, but its power was weakened
by the conquest of Alexander, and many of its sacred books were lost. It revived again during the first centuries of our own era, but
was finally broken by the Mohammedans in their victorious invasion. Most of the Zoroastrian worshippers were then compelled through
presecution to accept the religion of the Koran; many, however, fed to India for refuge, and took with them what was left of their
sacred writings. A few of the faithful remained behind in Persia, and, though presecuted, they continued to practise their religion.
It is these two scanty peoples, perhaps 80,000 souls in India and 10,000 in Persia, that have preserved to us the Avesta in the form in which we now have it.
The Designation Avesta, for the scriptures, is adopted from the term Avistak, regularly employed
in the Pahlavi of the Sassassanian time. But it is quite uncertain what the exact meaning and derivation of this word may be. Possibly Pahlavi
Avistak, like the Sanskrit Veda, may signify 'wisdom, knowledge'
the book of knowledge'. Perhaps, however, it means rather 'the original text, the scripture, the law'. The designation 'Zend-Avesta', though introduced
by Anquetil du Perron, as described below, is not an accurate title. It arose by mistake from the inversion of the oftrecurring Pahlavi Phrase,
Avistak va Zand 'Avesta and Zend', or 'the Law and Commentary'. The term Zand in Pahlavi as the Parsi priests
now rightly comprehend it, properly denotes 'understanding, explanation', and refers to the later version and commentary of the Avesta texts,
the paraphrase which is written in the pahlavi language. The proper designation for the scriptures, therefore, is Avesta; the term Zend (see below)
should be understood as the Pahlavi version and commentary.
Of the religion, manners, and customs of ancient Persia, which the Avesta preserves to us, we had but meagre knowledge until about a century ago. What we did know
up to that time was gathered from the more or less scattered and unsatisfactory references of the classic Greek and Latin, from some allusions in Oriental writers,
or from the later Persian epic literature. To direct sources, however, we could not then turn. Allusions to the religion of the Magi, the faith of the Avesta, are indeed
to be found in the Bible. The wise men from the East who came to worship our Saviour, the babe in Bethlehem, were Magi. Centuries before that date, however, it was Cyrus,
a follower of the faith of Zoroaster, whom God called his anointed and his shepherd and who gave orders that the Jews be returned to Jerusalem from captivity in Babylon.
Darius, moreover, the worshipper of Ormazd, favored the rebuilding of the temple at Jerusalem as decreed by Cyrus. Allusions to the ancient faith of the Persians are perhaps
contained in Ezek.8.16; Isiah 45.77,12.
The classical references of Greek and Roman writers to the teachings of Zoroaster, which we can now study in the Avesta itself, may be said to begin with the account
of the Persians given by Herodotus in his history. To this account may be added references and allusions, though often preserved only in fragments, by various other writers,
including Plutarch 'On Isis and Osiris', and Pliny, down to Agathias (A.D. 500).
After the Mohammedan conquest of Persia, we have an allusion by the Arabic writer, Mas'udi (A.D. 940), who tells of the Avesta of Zardusht, and its commentary called
Zend, together with a Pazand explanation. The Abasta is also mentioned several times by Al-Biruni (about A.D. 1000). The later Mohammedan writer, Shahrastani
(A.D. 1150), sketches in outline the creed of the Magi of his day. An interesting reference is found in the Syriac-Arabic Lexicon of Bar-Bahlul (A.D. 963) to an Avastak,
a book of Zardusht, as composed in seven tongues, Syriac, Persian, Aramean, Segesteanian(Sistan), Marvian, Greek, and Hebrew. In an earlier Syriac manuscript Commentary on the New
Testament (A.D. 852) by Isho'dad, Bishop of Hadatha, near Mosul, mention is made of the Abhasta as having been written by Zardusht in twelve different languages. These latter
allusions, though late, are all important, as showing the continuity, during ages, of the tradition of such a work as the Avesta, which contains the teachings of Zoroaster, the
prophet of Iran. All these allusions, however, it must be remembered, are by foreigners. No direct Iranian sources had been accessible.
Abstracted from :
Avesta Grammar, A.V. William Jackson, Stuttgart, 1892