- Series: The Library of Religious Beliefs and Practices
- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Routledge; 2 edition (February 7, 2001)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0415239036
- ISBN-13: 978-0415239035
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 20 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #566,941 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Zoroastrians: Their Religious Beliefs and Practices (The Library of Religious Beliefs and Practices) 2nd Edition
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'Answers a real need among students of religion ... informative, original and so eminently enjoyable ...' - - Journal of Asian History
'... an excellent series.' - Isabel Wollaston, Univeristy of Birmingham, Reviews in Religion and Theology
About the Author
Mary Boyce is Professor Emerita of Iranian Studies at the University of London and is the author of a number of works on Zoroastrianism and Manicheanism.
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One thing she emphasizes is how heavily indebted Judaism, Christianity and Islam are to Zoroastrianism (and thus Mormonism, Sikhism and Baha'i are indebted as well). Well worth reading by anyone who really cares about religion and has an open mind as well.
In terms of discussing the beliefs and practices of the religion, the first third of the book is outstanding as Boyce explains the origins and tenets of the religion, and how these beliefs were practiced in the early bronze age through the 5th century BCE. The parallels of Zoroastrianism on Judiasm, Christianity and Islam are clearly deliniated here as well. The middle third of the book (on the Selucids and Sassanids) was of less interest - I found it especially dull. The final chapters, from the 7th century CE to the present were interesting, if only to show the breadth and depth of the challenges the faith faced under Islam and European colonization.
In terms of religious study, I wish Boyce had given greater attention to the syncretism between Zoroastrianism and the monotheistic religions of the Near East rather than merely discuss the broader similarities and have readers make inferences about them. As a history of the Near East through the lens of a particular religion, this is an outstanding text.
Boyce did possess ample expertise to motivate and present the history and doctrines of Zoroastrianism in plentiful detail. Too plentiful, in fact, for the tastes of this reader, and I have a large appetite for dry academic material. Even so, plowing through this relentless presentation of technical terms, unfamiliar names, and obscure dynasties and languages was a daunting challenge, even at a short 200 pages.
For all Boyce's lavish attention to detail she presents a surprisingly one-sided picture of Zoroastrianism. You would never know reading this book that the historicity of Zarathustra has been challenged repeatedly, or that opinions are sharply divided on whether or not Darius and his successors were Zoroastrians.
Boyce has arrived at her conclusions and that is what you get. Her commitment to this interpretation goes too far at times and compromises her scholarly objectivity, as when she refers to the Zurvanites as betrayers of Zarathustra's doctrine and a "deep and grievous heresy". Such ideas simply do not have a place in academic scholarship.
If we are to have too few books on Zoroastrianism in English, I am glad this one errs on the side of too much detail and minutiae. This book is the account of a scholar with very deep knowledge indeed, and I am glad for it, flaws and all.