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Contradictions and Vile Utterances: The Zoroastrian Critique of Judaism in the Shkand Gumanig Wizar


My dissertation examines the critique of Judaism in Chapters Thirteen and Fourteen of the Shkand Gumanig Wizar. The Shkand Gumanig Wizar is a ninth century CE Zoroastrian theological work that contains polemics against Islam, Christianity, and Manichaeism, as well as Judaism. The chapters on Judasim include citations of a Jewish sacred text referred to as the "First Scripture" and critiques of these citations for their contradictory and illogical portrayals of the divine. This dissertation comprises two parts. The first part consists of an introductory chapter, four interpretative essays, and a conclusion. The second part consists of a text and new English translation of Shkand Gumanig Wizar Chapters Thirteen and Fourteen.

My first essay presents a new approach to the relation between the citations from the First Scripture in the Shkand Gumanig Wizar and Jewish literature. Previous scholars have tried to identify a single parallel text in the Hebrew Bible or rabbinic literature as the origin for each of citation. Borrowing approaches developed by scholars of the Qur'an and early Islamic literature, I argue that the Shkand Gumanig Wizar's critique draws on a more diverse and, likely, oral network of traditions about the biblical patriarchs and prophets.

My second essay contains a close reading of three linked passages concerning angels in Shkand Gumanig Wizar Chapter Fourteen. I argue that the depiction of angels in these passages responds to a widespread Jewish belief in Metatron, an angelic co-regent whose power equals God's,. This essay analyzes the these angelic passages in light of the traces of this belief that can be found in the Babylonian Talmud, Jewish mystical literature, and other texts.

My third essay concerns one of the longest citations in the critique of Judaism, a version of the story of the Garden of Eden from the first three chapters of the Book of Genesis. This essay demonstrates that this citation is one of a motif of connected and mutually illuminating garden passages found throughout the apologetic and polemical chapters of the Shkand Gumanig Wizar. I argue that gardens' prominence in the critique of Judaism, and the Shkand Gumanig Wizar as a whole, derives from gardens' symbolic role in Iranian culture.

My final essay compares the critique of Judaism in the Shkand Gumanig Wizar to a Zoroastrian anti-Jewish text from another Middle Persian work, the Denkard. Whereas the earlier Denkard depicts Judaism mythically, relating the story of Judaism's creation by an evil demon, the Shkand Gumanig Wizar depicts Judaism textually, as citations from the First Scripture. I argue that the <Shkand Gumanig Wizar's presentation of Judaism as a text is an interpretative key for understanding the Zoroastrian work as a whole.

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