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The Fourth Incarnation of Zarathushtra: Avestan Studies in the West.

Translated from the French by Richard Foltz

Series: Zoroastrian Studies Series 5
Availability: Forthcoming
Published: 2019
Page #: xx + 176
Size: 6 x 9
ISBN: 978-1-56859-377-7
bibliography, glossary, index, notes, references

Quick Overview

Although it is little known today, few religions in history have had a broader or more lasting influence than Zoroastrianism, the religion of pre-Islamic Iran, many of whose central concepts were taken up by Judaism, Christianity, Buddhism and Islam. Its sacred text, the Avesta, is one of the world's oldest, but also one of the most difficult to decipher, and to date there is little agreement over the time and place of its putative author, Zarathushtra (Zoroaster), or whether he even existed as an historical figure.

Avestan manuscripts, written in two related ancient Iranian dialects not attested elsewhere, first came to the attention of European scholars during the late 18th century. Kellens shows how over the next two hundred and fifty years various scholars sought to interpret these obscure texts according to their own biases and agendas, vastly complicating any attempt to recover their original meaning and context. Zoroastrianism has been claimed by some as "the world's first monotheism", the fruit of a reformist prophet; others characterize its system as dualistic, while still others consider it to be a form of polytheism. Zarathushtra is said to have lived roughly contemporary with Moses, or else "258 years before Alexander the Great", in locations as far apart as Bactria and Azerbaijan. Kellens analyzes the various claims and arguments that have been advanced regarding the ongoing controversies about Zarathushtra and his religion, situating them within the major schools of thought and their respective theoretical frameworks.

In this book the renowned Belgian Iranologist Jean Kellens, one of the world's leading experts in Avestan Studies, provides an enthralling and often witty overview of the scholarly debates surrounding the meaning and interpretation of the Avesta and the historicity of Zarathushtra, beginning with the re-discovery of Avestan texts in the 18th century and up to the present day. The Fourth Incarnation of Zarathushtra offers a brilliant, balanced, and comprehensive account which untangles one of the most perplexing areas in the history of religions.

In a new foreword to the English edition, Kellens highlights a number of recent developments which promise to open up the field of Avestan Studies in exciting new directions.

author

Jean Kellens

Jean Kellens was, from 1993 until his retirement in 2014, holder of the Chair in Indo-Iranian Languages and Religions at the Collège de France. He is the author of over 200 scholarly articles, and, with Éric Pirart, translator of the three-volume "Les textes vieil-avestiques" (1988-1991). His collection of "Essays on Zarathustra and Zoroastrianism" was published by Mazda Publishers in 2000.

Translator’s Preface

Author’s Preface to the English Edition

The Zoroastrians Today

Chronology of Pre-Islamic Iran

The Structure of the Extant Avesta

Note to the Reader


Introduction


Chapter One: From Zoroaster to Zarathushtra

Zoroaster Before the Avesta

The Discovery of the Avesta

The Reality of the Avesta


Chapter Two: Martin Haug and the Historical Model

The Plot

The Date and Time

The Legacy of Martin Haug


Chapter Three: James Darmesteter and the Mythological Model

Unconscious Dualism and the Mythology of the Storm

The Low Dating

What Remains of Darmesteter?

Darmesteter in the Mirror of Spiegel


Chapter Four: The Great Gap of the Founders

Karl Friedrich Geldner and the Pseudo-Historical Middle Dating

The Unveiling of Religious Desire

Christian Bartholomae and the Primacy of Philology


Chapter Five: “Minimal Zoroastrianism”: The Franco-Scandinavian Interaction

The Chronology of the Avesta and Faith in Pseudo-Historical Dating

The Economic and Social Context

The Stratification of the Yashts and the Denial of Mythology

The Hypothesis of Iranian Sectarianism

The Romance of Iranian Sects


Chapter Six: “Maximal Zoroastrianism”: The Posterity of Andreas

The Pseudo-Proof of the Pseudo-Historical Dating

Herman Lommel and the Advent of the Dialectic Schema

The Invention of Dualism

The Formation and Character of the “Common Opinion”


Chapter Seven: The School of Erlangen: A Change in Perspective

New Linguistic Foundations and High Dating

A New Image of the Oldest Part of the Avesta

Diminishing the Place of Eschatology

Gāthic Monotheism and the Question of the Bounteous Immortals

Gāthic Monotheism and the Demonization of the Daivas


Conclusion in the Absence of Zarathushtra


Notes

Bibliography

Glossary

Thematic Index

3/10/2019

 
“A remarkable and critical account of earlier scholarly constructions of the Avesta and Zoroastrianism by one of the most original philologists of ancient Iranian religion and textual incarnations of Zarathushtra.”—Michael Stausberg, University of Bergen

3/10/2019

 
“Jean Kellens’ "The Fourth Incarnation of Zarathushtra" is a book that simply needed to be translated. In it, we find the most original and authoritative living specialist of the Avesta in deep and often intimate conversation with his predecessors. It is a profoundly personal, brazenly partisan and unbelievably inspiring work.” —Albert de Jong, Leiden University
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