The massacre of the angels: Zoroastrian Anti-Judaism and Islamic theology

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Chapters thirteen and fourteen of Marda¯nfarrox i¯ Ohrmazdda¯da¯n's ninth century theological and polemical treatise Škand Guma¯ni¯g Wiza¯r contain the most extensive polemic material against Judaism known in Zoroastrian literature. This polemic is comprised solely of citations from Jewish texts and the author's rationalist critique of those citations; these Jewish citations are paralleled, more or less exactly, by passages from the Bible and rabbinic literature. The present article examines Marda¯nfarrox's argument against one of these Jewish citations, found in Škand Guma¯ni¯g Wiza¯r 14:36-38. The citation describes how the Jewish God creates ninety thousand angels every day to praise him but, with nightfall, destroys them all in a river of fire. In his comments, Marda¯nfarrox indicts the Jewish God for his injustice and destruction of the angels.Marda¯nfarrox's critique of this citation is best understood not as a response to the content of the citation itself, but rather as contingent on the Škand Guma¯ni¯g Wiza¯r's theory of divine justice that forms a part of its proof of ethical dualism. Moreover, Marda¯nfarrox, both in the criticism of Judaism and in his rational explication of Zoroastrian theology, is taking up themes and methods prominent in Islamic Mu'tazilite rationalist theology. In explicating these connections, the article situates the Škand Guma¯ni¯g Wiza¯r as a whole as part of the shared intellectual discourse of the ninth and tenth centuries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)111-128
Number of pages18
JournalStudia Iranica
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Islam
  • Judaism
  • Pahlavi literature
  • Rationalist theology
  • Zoroastrianism

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • History


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