To convert a Persian and teach him the Holy Scriptures: A Zoroastrian proselyte in Rabbinic and Syriac Christian narratives

Reuven Kiperwasser, Serge Ruzer

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In the Sasanian Empire, where Zoroastrianism was the religion of the ruling elite, Jews and Christians shared the status of a religious minority. Even if the state’s attitude to them may be generally characterized as one of tolerance, the changing political situation - in view of the con-version of Rome to Christianity and the Christianization of formerly Zoroastrian Armenia - engendered tensions and, sometimes, dramatic shifts in policy. Having the minority-majority issue as its backdrop, this paper presents a comparative analysis of two narratives - one rabbinic (attested in Kohelet Rabbah) and the other, Syriac Christian (The Story of Yeshu‘sabran). Both narratives describe cases of Persians leaving their native tradition and embracing the minority faith - Judaism or Christianity respectively
- via study of the characters of the language of the Holy Scripture and, subsequently Scripture itself. The discussion highlights the common traits and the differences in the perception of the Persian cultural model attested in our stories, and corroborates them in light of the evidence provided by other available sources. The polemical strategies of construing the Persian Other and, consequently, of border drawing employed by each tradition with regard to perceived Zoroastrian emphasis on the oral path of learning are outlined. Their bearing on, inter alia, different modes of missionary “reaching out” among Jews and Christians is discussed.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationJews, Christians, and Zoroastrians
Subtitle of host publication Religious dynamics in a Sasanian context
EditorsGeoffrey Herman
Place of PublicationPiscataway, NJ
PublisherGorgias Press
Number of pages37
ISBN (Electronic)9781463224547
ISBN (Print)9781463202507
StatePublished - 2014

Publication series

NameJudaism in context

RAMBI Publications

  • Rambi Publications
  • Midrash rabbah -- Ecclesiastes -- Criticism, interpretation, etc
  • Avot de-Rabbi Nathan -- Criticism, interpretation, etc
  • Judaism -- Relations -- Zoroastrianism
  • Christianity and other religions -- Zoroastrianism
  • Rabbinical literature -- History and criticism


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