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About the Translation and Origin of this Book
Origin of the Book
This book was originaly found in india. It belonged to some Zoroastrians who fled from Iran to india to escape muslim persecution. The Zoroastrians have a holy collection of books that they call “the avesta”. Most of these books were written in Persia, and contain man made ideas and magic stories, but among them was this Book. The Zoroastrians could not understand the language of this book very well because it was an old language. They did not know how old it was, neither did they know where it had come from. They knew it was written by the Prophet Zarathushtra, but they did not know that he was the first Buddah, or that he came from india. To Zoroastrians it was basically a book of magic chants for and prayers, and ceremonies. The Zoroastrians called it “the gathas”, which means “the song”.
The Book's Language
“The gathas” are written in a very old language. The language looks indian, and is similar to the oldest indian books (the vedas). The Zoroastirans want to belive that Zoroaster lived in persia, so they say that long ago Persia used to speak this language. However, there is no evidence of this. No other book from Persia is written in such a language and the langauge in every way looks indian.
The Book's Journey
We now know that the book started in the indus valley in Pakistan. It was written in indus valley hieroglyphs. There were people outside the indus valley called “Aryans”. They eventully took over india and Pakistan, they took the book and translated it in to their own Aryan language, replacing the hieroglyphs with words. From looking at the text this was done very carefully and acuratley, because the text reads like a hieroglyphic language (with few joining words) rather then having the structure of other indian books. Hystaspes (the father of king Darius) visited india and took a copy of the book to afganistan (this happened just before the last copy of the book was lost in india). Then when Darius became king of Persia he made it the main relgion of the Persian empire (modern day iran). (Despite popular belif there is no mention of Zoroastirainism or Ahura Mazda in Iran before Darius).When the muslims began killing Zoroastrians, some of them fled to india and took copies of the book with them.
People in Europe had heard of Zarathushtra. Ancient history books often mentioned him. He was the ancient great prophet of the God of wisdom and light. Europeans were very surprised when they found that his book had survived in india, and many people began the work of helping to decode what it said.
The Original Language
The book was written in the indus valley civalisation (as shown in the study addition). This civalisation has a languge that is hyroglythic, with pictures representing words (like Chinese or Egyptian). No one today can read indus valley hieroglyphs. The only way we learn how to read new languages is by finding some thing where the same story is found in two langauges. If we know one of those langauges then we can understand the other one as well. Originaly people could not read Egyptian, but once the “Rosetta Stone” was found with Egyptian and greek written next to each other then we were able to understand Egyptian. Unfortunatley no one has ever found some thing with Indus valley writing and another languge together. Also we have not found very much indus valley writing. The Indus valley was a very long time ago, so any writing on Paper cloth and wood has now decayed away. The only thing we have left is signs with a few symbols, or stamps with a few symbols, occasionlay we will find a bronze plate with a little bit of writing but not very much. People used to think that we would know nothing about the indus valley because we had almost no writing from them, and what we did have could not be read. However recent discoveries have shown that, because people long ago translated this book from indus valley hyroglphys in to the Aryan Indian Langauge we now know a lot about the indus valley.
Reconstructing the Langauge
Other people had made translations of the “gathas” (this book) but they were all very different. This is because the language didn’t make sense to the translators and so they had to do a lot of guessing. Over the last 100 years a lot of people have worked to reconstruct the Aryan language that the book is written in so we can now do much better translations. We were very lucky that this book was put in to this Aryan language because it is one of the root languages that many of the worlds modern languaes came from. Most of the languges of india, Europe and the middle east all came from this language so with the help of computers and history books we can revive it. If we find a word we don’t know we simpley scan all langauges and if we find many old similar matches for that word, then we can be fairly certain of its meaning. Originaly we thought that there would be some words were there meaning has been lost forever, but that turned out not to be the case. We are now fairly certain that nearly all the words in this translation are accurate.
Persia or India?
Modern Zoroastrians come from Persia orginaly. There religion teaches that Zarathustra was born in Persia. And that the events of the “Gathas” all happened in Persia. Like most culures they are proud of their home country, so most of them do not like the idea that Zarathushtra was born in india at the time of the indus valley civalisation, and they are unaware of the evidence for this. For translators this makes a big difference, because Persian is also an indo European language so some words in this book have different meanings depending on weather the book was written in Persia or india. For example: the prophets own name is “Za rath ushtra”. In persian “Zarath” means golden, and “ushtra” means camel. But in india, “Za” means “leave”, “rath” means “being with”, and “Ushtra” means “buffalo”. So depending on where you think the book was written does change a lot of meanings. As shown in the study addition, Zarathushtra was born in the indus valley civilisation in Pakistan india, so this is the word set we choose. Its also the one that makes the most sense in the translation.
The Issue of Word Endings
One difficulty with the translation of this book is that most words have word endings, that specify the tense, actor, gender or case - just like English words end with “ing”, “ed”, “s”, “ly” to further specify the meaning. The original language this book was written in was hieroglyphic though, so no such word endings could have existed, as there are no dots or lines indicating further specification:
When the book was later translated into Old-Avestian from the Indus Valley hyroglphys the interpretation of the person doing the translation was captured in the word endings. In some cases these word endings seem to hinder the translation rather than helping it, which is why we needed to disregard them sometimes. We're currently investigating where the inclusion of word endings could make the translation more accurate, however no dramatic changes are to be expected.
Changes to match Peoples Ideas
Some modern translators liked this book very much. Some were proud of the fact that it was the only holy book from long ago that did not have any magic in it. But some concepts didn’t fit their views. Some believed that the concept of “a Bad God” wasn’t what they liked so they removed him from their translations. Some did not like the word “Dragon” in 11:6b. the word in the Aryan language is “Azim”, it appears in many latter Persian stories and always means “dragon”, but it embarrsed some translators who didn’t like magic or dragons, so they simply removed it. In our case we have translated the word as “Dinosaurs”.
Also many translators are very dishonest. Later Zoroastrians made up many new ideas, and they wanted to squeeze these ideas in to the gathas. For example, the “gathas” often speak about, “wisdom” “compassion”, “authority” and ”strength”. Later Zoroastrianism belived that God had six archanagles called the Amesha Spentas. One was the angel of wisdom, another the angel of compassion etc. Dishonest authors have changed the gathas to suggest that it is talking about these angles when ever these qualities are mentioned, instead of the real topics it spoke of. Other authors want the book to look more Christian, so when ever they see the words “god of kindness”, they leave it as “spenta mainyu” and try to alter the text to imply that it is like the Christian “holy spirit” which is seprate from God. Others simpley don’t like the text contradicting their later myths and legends. For example in the original story of Noah God destroys the world with water, but in the Persian Zoroastiran version god destroys the world with a long winter (Noah builds a big building for all the animals, instead of an ark). The Persian translators don’t want their cultures legends to be proven wrong, so they remove the word “water” when the gathas are talking about Noah.
A good and simple way to test the honesty of a translation is like this:
Go to verse 3:9 (in Zoroastrian translations this will be called Yasna 32:9).
Look at the 9th word. It says “apo” which means water or rain, but dishonest translators will leave it out, because in the Zoroastrian story of Yima there is no rain.
Then go to verse 11:4 (in Zoroastrian translations this will be called Yasna 44:4).
Now look at the 15th word, it is also “apo” but in this verse I think youl find most translations will translate it correctly as “rain” because they have no agenda to lie about it here. Such examples of dilibrate changes are common.
Who made this Translation?
This translation is the work of many people who have worked for over 100 years. Since the book was orignaly found in india a lot of different people have all strived to understand and decode its language. Each person worked on the foundation of those before hand and purified mistakes where ever they could. Eventully modern discoveries proved that the book did not come from Persia and this removed a lot of the blockages that had stopped a true translation from being possible. Other people did not actuly work on the book itself but helped with programs or computerized word searches that helped to decipher the remaining words that were previously unknown.
When was this Book orginaly written?
Some say the indus valley civilization was 4500 years ago. Indian scientists have carbon dated it at 6000 to 8000 years ago. It went for around 2000 to 3000 years, and we don’t know at which time Zarathushtra lived during this period. Taking all these things in to consideration the book was written some time between 5000 years ago to 8000 years ago.
Many holy books have changed over time. When we look at changes made to the bible we find some stories are added like the women caught in adultery (John 8:1-8). Other times authors exaggerate, for example the giant goliath in the original is 7 feet tall, but in modern versions he is 10 feet tall. Even the prophet Jeremiah in the bible complains that dishonest scribes are changing the bible (Jeremiah 8:8). Early Islamic authors often quote verses of the Quran that no longer exist in the modern Quran or they quote them differently showing changes over time. Most sayings of Buddah are made up by latter people yet accepted by the Buddhist relgion as coming from him.
Some people may ask “since all other holy books have been changed by people with agendas then shouldn’t we assume that this one has as well?”
The answer is that this holy book is different to all others:
The zoroastrians have been looking after these scriptures for the last 2500 years. In the case of Christianity or islam their holy books were in languages that the people understood. But this book was kept an ancient Aryan language which no one in Persia could read. The people would often chant this book as though it were a magic spell, but if they wanted to change it they would not have been able to because they did not know the languge well enough to add or change its message. Instead of changing the original languge they wrote commentaries of what they thought the ancient book said, and these got changed often, but the original writing remained untouched by human agenda.
Belief of Reduction
There are some scholars that hold to the idea that one line has gone missing from the text: They say that verse 13:15 has only 19 words, but all other verses in the chapter have between 25 and 30 words. Such people also say that verse 15:6 is too long it has 32 words. They say that it must have been two verses that had pieces missing, so the author joined them together.
If the book was in exact word groups of 25 words per verse then this would make sense but here is the amount of words in these two chapters, they are not confined to strict number patterns so I think these ideas are bassless.
26, 28, 24, 32, 27, 27, 29, 25, 29, 30, 26, 25, 27, 25, 19, 25, 22, 27, 26
As you can see there is also a 22 in there, and it goes as high as 30, there is not an exact number pattern.
25, 25, 25, 28, 26, 32, 28, 26, 29
The last verse also gets as high as 29.
We are fairly certain that the book has not changed since it arrived in persia because the people simpley did not know the language well enough to change it. But one may ask wether changes could have occurred in the thousands of years before arriving in Persia.
The latter hindu faith was filled with magic stories, talking fish, giant snakes, gods with magic swords, monkey gods, elephant gods, dancing blue faced gods with many arms and many faces. Babylon had similar ideas to the hindus as did the Egyptians and every other writing from that time period. The reason why we belive that this text has been divinely protected from change is because it is the only “non magic story” text that exists from that time period. If any one had added to it, we would expect some of these more magical ideas to have gotten in to the text.
What did the Original look like
As mentioned before this was an indus valley text, orignaly in indus valley hieroglyphs. No copy of the original survies. However ancient cultures often have more consistent style then we do today, so we can learn a little bit from other writtings found. This picture below is a bronze plate from the indus valley. It is not from this book, but it may tell us some things about the what the original style may have looked like.
The picture is the indus valley version of Noah, he seems to have a drug plant with him (see noah section), he has crossed legs and his usual hat. There is a cup with him as well. There are 31 symbols. This is interesting to us because this book is also broken up in to verses of around 25 to 32 symbols, so perhaps this was a common way of presenting writing at the time. The picture with the text is interesting to us, because this book sometimes does not clearly show who is speaking. It is possible that in the past verses showed pictures of who was speaking just as this one does. The writing seems to be continuous with no full stops or reasons to assume that the different lines represent different sentences. This is one of the issues with translating this book. We have to breack up the verses in to smaller sentences, most of the time these breacks are obvious, but occasionlay there are examples were a person could get a slightly different meaning by breacking the sentence in a different place. Generaly alternative meanings make no sense, so genraly this is not a problem.
The Name of God
The Zoroastrian Religion calls God “Ahura Mazda”. For a while we used this name in the modern translation. However, we decided to change it as people from other faiths become uncomfortable when God has a foreign name. Instead it was decided that we would use the proper definition of each word:
“Mazda” = God of wisdom / the chief and wisest God
“Ahura” = God of light (ahu “lord / god” + ra “light”)
The word “Ahura” is one of the oldest words for God. The Indians use the word “Asu-Ra”, the ancient Europeans called god “Asiur”. The Egyptians called God “Ra” (with Ra meaning light the same as in the Indian language)
“Think about this yourself, with your own logic and reasoning and work out the truth.”— Chapter 8: Verse 6