« PreviousContinue »
and reclaims a monopoly. But we cannot understand why a conflict should break out between the lay State and Protestantism, which is precisely the radical negation of these theocratic pretensions. Between the government and Protestantism there can be no conflict of principles, but only negotiations for practical application. We (the Protestants) do not know this fatal distinction between priests and laymen. This word cannot have for us the meaning of antireligious, which it has in the eyes of the municipal Council of Paris, and in those of the ultramontanes. Theoretically, we have nothing against the lay school, or against the schools conducted by a teacher who, though in the pay of the government, may nevertheless be an excellent Christian. From a practical point of view, Protestantism can do nothing but reclaim for the pastor the right of going to the school and giving to those children whom their parents wish to intrust to him religious instruction. In this way, it seems to us, the State would reconcile two things which it should regard as equally essential. First, it would acknowledge that there can be no real moral education without religious instruction; and, secondly, it would uphold the true liberty, which consists in respecting the beliefs and the rights of every
This, in our opinion, is the just and the liberal solution of the question."
ART. VIII.-FOREIGN RELIGIOUS INTELLIGENCE.
THE PARSEES. AMONG the religious denominations of the present age the Parsees are, numerically, one of the smallest and most insignificant, but in point of the interest taken in the history of religious beliefs by the civilized world they rank very high. The doctrines of Zoroaster were the State religion of the great Persian Empire, which under Cyrus and some of his successors appeared to have a prospect of becoming the ruler and mistress of the world. After being displaced during five hundred years by the rude Parthians, it was reinstated in the third century, and remained the State religion of the Persians under the dynasties of the Achæmenidae and Sassanidae, until it was crushed by the victories of Mohammedanism. The majority of the worshipers of Ormuzd were gradually compelled to embrace the Islam; most of those who remained faithful to the traditional religion emigrated to India, and only a small handful remained in their native country. But it is not only their glorious history which secures
the remnants of the Parsees an abiding interest; their religion is generally regarded by those who have studied the ancient Oriental systems as the most remarkable which profane antiquity produced, as the most ethical form of heathenism. (See “Methodist Quarterly Review," art., The Zendavesta, 1879, pp. 115–299.) It is a very remarkable fact that even before the Christian era all distinct traces of the age, the character, and the doings of Zoroaster had been lost, and the first work which really sheds light on the subject was not published until the year 1700. Since then the knowledge of Zoroastrianism and its holy book, the Zendavesta, has been revived by the learned works of Anquetil du Perron in the eighteenth, and of Burnouf, Westergaard, Spiegel, and Haug in the nineteenth centuries. While the past history of the Parsees is fully sufficient to secure them for all time to come the interest of thinking and educated men, the present small remnant adds to this interest by its remarkable intelligence. The “Gazette of Augsburg” has recently (March 31, April 1, 2, 3) published an interesting article on "The Remnants of the Old Parsees in Persia," from the pen of E. Baron. von Gödel-Lannoy, a German writer living in Teheran, Persin, from which we take a few extracts. The writer states that he has received many details on the manner and customs of the Parsees from the chief of the Guebers or Parsees in Teheran, Mr. Manuktshee Limdjee.
Ever since Persia has been conquered by the Mohammedans the Parsees have been subjected to a cruel persecution, and these persecutions still continue, with a view to forcing them to embrace the Islam. At the close of the year 1879 the Parsees took a census of their numbers, when it was found that they numbered in Yezd and about twenty surrounding villages, 6,483; in Kirman and the neighborhood, 1,498; in Sheeraz, 30; in Bushieer, 12; in Kashaw, 15; in Teheran, 150; total in Persia, 8,188. The Parsees are a beautiful race. They are mostly tall, strong, sinewy men, whose mild, sympathetic features remind one of the antique heads on the sculptures of Persepolis, as well as on the Sassanide coins. The fine oval of the face, the strong, slightly-bent aquiline nose, high eyebrows over the beautifully cut dark eyes, the sad clouded looks of which reflect a thousand years' servitude, the full though not luxurious beard, are external ornaments of this people which are expressly mentioned by travelers and writers. The Guebers still represent the old Persian people, since they absolutely disfavor marriage with people of other religions, and have kept themselves pure and unmixed, while the other Persians have suffered a very considerable infusion of Arabic, Turkish, Mongolian, Afghan, and other elements.
Intellectually, the present Guebers of Persia are inferior to the Mohammedan Persians, which may be explained by the fact that for centuries they have had no opportunity for obtaining an education. But they exceed the Mohammedans morally. Like their forefathers, they detest lying, and are undoubtedly the most honest people of Persia, while the modern Persians appear to have no understanding of honor, truth, or honesty. They have two classes of priests, Dasturs (priests of a higher rank) and Mobeds, (priests of a lower rank.) There are only two dasturs in Persia, one in Yeza and one in Kirman. Their dignity has gradually become hereditary, although, according to the description of Zoroaster, the man who can exhibit the largest number of good works should be elected. A dastur who makes himself unworthy of his position can be deposed. The dasturs are regarded as the most prominent of their race, and, therefore, act also as judges, being frequently called upon to settle as arbiters difficulties among their coreligionists concerning national and hereditary laws. This judicial power is conceded to them by the Persian Government all the more readily as, according to Mohammedan principles, the judicial power emanates from the ecclesiastical. Even in the theocratic government of old Persia, the Magi, who were regirded as mediators between Ormuzd and his people, had a great power in secular affairs. The doctrine of Zoroaster wis, like the Koran, the fundamental law of the State, which was explained to the king by the Dasturan Dastur, (chief of the Magi.) Thus the chief legislative power was really vested in the head of the religion. The Koran probably received the idea of a fusion of the State and religious principles, like many other institutions, from the religion of Zoroaster. Mobeds, or priests of the lower rank, are found in every congregation of Guebers, and their functions are limited to divine worship. Fire-temples are only allowed to exist in their chief seats, and even there not publicly, but they are tacitly tolerated in private dwellings. At present there are twenty-six fire-temples in Yezd and the surrounding villages, and three in Kerman and its vicinity. Their structure and arrangement is very plain. The congregation assembles for prayer in a room which resembles a hall, and which adjoins a circumvallated yard. In a corner of this room stands an altar upon which a mobed kindles a small flame six times within twenty-four hours. This main room is connected with a smaller, dark room, the sanctuary, where the holy fire is preserved under a heap of ashes upon an altar. Only the priests have access to this room. The numerous ceremonies which attended the divine worship in ancient times have gradually been simplified, and the people, who are mostly poor and uneducated, also dispense with the very incommodious washings, of which there were several kinds, according to the degree of the contracted impurity. Only the priests continue to observe somewhat more accurately the old precepts. Education among the Guebers of Persia is at present in a very unsatisfactory condition, because great obstacles are put in their way. In Yezd and Kirman the mobeds generally take charge of the elementary instruction of the children, and also endeavor to acquaint them with the fundamental tenets of their religion.
Some years ago the chief of the Guebers in Teheran, Mr. Manuktshee Limdjee, a native of Bombay, was enabled, by the protection of the English embassy, to establish a school, in which about one hundred children of Guebers from all parts of Persia were instructed in religion, national history, and especially in the Persian language. The school has, however, recently been discontinued, and the Guebers of Persia are thus left without any institutions in their own country in which their children can receive a higher education. Of ancient books and writings little appears to be left in Yezd and Teheran. Special inquiries made by a European trav. eler in those regions led to no result, and Mr. Manuktshee, who likewise spent some time in those places, was equally unsuccessful. It appears, therefore, probable that the hope which was expressed by W. Ouseley that important literary treasures might still be found among the Parsees will not be realized. The Parsees are not allowed by the Mohammedans to ride either on horseback or on asses, but they have always to travel on foot. Like other tribes subjected by Mohavimedans they have to pay a capital tax, which amounts to about nine thousand francs annually, and is paid for them to the Persian Government by their coreligionists in India. The apostasy of their members to the Islam is encouraged by the law, which transfers the whole property of a Parsee family to that member which embraces the Islam.
In British India the descendants of the Parsees are in a much more fortunate conditiou than in their native land. They chiefly live in the Presidency of Bombay, where they numbered, according to the last census, more than 132,000 souls. Of these 44,000 lived on the island of Bombay, where they have three fire-temples, erected in the years 1780, 1830, and 1844. The English government has protected them from all oppression, and regulated by special law their marriage affairs, their property, and their hereditary laws. They have gained a very high reputation for honesty and intelligence, and as merchants, bankers, shipowners, builders of railroads, literary men, and, especially, as bigh-minded philanthropists, have taken an active and a very prominent part in the development of their second home. One of the noblest and most liberal merchants of India, Jamsetjee Jejeebhoy, received in 1842 the title Sir, and was in 1858 raised to the baronetcy. He spent more than £300,000 sterling for philanthropic purposes. His memory is perpetuated by a statue in the town-hall of Bombay. In London the Parsee commercial firm of Cama & Co. has been established. Recently a reform movement has sprung up among the Parsees of India, which aims at discarding the principle of a radical dualism. In reply to an English clergyman, J. Wilson, who some forty years ago wrote a work against the principles of the Parsee religion, two Parsee scholars denied that the sect had a doctrine that every thing existing in the world had proceeded from two principles. One of them, Doshabhai, maiutained that the words found in thc Vendidad on Ormuzd and Ahriman were only a parable of their prophet Zoroaster, describing the good and bad qualities in man. According to the other Parsee writer, Aspendiardjee, Ahriman is not a real being, but only a symbol for vice and evil. The doctrine of Dualism is also opposed in the Vadshar-Kart, a book which is ascribed to Mediomah, the uncle of Zoroaster, but which probably dates from a very recent time. According to this book Abriman is a powerless creature of Ormuzd, who has created all creatures, useful as well as hurtful, each of which, lowever, serves for some purpose in the creation.
ART. IX.-FOREIGN LITERARY INTELLIGENCE.
From the posthumous works of the late Dr. von Hofmann, one of the most distinguished theologians of the Lutheran Church, and Professor of Theology at the University of Erlangen, a new compendium of theological science has been published by Bestmann, (Encyclopädie der Theologie, Nördlingen, 1879.) The work does not give, as some might suppose from the title, a treatment of all important theological subjects in alphabetical order, but it gives the author's views on the entire system of theological science, its divisions and subdivisions, and their mutual relations to each other. All German students of theology are bound to bear a course of lectures on this subject, and of late quite a number of text-books on the subject have been published. The best known German work on the subject is that by Hagenbach; some years ago a shorter work was published by J. P. Lange, and recently a posthumous work of Emil Rothe, author of the great work on Christian ethics, has been announced.
Besides the Encyclopädie, a work on Biblical Hermeneutics has been compiled from the manuscripts and lectures of the late Dr. Hofmann. (Biblische Hermeneutik, Nördlingen, 1880.) It is edited by M. Volck.
The work of the late Bishop Haneberg, of Spires, on the Gospel of John, has been completed by the appearance of the second volume. (Evangelium nach Johannes übersetzt, etc., Munich, 1880.) The editor of the work is Professor Schegg, who is himself the author of several exegetical works, and of a life of Jesus. The present volume also constitutes the tenth volume of a collective commentary to the Gospels.
The centenary of the birthday of De Wette (January 12, 1880) has called forth a short biography of the celebrated theologian, by Professor Stähelin, of the University of Basle. Most of the works of De Wette still have a wide circulation in revised editions and in translations, and a brief sketch of their author will therefore be a welcome gift to many of his admirers. The author of the sketch, Professor Stähelin, is well known in the theological world as a Church historian.
A special work on the “Account of the Temptation of Christ, Examined in Regard to its Historical Basis," has been published by A. Hünefeld, (Versuchungsgeschichte, Berlin, 1880.) The author takes as his guide the opinion of the Church historian Neander, according to whom the biblical account of the temptation contains not ovly an ideal; but a historical truth, which, however, is reported in a symbolical form.
The theological literature of Russia is steadily growing in importance, and begins to produce works which are favorably noticed by the scholars of Western Europe. A work by Barsow, on “The Patriarch of Constantinople, and his Authority over the Russian Church,” (St. Petersburg, 1878,) is pronounced by a reviewer in the Theologische Literaturseitung of Leipsic to be one of the best works published in Russia on Church history.