There were two ancient castes of priests that were concerned with Astronomy and Astrology in the near east. These two castes were both Aryan. One found its way to ancient India, and the other found its way to Persia (Iran). They both were probably descended from the same original ancient priesthood order. The priestly caste from this Aryan group in India was called the Brahmins, named after their “god” Brahama. And the other caste in Persia was called the Magi. The members of the Magi group that lived in Media and Assyria (Iraq) were sometimes called “Chaldeans.” Some of these people worked as advisers to Kings. As we read in the scriptures, one of these had the title “Rab Mag”.[i] Mag in this case refers to Magos or Magi, showing that this person was of the Magi priestly caste. Rab is the Hebrew word for “abundance” or “great.” So here we have the term “Great Magi” or “Chief of the Magi.” [ii]
Though this caste of priests became rife with Zoroastrianism and other apostate religions over time, and wasn't exclusively Israelite, it does seem to have its beginnings as a “Hebrew” priestly caste. In saying this, I mean to say the branch of Shemites that were descended from Eber, or more specifically, the descendants and followers of Abraham, who weren't specifically Israelites that Abraham had gathered under his wing. Abraham taught them Astronomy and the Gospel. And that degenerated over time. So the original “Magi” or “Brahmins” (followers of a-Braham), according to some traditions, go back to the times of Abraham's Church and Abraham's converts. E. Douglas Clark, an LDS scholar, writes:
Who were they [the magi], and how did they know how to find and recognize the infant king [Jesus]? The Magi are said to have called their religion Kesh-i-Ibrahim, i.e., the creed of Abraham, whom they considered as their prophet and the reformer of their religion. They traced their religious books to Abraham, who was believed to have brought them from heaven. According to this tradition, it was the books brought down by Abraham from the throne of Jesus which guided the magi to the manger to worship the infant King of Heaven.[iii]
The idea that some scholars have, that Zoroaster was the founder of the Magi Priesthood caste is supported by the Bhavisya Purana:
Because both you and I have ignored the injunctions of the Vedas, similarly our son will not follow their laws. He will be known as Jarasabda and will bring fame to his dynasty. They will worship fire and will be known by the name Magas, and being Soma worshippers they will be known as Brahmanas.[iv]
This “Maga Jarasabda” was none other than Zoroaster. We are used to thinking of the name Zoroaster as being the originator of a false religion. We are also used to thinking of the name of Brahma as a false Aryan god from India. But according to the earliest traditions, it seems that there was more than one Zoroaster. Tradition has it that the first Zoroaster was Abraham himself, and that Zoroaster was a religious title. This first Zoroaster was called “Ibrahim Zeradust” or “Abraham Zoroaster.” Some traditions have it that there were as many as seven Zoroasters who claimed this title. French Enlightenment Philosopher, Voltare, suggested:
For the rest, this name Bram, Abram, was famous in India and Persia: some learned men even allege that he was the same legislator as the one the Greeks called Zoroaster. Others say that he was the Brahma of the Indians. But what appears very reasonable to many scholars is that this Abraham was a Chaldean or a Persian.[v]
Professor Edward Browne of Cambridge University, who lived from 1862 to 1926, states:
I may here mention a very absurd fiction, which I have more than once heard the Zoroastrians maintain in the presence of Musulmans or Babis, namely, that Zoroaster was identical with Abraham. [vi]
Note that this professor is giving his own testimony of this tradition, saying that he himself heard it. He is not getting it from some third-party the way these other sources may have gotten it. Is it really all that absurd? One source makes the claim that:
Zoroaster, king of the Bactrians, was vanquished by Ninus, and passed for the inventor of magic. Eusebius places this victory of Ninus in the seventh year of Abraham; now several authors make Zoroaster appear much earlier . . . It is added, that he passed twenty years in the deserts, and there eat nothing but a sort of cheese which was never the worse for age; that the love of wisdom and justice obliged him to retire from the world to a mountain, where he lived in solitude; but when he come down from thence there fell a celestial fire upon it, which perpetually burned; that the king of Persia, accompanied with the greatest lords of his court, approached it for the purpose of putting up prayers to God; that Zoroaster came out from these flames unhurt; that he comforted and encouraged the Persians, and offered sacrifices for them to God; that, afterwards, he did not live indifferently with all sorts of men, but only those who were born for truth, and who were capable of the true knowledge of God, which kind of people are called among the Persians, Magi . . . The Chronicle of Alexandria adds, that having held this discourse with them he invoked Orion, and was consumed by celestial fire.[vii]
It goes on to say: “Some Magi affirm that he is the same with Abraham, and frequently call him Ibrahim Zerdascht, which is Abraham the friend of fire.” [viii] It is common knowledge that Abraham escaped “death by fire” in many traditions.[ix] It is also known that Abraham was a wanderer in the desert. Lord Godfrey Higgins states that “The Persians generally called Abraham, Ibrahim Zeradust.” [x] While these sources can be said to be “speculative,” many traditions are handed down through many lines that are recorded at certain points that contain correct information. The connection is strengthened through a number of evidences, not just these quotes. Just like Freemasonry can be said to have ancient elements in it (even though it doesn't truly go back to Solomon's Temple, but instead comes from guilds, Alchemy and Rosicrucianism), I believe that these sources contain critical traditions about this Abraham/Brahma/Zoroaster connection. It is further strengthened by the fact that we know that Abraham's sign is the Lotus, and it is also the sign of the Indian god Brahma.
Abraham has been linked to the Egyptian god Osiris in the Joseph Smith Papyri, as pointed out by individuals like Kevin Barney. It is no further of a stretch to suggest that he ought to now also be identified with the god Brahma. However, another further non-coincidence is the fact that “God” in the Egyptian Magical Papyri is often referred to as “Abraxas.” In one of these papyri, John Gee identified that a man on a lion couch (as in Facsimile #1 of the Book of Abraham) has writing associated with him that contains the words “Abracam” and “Abraam.” Gee says this is more than coincidence, and this is an indication that the Abrahamic interpretation of Egyptian papyri was indeed present in ancient Egypt. Ed Ashment, a critic of the Church and of Joseph Smith's translations found fault with Gee's interpretations, stating “Unfortunately, he [Gee] fails to acknowledge that his alleged references occur within series of magical abracadabra words . . .” [xi] Then he gives us a list of some of these words from the Magical Papyri. Some of them that he notes are abra, abrae abrao abraoa, abra abra sabaoth, abrat abrasax, abraiaoth, abraoth, and abrasax. Abrasax is an anagram of the name for God used in the Magical Papyri, namely Abraxas, and is sometimes used in its place. Already we know that Osiris is associated with Jesus Christ as well as Abraham, and now we add Brahma to this list. Here we have the name Sabaoth, admitted to by Ashment. Lord of Sabaoth is one of the names of Jehovah. These ancient people knew full well the context that they were interpreting these papyri in.
Abraxas or Abrakas was identified with Osiris, and I believe he was a symbol of Abraham:
Abraxas or Abrakas was identified with Osiris, and I believe he was a symbol of Abraham:
Flavius Josephus, a Jewish historian, wrote that the Greek philosopher Aristotle had said: "...These Jews are derived from the Indian philosophers; they are named by the Indians Calani." [xii] Lord Higgins, who we quoted previously, stated:
"Megasthenes, who was sent to India by Seleucus Nicator, about three hundred years before Christ, and whose accounts from new inquiries are every day acquiring additional credit, says that the Jews 'were an Indian tribe or sect called Kalani...'" [xiii]
And the reader is urged to remember that calani or kalan is one of the forms of the word Chaldee. Furthermore, others have claimed, “In Hindu mythology, Sarai-Svati [Sara-Swati] is Brahm's sister.” [xiv] Abraham's wife and sister was Sarai. If it were just one coincidence about all this stuff, then it would be one thing. But the coincidences keep piling up. “Brahm's four arms represent the four cardinal directions: east, south, west, and north.” [xv] See, of course, Facsimile #1 of the Book of Abraham where the four sons of Horus are interpreted as the four cardinal directions.
According to the Brahma Purana, he is the father of Mnu, and from Mnu all human beings are descended. In the Ramayana and the Mahbhrata, he is often referred to as the progenitor or great grandsire of all human beings. [xvi]
Man, or Ahman, is God, of course, as LDS Tradition holds. Now for the title Zoroaster, some have translated it as meaning “friend of fire.” There seems to be something to that. Is there more to this that would make this case any stronger? Curiously, it comes from the most well-known word in the Book of Mormon, Deseret. Hugh Nibley says:
The figure of the Red Crown of Lower Egypt is of prehistoric antiquity and has the phonetic values of n, bit, (meaning bee), and dsrt. [xvii]
. . . [T]he red crown of the lady Neith, with its peculiar wirelike protuberance which suggests the antenna of a bee, did have the name of dsr.t and went back to the time of the migrations into Egypt . . . T3-dsr (note the different sound values attributed to the word by different scholars) [can mean] . . . a land set apart, . . . a land of preparation, . . . holy ground where only an initiate may be buried. [xviii]
It can be demonstrated that the following words/names are all cognate words with the same base meaning and root in a number of languages: Abraham, Brahma (God of the Hindus/Bramins), Zarathustra (Zoroaster), Deseret, and the Hebrew name Deborah. To summarize, there are core attributes in the related root particles dbrt, dbr, drb, dzbr, zbr, zbrt, zmbr, zbmr, brmr, brm and so forth, in various languages, both Semitic and Indo-European, which are all tied to the ideas of fire, the colors yellow and gold (being the colors associated with fire), and the bee or other closely identified insects, some that are yellow in color generally.[xix] They seem to be all closely related and associated roots to an ancestral root of dsrt. How many of them are directly derived from that root is not exactly clear.
Now, my hypothesis of what I believe the reader ought to take away from these facts is that Brahma and Zarathustra are both have a close etymological relation to the word Deseret, and that they both are connected to the idea of the honeybee, and the sacred land. I suggest that some of these words were titles for Abraham and his followers. The words suggest that Abraham and Zoroaster are associated with the idea of fire, the “fire of the Chaldees” or the lion couch, where Abraham was almost sacrificed, and so forth.
[i] Jeremiah 39:3, 13
[ii] See LDS Bible Dictionary under the name Nergal-Sherezer
[iii] The Blessings of Abraham: Becoming a Zion People, p. 157
[iv] Bhavisya Purana, Brahma-parva, chapter 139, 42-45
[v] Voltaire's “Philosophical Dictionary,” or Dictionnaire Philosophique, p. 18
[vi] A Year Amongst The Persians: Impressions as to the Life, Character, And Thought of the People of Persia, p. 395
[vii] Biographica Antigua, p. 143-146, a grimore of magic found in The Magus, by Francis Barrett
[viii] ibid., note 1 for page 146
[ix] Traditions of the Early Life of Abraham, compiled by Tvedtnes, Hauglid and Gee
[x] Anacalypsis, Vol. I, p. 396
[xii] Josephus, Book I:22
[xiii] Anacalypsis, Vol. I; p. 400.
[xiv] Matlock, Gene D., Who Was Abraham?, http://viewzone2.com/abraham2.html
[xv] See for example http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brahm
[xvii] Nibley, Hugh, The Message of the Joseph Smith Papyri: An Egyptian Endowment, second edition, p. 353, note for Figure 111.
[xviii] ibid., pp. 353-354.
[xix] In the Afro-Asiatic etymologies for the cognate words related to the meaning of the English word bee, we see that a number of them refer to bees and the color yellow in particular, insects in general. In Hebrew, the word for bee is deborah (dbr), from which we get the name as we know it in English. The Hebrew root dbr means “say, speak, prod, sting, or goad.” In Latin, there is a similar root which is “verb” that means “whip, lash, sting, or cattle goad.” Note that the Hebrew word deborah sounds an awful lot like the word Deseret, with the exception that there is no T at the end, and the letter B is transposed for S. We read that “.t is common Afro-Asiatic feminine postfix” (http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/apis). Therefore, in some contexts, the T would not be there in the words. The vowels make no difference when going to the root-word level in Semitic and related languages. In Amharic, dbr signifies “a yellow fly which afflicts cattle.” Another language has the root drb. As we saw, Hugh Nibley already noted that there is some transposition of consonants in these related roots. It is noted that in these cognates in various Afro-Asiatic languages that “Two groups of comparable forms with a different first radical are attested: d_-forms [and] . . . z-forms.” Some of these forms are zbbr, meaning “bee, wasp” or zybwry and znbr and zmbr meaning “hornet.” The source states that the “Relationship between the . . . sets of forms remains obscure. One can postulate one . . . root . . . which would imply irregular phonetic developments *d_ > d and *d_ > z in a number of languages . . . Alternatively, two different roots *dVbVr- and *zV(n)bVr- can be postulated.” Other related roots are brt or “caterpillar” and brm, meaning “tick.” In this quote, the V letter intbetween the two hypothetical roots signifies a vowel. (For this source, see http://starling.rinet.ru/cgi-bin/response.cgi?single=1&basename=/data/semham/afaset&text_number=+332&root=config, under numbers 2373 and 2366.)
Now, the non-linguist will ask, what does this all mean? It means in languages related to Hebrew and Egyptian, the ideas of bee, of the color yellow, and of insects, are dominated by words starting out with either d or z as the first consonant (where the sound of z similar to the “s” sound, especially the way the letter s is pronounced in English for the Book of Mormon Jaredite word Deseret). In the middle of the roots, there is an r and sometimes an n. And in the end, they have t, and m sometimes. Once in a while we see n in the middle. And we see a variant of these roots, as pointed out by Hugh Nibley, in Egypt as alternatively tdsr or dsrt. This means that there is a high likelihood that the original proto-root of all these roots is dsrt, and has been preserved in the Egyptian. And it means bee.
Here comes the clincher for Brahma and Zoroaster. As you saw, above, one of these root variants is brm. If you don't believe that this is related to Sanskrit (the ancient Aryan language of India) and Avestan (the ancient Aryan language of Persia/Iran), try this on for size. The Sanskrit word for large bee is bhramara. The word for black, humming bee is bhramar. You see where this is going. The name Brahma is associated with the bee, and the word Deseret. And it is also associated with the name Abraham.
Now for the etymology of the name Zoroaster. The name comes from the Greek, from the words that translate as “undiluted” (zoros) and “star” (astres). That seems to be appropriate for Abraham, so that was probably not a coincidence that the Greek transliterator chose that. But the Avestan version is Zarathustra. Some have suggested an etymology of zara, meaning “gold” or “fire,” and thustra, meaning “friend.” Zara is probably related to the Greek word “pyro” meaning fire through an Indo-European root. (As for the etymologies of what we have shown, there is definitely a connection to the color of gold and the color yellow in all of these roots. But also, once again, if we interpret this as the word “zarat,” or perhaps, a hypothetical root zrt we see the consonants z, r, and t. This seems to be one of the Z forms of the ancient roots related to dsrt. Interestingly zrt, in some Semitic languages, is associated with the idea of a garment, apron or girdle of some sort. If we break up the words thusly, then the particle ustra, in some Indo-European contexts, could be from an str type of root (such as the Western Germanic root strat), or it could be from the us root, meaning “light.” And the association with this being an anagram of zrt is intentional. For example, in English, we have “street.” In Latin, we have “strata,” from which we get the English strata. The Indo-European root word ster means “to spread.” You see that the implication there is the basic idea of land or perhaps road. In Hebrew the root str means “hidden.” Now go back and read the Nibley quotes again about dsrt having an implication of a “land.” Again, str, of course, are the consonants in the Greek astres, and Abraham was a man of the stars, and coincidentally or not, zera in Hebrew means "seed." Abraham was told that his seed would be as the stars of the heaven in number. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zoroaster;