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Most prophecies, if taken literally, would never come true – they could never happen unless the laws of nature were suspended.

Most apocalyptic prophecies – visions of the end – involve grand scenarios, remarkable events that, ordinarily considered, would otherwise be highly improbable, if not impossible. 

Their truth, moreover, is not in what they outwardly say, but what they inwardly mean. In some cases, fulfillment of some prophecies would not be good for the world, anyway – such as prophecies of a savior waging an apocalyptic war.

A case-in-point: the set of Zoroastrian prophecies about the sun standing still. Zoroastrianism is one of the world religions – although the current number of Zoroastrians today is small, such that, unfortunately, Zoroastrianism may be a dying religion. In its heyday, however, the religion of Zoroaster (who lived around 1,000 years before Christ) was a great world Faith, influencing Jewish and Christian – and, by extension, Islamic – beliefs about the afterlife and the future of the world. For instance, the concept of a heavenly “Paradise” – and even the very word itself – is borrowed from the original Persian.

Since the former Zoroastrian languages of Pahlavi and Pazand were unfamiliar to most Zoroastrians in nineteenth-century Persia [now Iran], the following prophecy, in “New Persian,” was much more accessible to lay, everyday Zoroastrian believers. This prophecy – about the sun standing still – is as follows:  

Then Oshedar comes to Behram Varjavand for apostleship. He performs a miracle and cries out to the sun: “Stand still!” The sun with the swift horse stands still. It stands still in the midst of the sky for 10 days and nights. All men abide by the religion of Oshedar. Then Meher of the wide pastures cries out: “O Oshedar, the Zarothushtrōtcmō, restorer of the true religion! Cry out to the sun with the swift horse (to move on), for it is dark in the regions of Arzah, Savah, Fradadafsh, Vidadafsh, Vorubarast, Vorujarast.” Then Oshedar, son of Zartosht [Zoroaster], cries out to the sun: “Move on, O sun with the swift horse!” Then it moves on and all men believe in the good religion [Zoroastrianism] and they accept it. And when the time of Oshedar comes to an end, then will come Oshedar Māh Bāmi. The millennium of Oshedar Māh Bāmi commences and Oshedar Māh goes to the conference of Ormazd [God], accepts the religion in its entirety and propagates it in the world, and, as a miracle, the sun will stand still for 20 days and nights in the midst of the sky, his movement will become still and he will not revolve. When the people of the world see this, two-thirds of them will be steadfast in the religion and will fix their hearts on the laws of God. …

It is evident that in the time of Oshedar, the sun stands still for 10 days and nights in the midst of the sky and (in the time of) Oshedar Māh he stands still for 20 days and nights and (in the time of) Sāshān, for 30 days and nights in the midst of the sky so that tho [though] the people of the world may be without any doubt about the religion of the Creator, and may offer prayers unto God and fix their minds rightly on Him.Persian Rivayats, pp. 470–472.

Here, this Zoroastrian prophecy speaks of three Zoroastrian saviors, or messiahs – Oshedar, Oshedar Māh, and Sāshān – each of whom perform the miracle of commanding the sun to stand still. What does this miracle – causing the sun to remain motionless in the sky for 10 days, then 20 days, then 30 days – actually mean?

It’s easiest to explain what this prophecy does not mean: here, the “sun” is not the physical sun, but the spiritual “sun.” By causing the sun to remain in the zenith of the sky, the sun does not set. The day of God, as it were, is prolonged. Spiritual illumination and guidance, during each of these three events, lasts for a symbolic period of time. Note also that these prophecies anticipate the restoration of Zoroastrianism’s former prestige and influence.  

“As a further testimony to the greatness of the Revelation identified with Baha’u’llah,” wrote Shoghi Effendi, the Guardian of the Baha’i Faith from 1921–1957, “may be cited the following extracts from a Tablet addressed by Abdu’l-Baha to an eminent Zoroastrian follower of the Faith:” 

Thou hadst written that in the sacred books of the followers of Zoroaster it is written that in the latter days, in three separate Dispensations, the sun must needs be brought to a standstill. In the first Dispensation, it is predicted, the sun will remain motionless for ten days; in the second for twice that time; in the third for no less than one whole month. The interpretation of this prophecy is this: the first Dispensation to which it refers is the Muḥammadan Dispensation during which the Sun of Truth stood still for ten days. Each day is reckoned as one century. The Muḥammadan Dispensation must have, therefore, lasted no less than one thousand years, which is precisely the period that has elapsed from the setting of the Star of the Imamate to the advent of the Dispensation proclaimed by the Bab. The second Dispensation referred to in this prophecy is the one inaugurated by the Bab Himself, which began in the year 1260 A.H. [1844 C.E.] and was brought to a close in the year 1280 A.H [1863 C.E.]. As to the third Dispensation – the Revelation proclaimed by Baha’u’llah – inasmuch as the Sun of Truth when attaining that station shineth in the plenitude of its meridian splendor its duration hath been fixed for a period of one whole month, which is the maximum time taken by the sun to pass through a sign of the Zodiac. From this thou canst imagine the magnitude of the Baha’i cycle – a cycle that must extend over a period of at least five hundred thousand years. – Abdu’l-Baha, translated by Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, pp. 101–102.

So Abdu’l-Baha identifies the three Zoroastrian messiahs as follows: (1) “Oshedar” refers to the Prophet Muhammad; (2) “Oshedar Māh” refers to the Bab, the co-founder of the Baha’i Faith; and (3) “Sāshān” is Baha’u’llah, the other co-founder of the Baha’i Faith. 

Abdu’l-Baha further interpreted this Zoroastrian prophecy as follows: (1) the sun standing still for 10 days represents 1,000  lunar years, from the year 260 A.H. (of the Muslim calendar) to the year 1260 A.H. (= 1844 C.E.), which is when the prophetic cycle of Muhammad ended; (2) the 20 days that the sun stood still stands for the 20 lunar years – from 1260 A.H. [1844 C.E.] to 1280 A.H [1863 C.E.], which is the short duration of the ministry of the Bab; and (3) the 30 days signifies “a period of at least five hundred thousand years.” 

In the next article in this series, we’ll explore how the Zoroastrian prophecies of the sun standing still presage and proclaim the greatness of this day and age.   

11 Comments

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  • Christopher Buck
    Jan 01, 2020
    Jay Tyson: You asked: “Do you know anything about His [Zoroaster’s] prophecy of the coming of Jesus?” Yes, but such prophecies are considered pious frauds. Marco Frenschkowski, “Christianity,” The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Zoroastrianism (2015), p. 463, writes: “Zarathustra (Syr. Zardušt) is mentioned quite often in eastern Syriac sources. Sometimes he [Zoroaster] is identified with the Biblical scribe Baruch, as in the celebrated Book of the Bee by Šlemn of Basra (d. 1240), which also quotes a “Prophecy of Zardušt concerning our Lord” (chapter 37) making Christ a descendant of the Iranian prophet and in a mystical way even identifying ...them: “I am he and he is I” (a variant version is already quoted by Theodore bar Kōnai 7, 21).”
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  • Jay Tyson
    Jan 01, 2020
    It is curious that Zoroaster made references to Muhammad, the Bab and Baha'u'llah but, in this case at least, seems to have made no reference to Jesus. Yet, elsewhere, He must have made reference to the coming of Jesus, since the Magi (Zoroastrian priests) knew when and where to look for Jesus at His birth. I know that Zoroaster made reference to the coming of future Messengers at roughly 1000 year intervals. Indeed the whole concept of associating a millennium with the appearance of a new Messenger originated with the Zoroastrian texts. ...Do you know anything about His prophecy of the coming of Jesus?
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  • Christopher Buck
    Dec 30, 2019
    Hilton McConnell: (Part 3) For my part, I should add that we should disenchant ourselves from the notion that prophecies can be perfectly and consistently interpreted, because the prophecies themselves are imperfect and inconsistent (and some are simply false prophecies). I say this based on many years of studying comparative apocalyptic religious traditions. In many cases, the prophecies themselves must be radically reinterpreted, as I have explained, in detail, here: “Baha’u’llah as Zoroastrian Saviour,” Baha’i Studies Review 8 (1998): 14–33. See also: “Let’s De-Mystify Religious Prophecies” (Jan. 27, 2018); “How to Beware of False Prophecies” (Feb. 8, 2018), and other articles ...in this "Figuring out Prophecy" series.
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  • Christopher Buck
    Dec 30, 2019
    Hilton McConnell: This is Shoghi Effendi’s explanation (Part 2): “As to the twenty days referring to the Bábí Dispensation, each of them represents only one lunar year, the total of twenty years marking the duration of the Revelation of the Báb. From a physical point of view, the thirty days represent the maximum time taken by the sun to pass through a sign of the zodiac. They thus represent a culminating point in the evolution of this star. So also from a spiritual standpoint these thirty days should be viewed as indicating the highest, though not the final stage in ...the spiritual evolution of mankind. (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 7 August 1934, to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada.)
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  • Christopher Buck
    Dec 30, 2019
    Hilton McConnell: This is Shoghi Effendi’s explanation (Part 1): “Concerning the passage in ‘The Dispensation of Bahá’u’lláh’ in which the Guardian quotes ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s interpretation of the prophecy referring to the times when the sun would stand still in the heavens, he wishes me to explain that the days referred to in this prophecy have to be reckoned differently. In the Sacred Scriptures of various religions, there are to be found frequent references to days, but these have been considered as indicating different periods of time, as for instance in the Qur’án a day is reckoned as one thousand years. The ...first ten days in the above-mentioned prophecy represent each a century, making thus a total of one thousand lunar years.”
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  • Christopher Buck
    Dec 30, 2019
    Robert Moldenhauer: Citation of the statement previously quoted: Pooriya Alimoradi, “Zand-i Wahman Yašt: The New Persian Version.” Proceedings of the 8ᵗʰ European Conference of Iranian Studies. Held on 14–19 Sep. 2015 at the State Hermitage Museum and Institute of Oriental Manuscripts, Russian Academy of Sciences, in St Petersburg. Edited by Pavel B. Lurje (St. Petersburg: The State Hermitage Publishers., 2019), Vol. 1, pp. 16–29 [p. 17]. This is the full citation of the translation itself: Ervad Bamanji Nusserwanji Dhabhar, translator, The Persian Rivayats of Hormazyar Framarz and Others, Their Version with Introduction and Notes (Bombay: K. R. Cama Oriental Institute, ...1932), pp. 470–472.
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  • Christopher Buck
    Dec 30, 2019
    Robert Moldenhauer: Short answer: 17th century. Not sure of the original date of the “Zand-i Wahman Yašt / Bahman Yašt.” In final form, probably post-Islamic. As for the dates of these Persian Rivayats as a whole: “In 1006 AY / 1637 CE Kāmdīn’s son, Barzu, gathered a number of these correspondences which are known as Rivāyāt (pl. of Rivāyat) of Barzu Kāmdīn. Barzu’s nephew, Hormazdyār, son of Frāmarz, also collected a number of these correspondences between 1012–1023 AY / 1643–1654 CE, which are known after him as the Rivāyāt of Hormazdyār Frāmarz.” See next note for full citations.
  • Robert Moldenhauer
    Dec 29, 2019
    What is the date of this Rivayat? Late 1400s CE?
  • Hilton McConnell
    Dec 29, 2019
    I do not understand 10 days is 1000 years but 20 days is 20 years and 30 days is 5 hundred thousand years ? you say 10 days is 1000 years that makes each day 100 years but then 20 days is only 20 years that makes each day only 1 year then 30 days i just can't under stand please clarify.
    • Randy Burns
      Jan 03, 2020
      Actually I think (just my own opinion) that in such interpretation there may be more than one possible answer. What is necessary is that the explanation fit all the pertinent items in the prophecy and that the provider of explanation is someone that you trust. There may be pieces to the puzzle not evident in the English as such but that would be evident in the original language of the prophecy.
    • Kamal Singh
      Dec 30, 2019
      I am sure there is a very valid reason why these 3 have each a different connotation. Maybe a deepened bahai can elaborate on this, to the satisfaction of our enquirer mr. hilton.