The Bundahišn: The Zoroastrian Book of Creation. Edited and translated by Domenico Agostini and Samuel Thrope, with a preface by Shaul Shaked and an afterword by Guy Stroumsa. Oxford University Press, 2020.
Honorable Mention, The Ehsan Yarshater Book Award, 2022.
The Bundahišn, meaning primal or foundational creation, is the central Zoroastrian account of creation, cosmology, and eschatology. Compiled sometime in the ninth century CE, it is one of the most important surviving testaments to Zoroastrian literature in the Middle Persian language and to pre-Islamic Iranian culture. Despite having been composed some two millennia after the Prophet Zoroaster’s revelation, it is nonetheless a concise compendium of ancient Zoroastrian knowledge that draws on and reshapes earlier layers of the tradition.
Well known in the field of Iranian Studies as an essential primary source for scholars of ancient Iran’s history, religions, literatures, and languages, the Bundahišn is also a great work of literature in and of itself, ranking alongside the creation myths of other ancient traditions. The book’s thirty-six diverse chapters, which touch on astronomy, eschatology, zoology, medicine, and more, are composed in a variety of styles, registers, and genres, from spare lists and concise commentaries to philosophical discourses and poetic eschatological visions. This new translation, the first in English in nearly a century, highlights the aesthetic quality, literary style, and complexity and raises the profile of pre-Islamic Zoroastrian literature.
You can read more about the Bundahišn in Psyche, Tablet, and The Jerusalem Post.
Praise for the Bundahišn
One of the great lacuna in the history of ideas and annals of Abrahamic religions is the indispensable role of the Zoroastrian faith in these developments. A new complete translation of Bundahišn, one of the canonical texts of that religion is a welcome contribution to the needed task of filling this glaring gap.
— Prof. Abbas Milani, Stanford University
A brilliant translation that will open a once obscure work to the wider audience its fascinating, historically consequential content deserves. The accompanying commentaries make the Bundahišn’s textual, mythical, and cosmological complexities accessible even to those uninitiated in Zoroastrianism, making the text an ideal – and eminently teachable – introduction to the “Good Religion.”
— Prof. Richard Payne, University of Chicago
The first major English translation of the Bundahišn in over half a century, Agostini’s and Thrope’s meticulous and beautiful rendition of this Middle Persian cosmology is a major scholarly event. Their work will be cherished by students of Zoroastrianism, Iran, late antiquity, and religious studies.
— Prof. Shai Secunda, Bard College
The translation and interpretation of Middle Persian texts is known to be a grueling task, and even the most competent scholars often differ when reading such literature. The Bundahišn is no different. The readers have been spared the deliberations with which the translators were faced in their toil over this difficult text. The result is smooth and readable. Astute efforts have been made to mediate an unfamiliar religious tradition and lexicon to the uninitiated. And yet the Bundahišn continues to beckon students of ancient Judaism. It should revive interest in ancient Zoroastrianism, which is its primary aim. For the inquiring student of the Talmud, it offers a commentary like no other.
— Prof. Geoffrey Herman, École Pratique des Hautes Études
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