The Scriptures of Zoroastrianism
Zoroastrianism, like Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, is a "religion of a book" or rather a religion of texts. From the beginning, Zarathushtra's prophecies were embodied in words, though they were not written down until more than a millennium later. Zoroastrians have three thousand years of words in their heritage.
The Avesta is the analogue of the Bible for Zoroastrians. Like the Bible, it is a collection of many texts from many eras, in different languages. The texts come from times that may be as early as 1700 BC and as late as 400 A.D. Until recently, the Avesta was known in the West as the "Zend-Avesta." This is a misnomer and was caused by the misinterpretation of the word "Zend." This means "commentary" in middle Persian (Pazand). The word "Avesta" is mysterious in origin. The German scholars of the late 19th century (Geldner, Bartholomae, etc.) say that it is from the ancient Iranian word upasta meaning "shelter" or "support." The Avesta scholar Dr. Ali Jafarey has a different idea. He says that it is from the Indo-Iranian word "a" (not) and the root "vid" (know). That is, Avesta means "unknown," which describes how the language of the Avesta - also known as Avestan - became unknown to the Zoroastrians of later centuries. Jafarey's interpretation is, as far as I know, original to him.
We must remember that the Avesta as it has come down to the modern Zoroastrian world is but a collection of fragments and texts preserved from a far greater whole. Zoroastrianism, unlike Judaism, has suffered greatly from the destruction of its texts - first, in the conflagration set by Alexander the invader in 330 B.C. which destroyed the library at Persepolis, and later by invading Arabs and Mongols. Zoroastrianism had its Torah, its Talmud, its historical books, and its wisdom literature - and most of it is gone now. What we have is what could be preserved in priests' memories and in precious manuscripts preserved by...