A Hermeneutics of Zoroastrian Commentary: on the Publication of the Sudgar Nask of Denkard book 9


Yuhan Sohrab-Dinshaw Vevaina


April 12, 2024


This talk will discuss the publication of the Sūdgar Nask of Dēnkard Book 9, one of the most enigmatic and yet fundamental texts of Zoroastrianism. A commentary on the Old Avesta’ of the 2nd millennium BCE produced ir Pahlavi (Zoroastrian Middle Persian) in the Sasanian (224-651 CE) and early Islamic centuries, this text, purportedly based on earlier Pahlavi translations and commentaries of lost Young Avestan tractates commenting in turn on the ‘Old Avesta, is a value-laden, ideologically motivated discourse that displays a rich panoply of tradition-constituted forms of allegoresis. This terse yet highly allusive commentary mobilizes complex forms of citation, allusion, and intertextuality from the inherited Avestan world of myth and ritual in order to engage with and react to the profound changes occurring in the Iranian society of the time. It is argued that this entire hermeneutical complex of weaving a ‘new’ text composed of implicit proof text and explicit commentary renews, extends, and, ultimately, makes tradition.


Yuhan Sohrab-Dinshaw Vevaina is the Bahari Associate Professor of Sasanian Studies and a Fellow of Wolfson College at the University of Oxford. He completed his Ph.D. in Iranian and Persian Studies in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University in 2007. Since then, he has taught at Harvard University, Stanford University, and the University of Toronto, prior to coming to Oxford in 2017. He is the co-editor with Michael Stausberg of The Wiley Blackwell Companion to Zoroastrianism, the largest single volume reference work on Zoroastrianism at 700 pages, published in paperback in 2022. His academic speciality is the study of hermeneutics or theories of interpretation with a focus on the interpretations of the Gathas in the Sasanian and early Islamic centuries In 2023 and 2024 he published two books: The Südgar Nask of Denkard Book 9. Text, Translation and Critical Apparatus and Zoroastrian Hermeneutics in Late Antiquity. Commentary on the Sūdgar Nask of Dēnkard Book 9, both with Harrassowitz Verlag. He is currently preparing a co-authored critical edition, translation, and commentary of Manuščihr’s Epistles.