Stephanie W. Jamison, Poetic Self-Reference in the Rig Veda and the Persona of Zarathustra
In recent years a number of influential Avestan scholars have raised doubts about the historicity of Zarathustra and
about his supposed authorship of the Old Avestan Gathas, the enigmatic hymns traditionally ascribed to him. Some of
the evidence adduced has been text-internal. It has been pointed out, especially by Jean Kellens in a number of
publications, that Zarathustra's name occurs in the vocative in Y 46.14, and that an apparent third-person reference
to Zarathustra is conjoined with a 1st person plural pronoun in Y 28.6 ("to Zarathustra and to us"). These passages
are used to argue that Zarathustra could not be the composer of the Gathas because he would neither address himself
in the vocative nor conjoin his own name with a 1st person pronoun.
Without taking a stand on the larger claims involved--that is, the historicity or not of Zarathustra--I will adduce
parallel usages from the Rig Veda, a text whose deep similarities to the Gathas are recognized by all Indo-Iranian
scholars wherever they stand on the Zarathustra question. I will show that Rigvedic poets not uncommonly use the same
types of constructions that are claimed as evidence against Zarathustra as the poet of the Gathas, but with
unambiguous reference to themselves. Therefore, if a case is to be made against Zarathustra's authorship of the
Gathas it must be made on other grounds.