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Christ and Christianity in Persian Poetry

Bishop Hassan Dehqani Tafti

[ List of Books by Bishop Hassan Dehqani Tafti | گفتگویی با اسقف حسن دهقانی تفتی و همسرشان مارگارت ]
¤ Introduction

1) Classical Poets from Ferdowsi onwards.
Classical poetry can itself be divided into two groups:

  1. An awareness of Christian thought in Persian Poetry
  2. Classical poets who actually mention the name of Jesus

2) Modern Poets.

3) Christian Poets today.

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Introduction: Christ In Persian Poetry

'Christ and Christianity in Persian Poetry' is a very vast subject, covering almost the whole history of Iran with its relationship with Christianity.

According to the Book of Acts of the Apostles, there were Parthians and Medes present in Jeruslem when Christianity started. By the 2nd century, Christianity was well-established in Iran. About 20 bishoprics were established about the 3rd century, and the Church in Iran even sent missionaries of its own to distant countries of the Far East, such as China.

Professor Girshman has discovered the ruins of an ancient monastery belonging to the 2nd and 3rd centuries, on Kharg Islands, revealing the fact of the existence of Christians in that area.

The relationship between Christianity and Iran throughout its history is a fascinating subject, and is beyond the scope of this talk. It is sufficient to say that there is hardly any period in the long history of Iran when one can say Christianity was non-existent at that time. Of course, Persian poets got most of their information about Christianity from the Quran and Muslim sources, but the existence of Christians in Iran was also influential in this way.

Collecting poems about Christ and Christianity from among Persians poets is of great interest, particularly to Persian Christians. One of the pioneers in this field is Revd. Norman Sharp, lover of Persian Poetry and Persian art. About 50 years ago he produced a small Anthology in Persian called "Golchin-i-Massihi". He was a great help to me in translating some of the poems I am going to quote.

I have divided the subject into three main-parts:

  1. Classical Poets from Ferdowsi onwards.
    Classical poetry can itself be divided into two groups:
    1. An awareness of Christian thought in Persian Poetry
    2. Classical poets who actually mention the name of Jesus
  2. Modern Poets.
  3. Christian Poets today.


This book is based on a lecture which I gave to the Iran Society in London on 17th December, 1986. The style of speaking has been kept right through. The dates are all according to the Christian Calendar. The original Persian texts of the poems are given at the end. I wish to express my thanks to the Iran Society who invited me and to those who listened patiently and afterwards encouraged me to publish the lecture. I hope to produce it as a major work in Persian in the not too distant future, I am most grateful to the following for their varied and valuable help: The Revd. Norman Sharp for translating many of the poems into English.

Professor Sorour Soroudi for allowing me to use her translations of some of the modern poets.

Bishop Kenneth Cragg, Professor A.K.S. Lambton, Dr. A. Haydari and Dr. M. Homayouni for their general and generous guidance.

Miss jean Waddell for transcribing the taped lecture, and then re- typing the rather confused corrected script.

My wife, MargaretDehqani-Tafti, for her support and encouragement including help in proof reading.


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