Concerning this Pahlavi text, Mary Boyce has written,
"A much more important and fundamental work of compilation
the Bundahishn ("Creation"), also called Zand-agahih
("Knowledge from the Zand"), which survives in two recensions,
the Great (or Iranian) Bundahishn and a shortened version, the
Indian Bundahishn (deriving from a different MS. tradition). One
of the two great Zoroastrian compilations, this work probably
grew through different redactions, from some time after the Arab
conquest down to 1178 A.C. (when a few additions were made in
imperfect Middle Persian).
The last important redaction belongs
to about the end of the 9th century. The Bundahishn has three
1 - creation
2 - the nature of earthly creatures
3 - the Kayanians (their lineage and abodes, and the vicissitudes befalling
their realm of Eranshahr)
The compiler does not name individual
sources; but shows an encyclopaedic knowledge of the Zand, and
exemplifies excellently the process whereby treatises on chosen
themes were created out of the scriptures. Many passages evidently
derive fairly closely from the Middle Persian translation, for
an Avestan syntax underlies them and one section consists simply
of the translation of the 1st chapter of the Vendidad coinciding
(except in small details) with the canonical Zand.
commentaries provide part of the continuous text, and in these,
foreign learning is adduced. There are also a few isolated attempts
to bring the work up to date, by the identification of traditional
(and even mythical) geographical names with Arabic ones. In the
main, however, the absorbing interest of the Bd. lies in the antiquity
of its material.
Here is preserved an ancient,
in part pre-Zoroastrian
picture of the world, conceived as saucer-shaped, with its rim
one great mountain-range, a central peak thrusting up, star-encircled,
to cut off the light of the sun by night; a world girdled by two
great rivers, from which all other waters flow; in which yearly
the gods fight against demons to end drought and famine, and to
bring protection to man.
Natural phenomena are speculatively explained;
the sprouting of the plants, for example, is ascribed to the mythical
Tree of All Seeds growing in the ocean, whose seeds are mingled
with water and so scattered annually over all the earth when the
god Tishtar brings the rains.
Not only is the matter ancient and
often poetic, but the manner of presentation, although arid, is
of great antiquarian interest; for after the distinctively Zoroastrian
account of creation, the speculative learning and legendary history
is set out in traditional oral fashion, that is to say, in schematized
mnemonic lists: so many types of animals, so many kinds of liquid,
so many names of mountains, so many great battles.
This is the
learning of ancient Iran, as it must have been evolved and transmitted
by generations in the priestly schools."
(quoted from Mary
Boyce, 'Middle Persian Literature', Handbuch der Orientalistik,
1. Abt., IV. Band, 2. Abschn., LFG.1, pg 40-1.)