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Chapter XXII.—Manes, the Founder of the Manichæan Heresy, and on his Origin.

But amidst the good wheat, tares are accustomed to spring up; for envy loves to plot insidiously against the good. Hence it was that a little while before the time of Constantine, a species of heathenish Christianity made its appearance together with that which was real; just as false prophets sprang up among the true, and false apostles among the true apostles. For at that time a dogma of Empedocles, the heathen philosopher, by means of Manichæus, assumed the form of Christian doctrine. Eusebius Pamphilus has indeed mentioned this person in the seventh book of his Ecclesiastical History,228228    Cf. Eus. H. E. VII. 31. The literature of Manichæism is voluminous and will be found in Smith, Dict. of the Bible, as well as encyclopædias like Herzog, McClintock and Strong, &c. but has not entered into minute details concerning him. Wherefore, I deem it incumbent on me to supply some particulars which he has left unnoticed: thus it will be known who this Manichæus was, whence he came, and what was the nature of his presumptuous daring.

A Saracen named Scythian married a captive from the Upper Thebes. On her account he dwelt in Egypt, and having versed himself in the learning of the Egyptians, he subtly introduced the theory of Empedocles and Pythagoras among the doctrines of the Christian faith. Asserting that there were two natures, a good and an evil one, he termed, as Empedocles had done, the latter Discord, and the former Friendship. Of this Scythian, Buddas, who had been previously called Terebinthus, became a disciple; and he having proceeded to Babylon, which the Persians inhabit, made many extravagant statements respecting himself, declaring that he was born of a virgin, and brought up in the mountains. The same man afterwards composed four books, one he entitled The Mysteries, another The Gospel, a third The Treasure, and the fourth Heads [Summaries]; but pretending to perform some mystic rites, he was hurled down a precipice by a spirit,229229    πνεύματος : possibly ‘wind.’ and so perished. A certain woman at whose house he had lodged buried him, and taking possession of his property, bought a boy about seven years old whose name was Cubricus: this lad she enfranchised, and having given him a liberal education, she soon after died, leaving him all that belonged to Terebinthus, including the books he had written on the principles inculcated by Scythian. Cubricus, the freedman, taking these things with him and having withdrawn into the regions of Persia, changed his name, calling himself Manes; and disseminated the books of Buddas or Terebinthus among his deluded followers as his own. Now the contents of these treatises apparently agree with Christianity in expression, but are pagan in sentiment: for Manichæus being an atheist, incited his disciples to acknowledge a plurality of gods, and taught them to worship the sun. He also introduced the doctrine of Fate, denying human free-will; and affirmed a transmutation230230    μετενσωμάτωσιν , the converse of metempsychosis. of bodies, clearly following the opinions of Empedocles, Pythagoras, and the Egyptians. He 26denied that Christ existed in the flesh, asserting that he was an apparition; and rejected moreover the law and the prophets, calling himself the ‘Comforter,’—all of which dogmas are totally at variance with the orthodox faith of the church. In his epistles he even dared to call himself an apostle; but for a pretension so unfounded he brought upon himself merited retribution in the following manner. The son of the Persian monarch having been attacked with disease, his father became anxious for his recovery, and left no means untried in order to effect it; and as he had heard of the wonder-working of Manichæus, and thinking that these miracles were real, he sent for him as an apostle, trusting that through him his son might be restored. He accordingly presented himself at court, and with his assumed manner undertook the treatment of the young prince. But the king seeing that the child died in his hands shut up the deceiver in prison, with the intention of putting him to death. However, he contrived to escape, and fled into Mesopotamia; but the king of Persia having discovered that he was dwelling there, caused him to be brought thence by force, and after having flayed him alive, he stuffed his skin with chaff, and suspended it in front of the gate of the city. These things we state not having manufactured them ourselves, but collected from a book entitled The disputation of Archelaus bishop of Caschara (one of the cities of Mesopotamia).231231    The more commonly known name of the town is ‘Carrha,’ and the exact title of Archelaus’ work as it appears in Valesius’ Annotationes [ed. of 1677, see Introd. p. xvi.] is Disputatio adversus Manichæum. It constitutes p. 197–203 of the Annotationes, and is in Latin. It has been published also in Latin by L. A. Zacagui in his collectanea monumentorum veterum Ecclesiæ Græcæ ac Latinæ, 1698. For Archelaus himself states that he disputed with Manichæus face to face, and mentions the circumstances connected with his life to which we have now alluded. Envy thus delights, as we before remarked, to be insidiously at work in the midst of a prosperous condition of affairs. But for what reason the goodness of God permits this to be done, whether he wishes thereby to bring into activity the excellence of the principles of the church, and to utterly break down the self-importance which is wont to unite itself with faith; or for what other cause, is, at the same time, a difficult question, and not relevant to the present discussion. For our object is neither to examine the soundness of doctrinal views, nor to analyze the mysterious reasons for the providences and judgments of God; but to detail as faithfully as possible the history of transactions which have taken place in the churches. The way in which the superstition of the Manichæans sprang up a little before the time of Constantine has been thus described; now let us return to the times and events which are the proper subjects of this history.


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