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§ 135. Mani and the Manichaeans.


I. Oriental Sources: The most important, though of comparatively late date. (a) Mohammedan (Arabic): Kitâb al Fihrist. A history of Arabic literature to 987, by an Arab of Bagdad, usually called Ibn Abi Jakub An-Nadîm; brought to light by Flügel, and published after his death by Rödiger and Müller, in 2 vols. Leipz. 1871–’72. Book IX. section first, treats of Manichaeism. Flügel’s transl. see below. Kessler calls Fihrist a "Fundstätte allerersten Ranges." Next to it comes the relation of the Mohamedan philosopher Al-Shahrastanî (d. 1153), in his History of Religious Parties and Philosophical Sects, ed. Cureton, Lond. 1842, 2 vols. (I. 188–192); German translation by Haarbrücker. Halle, 1851. On other Mohammedan sources see Kessler in Herzog2, IX. 225 sq. (b) Persian sources, relating to the life of Mani; the Shâhnâmeh (the Kings’ Book) of Firdausî, ed. by Jul. Mohl. Paris, 1866 (V. 472–475). See Kessler, ibid. 225. c) Christian Sources: In Arabic, the Alexandrian Patriarch Eutychius (d. 916), Annales, ed. Pococke. Oxon. 1628; Barhebraeus (d. 1286), in his Historia Dynastiarum, ed. Pococke. In Syriac: Ephraem Syrus (d. 393), in various writings Esnig or Esnik, an Armenian bishop of the 5th century, who wrote against Marcion and Mani (German translation from the Armenian by C. Fr. Neumann in Illgen’s "Zeitschrift für die Hist. Theol." 1834, p. 77–78).

II. Greek Sources: Eusebius (H. E. VII. 31, a brief account). Epiphanius (Haer. 66). Cyril Of Jerusal. (Catech. VI. 20 sqq.). Titus of Bostra (πρὸς Μανιχαίους, ed. P. de Lafarde, 1859). Photius: Adv. ManichŒos (Cod. 179 Biblioth.). John Of Damascus: De Haeres. and Dial.

III. Latin Sources: Archelaus (Bishop of Cascar in Mesopotamia, d. about 278): Acta Disputationis cum Manete haeresiarcha; first written in Syriac, and so far belonging to the Oriental Christian sources (Comp. Jerome, De vir. ill. 72), but extant only in a Latin translation, which seems to have been made from the Greek, edited by Zacagni (Rom. 1698) and Routh (in Reliquiae Sacrae., vol. V. 3–206), Engl. transl. in Clark’s "Ante-Nicene Library" (vol. XX. 272–419). These Acts purport to contain the report of a disputation between Archelaus and Mani before a large assembly, which was in full sympathy with the orthodox bishop, but (as Beausobre first proved) they are in form a fiction from the first quarter of the fourth century (about 320) by a Syrian ecclesiastic (probably of Edessa), yet based upon Manichaean documents, and containing much information about Manichaean doctrines. They consist of various pieces, and were the chief source of information to the West. Mani is represented (ch. 12) as appearing in a many-colored cloak and trousers, with a sturdy staff of ebony, a Babylonian book under his left arm, and with a mien of an old Persian master. In his defense he quotes freely from the N. T. At the end he makes his escape to Persia (ch. 55). Comp. H. V. Zittwitz: Die Acta Archelai et Manetis untersucht, in Kahnis’ "Zeitschrift für Hist. Theol." 1873, No. IV. Oblasinski: Acta Disput. Arch., etc. Lips. 1874 (inaugural dissert.). Ad. Harnack: Die Acta Archelai und das Diatessaron Tatians, in "Texte und Untersuch. zur Gesch. der altchristl. Lit." vol. I. Heft. 3 (1883), p. 137–153. Harnack tries to prove that the Gospel quotations of Archelaus are taken from Tatian’s Diatessaron. Comp. also his Dogmengeschichte, I. (1886), 681–694.

St. Augustin (d. 430, the chief Latin authority next to the translation of Archelaus): Contra Epistolam Manichaei; Contra Faustum Manich., and other anti-Manichaean writings, in the 8th vol. of the Benedictine edition of his Opera. English translation in Schaff’s "Nicene and Post-Nicene Library," Vol. IV., N. York, 1887.

Comp. also the Acts of Councils against the Manich. from the fourth century onward, in Mansi and Hefele.

Modern Works:

*Isaac De Beausobre ( b. 1659 in France, pastor of the French church in Berlin, d. 1738): Histoire crit. de Manichée et du Manichéisme. Amst. 1734 and 39. 2 vols. 4º. Part of the first vol. is historical, the second doctrinal. Very full and scholarly. He intended to write a third volume on the later Manichaeans.

*F. Chr. Baur: Das Manichaeische Religionssystem nach den Quellen neu untersucht und entwickelt. Tüb. 1831 (500 pages). A comprehensive Philosophical and critical view. He calls the Manich. system a "glühend prächtiges Natur- und Weltgedicht."

Trechsel: Ueber Kanon, Kritik, und Exegese der Manichäer. Bern, 1832.

D. Chwolson: Die Ssabier und der Ssabismus. Petersb. 1856, 2 vols.

*Gust. Flügel (d. 1870): Mani, seine Lehre und seine Schriften. Aus dem Fihrist des Abî Jakub an-Nadîm (987). Leipz. 1862. Text, translation, and Commentary, 440 pages.

Fr. Spiegel: Eranische Alterthumskunde, vol.II. 1873, p. 185–232.

Alex. Geyler: Das System des Manichäisimus und sein Verh. zum Buddhismus. Jena, 1875.

*K. Kessler: Untersuchungen zur Genesis des manich. Rel. systems. Leipz. 1876. By the same: Mânî oder Beiträge zur Kenntniss der Religionsmischung im Semitismus. Leipz. 1882. See also his thorough art. Mâni und die Manichäer, in "Herzog," new ed., vol. IX. 223–259 (abridged in Schaff’s "Encycl." II. 1396–1398).

G. T. Stokes: Manes, and Manichaeans in "Smith and Wace," III. 792–801.

Ad. Harnack: Manichaeism, in the 9th ed. of the "Encycl. Britannica, vol. XV. (1883), 481–487.

The accounts of Mosheim, Lardner, Schröckh, Walch, Neander, Gieseler.

We come now to the latest, the best organized, the most consistent, tenacious and dangerous form of Gnosticism, with which Christianity had to wage a long conflict. Manichaeism was not only a school, like the older forms of Gnosticism, but a rival religion and a rival church. In this respect it resembled Islam which at a later period became a still more formidable rival of Christianity; both claimed to be divine revelations, both engrafted pseudo-Christian elements on a heathen stock, but the starting point was radically different: Manichaeism being anti-Jewish and dualistic, Mohammedanism, pseudo-Jewish and severely and fanatically monotheistic.

First the external history.

The origin of Manichaeism is matter of obscure and confused tradition. It is traced to Mani (Manes, Manichaeus),920920    Μάνης, Μάντος Μανιχαῖος,Manes (Gen. Manetis), Manichaeans (the last form always used by St. Augustin). The name is either of Persian or Semitic origin, but has not yet been satisfactorily explained. Kessler identifies it with Mânâ, Manda, i.e. knowledge, γνῶις, of the Mandaeans. According to the Acta Archelai he was originally called Cubricus, which Kessler regards as a corruption of the Arabic Shuraik.20 a Persian philosopher, astronomer, and painter,921921    At least, according to Persian accounts; but the Arabs, who hate painting, and the church fathers are silent about his skill as a painter.21 of the third century (215–277), who came over to Christianity, or rather introduced some Christian elements into the Zoroastrian religion, and thus stirred up an intellectual and moral revolution among his countrymen. According to Arabic Mohammedan sources, he was the son of Fatak (Πάτεκιος), a high-born Persian of Hamadan (Ecbatana), who emigrated to Ctesiphon in Babylonia. Here he received a careful education. He belonged originally to the Judaizing Gnostic sect of the Mandaeans or Elkesaites (the Mogtasilah, i.e. Baptists); but in his nineteenth and again in his twenty-fourth year (238) a new religion was divinely revealed to him. In his thirtieth year he began to preach his syncretistic creed, undertook long journeys and sent out disciples. He proclaimed himself to be the last and highest prophet of God and the Paraclete promised by Christ (as Mohammed did six hundred years later). He began his "Epistola Fundamenti," in which he propounded his leading doctrines, with the words: "Mani, the apostle of Jesus Christ, by the providence of God the Father. These are the words of salvation from the eternal and living source." He composed many books in the Persian and Syriac languages and in an alphabet of his own invention but they are all lost.922922    Among these are mentioned the Book of Mysteries, the Book of Giants, the Book of Precepts for Hearers (Capitula orEpistola Fundamenti, from which Augustin gives large extracts), Shâhpûrakân (i.e. belonging to King Shâhpûr), the Book of Life, the Gospel or the Living Gospel. See Kessler, l. c, p. 249 sqq.22

At first Mani found favor at the court of the Persian king Shapur I. (Sapor), but stirred up the hatred of the priestly cast of the Magians. He fled to East India and China and became acquainted with Buddhism. Indeed, the name of Buddha is interwoven with the legendary history of the Manichaean system. His disputations with Archelaus in Mesopotamia are a fiction, like the pseudo-Clementine disputations of Simon Magus with Peter, but on a better historic foundation and with an orthodox aim of the writer923923    Beausobre (vol. I. Pref. p. viii): "Les Actes de cette Dispute sont évidemment une fiction pareille à celle de cet imposteur, qui a pris le nom de Clément Romain, et qui a introduit S. Pierre disputant contre Simon le Magicien."

In the year 270 Mani returned to Persia, and won many followers by his symbolic (pictorial) illustrations of the doctrines, which he pretended had been revealed to him by God. But in a disputation with the Magians, he was convicted of corrupting the old religion, and thereupon was crucified, or flayed alive by order of king Behram I. (Veranes) about 277; his skin was stuffed and hung up for a terror at the gate of the city Djondishapur (or Gundeshapur), since called "the gate of Mani."924924    The cruel death of Mani and the maltreatment of his corpse are well attested but his being skinned alive is perhaps a later Christian tradition. The Disput. Archelai (c. 55) towards the close gives this account: "He was apprehended and brought before the king, who, being inflamed with the strongest indignation against him, and fired will the desire of avenging two deaths upon him—namely, the death of his own son, and the death of the keeper of the prison—gave orders that he should be flayed alive and hung before the gate of the city and that his skin should be dipped in certain medicaments and inflated: his flesh, too, he commanded to be given as a prey to the birds." See the different accounts in Beausobre, I. 205 sq.24 His followers were cruelly persecuted by the king.

Soon after Mani’s horrible death his sect spread in Turkistan, Mesopotamia, North Africa, Sicily, Italy and Spain. As it moved westward it assumed a more Christian character, especially in North Africa. It was everywhere persecuted in the Roman empire, first by Diocletian (A. D. 287), and afterwards by the Christian emperors. Nevertheless it flourished till the sixth century and even later. Persecution of heresy always helps heresy unless the heretics are exterminated.

The mysteriousness of its doctrine, its compact organization, the apparent solution of the terrible problem of evil, and the show of ascetic holiness sometimes were the chief points of attraction. Even such a profound and noble spirit as St. Augustin was nine years an auditor of the sect before he was converted to the Catholic church. He sought there a deeper philosophy of religion and became acquainted with the gifted and eloquent Faustus of Numidia, but was disappointed and found him a superficial charlatan. Another Manichaean, by the name of Felix, he succeeded in converting to the Catholic faith in a public disputation of two days at Hippo. His connection with Manichaeism enabled him in his polemic writings to refute it and to develop the doctrines of the relation of knowledge and faith, of reason and revelation, the freedom of will, the origin of evil and its relation to the divine government. Thus here, too, error was overruled for the promotion of truth.

Pope Leo I. searched for these heretics in Rome, and with the aid of the magistrate brought many to punishment. Valentinian III. punished them by banishment, Justinian by death. The violent and persistent persecutions at last destroyed their organization. But their system extended its influence throughout the middle ages down to the thirteenth century, reappearing, under different modifications, with a larger infusion of Christian elements, in the Priscillianists, Paulieians, Bogomiles, Albigenses, Catharists and other sects, which were therefore called "New Manichaeans." Indeed some of the leading features of Manichaeism—the dualistic separation of soul and body, the ascription of nature to the devil, the pantheistic confusion of the moral and physical, the hypocritical symbolism, concealing heathen views under Christian phrases, the haughty air of mystery, and the aristocratic distinction of esoteric and exoteric—still live in various forms even in modern systems of philosophy and sects of religion.925925    The Mormons or Latter-Day Saints of Utah present an interesting parallel, especially in their hierarchical organization; while in their polygamy they as strongly contrast with the ascetic Manichaeans, and resemble the Mohammedans.25

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