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Mandaeans
Mandeyānā
Mandean.jpg
Mandaeans exchanging
a ritual handshake or kušṭa
Total population
60,000 to 70,000[1]
Regions with significant populations
 Iraq 70,000 (until 2003) 7,000 now
 Iran 5,000 to 10,000[2]
 Jordan ?
 Syria ?
 Sweden 5,000
 Australia 3,500
 United States 1,500 to 2,000
 United Kingdom 1,000
 Canada ?
Religions
Mandaeism
Scriptures
Ginza Rba, Qolusta
Languages
Mandaic
Arabic and Persian are also spoken

Mandaeism or Mandaeanism (Mandaic: Mandaiuta, Arabic: مندائيةMandā'iyya, Persian: مندائیان) is a monotheistic religion with a strongly dualistic worldview. Its adherents, the Mandaeans, revere Adam, Abel, Seth, Enosh, Noah, Shem, Aram and especially John the Baptist.

Mandaeism has historically been practised primarily around the lower Euphrates and Tigris and the rivers that surround the Shatt-al-Arab waterway, part of southern Iraq and Khuzestan Province in Iran. There are thought to be between 60,000 and 70,000 Mandaeans worldwide,[1] and until the 2003 Iraq war, almost all of them lived in Iraq.[3] Most Iraqi Mandaeans have since fled the country under the threat of violence by other Iraqis and the turmoil of the war.[4] By 2007, the population of Iraqi Mandaeans had fallen to approximately 5,000.[3] Most Iraqi Mandaeans now live in Syria and Jordan, with smaller populations in Sweden, Australia, the United States, and other Western countries.

Mandeans are an Ethnic group, who speak the Mandic dialect of Aramaic. They are non Arabs, and have existed in Mesopotamia (Iraq) since Pre Arab - Islamic times. They may be related to the Assyrians (aka Chaldo-Assyrians) of Iraq.

The Mandaeans have remained separate and intensely private—what has been reported of them and their religion has come primarily from outsiders, particularly from the Orientalists J. Heinrich Petermann, Nicholas Siouffi, and Lady Drower.

Famous Mandeans include the Scientists and Physicians Thābit ibn Qurra (Thebit), Sinan ibn Thabit and Ibrahim ibn Sinan.

Contents

Origin of the term "Mandaean"

The term comes from Classical Mandaic Mandaiia and appears in Neo-Mandaic as Mandeyānā. On the basis of cognates in other Aramaic accents, Semiticists such as Mark Lidzbarski and Rudolf Macuch have translated the term manda, from which Mandaiia is derived, as "knowledge" (cf. Aramaic מַנְדַּע mandaʕ in Dan. 2:21, 4:31, 33, 5:12; cpr. Hebrew: מַדַּעmaddaʕ without the nasal insert). This etymology suggests that the Mandaeans may well be the only sect from late Antiquity to identify themselves explicitly as Gnostics. Certainly, the Mandaean religion shares much with the ensemble of sects labelled as Gnostics, which date to the 1st century AD and the following centuries; however, there are crucial differences, particularly in the realm of the behavioral ethics of the laity.

It should be emphasized that this identification is largely a product of western scholarship, and was not current in the Mandaean community itself until comparatively recently. Other scholars derive the term mandaiia from Mandā d-Heyyi (Mandaic manda ḏ-hiia "Knowledge of Life", reference to the chief divinity hiia rbia "the Great Life") or from the word (bi)manda, which is the cultic hut in which many Mandaean ceremonies are performed (such as the baptism, which is the central sacrament of Mandaean religious life). This last term is possibly to be derived from Pahlavi m’nd mānd ("house").

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Other associated terms

Within the Middle East, but outside of their community, the Mandaeans are more commonly known as the ubba (singular ubbī). The term Ṣubba is derived from the word muṣbattah (Arabic: مصبتة‎), the baptism ritual of the Mandaeans. In Islam, the term "Sabians" (Arabic: الصابئونal-Ṣābiʾūn) is used as a blanket term for adherents to a number of religions, including that of the Mandaeans, in reference to the Sabians of the Qur'an. Occasionally, Mandaeans are called Christians of Saint John, based upon preliminary reports made by members of the Discalced Carmelite mission in Basra during the 16th century.

A mandá (Arabic: مندى‎) is a place of worship for followers of Mandaeism. A mandá must be built beside a river in order to perform maṣbattah because water is an essential element in the Mandaeic faith. Modern mandás sometimes have a bath inside a building instead.

Mandaean beliefs

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Mandaeism, as the religion of the Mandaean people, is based more on a common heritage than on any set of religious creeds and doctrines. A basic guide to Mandaean theology does not exist. The corpus of Mandaean literature, though quite large, covers topics such as eschatology, the knowledge of God, and the afterlife only in an unsystematic manner, and, apart from the priesthood, is known only to a few laypeople.

Fundamental tenets

According to E.S. Drower, the Mandaean Gnosis is characterized by nine features, which appear in various forms in other gnostic sects:[5]

  1. A supreme formless Entity, the expression of which in time and space is creation of spiritual, etheric, and material worlds and beings. Production of these is delegated by It to a creator or creators who originated in It. The cosmos is created by Archetypal Man, who produces it in similitude to his own shape.
  2. Dualism: a cosmic Father and Mother, Light and Darkness, Right and Left, syzygy in cosmic and microcosmic form.
  3. As a feature of this dualism, counter-types, a world of ideas.
  4. The soul is portrayed as an exile, a captive: home and origin being the supreme Entity to which the soul eventually returns.
  5. Planets and stars influence fate and human beings, and are also places of detention after death.
  6. A saviour spirit or saviour spirits which assist the soul on the journey through life and after it to 'worlds of light'.
  7. A cult-language of symbol and metaphor. Ideas and qualities are personified.
  8. 'Mysteries', i.e. sacraments to aid and purify the soul, to ensure rebirth into a spiritual body, and ascent from the world of matter. These are often adaptations of existing seasonal and traditional rites to which an esoteric interpretation is attached. In the case of the Naoreans this interpretation is based upon the Creation story (see 1 and 2), especially on the Divine Man, Adam, as crowned and anointed King-priest.
  9. Great secrecy is enjoined upon initiates; full explanation of 1, 2, and 8 being reserved for those considered able to understand and preserve the gnosis.

Mandaeans believe in marriage and procreation, and in the importance of leading an ethical and moral lifestyle in this world, placing a high priority upon family life. Consequently, Mandaeans do not practice celibacy or asceticism. Mandaeans will, however, abstain from strong drink and red meat. While they agree with other gnostic sects that the world is a prison governed by the planetary archons, they do not view it as a cruel and inhospitable one.

Mandaean scriptures

The Mandaeans have a large corpus of religious scriptures, the most important of which is the Genzā Rabbā or Ginza, a collection of history, theology, and prayers. The Genzā Rabbā is divided into two halves—the Genzā Smālā or "Left Ginza" and the Genzā Yeminā or "Right Ginza". By consulting the colophons in the Left Ginza, Jorunn J. Buckley has identified an uninterrupted chain of copyists to the late 2nd or early 3rd c. AD. The colophons attest to the existence of the Mandaeans during the late Arsacid period at the very latest, a fact corroborated by the Harrān Gāwetā legend, according to which the Mandaeans left Judea after the destruction of Jerusalem in the 1st c. AD, and settled within the Arsacid empire. Although the Ginza continued to evolve under the rule of the Sassanians and the Islamic empires, few textual traditions can lay claim to such extensive continuity.

Other important books include the Qolastā, the "Canonical Prayerbook of the Mandaeans", which was translated by E.S. Drower. One of the chief works of Mandaean scripture, accessible to laymen and initiates alike, is the Draša d-Iahia "The Book of John the Baptist", which includes a dialogue between John and Jesus. In addition to the Ginza, Qolusta, and Draša, there is the Dīvān, which contains a description of the 'regions' the soul ascends through, and the Asfar Malwāshē, the "Book of the Zodiacal Constellations". Finally, there are some pre-Muslim artifacts which contain Mandaean writings and inscriptions, such as some Aramaic incantation bowls.

The language in which the Mandaean religious literature was originally composed is known as Mandaic, and is a member of the Aramaic family of dialects. It is written in a cursive variant of the Parthian chancellory script. The majority of Mandaean lay people do not speak this language, though some members of the Mandaean community resident in Iran (ca. 300–500 out of a total of ca. 5,000 Iranian Mandaeans) continue to speak Neo-Mandaic, a modern version of this language.

Cosmology

As noted above (under Mandaean Beliefs) Mandaean theology is not systematic. There is no one single authoritative account of the creation of the cosmos, but rather a series of several accounts. Some scholars, such as Edmondo Lupieri,[6] maintain that comparison of these different accounts may reveal the diverse religious influences upon which the Mandaeans have drawn and the ways in which the Mandaean religion has evolved over time.

In contrast with the religious texts of the western Gnostic sects formerly found in Syria and Egypt, the earliest Mandaean religious texts suggest a more strictly dualistic theology, typical of other Iranian religions such as Zoroastrianism, Zurvanism, Manichaeism, and the teachings of Mazdak. In these texts, instead of a large pleroma, there is a discrete division between light and darkness. The ruler of darkness is called Ptahil (similar to the Gnostic Demiurge), and the originator of the light (i.e. God) is only known as "the great first Life from the worlds of light, the sublime one that stands above all works". When this being emanated, other spiritual beings became increasingly corrupted, and they and their ruler Ptahil created our world. The similarity between the name Ptahil and the Egyptian Ptah should also be noted—the Mandaeans believe that they were resident in Egypt for a while.

The issue is further complicated by the fact that Ptahil alone does not constitute the demiurge but only fills that role insofar as he is the creator of our world. Rather, Ptahil is the lowest of a group of three "demiurgic" beings, the other two being Yushamin (a.k.a. Joshamin) and Abathur. Abathur's demiurgic role consists of his sitting in judgment upon the souls of mortals. The role of Yushamin, the senior being, is more obscure; wanting to create a world of his own, he was severely punished for opposing the King of Light.

Chief prophets

Mandaeans recognize several prophets, among whom Yahia or Yuhana "John the Baptist" is accorded a special status, higher than his role in Christianity and Islam. Mandaeans do not consider John to be the founder of their religion but revere him as one of their greatest teachers, tracing their beliefs back to Adam.

Mandaeans maintain that Jesus was a mšiha kdaba "false messiah" who perverted the teachings entrusted to him by John. The Mandaic word k(a)daba, however, derives from two roots: the first root, meaning "to lie," is the one traditionally ascribed to Jesus; the second, meaning "to write," might provide a second meaning, that of "book"; hence some Mandaeans, motivated perhaps by an ecumenical spirit, maintain that Jesus was not a "lying Messiah" but a "book Messiah", the "book" in question presumably being the Christian Gospels. This seems to be a folk etymology without support in the Mandaean texts.[7]

Likewise, the Mandaeans believe that Abraham, Moses, and Muhammad were false prophets, but recognize other prophetic figures from the monotheistic traditions, such as Adam, his sons Hibil (Abel) and Šitil (Seth), and his grandson Anuš (Enosh), as well as Nuh (Noah), his son Sam (Shem) and his son Ram (Aram). The latter three they consider to be their direct ancestors.

Priests and laymen

There is a strict division between Mandaean laity and the priests. According to E.S. Drower (The Secret Adam, p. ix):

[T]hose amongst the community who possess secret knowledge are called Nauraiia—Naoreans (or, if the heavy '' is written as 'z', Nazorenes). At the same time the ignorant or semi-ignorant laity are called 'Mandaeans', Mandaiia—'gnostics'. When a man becomes a priest he leaves 'Mandaeanism' and enters tarmiduta, 'priesthood'. Even then he has not attained to true enlightenment, for this, called 'Nairuta', is reserved for a very few. Those possessed of its secrets may call themselves Naoreans, and 'Naorean' today indicates not only one who observes strictly all rules of ritual purity, but one who understands the secret doctrine.

There are three grades of priesthood in Mandaeism: the tarmidia "disciples" (Neo-Mandaic tarmidānā), the ganzibria "treasurers" (from Old Persian ganza-bara "id.", Neo-Mandaic ganzeḇrānā) and the rišamma "leader of the people."

Mandeans in Iraq.

This last office, the highest level of the Mandaean priesthood, has lain vacant for many years. At the moment, the highest office currently occupied is that of the ganzeḇrā, a title which appears first in a religious context in the Aramaic ritual texts from Persepolis (ca. 3rd c. BCE) and which may be related to the kamnaskires (Elamite <qa-ap-nu-iš-ki-ra> kapnuskir "treasurer"), title of the rulers of Elymais (modern Khuzestan) during the Hellenistic age. Traditionally, any ganzeḇrā who baptizes seven or more ganzeḇrānā may qualify for the office of rišamma, though the Mandaean community has yet to rally as a whole behind any single candidate.

The contemporary priesthood can trace its immediate origins to the first half of the 19th century. In 1831, an outbreak of cholera devastated the region and eliminated most if not all of the Mandaean religious authorities. Two of the surviving acolytes (šgandia), Yahia Bihram and Ram Zihrun, reestablished the priesthood on the basis of their own training and the texts that were available to them.

In 2009 there were two dozen Mandaean priests in the world, according to the Associated Press.[2]

Related groups

According to the Fihrist of ibn al-Nadim, Mani, the Assyrian prophet and founder of Manichaeism, was brought up within the Elkasaites (Elcesaites or Elchasaite) sect. The Elkasaites were a Christian baptismal sect which may have been related to the Mandaeans. The members of this sect, like the Mandaeans, wore white and performed baptisms. They dwelt in east Judea and northern Mesopotamia, whence the Mandaeans claim to have migrated to southern Mesopotamia, according to the Harran Gawaitā legend. Mani later left the Elkasaites to found his own religion. In a remarkable comparative analysis, Mandaean scholar Säve-Söderberg demonstrated that Mani's Psalms of Thomas were closely related to Mandaean texts. This would imply that Mani had access to Mandaean religious literature.

Other groups which have been identified with the Mandaeans include the "Nasoraeans", described by Epiphanius, and the Dositheans, mentioned by Theodore Bar Kōnī in his Scholion. Ibn al-Nadim also mentions a group called the Mughtasila, "the self-ablutionists", who may be identified with one or the other of these groups. The members of this sect, like the Mandaeans, wore white and performed baptisms.

Whether groups such as the Elkasaites, the Mughtasila, the Nasoraeans, and the Dositheans can be identified with the Mandaeans or one another is a difficult question. While it seems certain that a number of distinct groups are intended by these names, the nature of these sects and the connections between them are less than clear.

Mandaeans today

War in Iraq and diaspora

The prewar Iraqi Mandaean community was centered around Baghdad.[8] Mandaean emigration from Iraq began during Saddam Hussein's rule, but accelerated greatly after the American invasion.[8] Since the invasion Mandaeans, like other ethnic/religious minorities(see Assyrians, Armenians), have been subjected to Ethnic and Religious based violence by Arab Shiite and Sunni groups, including murders, kidnappings, rapes, evictions, and forced conversions.[8][9] Mandaeans were also targeted for kidnapping since many worked as goldsmiths.[8] Mandaeism is pacifistic and forbids its adherents from carrying weapons.[8]

Most Iraqi Mandaeans have fled the country in the face of this violence, and the Mandaean community in Iraq faces extinction.[4][10] Out of the over 60,000 Mandaeans in Iraq in the early 1990s, only about 5,000 to 7,000 remain there; as of early 2007, over 80% of Iraqi Mandaeans were refugees in Syria and Jordan as a result of the Iraq War. There are small Mandaean diaspora populations in Sweden (c. 5,000), Australia (c. 3,500 as of 2006), the USA (c. 1,500), the UK (c. 1,000), and Canada.[4][11][12][13][14] Sweden became a popular destination because a Mandaean community existed there before the war and the Swedish government has a liberal asylum policy toward Iraqis.[15] The scattered nature of the Mandaean diaspora has raised fears among Mandaeans for the religion's survival.[2][9] Mandaeism has no provision for conversion, and the religious status of Mandaeans who marry outside the faith and their children is disputed.[2][9]

The contemporary status of the Mandaeans has prompted a number of American intellectuals and civil rights activists to call for their government to extend refugee status to the community. In 2007, The New York Times ran an op-ed piece in which Swarthmore professor Nathaniel Deutsch called for the Bush administration to take immediate action to preserve the community:

The United States didn’t set out to eradicate the Mandeans, one of the oldest, smallest and least understood of the many minorities in Iraq. This extinction in the making has simply been another unfortunate and entirely unintended consequence of our invasion of Iraq—though that will be of little comfort to the Mandeans, whose 2,000-year-old culture is in grave danger of disappearing from the face of the earth. . . . . When American forces invaded in 2003, there were probably 60,000 Mandeans in Iraq; today, fewer than 5,000 remain. . . . Of the mere 500 Iraqi refugees who were allowed into the United States from April 2003 to April 2007, only a few were Mandeans. And despite the Bush administration’s commitment to let in 7,000 refugees in the fiscal year that ended [September 30, 2007], fewer than 2,000, including just three Iraqi Mandean families, entered the country. If all Iraqi Mandeans are granted privileged status and allowed to enter the United States in significant numbers, it may just be enough to save them and their ancient culture from destruction. If not, after 2,000 years of history, of persecution and tenacious survival, the last Gnostics will finally disappear, victims of an extinction inadvertently set into motion by our nation’s negligence in Iraq.
Nathaniel Deutsch, professor of religion, Swarthmore College, October 7, 2007[3]

Iraqi Mandaeans were given refugee status by the US State Department in 2007. Since then around 1200 have entered the US.[2]

Iranian Mandaeans

Mandaeans in Iran are not subject to sectarian violence as they are in Iraq, but are prohibited from fully participating in civil life in Iran by the Gozinesh Law (passed in 1985). This law and other gozinesh provisions make access to employment, education, and a range of other areas conditional upon a rigorous ideological screening, the principal prerequisite for which is devotion to the tenets of Islam.[16] These laws are regularly applied to discriminate against religious and ethnic groups that are not officially recognized, such as the Mandaeans.[17] There are estimated to be between 5,000 and 10,000 Mandaeans in Iran.[2] In 2002 the US State Department granted Iranian Mandaeans protective refugee status; since then roughly 1,000 have emigrated to the US.[2]

See also

Other related religions

Notes

  1. ^ a b Iraqi minority group needs U.S. attention, Kai Thaler, Yale Daily News, March 9, 2007.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g http://www.hollandsentinel.com/lifestyle/x1558731033/Saving-the-people-killing-the-faith
  3. ^ a b c "Save the Gnostics" by Nathaniel Deutsch, October 6, 2007, New York Times.
  4. ^ a b c Iraq's Mandaeans 'face extinction', Angus Crawford, BBC, March 4, 2007.
  5. ^ Drower, Ethel Stephana (1960), The secret Adam, a study of Nasoraean gnosis, London UK: Clarendon Press, xvi 
  6. ^ Lupieri, Edmondo (2002). The Mandaeans: The Last Gnostics. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans. pp. 38–41. 
  7. ^ Macuch, Rudolf (1965). Handbook of Classical and Modern Mandaic. Berlin: De Gruyter & Co.. pp. 61 fn. 105. 
  8. ^ a b c d e http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/09/world/europe/09iht-mandeans.4.5202220.html?pagewanted=1
  9. ^ a b c http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/02/09/AR2007020901687_2.html
  10. ^ Genocide Watch: Mandaeans of Iraq
  11. ^ Survival of Ancient Faith Threatened by Fighting in Iraq, Chris Newmarker, Associated Press. February 10, 2007.
  12. ^ The Plight of Iraq's Mandeans, John Bolender. Counterpunch.org, January 8/9, 2005.
  13. ^ An exodus to Sweden from Iraq for ethnic Mandaeans, Ivar Ekman. International Herald Tribune, April 9, 2007.
  14. ^ Mandaeans persecuted in Iraq. ABC Radio National (Australia), June 7, 2006.
  15. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2007/04/09/world/europe/09iht-mandeans.4.5202220.html?pagewanted=2
  16. ^ Ideological Screening (ROOZ :: English)
  17. ^ Annual Report for Iran, 2005, Amnesty International.

References

  • Buckley, Jorunn Jacobsen. 2002. The Mandaeans: Ancient Texts and Modern People. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • Buckley. J.J. "Mandaeans" in Encyclopædia Iranica [1]
  • Drower, Ethel Stefana. 2002. The Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran: Their Cults, Customs, Magic Legends, and Folklore (reprint). Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press.
  • Newmarker, Chris, Associated Press article, "Faith under fire: Iraq war threatens extinction for ancient religious group" (headline in The Advocate of Stamford, Connecticut, page A12, February 10, 2007)
  • Petermann, J. Heinrich. 2007 The Great Treasure of the Mandaeans (reprint of Thesaurus s. Liber Magni). Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press.
  • Segelberg, Eric, 1958, Maşbūtā. Studies in the Ritual of the Mandæan Baptism. Uppsala
  • Segelberg, Eric, 1970, "The Ordination of the Mandæan tarmida and its Relation to Jewish and Early Christian Ordination Rites", in Studia patristica 10.
  • Yamauchi, Edwin. 2004. Gnostic Ethics and Mandaean Origins (reprint). Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press.

External links

Books about Mandaeism available online


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

MANDAEANS, also known as Sabians, Nasoraeans, or St John's Christians,' an Oriental sect of great antiquity, interesting to the theologian as almost the only surviving example of a ' The first of these names (not Mendaeans or Mandaites) is that given by themselves, and means yvcvvTucot, followers of Gnosis (m ,, 111e2, from ml.lxn, Hebr. m). The Gnosis of which they profess themselves adherents is a personification, the won and mediator "knowledge of life" (see below). The title Nasoraeans (Nasoraye), according to Petermann, they give only to those among themselves who are most distinguished for knowledge and character.. Like the Arabic Nasara, it is originally identical with the name of the half heathen half Jewish-Christian Ncq-copaioc, and indicates an early connexion with that sect. The inappropriate designation of St John's Christians arises from the early and imperfect acquaintance of Christian missionaries, who had regard merely to the reverence in which the name of the Baptist is held among them, and their frequent baptisms. In their dealings with members of other communions the designation they take is Sabians, in Arabic Sabi'una, from qs= y 25, to baptize, thus claiming the toleration extended by the Koran (Sur. 5, 73; 22, 17; 2, 59) to those of that name.

religion compounded of Christian, heathen and Jewish elements on a type which is essentially that of ancient Gnosticism.

The Mandaeans are found in the marshy lands of South Babylonia (al-bataih), particularly in the neighbourhood of Basra (or Bussorah), and in Khuzistan (Disful, Shuster). 1 They speak the languages of the localities in which they are settled (Arabic or Persian), but the language of their sacred books is an Aramaic dialect, which has its closest affinities with that of the Babylonian Talmud, written in a peculiar character suggestive of the old Palmyrene. 2 The existence of the Mandaeans has been known since the middle 'of the 17th century, when the first Christian missionaries, Ignatius a Jesu and Angelus a Sancto, began to labour among them at Basra; further information was gathered at a somewhat later date by Pietro della Valle' and Jean de Thevenot 5 (1633-1667), and in the following century by Engelbrecht Kaempfer (1651-1716), Jean Chardin (1643-1713) and Carsten Niebuhr. In recent times they have been visited by A. H. Petermann 6 and Albrecht Socin, and Siouffi 7 published in 1880 a full and accurate account of their manners and customs, taken from the lips of a converted Mandaean. For our knowledge of their doctrinal system, however, we still depend chiefly upon the sacred books already mentioned, consisting of fragments of very various antiquity derived from an older literature.8 Of these the largest and most important is the Sidra' rabbd (" Great Book"), known also as Ginza - ("Treasure"), consisting of two unequal parts, of which the larger is called yamina (to the right hand) and the smaller s'znala (to the left hand), because of the manner in which they are bound together. The former is intended for the living; the latter consists chiefly of prayers to be read at the burial of priests. As regards doctrine, the work is exhaustive; but it is diffuse, obscure, and occasionally selfcontradictory, as might be expected in a work which consists of a number of unconnected paragraphs of various authorship and date. The last section of the "right-hand" part (the "Book of Kings") is one of the older portions, and from its allusion to "the Persian and Arabian kings" may be dated somewhere between A.D. 700 and 900. Many of the doctrinal portions may in substance well be still older, and date from the time of the Sassanids. None of the MSS., however, is older than the 16th century.9 The following sketch represents, as far as can be gathered from these heterogeneous sources, the principal features of the Mandaean system. The ground and origin of all things is Pira, or more correctly Pera rabba (" the great abyss," or from -um, "to split," cf. the Gnostic 13v06s, or more probably cf. Heb. peri, " the great fruit"), associated with whom, and forming a triad with him, are the primal aeons Ayar ziva rabba, " the great shining aether," and Mana rabba d'ekara, " the great spirit of glory," usually called simply Mana rabba. The last-named, the most prominent of the three, is the king of light properly so called, from whom the development of all things begins. From him emanates Yardena rabba, " the great Jordan," which, as the higher-world 1 In 1882 they were said to have shrunk to 200 families, and to be seeking a new settlement on the Tigris, to escape the persecutions to which they are exposed.

See T. Noldeke's admirable Mandaische Grammatik (Halle, 875).

3 Narratio originis, rituum, et errorum Christianorum S. Joannis (Rome, 1652).

4 Reisebeschreibung, part iv. (Geneva, 1674).

5 Voyage au Levant (Paris, 1664).

s Reisen im Orient, ii. 447 seq.

M. M. Siouffi, Etudes sur la religion ... des Soubbas (Paris, 1880).

8 Mandaean MSS. occur in the British Museum, the Bodleian Library, the Bibliotheque Nationale of France, and also in Rome, Weimar and Berlin. A number of Mandaean inscriptions relating to popular beliefs and superstitions have been published by H. Pognon, Inscriptions mandaites (2 vols., Paris, 1898-1899), also by M. Lidzbarski in his Ephemeris (Giessen, 1900 seq.).

9 The first printed edition and translation of the Sidra rabba, by Matth. Norberg (Codex Nazaraeus, liber Adami appellatus, 3 vols., Copenhagen, 1815-1816, followed by a lexicon in 1816, and an onomasticon in 1817), is so defective as to be quite useless; even the name Book of Adam is unknown to the Mandaeans. Petermann's Thesaurus s. Liber magnus, vulgo "Liber Adami" appellatus, opus Mandaeorum summi ponderis (2 vols., Berlin and Leipzig, 1867), is an excellent metallographic reproduction of the Paris MS. A German soul, permeates the whole aether, the domain of Ayar. Alongside of Mana rabba frequent mention is made of D'mutha, his "image," as a female power; the name "image of the father" arises out of the same conception as that which gives rise to the name of 'vvota among the Greek Gnostics. Mana rabba called into being the highest of the aeons properly so called, Hayye I.admaye, "Primal Life," and then withdrew into deepest secrecy, visible indeed to the highest but not to the lowest aeons (cf. ocPia and Ilpoirarwp), yet manifesting himself also to the souls of the more pious of the Mandaeans after their separation from the body. Primal Life, who is properly speaking the Mandaean god, has the same predicates as the primal spirit, and every prayer, as well as every section of the sacred books, begins by invoking him. 10 The extremely fantastic delineation of the world of light by which Hayye Kadmaye is surrounded (see for example the beginning of Sidra rabba) corresponds very closely with the Manichaean description of the abode of the "king of the paradise of light." The king of light "sits in the far north in might and glory." The Primal Light unfolds himself by five great branches, viz. "the highest purest light, the gentle wind, the harmony of sounds, the voice of all the aeons, and the beauty of their forms," all these being treated as abstractions and personified. Out of the further development and combination of these primary manifestations arise numerous aeons (` Uthre, " splendours," from "is rich"), of which the number is often stated to be three hundred and. sixty. They are divided into a number of classes (kings, hypostases, forms, &c.); the proper names by which they are invoked are many, and for the most part obscure, borrowed doubtless, to some extent, from the Parsee angelology. From the First Life proceeds as a principal emanation the "Second Life," Hayye Tinyane, generally called Yoshamin. This last name is evidently meant to be Hebrew, "Yahweh of the heavens," the God of the Jews being of a secondary rank in the usual Gnostic style. The next emanation after Yoshamin is "the messenger of life" (Manda d'hayye, literally yvC61s Tits wi s), the most important figure in the entire system, the mediator and redeemer, the Xbyos and the Christ of the Mandaeans, from whom, as already stated, they take their name. He belongs to the heathen Gnosis, and is in his essence the same as the Babylonian Marduk. Y oshamin desired to raise himself above the Primal Light, but failed in the attempt, and was punished by removal out of the pure aetherial world into that of inferior light. Manda, on the other hand, continues with the First Life and Mana rabba, and is called his "beloved son," the "first born," "high priest" and "word of life." The "Life" calls into existence in the visible world a series of three great Helpers, Hibil, Shithil and Anosh (late Judaeo-Babylonian transformations of the well-known names of the book of Genesis), the guardians of souls. The last son of the Second Life is Hayye t'lithaye, the "Third Life," usually called father of the Uthre (Aba d` `Uthre, Abathur). His usual epithet is "the Ancient" (`Atiga), and he is also called "the deeply hidden and guarded." He stands on the borderland between the here and the hereafter, translation of about a quarter of this work has been published in W. Brandt's Mandaische Schriften, with notes (Gottingen, 1893). A critical edition still remains a desideratum. Next in importance to the Sidra rabba is the Sidra d'Yahya, or "Book of John," otherwise known as the D'rasche d'Malke, " Discourses of the Kings," which has not as yet been printed as a whole, although portions have been published by Lorsbach and Tychsen (see Museum f. bibl. u. orient. Lit. (1807), and Staudlin's Beitr. z. Phil. u. Gesch. d. Relig. u. Sittenlehre 1 79 6 seq.). The Kolasta (Ar. Khulasa, " Quintessence"), or according to its fuller title `Enyaneuderashed'mabutha umassektha (" Songs and Discourses of Baptism and the Ascent," viz. of the soul after death), has been admirably lithographed by Euting (Stuttgart, 1867). It is also known as Sidra' d'neshmatha, " Book of Souls," and besides hymns and doctrinal discourses contains prayers to be offered by the priests at sacrifice and at meals, as well as other liturgical matter. The Mandaean marriage service occurs both in Paris and in Oxford as an independent MS. The Diwan, hitherto unpublished, contains the ritual for atonement. The Asfar malwashe, or "Book of the Zodiac," is astrological. Of smaller pieces many are magical and used as amulets.

to The use of the word "life" in a personal sense is usual in Gnosticism; compare the Zcoi 7 of Valentin and el-hayat el-muallama, " the dark life," of Mani in the Fihrist. like the mysterious 7rp€a135Trls T pfros or senex tertius of Mani, whose becoming visible will betoken the end of the world. Abathur sits on the farthest verge of the world of light that lies towards the lower regions, and weighs in his balance the deeds of the departed spirits who ascend to him. Beneath him was originally nothing but a huge void with muddy black water at the bottom, in which his image was reflected, becoming ultimately solidified into P'tahil, his son, who now partakes of the nature of matter. The demiurge of the Mandaeans, and corresponding to the Ialdabaoth of the Ophites, he at the instance of his father frames the earth and men - according to some passages in conjunction with the seven bad planetary spirits. He created Adam and Eve, but was unable to make them stand upright, whereupon Hibil, Shithil and Anosh were sent by the First Life to infuse into their forms spirit from Mana rabba himself. Hibil, at the instance of the supreme God, also taught men about the world of light and the aeons, and especially gave them to know that not P'tahil but another was their creator and supreme God, who as "the great king of light, without number, without limit," stands far above him. At the same time he enjoined the pair to marry and people the world. P'tahil had now lost his power over men, and was driven by his father out of the world of light into a place beneath it, whence he shall at the day of judgment be raised, and after receiving baptism be made king of the `Uthre with divine honours.

The underworld is made up of four vestibules and three hells properly so called. The vestibules have each two rulers, Zartay and Zartanay, Hag and Mag, Gaf and Gafan, Anatan and Kin. In the highest hell rules alone the grisly king Sh'dum, "the warrior"; in the storey immediately beneath is Giv, "the great"; and in the lowest is Krun or Karkum, the oldest and most powerful of all, commonly called "the great mountain of flesh" (Third rabba d'besra), but also "the first-born of darkness." In the vestibules dirty water is still to be met with, but the hells are full of scorching consuming fire, except Krun's domain, where is nought but dust, ashes and vacancy. Into these regions descended Hibil the brilliant, in the power of Mana rabba, just as in the Manichaean mythology the "primal man," armed with the elements of the king of light, descends to a contest with the primal devil. Hibil lingers, gradually unfolding his power, in each of the vestibules, and finally passing from hell to hell reaches Karkum. Hibil allows himself to be half swallowed by the monster, but is unhurt, and compels his antagonist to recognize the superiority of Mana rabba, the God of light, and to divulge his profoundest secret, the hidden name of darkness. Armed with this he returns through the successive hells, compelling the disclosure of every secret, depriving the rulers of their power, and barring the doors of the several regions. From the fourth vestibule he brought the female devil Ruha, daughter of Kin, and set her over the whole four. This Raba., the mother of falsehood and lies, of poisoning and fornication is an anti-Christian parody of the Ruha d'Qudsha (Holy Spirit) of the Syriac Church. She is the mother of Ur, the personified fire of hell, who in anger and pride made a violent onset on the world of light (compare the similar occurrence in the Manichaean mythology), but was mastered by Hibil and thrown in chains down to the "black water," and imprisoned within seven iron and seven golden walls. By Ur, Ruha, while P'tahil was engaged in his work of creation, became mother of three sets of seven, twelve and five sons respectively; all were translated by P'tahil to the heavenly firmament (like the Archons of Mani), the first group forming the planets and the next the signs of the zodiac, while the third is as yet undetermined. Of the names of the planets Estera (Ishtar Venus, also called Ruha d'Qudsha, "holy spirit"), Enba (Nebo, Mercury), Sin (moon), Kewan (Saturn), Bil (Jupiter), and Nirig (Nirgal, Mars) reveal their Babylonian origin; Il or Il Il, the sun, is also known as Kadush and Adunay (the Adonai of the Old Testament); as lord of the planetary spirits his place is in the midst of them; they are the source of all temptation and evil amongst men. The houses of the planets, as well as the earth and a second world immediately to the north of it, rest upon anvils laid by Hibil on the belly of Ur.

In the Mandaean representation the sky is an ocean of water, pure and clear, but of more than adamantine solidity, upon which the stars and planets sail. Its transparency allows us to see even to the pole star, who is the central sun around whom all the heavenly bodies move. Wearing a jewelled crown, he stands before Abathur's door at the gate of the world of light; the Mandaeans accordingly invariably pray with their faces turned northward. The earth is conceived of as a round disk, slightly sloping towards the south, surrounded on three sides by the sea, but on the north by a high mountain of turquoises; behind this is the abode of the blest, a sort of inferior paradise, inhabited by the Egyptians who were saved from drowning with Pharaoh in the Red Sea, and whom the Mandaeans look upon as their ancestors, Pharaoh himself having been their first high priest and king. The total duration of the earth they fix at four hundred and eighty thousand years, divided into seven epochs, in each of which one of the planets rules. The Sidra Rabbet knows of three total destructions of the human race by fire and water, pestilence and sword, a single pair alone surviving in each case. In the Mandaean view the Old Testament saints are false prophets; such as Abraham, who arose six thousand years after NU (Noah) during the reign of the sun, Misha (Moses), in whose time the true religion was professed by the Egyptians, and Shlimun (Solomon) bar Davith, the lord of the demons. Another false prophet and magician was Yishu M'shiha, who was in fact a manifestation of the planet Mercury. Forty-two years before his day, under King Pontius Pilate, there had appeared the true prophet Yahya or John son of Zechariah, an incarnation of Hibil, of whose birth and childhood fantastic stories are told. Yahya by a mistake gave baptism to the false Messiah, who had feigned humility; on the completion of his mission, after undergoing a seeming execution, he returned clothed with light into the kingdom of light. .As a contemporary of Yahya and the false Messiah Hibil's younger brother Anosh `Uthra came down from heaven, caused himself to be baptized by Yahya, wrought miracles of healing and of raising the dead, and brought about the crucifixion of the false Messiah. He preached the true religion, destroyed Jerusalem ("Urashlam," i.e. " the devil finished it"), which had been built by Adunay, dispersed over the world the Jews who had put Yahya to death, and previous to his return into the worlds of light sent forth three hundred and sixty prophets for the diffusion of the true religion. All this speaks of intense hatred alike of Jews and Christians; the fasts, celibacy and monastic and anchoret life of the latter are peculiarly objectionable to the Mandaeans. Two hundred and forty years after the appearing of the false Messiah there came to the world sixty thousand saints out of Pharaoh's world to take the place of the Mandaeans, who had been completely extirpated; their high priest had his residence in Damascus. The last false prophet was M'hammad or Ahmat bar Bisbat (Mahomet), but Anosh, who remained close beside him and his immediate successors, prevented hostilities against the true believers, who claim to have had in Babylonia, under the Abbasids, four hundred places of worship. Subsequent persecutions compelled their withdrawal to `Ammara in the neighbourhood of Wasit, and ultimately to Khuzistan. At the end of the world the devil Ur will swallow up the earth and the other intermediate higher worlds, and thereupon will burst and fall into the abyss of darkness where, along with all the worlds and powers of darkness, he will ultimately cease to be, so that thenceforward the universe will consist of but one everlasting world of light.

The chief depositaries of these Mandaean mysteries are the priests, who enjoy a high degree of power and social regard. The priesthood has three grades: (I) the Sh'kanda or deacon is generally chosen from episcopal or priestly families, and must be without bodily blemish. The candidate for orders must be at least nineteen years old and have undergone twelve years' preparation; he is then qualified to assist the priesthood in the ceremonies of religion. (2) The Tarmida (i.e. " Talmida," "initiated") or priest is ordained by a bishop and two priests or by four priests after a long and extremely painful period of preparation. (3) The Ganzivra (" treasurer") or bishop, the highest dignitary, is chosen from the whole body of the Tarmidas after a variety of tests, and possesses unlimited authority over the clergy. A supreme priestly rank, that of Rish 'amma: or "head of the people," is recognized, but only in theory; since the time of Pharaoh this sovereign pontificate has only once been filled. Women are admitted to priestly offices as well as men. The priestly dress, which is all white, consists of drawers, an upper garment, and a girdle with the so-called taga (" crown");. in all ceremonies the celebrants must be barefoot. By far the most frequent and important of the religious ceremonies is that of baptism (masbutha), which is called for in a great variety of cases, not only for children but for adults, where consecration or purification is required, as for example on all Sundays and feast days, after contact with a dead body, after return from abroad, after neglect of any formality on the part of a priest in the discharge of his functions. In all these cases baptism is performed by total immersion in running water, but during the five days' baptismal festival the rite is observed wholesale by mere sprinkling of large masses of the faithful at once. The Mandaeans observe also with the elements of bread (pehta) and wine (mambuha, lit. "fountain") a sort of eucharist, which has a special sanctifying efficacy, and is usually dispensed at festivals, but only to baptized persons of good repute who have never willingly denied the Mandaean faith. In receiving it the communicant must not touch the host with his finger; otherwise it loses its virtue. The hosts are made by the priests from unleavened fine flour. The Mandaean places of worship, being designed only for the priests and their assistants (the worshippers remaining in the forecourt), are excessively small, and very simply furnished; two windows, a door that opens towards the south so that those who enter have their faces turned towards the pole star, a few boards in the corner, and a gabled roof complete the whole structure; there is neither altar nor decoration of any kind. The neighbourhood of running water (for baptisms) is essential. At the consecration of a church the sacrifice of a dove (the bird of Ishtar) has place among the ceremonies. Besides Sundays there are six great feasts: (1) that of the New Year (Nauruz rabba), on the first day of the first month of winter; (2) Dehwa h' nina, the anniversary of the happy return of Hibil Ziva from the kingdom of darkness into that of light, lasting five days, beginning with the 18th of the first month of spring; (3) the Marwana, in commemoration of the drowned Egyptians, on the first day of the seoond month of spring; (4) the great five days' baptismal festival (pantsha), the chief feast, kept on the five intercalary days at the end of the second month of summer - during its continuance every Mandaean, male .and female, must dress in white and bathe thrice daily; (5) Dehwa d'daimana, in honour of one of the three hundred and sixty `Uthras, on the first day of the second month of autumn; (6) Kanshe Zahla, the preparation feast, held on the last day of the year. There .are also fast days called m'battal (Arab.), on which it is forbidden to kill any living thing or eat flesh. These, however, are really "rest-days," as fasting is forbidden in Mandaeism. The year is solar, and has twelve months of thirty days each, with five intercalary days between the eighth and the ninth month. Of the seven days of the week, next to Sunday (habshaba) Thursday has a special sacredness as the day of Hibil Ziva. As regards secular occupation, the present Mandaeans are goldsmiths, ironworkers, and house and ship carpenters. The Sidra Rabba lays great stress upon the duty of procreation, and marriage is a duty. In the 17th century, according to the old travellers, they numbered about 20,000 families, but at the present day they hardly number more than 1200 souls. In external appearance the Mandaean is distinguished from the Moslem only by a brown coat and a parti-coloured headcloth with a cord twisted round it. They have some peculiar deathbed rites: a deacon with some attendants waits upon the dying, and as death approaches administers a bath first of warm and afterwards of cold water; a holy dress, consisting of seven pieces (rasta), is then put on; the feet are directed towards the north and the head turned to the south, so that the body faces the pole star. After the burial a funeral feast is held in the house of mourning.

The Mandaeans are strictly reticent about their theological dogmas in the presence of strangers; and the knowledge they actually possess of these is extremely small. The foundation of the system is obviously to be sought in Gnosticism, and more particularly in the older type of that doctrine (known from the serpent symbol as Ophite or Naassene) which obtained in Mesopotamia and Further Asia generally. But it is equally plain that the Ophite nucleus has from time to time received very numerous and often curiously perverted accretions from Babylonian Judaism, Oriental Christianity and Parsism, exhibiting a striking example of religious syncretism. In the Gnostic basis itself it is not difficult to recognize the general features of the religion of ancient Babylonia, and thus we are brought nearer a solution of the problem as to the origin of Gnosticism in general. It is certain that Babylonia, the seat of the present Mandaeans, must he regarded also as the cradle in which their system was reared; it is impossible to think of them as coming from Palestine, or to attribute to their doctrines a Jewish or Christian origin. They do not spring historically from the disciples of John the Baptist (Acts xviii. 25; xix. 3 seq.; Recog. Clem. i. 54); the tradition in which he and the Jordan figure so largely is not original, and is therefore worthless; at the same time it is true that their baptismal praxis and its interpretation place them in the same religious group with the Hemerobaptists of Eusebius (H. E. iv. 22) and Epiphanius (Haer., xvii.), or with the sect of disciples of John who remained apart from Christianity. Their reverence for John is of a piece with their whole syncretizing attitude towards the New Testament. Indeed, as has been seen, they appropriate the entire personale of the Bible from Adam, Seth, Abel, Enos and Pharaoh to Jesus and John, a phenomenon which bears witness to the close relations of the Mandaean doctrine both with Judaism and Christianity - not the less close because they were relations of hostility. The history of religion presents other examples of the degradation of holy to demonic figures on occasion of religious schism. The use of the word "Jordan," even in the plural, for "sacred water," is precisely similar to that by the Naassenes described in the Philosophumena (v. 7); there o js yas 'IopShvns denotes the spirituallzing sanctifying fluid which pervades the world of light. The notions of the Egyptians and the Red Sea, according to the same work (v. 16), are used by the Peratae much as by the Mandaeans. And the position assigned by the Sethians (EnOcavoi) to Seth is precisely similar to that given by the Mandaeans to Abel. Both alike are merely old Babylonian divinities in a new Biblical garb. The genesis of Mandaeis.m and the older gnosis from the old and elaborate BabylonioChaldaean religion is clearly seen also in the fact that the names of the old pantheon (as for example those of the planetary divinities) are retained, but their holders degraded to the position of demons - a conclusion confirmed by the fact that the Mandaeans, like the allied Ophites, Peratae and Manichaeans, certainly have their original seat in Mesopotamia and Babylonia. It seems clear that the trinity of Anu, Bel, and Ea in the old Babylonian religion has its counterpart in the Mandaean Pira, Ayar, and Mana rabba. The D'mutha of Mana is the Damkina, the wife of Ea, mentioned by Damascius as zavKi 7, wife of 'Aen. Manda d'hayye and his image Hibil Ziva with his incarnations clearly correspond to the old Babylonian Marduk, Merodach, the "first-born" son of Ea, with his incarnations, the chief divinity of the city of Babylon, the mediator and redeemer in the old religion. Hibil's contest with darkness has its prototype in Marduk's battle with chaos, the dragon Tiamat, which (another striking parallel) partially swallows Marduk, just as is related of Hibil and the Manichaean primal man. Other features are borrowed by the Mandaean mythology under this head from the well-known epos of Istar's descensus ad inferos. The sanctity with which water is invested by the Mandaeans is to be explained by the fact that Ea has his seat "in the depths of the world sea." Cf. K. Kessler's article, "Mandaer," in Herzog-Hauck's Realencyklopddie, and the same author's paper, "Ueber Gnosis u. altbabylonische Religion," in the Abhandh. d. funften internationalen Orientalisten-congresses zu Berlin (Berlin, 1882); also W. Brandt's Mandciische Religion (Leipzig, 1889), and M. N. Siouffi's E tudes sur la religion des Soubbas (Paris, 1880). (K. K.; G. W. T.)


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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

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Noun

Mandaeans

  1. Plural form of Mandaean.

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