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Manichaeism (in Modern Persian آیین مانی Āyin e Māni; Chinese: pinyin: Jiào) was one of the major Iranian Gnostic religions, originating in Sassanid Persia. Although most of the original writings of the founding prophet Mani (in Persian: مانی, Syriac: ܡܐܢܝ, Latin: Manichaeus or Manes) (c. 216–276 AD) have been lost, numerous translations and fragmentary texts have survived. Manichaeism is distinguished by its elaborate cosmology describing the struggle between a good, spiritual world of light, and an evil, material world of darkness. Through an ongoing process which takes place in human history, light is gradually removed from the world of matter and returned to the world of light from which it came.

Manichaeism thrived between the third and seventh centuries, and at its height was one of the most widespread religions in the world. Manichaean churches and scriptures existed as far east as China and as far west as the Roman Empire.[1] Manichaeism appears to have faded away after the 14th century in southern China.[2]

The original six sacred books of Manichaeism, composed in Syriac Aramaic, were soon translated into other languages to help spread the religion. As they spread to the east, the Manichaean writings passed through Middle Persian, Parthian, Sogdian, and ultimately Uyghur and Chinese translations. As they spread to the west, they were translated into Greek, Coptic, and Latin. The spread and success of Manichaeism were seen as a threat to other religions, and it was widely persecuted in Christian, Zoroastrian, Islamic,[3] and Buddhist cultures.



Manichaean priests, writing at their desks, with panel inscription in Uyghur. Manuscript from Khocho, Tarim Basin.

Mani lived approximately AD 216–276 and resided in Babylon, which was then a province of the Persian Empire. According to the Cologne Mani-Codex,[4] Mani's parents were Elcesaites of southern Mesopotamia. The primary language of Babylon at that time was Eastern Middle Aramaic, which included three main dialects: Judeo-Aramaic (the language of the Talmud), Mandaean Aramaic (the language of the Mandaean religion), and Syriac Aramaic, which was the language of Mani, as well as of the Syriac Christians. "Mani" is a Persian name found in all three Aramaic dialects and therefore common among its speakers. Mani composed seven writings, six of which were written in Syriac Aramaic. The seventh, the Shabuhragan,[5] was written by Mani in Middle Persian and presented by him to the contemporary King of Sassanid Persia, Shapur I in the Persian capitol of Ctesiphon. Although there is no proof Shapur I was a Manichaean, he tolerated the spread of Manicheanism and refrained from persecuting it in his empire's boundaries.[6] According to one tradition Mani also created a unique version of the Syriac script called Manichaean script, which was used in all of the Manichaean works written within the Persian Empire, whether they were in Syriac or Middle Persian, and also for most of the works written within the Uyghur Empire.

Manichaeism claimed to present the complete version of teachings that were corrupted and misinterpreted by the followers of its predecessors Adam, Zoroaster, Buddha and Jesus. Accordingly, as it spread, it adapted new deities from other religions into forms it could use for its scriptures. Its original Aramaic texts already contained stories of Jesus. When they moved eastward and were translated into Iranian languages, the names of the Manichaean deities (or angels) were often transformed into the names of Zoroastrian yazatas. Thus Abbā dəRabbūṯā ("The Father of Greatness", the highest Manichaean deity of Light), in Middle Persian texts might either be translated literally as pīd ī wuzurgīh, or substituted with the name of the deity Zurwān. Similarly, the Manichaean primal figure Nāšā Qaḏmāyā "The Original Man" was rendered "Ohrmazd Bay", after the Zoroastrian god Ahura Mazda. This process continued to Manichaeism's meeting with Chinese Buddhism, where, for example, the original Aramaic "karia" (the "call" from the world of Light to those seeking rescue from the world of Darkness), becomes identified in the Chinese scriptures with Guan Yin (觀音 or Avalokitesvara in Sanskrit, literally, "watching/perceiving sounds [of the world]", the Chinese Bodhisattva of Compassion).

The original six Syriac writings are not preserved, although their Syriac names have been. There are also fragments and quotations from them. A long quotation, brought by the Syrian Nestorian Christian, Theodor bar-Konai, in the eighth century,[7] shows that in the original Syriac Aramaic writings of Mani there was no influence of Iranian or Zoroastrian terms. The terms for the Manichaean deities in the original Syriac writings are in Aramaic. The adaptation of Manichaeism to the Zoroastrian religion appears to have begun in Mani's lifetime however, with his writing of the Middle Persian Shabuhragan, his book dedicated to the King Shapuhr.[5] In it, there are mentions of Zoroastrian deities such as Ohrmazd, Ahriman, and Az. Manichaeism is often presented as a Persian religion, mostly due to the vast number of Middle Persian, Parthian, and Soghdian (as well as Turkish) texts discovered by German researchers near Turpan, in the Xinjiang (Chinese Turkestan) province of China, during the early 1900s. As far as its origins are concerned, however, Manichaeism was no more a Persian or Iranian religion than Talmudic Judaism or Babylonian Mandaeism, which were also written in Aramaic in Babylon in roughly the third century AD.

Mani began preaching at an early age and was possibly influenced by contemporary Babylonian-Aramaic movements such as Mandaeanism, and Aramaic translations of Jewish apocalyptic writings similar to those found at Qumran (such as the book of Enoch literature). With the discovery of the Mani-Codex, it also became clear that he was raised in a Jewish-Christian baptism sect, the Elcesaites, and was influenced by their writings as well. According to biographies preserved by Ibn al-Nadim and the Persian polymath al-Biruni, he allegedly received a revelation as a youth from a spirit, whom he would later call his Twin, his Syzygos, his Double, his Protective Angel or 'Divine Self'. It taught him truths which he developed into a religion. His 'divine' Twin or true Self brought Mani to Self-realization and thus he became a 'gnosticus', someone with divine knowledge and liberating insight. He claimed to be the 'Paraclete of the Truth', as promised in the New Testament: the Last Prophet and Seal of the Prophets finalizing a succession of figures including Zoroaster, Buddha, and Jesus.[8] In the Orthodox Tradition the title Paraclete was understood to refer to God in the person of the Holy Spirit.

Manichaean Electae, Kocho, 10th Century.

Another source of Mani's scriptures was original Aramaic writings relating to the book of Enoch literature (see the Book of Enoch and the Second Book of Enoch), as well as an otherwise unknown section of the book of Enoch called the "Book of Giants". This book was quoted directly, and expanded on by Mani, becoming one of the original six Syriac writings of the Manichaean Church. Besides brief references by non-Manichaean authors through the centuries, no original sources of "The Book of Giants" (which is actually part six of the "Book of Enoch") were available until the 20th century.

Scattered fragments of both the original Aramaic "Book of Giants" (which were analyzed and published by Józef Milik in 1976[9]), and of the Manichaean version of the same name (analyzed and published by W.B. Henning in 1943[10]) were found with the discovery in the twentieth century of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Judaean Desert and the Manichaean writings of the Uyghur Manichaean kingdom in Turpan. Henning wrote in his analysis of them:

It is noteworthy that Mani, who was brought up and spent most of his life in a province of the Persian empire, and whose mother belonged to a famous Parthian family, did not make any use of the Iranian mythological tradition. There can no longer be any doubt that the Iranian names of Sām, Narīmān, etc., that appear in the Persian and Sogdian versions of the Book of the Giants, did not figure in the original edition, written by Mani in the Syriac language.[10]

From a careful reading of the Enoch literature and the Book of Giants, alongside the description of the Manichaean myth, it becomes clear that the "Great King of Glory" of this myth (a being that sits as a guard to the world of light at the seventh of ten heavens in the Manichaean myth[11]), is identical with the King of Glory sitting on the heavenly throne in the Enoch literature. In the Aramaic book of Enoch, in the Qumran writings in general, and in the original Syriac section of Manichaean scriptures quoted by Theodor bar-Konai,[7] he is called "malka raba de-ikara" (the great king of glory).

While Manichaeism was spreading, existing religions such as Christianity and Zoroastrianism were gaining social and political influence. Although having fewer adherents, Manichaeism won the support of many high-ranking political figures. With the assistance of the Persian Empire, Mani began missionary expeditions. After failing to win the favor of the next generation of Persian royalty, and incurring the disapproval of the Zoroastrian clergy, Mani is reported to have died in prison awaiting execution by the Persian Emperor Bahram I. The date of his death is estimated at AD 276–277.

Later history

The spread of Manichaeism (AD 300– 500). Map reference: World History Atlas, Dorling Kindersly.

Manichaeism continued to spread with extraordinary speed through both the east and west. It reached Rome through the apostle Psattiq by AD 280, who was also in Egypt in 244 and 251. It was flourishing in the Fayum area of Egypt in AD 290. Manichaean monasteries existed in Rome in 312 A.D. during the time of the Christian Pope Miltiades.

In 291, persecution arose in the Persian empire with the murder of the apostle Sisin by Bahram II, and the slaughter of many Manichaeans. In AD 296, Diocletian decreed against the Manichaeans: "We order that their organizers and leaders be subject to the final penalties and condemned to the fire with their abominable scriptures", resulting in many martyrdoms in Egypt and North Africa (see Diocletian Persecution). By AD 354, Hilary of Poitiers wrote that the Manichaean faith was a significant force in southern France. In AD 381 Christians requested Theodosius I to strip Manichaeans of their civil rights. He issued a decree of death for Manichaean monks in AD 382.

St. Augustine was once a Manichaean.

When Christians first encountered Manichaeism, they deemed it a heresy, since it had originated in a heavily Gnostic area of the Persian empire. Augustine of Hippo (AD 354-430) converted to Christianity from Manichaeism, in the year 387. This was shortly after the Roman Emperor Theodosius I had issued a decree of death for Manichaeans in AD 382 and shortly before he declared Christianity to be the only legitimate religion for the Roman Empire in 391. According to his Confessions, after nine or ten years of adhering to the Manichaean faith as a member of the group of "hearers", Augustine became a Christian and a potent adversary of Manichaeism (which he expressed in writing against his Manichaean opponent Faustus of Mileve), seeing their beliefs that knowledge was the key to salvation as too passive and not able to effect any change in one's life.[12]

I still thought that it is not we who sin but some other nature that sins within us. It flattered my pride to think that I incurred no guilt and, when I did wrong, not to confess it... I preferred to excuse myself and blame this unknown thing which was in me but was not part of me. The truth, of course, was that it was all my own self, and my own impiety had divided me against myself. My sin was all the more incurable because I did not think myself a sinner. (Confessions, Book V, Section 10)

Some modern scholars have suggested that Manichaean ways of thinking influenced the development of some of Augustine's ideas, such as the nature of good and evil, the idea of hell, the separation of groups into elect, hearers, and sinners, and the hostility to the flesh and sexual activity.[13]

A 13th century manuscript from Augustine's book VII of Confessions criticizing Manichaeism.

How Manichaeism may have influenced Christianity continues to be debated. Manichaeism may have influenced the Bogomils, Paulicians, and Cathars. However, these groups left few records, and the link between them and Manichaeans is tenuous. Regardless of its accuracy the charge of Manichaeism was levelled at them by contemporary orthodox opponents, who often tried to make contemporary heresies conform to those combatted by the church fathers. Whether the dualism of the Paulicians, Bogomils, and Cathars and their belief that the world was created by a Satanic demiurge were due to influence from Manichaeism is impossible to determine. The Cathars apparently adopted the Manichaean principles of church organization. Priscillian and his followers may also have been influenced by Manichaeism. The Manichaeans preserved many apocryphal Christian works, such as the Acts of Thomas, that would otherwise have been lost.[14]

Manichaeism maintained a sporadic and intermittent existence in the west (Mesopotamia, Africa, Spain, France, North Italy, the Balkans) for a thousand years, and flourished for a time in the land of its birth (Persia) and even further east in Northern India, Western China, and Tibet. While it had long been thought that Manichaeism arrived in China only at the end of the seventh century, a recent archaeological discovery demonstrated that it was already known there in the second half of the sixth century.[14]

It was adopted by the Uyghur ruler Khagan Boku Tekin (AD 759–780) in 763, and remained the state religion for about a century before the collapse of the Uyghur empire in 840. In the east it spread along trade routes as far as Chang'an, the capital of the Tang Dynasty in China. In the ninth century, it is reported that the Muslim Caliph Al-Ma'mun tolerated a community of Manichaeans. In the Song and Yuan dynasties of China remnants of Manichaeanism continued to leave a legacy contributing to sects such as the Red Turbans.



During the Middle Ages, there emerged several movements which were collectively described as "Manichaean" by the Catholic Church, and persecuted as Christian heresies through the establishment, in 1184, of the Inquisition. They included the Cathar and Albigensian churches of Western Europe. Other groups sometimes referred to as "neo-Manichaean" were the Paulician movement, which arose in Armenia,[15] and the Bogomils in Bulgaria.[14] An example of this usage can be found in the published edition of the Latin Cathar text, the Liber de duobus principiis, (Book of the Two Principles), which was described as "Neo-Manichaean" by its publishers.[16] As there is no presence of Manichaean mythology or church terminology in the writings of these groups, there has been some dispute among historians as to whether these groups were descendants of Manichaeism.[17]


Uighur Manichaean clergymen, wall painting from the Khocho ruins, 10th/11th century AD. Located in the Museum für Indische Kunst, Berlin-Dahlem.

Manichaean theology was dualistic in regards to good and evil. A key belief in Manichaeism is that there is no omnipotent good power[citation needed]. This addresses a theoretical part of the problem of evil by denying the infinite perfection of God and postulating two opposite powers. The human person is seen as a battleground for these powers: the good part is the soul, which is composed of light, and the bad part is the body, composed of dark earth. The soul defines the person and is incorruptible, but it is under the domination of a foreign power, which addressed the practical part of the problem of evil.

Noting Mani's travels to the Kushan Empire (several religious paintings in Bamiyan are attributed to him) at the beginning of his proselytizing career, some postulate Buddhist influences in Manichaeism:

Buddhist influences were significant in the formation of Mani's religious thought. The transmigration of souls became a Manichaean belief, and the quadripartite structure of the Manichaean community, divided between male and female monks (the "elect") and lay followers (the "hearers") who supported them, appears to be based on that of the Buddhist sangha. (Richard Foltz, Religions of the Silk Road)


Manichaeism presented an elaborate description of the conflict between the spiritual world of light and the material world of darkness. The beings of both the world of darkness and the world of light have names. There are numerous sources for the details of the Manichaean belief. There are two portions of Manichaean scriptures that are probably the closest thing to the original Manichaean writings in their original languages that will ever be available. These are the Syriac-Aramaic quotation by the Nestorian Christian Theodor bar-Konai, in his Syriac "Book of Sects" (eighth century)[7], and the Middle Persian sections of Mani's Shabuhragan discovered at Turpan (a summary of Mani's teachings prepared for Shapur I[5]). These two sections are probably the original Syriac and Middle Persian written by Mani.

The Manichaean cosmogony has been described by Mircea Eliade in his A History of Religious Ideas (Eliade is summarizing bar-Konai's Syriac narration[7]):

In the beginning...the two "natures" or "substances", light and obscurity, good and evil, God and matter, coexisted, separated by a frontier. In the North reigned the Father of the South, the Prince of Darkness...the "disorderly motion" of matter drove the Prince of Darkness toward the upper frontier of his kingdom. Seeing the splendor of light, he is fired by the desire to conquer it. It is then that the Father decides that he will himself repulse the adversary. He...projects from himself, the Mother of Life, who...projects a new hypostasis, the Primordial Man...With his five sons, who are...his "soul" and "armor" made from five lights, the Primordial Man descends to the frontier. He challenges the darkness, but he is conquered, and his sons are devoured by the demons...This defeat marks the beginning of the cosmic "mixture", but at the same time it insures the final triumph of God. For obscurity (matter) now possesses a portion of light...and the Father, preparing its deliverance, at the same time arranges for his definitive victory against darkness. In a second Creation, the Father "evokes" the Living Spirit, which, descending toward obscurity, grasps the hand of the Primordial Man and raises him to his celestial homeland, the Paradise of Lights. Overwhelming the demonic Archontes, the Living Spirit fashions the heavens from their skins, the mountains from their bones, the earth from their flesh and their excretments...In addition, he achieves a first deliverance of light by creating the sun, the moon, and the stars from portions of it that had not suffered too much from contact with obscurity. Finally, the Father proceeds to a last evocation and projects by emanation the Third Messenger. The latter organizes the cosmos into a kind of machine to collect - deliver - the still-captive particles of light. During the first two weeks of the month, the particles rise to the moon, which becomes a full moon; during the second two weeks, light is transferred from the moon to the sun and, finally, to its celestial homeland. But there were still the particles that had been swallowed by the demons. Then the messenger displays himself to the male demons in the form of a dazzling naked virgin, while the female demons see him as a handsome naked young man...fired by desire, the male demons...give forth their semen, and, with it, the light that they had swallowed. Fallen to the ground, their semen gives birth to all the vegetable species. As for the female devils who were already pregnant, at the sight of the handsome young man they give birth to abortions, which, cast onto the ground, eat the buds of trees, thus assimilating the light that they contained. Alarmed by the Third Messenger's tactics, matter, personified as Concupiscence, decides to create a stronger prison around the still-captive particles of light. Two demons, one male, the other female, devour all the abortions in order to absorb the totality of light, and they then couple. Thus Adam and Eve were engendered.[18]

Outline of the Beings and Events in the Manichaean Mythos

Beginning with the time of its creation by Mani, the Manichaean religion had a detailed description of deities and events that took place within the Manichaean scheme of the universe. In every language and region that Manichaeism spread to, these same deities reappear, whether it is in the original Syriac quoted by Theodor bar-Konai[7], or the Latin terminology given by Saint Augustine from Mani's Epistola Fundamenti, or the Persian and Chinese translations found as Manichaeism spread eastward. While the original Syriac retained the original description which Mani created, the transformation of the deities through other languages and cultures produced incarnations of the deities not implied in the original Syriac writings. This process began in Mani's lifetime, with "The Father of Greatness", for example, being translated into Middle Persian as Zurvan, a Zoroastrian supreme being.

The World of Light

  • The Father of Greatness (Syriac: ܐܒܐ ܕܪܒܘܬܐ Abbā dəRabbūṯā; Middle Persian: pīd ī wuzurgīh, or the Zoroastrian deity Zurwān; Parthian: Pidar wuzurgift, Pidar roshn)
  • His Five Shekhinas (Syriac: ܚܡܫ ܫܟܝܢܬܗ khamesh shkhinatei; Chinese: 五种大 wu zhong da, "the five great ones")
    • Reason (Syriac: ܗܘܢܐ haunâ; Parthian: bâm; Greek: νοῦς Nous; Chinese: 相)
    • Mind (Syriac: ܡܕܥܐ madde´â; Parthian: manohmêd; Chinese: 心)
    • Intelligence (Syriac: ܪܥܝܢܐ reyana; Parthian: ; Chinese: 念)
    • Thought (Syriac: ܡܚܫܒܬܐ mahšabtâ; Parthian: andêšišn; Chinese: 思)
    • Understanding (Syriac: ܬܪܥܝܬܐ tar´îtâ; Parthian: parmânag; Chinese: 意)
  • The Great Spirit (Middle Persian: Waxsh zindag, Waxsh yozdahr; Latin: Spiritus Potens)

The First Creation

  • The Mother of Life (Syriac: ܐܡܐ ܕܚܝܐ ima de-khaye)
  • The First Man (Syriac: ܐܢܫܐ ܩܕܡܝܐ Nāšā Qaḏmāyā; Middle Persian: Ohrmazd Bay, the Zoroastrian god of light and goodness; Latin: Primus Homo)
  • His five Sons (the Five Light Elements; Middle Persian: Amahrāspandan; Parthian: panj rošn)
    • Ether (Middle Persian: frâwahr, Parthian: ardâw)
    • Wind (Middle Persian and Parthian: wâd)
    • Light (Middle Persian and Parthian: rôšn)
    • Water (Middle Persian and Parthian: âb)
    • Fire (Middle Persian and Parthian: âdur)
    • His sixth Son, the Answer-God (Syriac: ܥܢܝܐ ania; Middle Persian: khroshtag; Chinese: 勢至 Shì Zhì "The Power of Wisdom", a Chinese Bodhisattva). The answer sent by the First Man to the Call from the World of Light.
  • The Living Self (made up of the five Elements; Middle Persian: Griw zindag, Griw roshn)

The Second Creation

  • The Friend of the Lights (Syriac: ܚܒܝܒ ܢܗܝܖܐ khaviv nehirei). Calls to:
  • The Great Builder (Syriac: ܒܢ ܖܒܐ ban raba). In charge of creating the new world which will separate the darkness from the light. He calls to:
  • The Living Spirit (Syriac: ܪܘܚܐ ܚܝܐ rūḥā ḥayyā; Middle Persian: Mihryazd; Chinese: 净活风 jing huo feng; Latin: Spiritus Vivens)
  • His five Sons (Syriac: ܚܡܫܐ ܒܢܘܗܝ khamsha benauhi)
    • The Keeper of the Splendour (Syriac: ܨܦܬ ܙܝܘܐ tzefat ziwa; Latin: Splenditenens). Holds up the ten heavens from above.
    • The King of Honour (Syriac: ܡܠܟ ܫܘܒܚܐ melekh shubkha; Latin: Rex Honoris)
    • The Adamas of Light (Syriac: ܐܕܡܘܣ ܢܘܗܪܐ adamus nuhra; Latin: Adamas). Fights with and overcomes an evil being in the image of the King of Darkness.
    • The Great King of Glory (Syriac: ܡܠܟܐ ܪܒܐ ܕܐܝܩܪܐ malka raba de-ikara; Dead Sea Scrolls Aramaic: מלכא רבא דאיקרא malka raba de-ikara; Latin: Rex Gloriosus). A being which plays a central role in the Book of Enoch (originally written in Aramaic), as well as Mani's Syriac version of it, the Book of Giants. Sits in the seventh heaven of the ten heavens and guards the entrance to the world of light.
    • Atlas (Syriac: ܣܒܠܐ sabala; Latin: Atlas). Supports the eight worlds from below.
    • His sixth Son, the Call-God (Syriac: ܩܪܝܐ karia; Middle Persian: padvakhtag; Chinese: 觀音 Guan Yin "watching/perceiving sounds [of the world]", the Chinese Bodhisattva of Compassion). Sent from the Living Spirit to awaken the First Man from his battle with the forces of darkness.

The Third Creation

  • The Third Messenger (Syriac: ܐܝܙܓܕܐ īzgaddā)
  • Jesus the Splendour (Syriac: ܝܫܘܥ ܙܝܘܐ Yisho Ziwa). Sent to awaken Adam and Eve to the source of the spiritual light trapped within their physical bodies.
  • The Maiden of Light
  • The Twelve Virgins of Light. Correspond to the twelve constellations of the Zodiac.
  • The Column of Glory
  • The Great Nous
  • His five Limbs
    • Reason
    • Mind
    • Intelligence
    • Thought
    • Understanding
  • The Just Justice
  • The Last God

The World of Darkness

  • The King of Darkness (Syriac: ܡܠܟ ܚܫܘܟܐ melech kheshokha; Middle Persian: Ahriman, the Zoroastrian supreme evil being)
  • His five evil kingdoms Evil counterparts of the five elements of light, the lowest being the kingdom of Darkness.
  • His son (Syriac: ܐܫܩܠܘܢ ashaklun; Middle Persian: Az, the Zoroastrian demon of greed)
  • His son's mate (Syriac: ܢܒܪܘܐܠ Nebroel)
    • Their offspring - Adam and Eve (Middle Persian: Gehmurd and Murdiyanag)
  • Giants (Fallen Angels, also Abortions): (Syriac: ܝܚܛܐ yakhte, "abortions" or "those that fell"; also: ܐܪܟܘܢܬܐ arkhonata, the Gnostic archons; Greek, Coptic: ’Εγρήγοροι Egrēgoroi, "Giants"). Related to the story of the fallen angels in the Book of Enoch (which Mani used extensively in his Book of Giants), and the נפילים nephilim described in Genesis (6:1-4), on which the story is based.

Sacred books

Mani wrote either seven or eight books, which contained the teachings of the religion. Only scattered fragments and translations of the originals remain.

Originally written in Syriac

  • The Evangelion (Greek: Ευαγγελιον, meaning roughly "good news"): Also known as the Gospel of Mani. Quotations from the first chapter were brought in Arabic by al-Nadim, who lived in Baghdad at a time when there were still Manichaeans living there, in his book the "Fihrist" (written in 938), a catalog of all written books known to him.
  • The Treasure of Life
  • The Treatise
  • Secrets
  • The Book of Giants: Original fragments were discovered at Qumran (pre-Manichaean) and Turpan.
  • Epistles: Augustine brings quotations, in Latin, from Mani's Fundamental Epistle in some of his anti-Manichaean works.
  • Psalms and Prayers. A Coptic Manichaean Psalter, discovered in Egypt in the early 1900s, was edited and published by Charles Allberry from Manichaean manuscripts in the Chester Beatty collection and in the Berlin Academy, 1938-9.

Originally written in Middle Persian

Other books

  • The Ardahang, the "Picture Book". In Iranian tradition, this was one of Mani's holy books which became remembered in later Persian history, and was also called Aržang, a Parthian word meaning "Worthy", and was beautified with paintings. Therefore Iranians gave him the title of "The Painter".
  • The Kephalaia, "Discourses", found in Coptic translation.
  • On the Origin of His Body, the title of the Cologne Mani-Codex, a Greek translation of an Aramaic book which describes the early life of Mani.[4]

Non-Manichaean works preserved by the Manichaean Church

Later works

In later centuries, as Manichaeism passed through eastern Persian speaking lands and arrived at the Uyghur Empire, and eventually the Uyghur kingdom of Turpan (destroyed around 1335), long hymn cycles and prayers were composed in Middle Persian and Parthian.[19] A translation of one of these produced the Manichaean Chinese Hymnscroll (the 摩尼教下部贊, which Lieu translates as "Hymns for the Lower Section [i.e. the Hearers] of the Manichaean Religion"[20]), now available in its entirety (see the external links section).

Organization and Religious Practices

Organization of the Manichaean Church

The Manichaean Church was divided into "Elect" - those who had taken upon themselves the vows of Manicheaism, and "Hearers" - those who had not, but still participated in the Church.

  • The Leader, Mani's designated successor, seated at the head of the Church in Ctesiphon (Babylon).
  • 12 Apostles (Latin: magistri)
  • 72 Bishops (Latin: episcopi; see also: Seventy Disciples)
  • 360 Presbyters (Latin: presbyteri)
  • The general body of the Elect (Latin: electi)
  • The Hearers (Latin: auditores)

The Bema Fest

The most important religious observance of the Manichaeans was the Bema Fest, observed annually:

The Bema was originally, in the Syriac Christian churches a seat placed in the middle of the nave on which the bishop would preside and from which the Gospel would be read. In the Manichean places of worship, the throne was a five-stepped altar, covered by precious cloths, symbolizing the five classes of the hierarchy. The top of the Bema was always empty, as it was the seat of Mani. The Bema was celebrated at the vernal equinox, was preceded by fasts, and symbolized the passion of Mani, thus it was strictly parallel to the Christian Easter.[21]

While it is often presumed that the Bema seat was empty, there is some evidence from the Coptic Manichaean Bema Psalms, that the Bema seat may have actually contained a copy of Mani's picture book, the Arzhang.[22]


Until discoveries in the 1900s of original sources, the only sources for Manichaeism were descriptions and quotations from non-Manichaean authors, either Christian, Muslim, or Zoroastrian. While often criticizing Manichaeism, they also quoted directly from Manichaean scriptures. This enabled Isaac de Beausobre, writing in the 18th century, to create a comprehensive work on Manichaeism, relying solely on anti-Manichaean sources.[23] Thus quotations and descriptions in Greek and Arabic have long been known to scholars, as have the long quotations in Latin by Saint Augustine, and the extremely important quotation in Syriac by Theodor bar-Khonai.

An example of how inaccurate some of these accounts could be is seen in the account of the origins of Manichaeism contained in the Acta Archelai. This was a Greek anti-manichaean work written before 348, most well-known in its Latin version, which was regarded as an accurate account of Manichaeism until the end of the 19th century:

In the time of the Apostles there lived a man named Scythianus, who is described as coming 'from Scythia,' and also as being 'a Saracen by race' ('ex genere Saracenorum'). He settled in Egypt, where he became acquainted with 'the wisdom of the Egyptians,' and invented the religious system which was afterwards known as Manichaeism. Finally he emigrated to Palestine, and, when he died, his writings passed into the hands of his sole disciple, a certain Terebinthus. The latter betook himself to Babylonia, assumed the name of Budda, and endeavoured to propagate his master's teaching. But he, like Scythianus, gained only one disciple, who was an old woman. After a while he died, in consequence of a fall from the roof of a house, and the books which he had inherited from Scythianus became the property of the old woman, who, on her death, bequeathed them to a young man named Corbicius, who had been her slave. Corbicius thereupon changed his name to Manes, studied the writings of Scythianus, and began to teach the doctrines which they contained, with many additions of his own. He gained three disciples, named Thomas, Addas, and Hermas. About this time the son of the Persian king fell ill, and Manes undertook to cure him; the prince, however, died, whereupon Manes was thrown into prison. He succeeded in escaping, but eventually fell into the hands of the king, by whose order he was flayed, and his corpse was hung up at the city gate.

A. A. Bevan, who quoted this story, commented that it 'has no claim to be considered historical.'[24]

In the early 1900s, original Manichaean writings started to come to light when German scholars began excavating at the ancient site of the Manichaean Uyghur Kingdom near Turpan, in Chinese Turkestan (destroyed around AD 1300). While most of the writings they uncovered were in very poor condition, there were still hundreds of pages of Manichaean scriptures, written in three Persian languages (Middle Persian, Parthian, and Sogdian) and old Turkish. These writings were taken back to Germany, and were analyzed and published at the Preußische Akademie der Wissenschaften in Berlin. While the vast majority of these writings were written in a version of the Syriac script known as Manichaean script, the German researchers, perhaps for lack of suitable fonts, published most of them using Hebrew letters (which could easily be substituted for the 22 Syriac letters).

Perhaps the most comprehensive of these publications was Manichaeische Dogmatik aus chinesischen und iranischen Texten (Manichaean Dogma from Chinese and Iranian texts), by Waldschmidt and Lentz, published in Berlin in 1933.[25] More than any other research work published before or since, this work printed, and then discussed, the original key Manichaean texts in the original scripts, and consists chiefly of sections from Chinese texts, and Middle Persian and Parthian texts transcribed with Hebrew letters. (After the Nazi party gained power in Germany, the Manichaean writings continued to be published during the 1930s, but the publishers no longer used Hebrew letters, instead transliterating the texts into Latin letters.)

Additionally, in the early 1900s, German researchers in Egypt found a large body of Manichaean works in Coptic. Though these were also damaged, many complete pages survived and were published in Berlin before World War II. Some of these Coptic Manichaean writings were destroyed during the war.

After the success of the German researchers, French scholars visited China and discovered what is perhaps the most complete set of Manichaean writings, written in Chinese. These three Chinese writings are today kept in London, Paris, and Beijing. The original studies and analyses of these writings, along with their translations, first appeared in French, English, and German, before and after World War II. The complete Chinese texts themselves were first published in Tokyo, Japan in 1927, in the Taisho Tripitaka, volume 54. While in the last thirty years or so they have been republished in both Germany (with a complete translation into German, alongside the 1927 Japanese edition)[26], and China, the Japanese publication remains the standard reference for the Chinese texts.

In Egypt a small codex was found and became known through antique dealers in Cairo. It was purchased by the University of Cologne in 1969. Two of its scientists, Henrichs and Koenen, produced the first edition known since as the Cologne Mani-Codex, which was published in four articles in the Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik. The ancient papyrus manuscript contained a Greek text describing the life of Mani. Thanks to this discovery, much more is known about the man who founded one of the most influential world religions of the past.

See also

Manichaean Figures

Gnostic and early Christian




  1. ^ Welburn (1998), p. 68
  2. ^ BeDuhn (2000), p. IX
  3. ^ Manichaeans were the original Zindīqs. See: Mahmood Ibrahim, Religious Inquisition as Social Policy: The Persecution of the 'Zanadiqa' in the Early Abbasid Caliphate, in Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ), Vol. 16, 1994.
  4. ^ a b L. Koenen and C. Römer, eds., Der Kölner Mani-Kodex. Über das Werden seines Leibes. Kritische Edition, (Abhandlung der Reinisch-Westfälischen Akademie der Wissenschaften: Papyrologica Coloniensia 14) (Opladen, Germany) 1988.
  5. ^ a b c Middle Persian Sources: D. N. MacKenzie, Mani’s Šābuhragān, pt. 1 (text and translation), BSOAS 42/3, 1979, pp. 500-34, pt. 2 (glossary and plates), BSOAS 43/2, 1980, pp. 288-310.
  6. ^ Welburn (1998), p. 67-68
  7. ^ a b c d e Original Syriac in: Theodorus bar Konai, Liber Scholiorum, II, ed. A. Scher, Corpus Scriptorum Christianorum Orientalium scrip. syri, 1912, pp. 311-18, ISBN 978-90-429-0104-9; English translation in: A.V.W. Jackson, Researches in Manichaeism, New York, 1932, pp. 222-54.
  8. ^ Bevan, A. A. (1930). "Manichaeism". Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, Volume VIII Ed. James Hastings. London
  9. ^ J. T. Milik, ed. and trans., The Books of Enoch: Aramaic Fragments of Qumran Cave 4, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976.
  10. ^ a b In: Henning, W.B., The Book of Giants", BSOAS,Vol. XI, Part 1, 1943, pp. 52-74.
  11. ^ See Henning, A Sogdian Fragment of the Manichaean Cosmogony, BSOAS, 1948
  12. ^ Catholic Online
  13. ^ A. Adam, Das Fortwirken des Manichäismus bei Augustin. In: ZKG (69) 1958, S. 1–25.
  14. ^ a b c Runciman, Steven, The Medieval Manichee: a study of the Christian dualist heresy. Cambridge University Press, 1947.
  15. ^
  16. ^ Dondaine, Antoine. O.P. Un traite neo-manicheen du XIIIe siecle: Le Liber de duobus principiis, suivi d'un fragment de rituel Cathare (Rome: Institutum Historicum Fratrum Praedicatorum, 1939)
  17. ^
  18. ^ Eliade, Mircea. (1982). A History of Religious Ideas, Volume Two: From Gautama Buddha to the Triumph of Christianity. Chicago and London
  19. ^ See, for example, Boyce, Mary The Manichaean hymn-cycles in Parthian (London Oriental Series, Vol. 3). London: Oxford University Press, 1954.
  20. ^ Lieu, Samuel N. C., Manichaeism in Central Asia and China, 1998, p. 50.
  21. ^ Skjærvø, Prods Oktor, An Introduction to Manicheism, 2006.
  22. ^ Ort, L. J. R., Mani: a religio-historical description of his personality, 1967, p. 254.
  23. ^ de Beausobre, Isaac, Histoire critique de Manichée et du Manichéisme, 1734–1739, Amsterdam.
  24. ^ Bevan, A. A. (1930). "Manichaeism". Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics, Volume VIII Ed. James Hastings. London
  25. ^ Waldschmidt, E., and Lentz, W., Manichäische Dogmatik aus chinesischen und iranischen Texten (SPAW 1933, No. 13)
  26. ^ Schmidt-Glintzer, Helwig, Chinesische Manichaeica, Wiesbaden, 1987

Books and Articles

  • Allberry Charles R. C., ed (1938). Manichaean Manuscripts in the Chester Beatty Collection: Vol II, part II: A Manichaean Psalm Book. Stuttgart: W. Kohlammer. 
  • Beatty, Alfred Chester (1938). Charles Allberry. ed. A Manichean Psalm-Book, Part II. Stuttgart. 
  • Beausobre, de, Isaac (1734–1739). Histoire critique de Manichée et du Manichéisme. Amsterdam: Garland Pub.. ISBN 0824035526. 
  • BeDuhn, Jason David (2002). The Manichaean Body: In Discipline and Ritual. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0-8018-7107-7. 
  • Cross, F. L.; E. A. Livingstone (1974). The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church. London: Oxford UP: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0192115456. 
  • Favre, Francois (2005-05-05). "Mani, the Gift of Light". Renova symposium. Bilthoven, The Netherlands. 
  • Foltz, Richard C. (2000). Religions of the Silk Road. New York: St Martin's Griffin. ISBN 0-312-23338-8. 
  • Gardner, Iain; Samuel N. C. Lieu (2004). Manichaean Texts from the Roman Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press. ISBN 0-521-56822-6. 
  • Giversen, Soren (1988). The Manichaean Coptic Papyri in The Chester Beatty Library Vol. III: Psalm Book part I. (Facsimile ed.). Geneva: Patrick Crammer.  (Cahiers D'Orientalism XVI) 1988a
  • Giversen, Soren (1988). The Manichaean Coptic Papyri in The Chester Beatty Library Vol. IV: Psalm Book part II. (Facsimile ed.). Geneva: Patrick Crammer.  (Cahiers D'Orientalism XVI) 1988b
  • Gulácsi, Zsuszanna (2001). Manichaean art in Berlin Collections. Turnhout.  (Original Manichaean manuscripts found since 1902 in China, Egypt, Turkestan to be seen in the Museum of Indian Art in Berlin.)
  • Heinrichs, Albert; Ludwig Koenen, Ein griechischer Mani-Kodex, 1970 (ed.) Der Kölner Mani-Codex ( P. Colon. Inv. nr. 4780), 1975–1982.
  • Legge, Francis (1964) [1914] (reprinted in two volumes bound as one). Forerunners and Rivals of Christianity, From 330 B.C. to 330 A.D.. New York: University Books. LC Catalog 64-24125. 
  • Lieu, Samuel (1992). Manichaeism in the later Roman Empire and medieval China. Tübingen: J.C.B. Mohr. ISBN 0719010888. 
  • Mani (216–276/7) and his 'biography': the Codex Manichaicus Coloniensis (CMC):
  • Melchert, Norman (2002). The Great Conversation: A Historical Introduction to Philosophy. McGraw Hill. ISBN 0-19-517510-7. 
  • Runciman, Steven (1982) [1947]. The Medieval Manichee: a study of the Christian dualist heresy. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-28926-2. 
  • Welburn, Andrew (1998). Mani, the Angel and the Column of Glory. Edinburgh: Floris. ISBN 0-86315-274-0. 
  • Widengren, Geo (1965). Mani and Manichaeism. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson. 
  • Wurst, Gregor (July 2001). "Die Bema-Psalmen". Journal of Near Eastern Studies 60 (3): 203–204. doi:10.1086/468925. 
  • Welburn, Andrew (1998). Mani the Angel and the Column of Glory. Floris Books. ISBN 0863152740. 
  • BeDuhn, Jason (2000). The Manichaen Body: In Discipline and Ritual. The Johns Hopkins University Press. ISBN 0801862701. 

External links

Outside articles

Manichaean sources in English translation

Secondary Manichaean sources in English translation

  • St. Augustine Against the Fundamental Epistle of Manichaeus
  • Acta Archelai

Manichaean sources in their original languages

Secondary Manichaean sources in their original languages


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




  1. A believer in the dualistic philosophy/religion of Manichaeism.



  1. Of, or relating to Manichaeism.

Bible wiki

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From BibleWiki

Manichæism is a religion founded by the Persian Mani in the latter half of the third century. It purported to be the true synthesis of all the religious systems then known, and actually consisted of Zoroastrian Dualism, Babylonian folklore, Buddhist ethics, and some small and superficial, additions of Christian elements. As the theory of two eternal principles, good and evil, is predominant in this fusion of ideas and gives color to the whole, Manichæism is classified as a form of religious Dualism. It spread with extraordinary rapidity in both East and West and maintained a sporadic and intermittent existence in the West (Africa, Spain, France, North Italy, the Balkans) for a thousand years, but it flourished mainly in the land of its birth, (Mesopotamia, Babylonia, Turkestan) and even further East in Northern India, Western China, and Tibet, where, c. A.D. 1000, the bulk of the population professed its tenets and where it died out at an uncertain date.



Mani (Gr. Manys, gen. usually Manytos, sometimes Manentos, rarely Manou; or Manichios; Lat. Manes, gen. Manetis; In Augustine always Manichaeus) is a title and term of respect rather than a personal name. Its exact meaning is not quite certain, ancient Greek interpretations were skeuos and homilia, but its true derivation is probably from the Babylonian-Aramaic Mânâ, which, among the Mandaeans was a term for a light-spirit, mânâ rabba being the "Light King". It would therefore mean "the illustrious". This title was assumed by the founder himself and so completely replaced his personal name that the precise form of the latter is not known; two latinized forms, however, are handed down, Cubricus and Ubricus, and it seems likely that these forms are a corruption of the not unusual name of Shuraik. Although Mani's personal name is thus subject to doubt, there is no doubt concerning that of his father and family. His father's name was Fâtâk Bâbâk (Ratekios, or the "well preserved"), a citizen of Ecbatana, the ancient Median capital and a member of the famous Chascanian Gens. The boy was born A.D. 215-216 in the village of Mardinu in Babylonia, from a mother of noble (Arsacide) descent whose name variously is given as Mes, Utâchîm, Marmarjam, and Karossa. The father was evidently a man of strong religious propensities, since he left Ecbatana to join the South Babylonian Puritans (Menakkede) or Mandaeans and had his son educated in their tenets. Mani's father himself must have displayed considerable activities as a religious reformer and have been a kind of forerunner of his more famous son, in the first years of whose public life he had some share. It is not impossible that some of Patekios' writing lies imbedded in the Mandaean literature which has come down to us. Through misunderstandings the Aramaic word for disciple (Tarbitha, stat abs. Tarbi), Greek and Latin sources speak of a certain Terebinthos, Terebinthus of Turbo, as a distinct person, whom they confound partially with Mani, partially with Patekios, and as they also forgot that Mani, besides being Patekios' great disciple, was his bodily son, and that in consequence the Scythian teacher, Scythianus, is but Fatak Babak of Hamadam, the Scythian metropolis, their account of the first origins of Manichæism differs considerably from that given in Oriental sources. Notwithstanding Kessler's ingenious researches in this field, we cannot say that the relation between Oriental and Western sources on this point has been sufficiently cleared up, and it may well be that the Western tradition going back through the "Acta Archelai" to within a century of Mani's death, contains some truth.

Mani's father was at first apparently an idolater, for, as he worshipped in a temple to his gods he is supposed to have heard a voice urging him to abstain from meat, wine, and women. In obedience to this voice he emigrated to the south and joined the Mughtasilah, or Mandaean Baptists, taking the boy Mani, with him, but possibly leaving Mani's mother behind. Here, at the age of twelve Mani is supposed to have received his first revelation. The angel Eltaum (God of the Covenant; Tamiel of Jewish Rabbinical lore?), appeared to him, bade him leave the Mandaeans, and live chastely, but to wait still some twelve years before proclaiming himself to the people. It is not unlikely that the boy was trained up to the profession of painter, as he is often thus designated in Oriental (though late) sources.

Babylon was still a center of the pagan priesthood; here Mani became thoroughly imbued with their ancient speculations. On Sunday, 20 March, A.D. 242, Mani first proclaimed his gospel in the royal residence, Gundesapor, on the coronation day of Sapor I, when vast crowds from all parts were gathered together. "As once Buddha came to India, Zoroaster to Persia, and Jesus to the lands of the West, so came in the present time, this prophecy through me, the Mani, to the land of Babylonia", sounded the proclamation of this "Apostle of the true God". He seems to have had but little immediate success and was compelled to leave the country. For many years he traveled abroad, founding Manichæan communities in Turkestan and India. When he finally returned to Persia he succeeded in converting to his doctrine Peroz, the brother of Sapor I, and dedicated to him one of his most important works, the "Shapurikan". Peroz obtained for Mani an audience with the king and Mani delivered his prophetical message in the royal presence. We soon find Mani again a fugitive from his native land; though here and there, as in Beth Garmia, his teaching seems to have taken early root. While traveling, Mani spread and strengthened his doctrine by epistles, or encyclical letters, of which some four score are known to us by title. It is said that Mani afterwards fell into the hands of Sapor I, was cast into prison, and only released at the king's death in 274. It seems certain that Sapor's successor, Ormuzd I, was favorable to the new prophet; perhaps he even personally released him from his dungeon, unless, indeed, Mani had already effected his escape by bribing a warder and fleeing across the Roman frontier. Ormuzd's favor, however, was of little avail, as he occupied the Persian throne only a single year, and Bahram I, his successor, soon after his accession, caused Mani to be crucified, had the corpse flayed, the skin stuffed and hung up at the city gate, as a terrifying spectacle to his followers, whom he persecuted with relentless severity. The date of his death is fixed at 276-277.



The key to Mani's system is his cosmogony. Once this is known there is little else to learn. In this sense Mani was a true Gnostic, as he brought salvation by knowledge. Manichæism professed to be a religion of pure reason as opposed to Christian credulity; it professed to explain the origin, the composition, and the future of the universe; it had an answer for everything and despised Christianity, which was full of mysteries. It was utterly unconscious that its every answer was a mystification or a whimsical invention; in fact, it gained mastery over men's minds by the astonishing completeness, minuteness, and consistency of its assertions.

We are giving the cosmogony as contained in Theodore Bar Khoni, embodying the results of the study of Francois Cumont. Before the existence of heaven and earth and all that is therein, there were two Principles, the one Good the other Bad. The Good Principle dwells in the realm of light and is called the Father of Majesty (Grandeur or Greatness, Megethos, Abba D'rabbutha), or the Father with the Four Faces or Persons (tetraprosopon), probably because Time, Light, Force, and Goodness were regarded as essential manifestations of the First Being by the Zervanites (see Cosmogony: Iranian). Outside the Father there are his Five Tabernacles or Shechinatha, Intelligence, Reason, Thought, Reflection, and Will. The designation of "Tabernacle" contains a play on the sound Shechina which means both dwelling or tent and "Divine glory or presence" and is used in the Old Testament to designate God's presence between the Cherubim. These five tabernacles were pictured on the one hand as stories of one building -- Will being the topmost story -- and on the other hand as limbs of God's body. He indwelt and possessed them all, so as to be, in a sense, identical with them, yet again, in a sense, to be distinct from them. They are also designated as aeons or worlds, beata secula, in St. Augustine's writings. In other sources the five limbs are: Longanimity, Knowledge, Reason, Discretion, and Understanding. And again these five as limbs of the Father's spiritual body were sometimes distinguished from the five attributes of His pure Intelligence: Love, Faith, Truth, Highmindedness, and Wisdom. This Father of light together with the light-air and the light-earth, the former with five attributes parallel to his own, and the latter with the five limbs of Breath, Wind, Light, Water, and Fire constitute the Manichæan pleroma. This light world is of infinite exrtent in five directions and has only one limit, set to it below by the realm of Darkness, which is likewise infinite in all directions barring the one above, where it borders on the realm of light. Opposed to the Father of Grandeur is the King of Darkness. He is actually never called God, but otherwise, he and his kingdom down below are exactly parallel to the ruler and realm of the light above. The dark Pleroma is also triple, as it were firmament, air, and earth inverted. The first two (Heshuha and Humana) have the five attributes, members, aeons, or worlds: Pestilent Breath, Scorching Wind, Gloom, Mist, Consuming Fire; the last has the following five: Wells of Poison, Columns of Smoke, Abysmal Depths, Fetid Marshes, and Pillars of Fire. This last five fold division is clearly borrowed from ancient Chaldean ideas current in Mesopotamia.

These two powers might have lived eternally in peace, had not the Prince of Darkness decided to invade the realm of light. On the approach of the monarch of chaos the five aeons of light were seized with terror. This incarnation of evil called Satan or Ur-devil (Diabolos protos, Iblis Kadim, in Arabic sources), a monster half fish, half bird, yet with four feet and lion-headed, threw himself upward toward the confines of light. The echo of the thunder of his onrush went through the blessed aeons until it reached the Father of Majesty, who bethinking himself said: I will not send my five aeons, made for blessed repose, to engage in this war, I will go myself and give battle. Hereupon the Father of Majesty emanated the Mother of Life and the Mother of Life emanated the first man. These two constitute, with the Father, a sort of Trinity in Unity, hence the Father could say: "I myself will go". Mani here assimilates ideas already known from Gnosticism (q.v., subtitle The Sophia Myth) and resembling Christian doctrine, especially when it is borne in mind that "Spirit" is feminine in Hebrew-Aramaic and thus could easily be conceived as a mother of all living. The Protanthropos or "First Man" is a distinctly Irani an conception, which likewise found its way into a number of Gnostic systems, but which became the central figure in Manichæism. The myth of the origin of the world out of the members of a dead giant or Ur-man is extremely ancient, not only in Iranian speculations but also in Indian mythology (Rig-Veda, X, 90), Indeed if the myth of giant Ymir in Norse Cosmogonies is not merely a medieval invention, as is sometimes asserted, this legend must be one of the earliest possessions of the Aryan race.

According to Mani the First-Man now emanates sons as a man who puts on his armor for the combat. These five sons are the five elements opposed to the five aeons of darkness: Clear Air, Refreshing Wind, Bright Light, Life-Giving Waters, and Warming Fire. He put on first the aerial breeze, then threw over himself light as a flaming mantle, and over this light a covering of water; he surrounded himself with gusts of wind, took light as his lance and shield, and cast himself downward toward the line of danger. An angel called Nahashbat (?), carrying a crown of victory, went before him. The First-Man projected his light before him, and the King of Darkness seeing it, thought and said: "What I have sought from afar, lo, I have found it near me." He also clothed himself with his five elements, and engaged in combat with the First-Man. The struggle went in favor of the King of Darkness. The First-Man when being overcome, gave himself and his five sons as food to the five sons of Darkness, "as a man having an enemy, mixes deadly poison in a cake, and gives it to his foe." When these five resplendent deities had been absorbed by the sons of Darkness, reason was taken away from them and they became through the poisonous admixture with the sons of Darkness, like unto a man bitten by a wild dog or serpent. Thus the evil one conquered for a while. But the First-Man recovered his reason and prayed seven times to the Father of Majesty, who being moved by mercy, emanated as second creation, the Friend of the Ligh t, this Friend of the Light emanated the Great Ban, and the Great Ban emanated the Spirit of Life. Thus a second trinity parallel to the first (Father of Light, Mother of Light, First-Man) comes into existence. The first two personages of the latter trinity have not yet been explained and particularly the meaning of the Great Ban is a puzzle, but as in the former trinity, it is the third person, who does the actual work, the Spirit of Life (To Zon Pneuma), who becomes the demi-urge or world former. Like the First-Man he emanates five personalities: from his intelligence the Ornament of Splendour (Sefath Ziva, Splenditenens, phegotatochos in Greek and Latin sources), from his reason the Great King of Honour, from his thought Adamas, Light, from his self reflection the King of Glory, and from his will the Supporter (Sabhla, Atlas and Omothoros of Greek and Latin sources). These five deities were objects of special worship amongst Manichæans, and St. Augustine (Contra Faustum, XV) gives us descriptions of them drawn from Manichæan hymns.

These five descend to the realm of Darkness, find the First-Man in his degradation and rescue him by the word of their power; his armour remains behind, by lifting him by the right hand the Spirit of Life brings him back to the Mother of Life. The fashioning of the world now begins. Some of the sons of the Spirit of Life kill and flay the archons or sons of Darkness and bring them to the Mother of Life. She spreads out their skins and forms twelve heavens. Their corpses are hurled on the realm of Darkness and eight worlds are made, their bones form the mountain ranges. The Ornament of splendour holds the five resplendent deities by their waist and below their waist the heavens are extended. Atlas carries all on his shoulders, the Great King of Honour sits on top of the heavens and guards over all. The Spirit of Life forces the sons of Darkness to surrender some of the light which they had absorbed from the five elements and out of this he forms the sun and the moon (vessels of light, lucidae naves in St. Augustine) and the stars. The Spirit of Life further makes the wheels of the wind under the earth near the Supporter. The King of Glory by some creation or other enables these wheels to mount the surface of the earth and thus prevents the five resplendent deities from being set on fire by the poison of the archons. The text of Theodore bar Khoni is here so confused and corrupt that it is difficult to catch the meaning; probably wind, water, air, and fire are considered protective coverings, encircling and enveloping the gross material earth and revolving around it.

At this stage of the cosmogony the Mother of Life, the First-Man, and the Spirit of Life beg and beseech the Father of Majesty for a further creation and for a third creation he emanated the Messenger; in Latin sources this is the so-called Legatus Tertius. This Messenger emanates twelve virgins with their garments, crowns, and garlands, namely, Royalty, Wisdom, Victory, Persuasion, Purity, Truth, Faith, Patience, Righteousness, Goodness, Justice, and Light. The Messenger dwells in the sun and, coming toward these twelve virgin-vessels he commands his three attendants to make them revolve and soon they reach the height of the heavens. All this is a transparent metaphor for the planetary system and the signs of the zodiac. No sooner do the heavens rotate than the Messenger commands the Great Ban to renovate the earth and make the Great Wheels (Air, Fire, and Water) to mount. The great universe now moves but as yet there is no life of plants, beasts, or man. The production of vegetation, animal, and rational life on earth is a process of obscenity, cannibalism, abortion, and prize-fighting between the Messenger and the sons and daughters of Darkness, the details of which are better passed over. Finally, Naimrael, a female, and Ashaklun, a male devil, bring forth two children, Adam and Eve. In Adam's body were imprisoned a vast number of germs of light. He was the great captive of the Power of Evil. The Powers of Light had pity an d sent a Savior, the luminous Jesus. This Jesus approached innocent Adam, awoke him from his sleep of death, made him move, drew him out of his slumber, drove away the seductive demon, and enchained far away from him the mighty female archon. Adam reflected on himself and knew that he existed. Jesus then instructed Adam and showed him the Father's dwelling in the celestial heights, and Jesus showed him his own personality, exposed to all things, to the teeth of the panther, the teeth of the elephant, devoured by the greedy, swallowed by gluttons, eaten by dogs, mixed with and imprisoned in all that exists, encompassed by the evil odours of Darkness. Mani's weird but mighty imagination had thus created a "suffering Savior" and given him the name of Jesus. But this Saviour is but the personification of the Cosmic Light as far as imprisoned in matter, therefore it is diffused throughout all nature, it is born, suffers, and dies every day, it is crucified on every tree, it is daily eaten in all food. This captive Cosmic Light is called Jesus patibilis. Jesus then made Adam stand up and taste of the tree of life. Adam then looked around and wept. He mightily lifted up his voice as a roaring lion. He tore his hair and struck his breast and said, "Cursed be the creator of my body and he who bound my soul and they who have made me their slave." Man's duty henceforth is to keep his body pure from all bodily stain by practicing self-denial and to help also in the great work of purification throughout the universe. Manichæan eschatology is in keeping with its cosmogony. When, mainly through the activity of the elect, all light particles have been gathered together, the messenger, or Legatus Tertius appears, the Spirit of Life comes from the west, the First Man with his hosts comes from north, south, and east, together with all light aeons, and all perfect Manichæans. Atlas, the World Supporter throws his burden away, the Ornament of Splendour above lets go, and thus heaven and earth sink into the abyss. A universal confla gration ensues and burns on till nothing but lightless cinders remain. This fire continues during 1486 years, during which the torments of the wicked are the delights of the just. When the separation of light from darkness is finally completed, all angels of light who had functions in the creation return on high; the dark world-soul sinks away in the depth, which is then closed forever and eternal tranquillity reigns in the realm of light, no more to be invaded by darkness. With regard to the after-death of the individual, Manichæism taught a threefold state prepared for the Perfect, the Hearers, and the Sinners (non-Manichæans). The souls of the first are after death received by Jesus, who is sent by the First-Man accompanied by three aeons of light and the Light Maiden. They give the deceased a water vessel, a garment, a turban, a crown, and a wreath of light. In vain do evil angels lie in his path, he scorns them and on the ladder of praise he mounts first to the moon, then to the First-Man, the Sun, the Mother of Life, and finally the Supreme Light. The bodies of the perfect are purified by sun, moon, and stars; their light-particles, set free, mount to the First-Man and are formed into minor deities, surrounding his person. The fate of the Heavens is ultimately the same as that of the Perfect, but they have to pass through a long purgatory before they arrive at eternal bliss. Sinners, however, must, after death wander about in torment and anguish, surrounded by demons, and condemned by the angels, till the end of the world, when they are, body and soul, thrown into hell.


To set the light-substance free from the pollution of matter was the ultimate aim of all Manichæan life. Those who entirely devoted themselves to this work were the "Elect" or the "Perfect", the Primates Manichaeorum; those who through human frailty felt unable to abstain from all earthly joys, though they accepted Manichæan tenets, were "the Hearers", auditores, or catechumens. The former bear a striking similarity to Buddhist monks, only with this difference that they were always itinerant, being forbidden to settle anywhere permanently. The life of these ascetics was a hard one. They were forbidden to have property, to eat meat or drink wine, to gratify any sexual desire, to engage in any servile occupation, commerce or trade, to possess house or home, to practice magic, or to practice any other religion. Their duties were summed up in the three signacula, i.e. seals or closures, that of the mouth, of the hands, and of the breast (oris, manuum, sinus). The first forbade all evil words and all evil food. Animal food roused the demon of Darkness within man, hence only vegetables were allowed to the perfect. Amongst vegetables, some, as melons and fruit containing oil were specially recommended, as they were thought to contain many light particles, and by being consumed by the perfect those light particles were set free. The second forbade all actions detrimental to the light-substance, slaying of animals, plucking of fruit, etc. The third forbade all evil thoughts, whether against the Manichæan faith or against purity. St. Augustine (especially "De Moribus Manich.") strongly inveighs against the Manichæan's repudiation of marriage. They regarded it as an evil in itself because the propagation of the human race meant the continual imprisonment of the light-substance in matter and a retarding of the blissful consummation of all things; maternity was a calamity and a sin and Manichæans delighted to tell of the seduction of Adam by Eve and her final punishment in eternal damnation. In consequence there was a danger that the act of generation, rather than the act of unchastity was abhorred, and that his was a real danger Augustine's writings testify.

The number of the Perfect was naturally very small and in studying Manichæism one is particularly struck by the extreme paucity of individual Perfecti known in history. The vast bulk of Mani's adherents -- ninety-nine out of every hundred -- were Hearers. They were bound by Mani's Ten Commandments only, which forbade idolatry, mendacity, avarice, murder (i.e. all killing), fornication, theft, seduction to deceit, magic, hypocrisy, (secret infidelity to Manichæism), and religious indifference. The first positive duty seems to have been the maintenance and almost the worship of the Elect. They supplied them with vegetables for food and paid them homage on bended knee, asking for their blessing. They regarded them as superior beings, nay, collectively, they were thought to constitute the aeon of righteousness. Beyond these ten negative commandments there were the two duties common to all, prayer and fasting.

Prayer was obligatory four times a day: at noon, late in the afternoon, after sunset, and three hours later. Prayer was made facing the sun or, in the night, the moon; when neither sun nor moon was visible, then the North, the throne of the Light-King. It was preceded by a ceremonial purification with water or for lack of water with some other substance in the Mohammedan fashion. The daily prayers were accompanied by twelve prostrations and addressed to the various personalities in the realm of light: the Father of Majesty, the First-Man, the Legatus Tertius, the Paraclete (Mani), the Five Elements, and so on. They consist mainly of a string of laudatory epithets and contain but little supplication. As time and attitude of prayer were intimately connected with astronomical phenomena, so likewise was the duty of fasting. All fasted on the first day of the week in honor of the sun, the Perfect also fasted on the second day in honor of the moon. All kept the fast during two days after every new moon; and once a year at the full moon, and at the beginning of the first quarter of the moon. Moreover, a monthly fast, observed till sunset, was begun on the eighth day of the month.

Of rites and ceremonies among the Manichæans but very little is known to us. They had one great solemnity, that of the Bema, the anniversary of Mani's death. This was kept with a vigil of prayers and spiritual reading. An empty chair was placed on a raised platform to which five steps led up. Further details are as yet unknown. St. Augustine complains that although Manichæans pretended to be Christians, their feast of the death of Mani exceeded in solemnity that of the Death and Resurrection of Christ.

Manichæans must have possessed a kind of baptism and eucharist. The epistle on baptism, which occurred among the sacred literature of the Manichæans, is unfortunately lost, and in Oriental sources the matter is not referred to, but Christian sources suppose the existence of both these rites. Of greater importance than baptism was the Consolamentum or "Consolation", an imposition of hands by one of the Elect by which a Hearer was received amongst their number. The Manichæan hierarchy and constitution is still involved in obscurity. Mani evidently intended to provide a supreme head for the multitude of his followers. He even decided that his successor in this dignity should reside in Babylon. This high priesthood is known in Arabic sources as the Imamate. In the East it seems to have possessed at least some temporary importance, in the West it seems hardly known or recognized. No list of these supreme Pontiffs of Manichæism has come down to us; hardly a name or two is known to history. It is doubtful even whether the chair of Mani did not remain vacant for long periods. On the duties and privileges of the Imamate we possess at present no information. According to Western and Eastern sources the Manichæan Church was divided into five hierarchical classes; St. Augustine names them magistri, episcopi, presbyteri, electi, and auditores; this Christianized terminology represents in Manichæan mystical language the sons of meekness, of reason, of knowledge, of mystery, and of understanding. Mani's astrological predilections for the number five, so evident in his cosmogony, evidently suggested this division for his Church or kingdom of the light on earth. The Teachers and Administrators (magistri and episcopi) are probably an adaptation of the legontes and drontes, the speakers and the doers, known in Greek and Babylonian mysteries; and the name "priests" is probably taken over from the Sabian Kura.

With regard to the relation of Manichæism to Christianity two things are clear:

(a) Some connection with Christianity was intended from the very first by Mani himself, it was not an after-thought, introduced when Manichæism came in touch with the West, as is sometimes asserted. Christianity was the predominant religion in Osrhoene, and perhaps the principle religion in all Mesopotamia in Mani's time. Mani, whose object was to found a system, comprehensive of all religions then known, could not but try to incorporate Christianity. In the first words of his proclamation on the coronation day of Sapor I, he mentioned Jesus, who had come to the countries of the West.

(b) The connection was purely external and artificial. The substance of Manichæism was Chaldean astrology and folklore cast in a rigid dualistic mould; if Christianity was brought in, it was only through force of historical circumstances. Christianity could not be ignored. In consequence

  • Mani proclaimed himself the Paraclete promised by Jesus;
  • rejected the whole of the Old Testament, but admitted as much of the New as suited him; in particular he rejected the Acts of the Apostles, because it told of the descent of the Holy Ghost in the past. The gospels were corrupted in many places, but where a text seemed to favor him the Manichee knew how to parade it. One has to read St. Augustine's anti-Manichæan disputes to realize the extreme ingenuity with which scripture texts were collected and interpreted.
  • Though Mani called himself the Paraclete he claimed no divinity but with show of humility styled himself "Apostle of Jesus Christ by the providence of God the Father"; a designation which is obviously adapted from the heading of the Pauline Epistles. Mani, however, was the Apostle of Jesus Christ, i.e. the messenger of Christ's promise, that Paraclete whom he sent (apostolos from apostellos, to send) Mani's blasphemous assumption was thus toned down a little to Christian ears.
  • Jesus Christ was to Mani but an aeon or persistent personification of Light in the world.; as far as it had already been set free it was the luminous Jesus, or Jesus patibilis.
  • The historical Jesus of Nazareth was entirely repudiated by Mani. "The son of a poor widow" (Mary),"the Jewish Messias whom the Jews crucified", "a devil who was justly punished for interfering in the work of the Aeon Jesus", such was, according to Mani, the Christ whom Christians worshipped as God. Mani's Christology was purely Docetic, his Christ appeared to be man, to live, suffer, and die to symbolize the light suffering in this world. Though Mani used the term "Evangel" for his message, his Evangel was clearly in no real sense that of the Christians.
  • Mani finally beguiled the unwary by the use of such apparently Christian terms as Father, Son, and Holy Ghost to designate divine personalities, but a glance at his cosmogony shows how flimsy was the disguise. Nevertheless, spoke so cautiously, urging only faith in god, His light, His power, and His wisdom (in reality" the Father of Majesty"; the sun and moon; the five blessed aeons, his sons, and the Manichæan religion), that they deceived many.


Notwithstanding the bitterest persecution by the Sassanides in Persia as well as by the emperors at Rome, Manichæism spread very rapidly. Its greatest success was achieved in countries to the east of Persia. In A.D. 1000 the Arab historian Al-Beruni wrote: "The majority of the Eastern Turks, the inhabitants of China and Tibet, and a number in India belong to the religion of Mani". The recent finds of Manichæan literature and painting at Turfan corroborate this statement. Within a generation after Mani's death his followers had settled on the Malabar Coast and gave the name to Minigrama, i.e. "Settlement of Mani". The Chinese inscriptions of Kara Belgassum, once thought to refer to the Nestorians, doubtless have reference to the existence of Manichæism. The great Turkish tribe of the Tuguzguz in 930 threatened reprisals on Mohammedans in their power if the Manichæans in Samarcand were molested by the Prince of Chorazan, in whose dominion they were very numerous. Detailed information on the extreme Eastern Manichæans is still lacking. In Persia and Babylonia proper, Manichæism seems never to have been the predominant religion, but the Manichæans enjoyed there a large amount of prosperity and toleration under Mohammedan rule. Some caliphs were actually favorable to Manichæism, and it had a number of secret sympathizers throughout Islam. Though not numerous in the capitol, Bagdad, they were scattered in the villages and hamlets of the Irak. Their prosperity and intimacy of social intercourse with non-Manichæans aroused the indignation of the Puritan party amongst Mani's followers, and this led to the formation of the heresy of Miklas, a Persian ascetic in the eighth century.

As Manichæism adopted three Christian apocrypha, the Gospel of Thomas, the Teaching of Addas, and the Shepherd of Hermas, the legend was soon formed that Thomas, Addas, and Hermas were the first great apostles of Mani's system. Addas is supposed to have spread it in the Orient (ta tes anatoles), Thomas in Syria, and Hermas in Egypt. Manichæism was certainly known in Judea before Mani's death; it was brought to Eleutheropolis by Akouas in 274 (Epiph., "Haer.", LXVI, I). St. Ephrem (378) complained that no country was more infected with Manichæism than Mesopotamia in his day, and Manichæism maintained its ground in Edessa even in A.D. 450. The fact that it was combated by Eusebius of Emesus, George and Appolinaris of Laodicea, Diodorus of Tarsus, John (Chrysostom) of Antioch, Epiphanius of Salamis, and Titus of Bostra shows how early and ubiquitous was the danger of Manichæism in Western Asia. About A.D. 404, Julia, a lady of Antioch, tried by her riches and culture to pervert the city of Gaza to Manichæism, but without success. In Jerusalem St. Cyril had many converted Manichæans amongst his catechumens and refuted their errors at length. St. Nilus knew of secret Manichæans in Sinai before A.D. 430.

In no country did Manichæism enter more insidiously into Christian life than in Egypt. One of the governors of Alexandria under Constantine was a Manichæan, who treated the Catholic bishops with unheard-of severity. St. Athanasius says of Anthony the Hermit (330) that he forbade all intercourse with "Manichæans and other heretics".

In the Eastern roman Empire it came to the zenith of its power about A.D. 375-400, but then rapidly declined. But in the middle of the sixth century it once more rose into prominence. The Emperor Justinian himself disputed with them; Photinus the Manichæan publicly disputed with Paul the Persian. Manichæism obtained adherents among the highest classes of society. Barsymes the Nestorian prefect of Theodora, was an avowed Manichæan. But this recrudescence of Manichæism was soon suppressed.

Soon, however, whether under the name of Paulicians, or Bogomiles, it again invaded the Byzantine Empire, after having lain hidden for a time on Musselman territory. The following are the Imperial edicts launched against Manichæism: Diocletian (Alexandria, 31 March, 296) commands the Proconsul of Africa to persecute them, he speaks of them as a sordid and impure sect recently come from Persia, which he is determined to destroy root and branch (stirpitus amputari). Its leaders and propagators must be burnt, together with their books; the rank and file beheaded, people of note condemned to the mines, and their goods confiscated. This edict remained at least nominally in force under Constantine, and Constantius. Under Julian the Apostate, Manichæism seems to have been tolerated. Valentinian I and Gratian, though tolerant of other sects, made exception of the Manichæans. Theodosius I, by an edict of 381, declared Manichæans to be without civil rights and incapable of testamentary disposition. In the following year he condemned them to death under the name of Encratites, Saccophores, and Hydroparastates. Valentinian II confiscated their goods, annulled their wills, and sent them into exile. Honorius in 405 renewed the edicts of his predecessors, and fined all governors of cities or provinces who were remiss in carrying out his orders; he invalidated all their contracts, declared them outlaws and public criminals. In 445 Valentinian III renewed the edicts of his predecessors; Anastasius condemned all Manichæans to death; Justin and Justinian decreed the death penalty, not only against Manichæans who remained obstinate in their heresy, but even against converts from Manichæism who remained in touch with their former co-religionists, or who did not at once denounce them to the magistrates. Heavy penalties were likewise decreed against all State officials who did not denounce their colleagues, if infected with Manichæism, and against all those who retained Manichæan books. It was a war of extermination and was apparently successful, within the confines of the Byzantine Empire.


In the West the special home of Manichæism was in Proconsular Africa, where it seems to have had a second apostle inferior only to Mani, a further incarnation of the Paraclete, Adimantus. Previous to 296 Julian the Proconsul had written to the emperor that the Manichæans troubled the peace of the population and caused injury to the towns. After the edict of Diocletian we hear no more of it until the days of St. Augustine. Its most notorious champion was Faustus of Mileve. Born at Mileve of poor parents, he had gone to Rome, and being converted to Manichæism he began to study rhetoric somewhat late in life. He was not a man of profound erudition, but he was a suave and unctuous speaker. His fame in Manichæan circles was very great. He was a Manichæan episcopus and boasted of having left his wife and children and all he had for his religion. He arrived at Carthage in 383, and was arrested, but the Christians obtained the commutation of his sentence to banishment and even that was not carried out. About A.D. 400 he wrote a work in favor of Manichæism, or rather against Christianity, in which he tried to wrest the New Testament to the support of Manichæism. St. Augustine answered him in thirty-three books embodying verbally much of his teaching. On 28 and 29 August 392, St. Augustine had refuted a certain Fortunatus in public discussion held in the Baths of Sossius. Fortunatus acknowledged defeat and disappeared from the town. On 7 Dec., 404, St. Augustine held a dispute with Felix, a Manichæan priest. He convinced him of the error of his ways and he made him say: Anathema to Mani. St. Augustine knew how to use severity to extirpate the heresy. Victorinus, a deacon had become an auditor and propagandist of the Manichæans. He was discovered, upon which he apparently repented and asked for reconciliation, but St. Augustine punished him and banished him from the town, warning all people against him. He would not hear of his repentance unless he denounced all the Manichæans he knew in the province. St. Augustine did not write against Manichæism during the last twenty five years of his life; hence it is thought that the sect decreased in importance during that time. Yet in 420, Ursus, the imperial prefect, arrested some Manichæans in Carthage and made them recant. When the Arian Vandals conquered Africa the Manichæans thought of gaining the Arian clergy by secretly entering their ranks, but Huneric (477-484), King of the Vandals, realizing the danger, burnt many of them and transported the others. Yet at the end of the sixth century Gregory the Great looked upon Africa as the hotbed of Manichæism. The same warning was repeated by Gregory II (701), and Nicholas II (1061).

The spread of Manichæism in Spain and Gaul is involved in obscurity on account of the uncertainty concerning the real teaching of Priscillian.

It is well known how St. Augustine (383) found a home at Rome in the Manichæan community, which must have been considerable. According to the "Liber Pontificalis" Pope Miltiades (311-314) had already discovered adherents to the sect in the city. Valentinian's edict (372), addressed to the city prefect, was clearly launched mainly against Roman Manichæans. The so called "Ambrosiaster" combated Manichæism in a great many of his writings (370-380). In the years 384-388 a special sect of Manichæans arose in Rome called Martari, or Mat-squatters, who, supported by a rich man called Constantius, tried to start a sort of monastic life for the Elect in contravention of Mani's command that the Elect should wander about the world preaching the Manichæan Gospel. The new sect found the bitterest opposition amongst their co-religionists. In Rome they seem to have made extraordinary endeavors to conceal themselves by almost complete conformity with Christian customs. From the middle of the sixth century onward Manichæism apparently died out in the West. Though a number of secret societies and dualistic sects may have existed here and there in obscurity, there is apparently no direct and conscious connection with the Prophet of Babylon and his doctrine. Yet when the Paulicians and Bogomili from Bulgaria came in contact with the West in the eleventh century, and eastern missionaries driven out by the Byzantine emperors taught dualist doctrines in the North of Italy and the South of France they found the leaven of Manichæism still so deeply pervading the minds of the many that they could make it ferment and rise into the formidable Catharist heresies.


Manichæism, like Gnosticism, was an intellectual religion, it despised the simplicity of the crowd. As it professed to bring salvation through knowledge, ignorance was sin. Manichæism, in consequence, was literary and refined, its founder was a fruitful writer, and so were many of his followers. Of all this literary output only fragments are at present extant. No Manichæan treatise has come down to us in its entirety. Mani wrote in Persian and Babylonian Aramaic, apparently using either language with equal facility. The following seven titles of works of his have come down to us:

  • "Shapurakan", I.e. "Princely", because it was dedicated to Peroz, the brother of Sapor I (written in Syrian). It was a kind of Manichæan eschatology, dealing in three chapters with the dissolution of Hearers, Elect, and Sinners. It was written about A.D. 242.
  • "The Book of Mysteries", polemical and dogmatic in character.
  • "The Book of the Giants", probably about cosmogonic figures.
  • "The Book of Precepts for Hearers", with appendix for the Elect.
  • "The Book of Life-giving", written in Greek, probably of considerable size.
  • "The Book of Pragmateia", contents totally unknown.
  • "The Gospel", written in Persian, of which the chapters began with successive letters of the alphabet. Besides these more extensive works, no less than seventy-six letters or brief treatises are enumerated, but it is not always clear which of these are by Mani himself, which by his immediate successors. The "Epistola Fundamenti", so well known in Latin writers, is probably the "Treatise of the Two Elements", mentioned as first of the seventy-six numbers in Arabic sources. Small and often unintelligible fragments in Pahlevi and in Sogdian(?) have recently been found in Chinese Turkestan by T.W.K. Mueller. The "Epistola Fundamenti" is extensively quoted in St. Augustine's refutation and also in Theodore bar Khoni, and Titus of Bostra, and the "Acta Archelai". Of Manichæan writers the following names have come down to us: Agapius (Photius, Cod. 179), of Asia Minor; Aphthonius of Egypt (Philostorgium, "Hist. Eccl.", III, 15) Photinus refuted by Paul the Persian (Mercati, "Per la vita de Paulo il Persiano"), Adimantus, refuted by Augustine.


St. Ephraem (306-373); his treatise against the Manichæans was published in poems (59-73) in the Roman edition with Latin translation and again by K. Kessler in his "Mani", I, 262-302; Hegemonius is said by Heracleon of Chalcedon to be the author of the "Acta disputationis Archelai episcopi Mesopotamiae et Manetis haeresiarchae". This important work on Manichæism, written originally in Greek or perhaps in Syriac, between A.D. 300 and 350 has come down to us only in a Latin translation, though small fragments exist in Greek. The most recent edition is that of M. Beeson (Berlin, 1906). It contains an imaginary dispute between Archalaus, Bishop of Charcar, and Mani, himself. The dispute is but a literary device, but the work ranks as the first class authority on Manichæism. It was translated into English in the Ante-Nicene library.

Alexander of Lycopolis published a short treatise against Manichæism, last edited by A. Brinkmann (Leipzig, 1895). Serapion of Thmuis (c. 350) is credited by St. Jerome with an excellent work against Manichæans. This work has recently been restored to its original form by A. Brinkmann "Sitz. ber der Preuss. Acad. Berlin"(1895), 479sqq. Titus of Bostra (374) published four books against the Manichæans, two containing arguments from reason and two arguements from Scripture and theology against the heresy. They have come down to us complete only in a Syriac version (LaGarde, "Tit. Bost. contra Manichaeos Libri IV", Berlin, 1859), but part of the original Greek is published in Pitra's "Analecta sacra. et class." (1888), I, 44-46. St. Epiphanius of Salamis devoted his great work "Adversus Haereses" (written about 374) mainly to refutation of Manichæism. The other heresies receive but brief notices and even Arianism seems of less importance. Theodoret of Cyprus (458), "De haereticorum fabulis", in four books (P.G. LXXXIII), gives an exposition of Manichæism. Didymus the Blind, president of the catechetical school at Alexandria (345-395), wrote a treatise in eighteen chapters against Manichæans. St. John Damascene (c.750) Wrote a "Dialogue against Manichæans" (P.G. XCIV), and a shorter "Discussion of John the Orthodox with a Manichæan" (P.G. XCVI); Photius (891) wrote four books against the Manichæans, and is a valuable witness of the Paulician phase of Manichæism. Paul the Persian (c.529) "Disputation with Photinus the Manichæan" (P.G. LXXXVIII, 528). Zacharias Rhetor (c.536), "Seven theses against Manichæans", fragments in P.G. LXXXV, 1143-. Heraclian (c.510) wrote twenty books against Manichæans (Photius, Cod. 86). Amongst Latin writers St. Augustine is foremost, his works being "De utilitate credendi"; "De moribus Manichaeorum"; "De duabus animabus"; "Contra Fortunatum"; "De actis cum Felice", "De Natura Boni", "Contra Secundinum", "Contra Adversarium Legis et Prophetarum" in "Opera", VIII (Paris, 1837). Some in English. "De Genesi contra Manichaeos lib. II." Ambrosiaster (370-380): for his commentaries on St. Paul's Epistles and his "Quaestiones V. et N. Testamenti" see A. Souter, "A Study of Ambrosiaster" (1907); Marcus Victorinus (380), "Ad Justinum Manichaeum".

Portions of this entry are taken from The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907.
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