Thursday, May 29, 2008

MANI AND MANICHAEISIM get some nice coverage from Press TV, Iran:
Mani and Manichaeism in Sassanid Iran
Wed, 28 May 2008 15:46:15
By Hedieh Ghavidel, Press TV, Tehran

Manichaeism, presumably an offshoot of Zoroastrianism, was not only an inspiration for various heretical movements in Christianity but also dominated the religious life of Central and Eastern Asia for centuries.

Through the four centuries of Sassanid rule over Persia (224-651 CE) Zoroastrianism was the official state religion. Historians, however, have spoken of several heretical sects. One such cult was that of the Manicheans, founded by Mani at the beginning of the Sassanid era.

The founder of the new religion believed to have been the culmination of Zoroastrianism, Christianity and Buddhism was born in 216 CE in southern Babylonia of noble Persian stock.

He grew up under the careful guidance of his father who was a religious leader of a Jewish-Christian baptizing sect. At the age of twelve, Mani claimed that an angel named The Twin had instructed him in a vision to withdraw from the sect and purify himself through asceticism. The Angel later returned to young Mani, this time calling upon him to preach a new religion.


During his years in exile, Mani gave final shape to his teachings and committed them to writing. Between 244 and 261 CE, he sent a mission to Egypt which met with considerable success.

Apart from the extensive body of anti-Manichaean literature, there are numerous Latin, Greek, Coptic, Middle Iranian, Uighur, and Chinese documents, found in the 20th century, on the Manichean doctrine and practices.

Manichaean sacred texts include The Living Gospel, The Treasure of Life, The Pragmateia, The Book of Mysteries, The Epistles, The Book of Giants, and Psalms and Prayers.

Other Manichaean writings consist of the Shahburagan, a summary of Mani's teachings prepared for Shapur I, the Ardahang, a picture-book illustrating Mani's view of the world and the Kephalaia, a collection of Mani's sayings.

Despite the unfortunately simplistic heading ("offshoot of Zoroastrianism"), the article itself is much more nuanced and looks accurate in general, although I don't have time to check the details. It also has some good images of Manichaean artifacts, including a manuscript. I have written on the Book of Giants here and here.