Mandaean

An ancient Middle Eastern religion still surviving in Iraq and Khuzistan (southwest Iran). The religion is usually considered a Gnostic sect and as such is the only surviving representative of Gnosticism. Mandaeans number about 15,000-20,000. Mandaeanism, like other dualistic systems, emphasizes salvation of the soul through esoteric knowledge (gnosis).

Quick Facts

Go Historic ID
30971
Names
Mandaeanism
Mandeans
Mandaeans
Subbas
Christians of St John
Christians of Saint John
Christians of St. John
mandeïsme Dutch
Mandeanismo Spanish
mandeos Spanish

More Definitions

Refers to an ancient Middle Eastern religion still surviving in Iraq and Khuzistan (southwest Iran). The religion is usually considered a Gnostic sect and as such is the only surviving representative of Gnosticism. Mandaeans number about 15,000-20,000. Mandaeanism, like other dualistic systems, emphasizes salvation of the soul through esoteric knowledge (gnosis). The spiritual soul will be freed from the material world by their redeemer, Manda d'Hayye, but evil Archons obstruct the ascent of the soul. In Mandaeanism, Jesus is seen as a false messiah but John the Baptist is revered for performing miraculous healings through baptism. Mandaeans developed elaborate cultic ritual, particularly for baptism, which is not a part of any other known Gnostic sect. Baptism is seen as purification from sin and it can be often repeated. The religion's origins are obscure and remain controversial. On the basis of Babylonian elements in Mandaean magical texts, the use of the Iranian calendar, and the incorporation of several Iranian words into the Mandaic language, some scholars argue that Mandaeanism originated in southwestern Mesopotamia in pre-Christian or early Christian times. Other scholars argue for a Syro-Palestinian origin on the basis of the 'Haran Gawaita,' a quasi-historical Mandaean document narrating the exodus from Palestine to Mesopotamia of the Nasoreans (the Mandaean priestly caste as opposed to Mandaiia, the laity) in the 1st century CE. Certain noteworthy affinities to Judaism are also called attention to: a familiarity with the Old Testament; parallels to Jewish ethics, especially the high value placed on marriage and procreation; the use of Hebrew angelology; and a concern for cultic purity. There are also a number of similarities to Manichaeism. The Mandaeans may be the Sabeans mentioned in the Koran. Mandaean literature, written in an Aramaic dialect and in a distinctive script, is quite extensive. Important extant works include the Ginza (Book of Adam); the Book of John; the Book of the Zodiac; and the Baptism of Hibil Ziwa. Mandaeans are traditionally skilled silversmiths.

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Bibliography

  1. 1.  The Getty Art & Architecture Thesaurus, 300264477. The J. Paul Getty Trust.