The Mandaeans and John the Baptist

I was asked a question on the Mandaean Book of John blog, and thought I’d share my answer here as well. The question was about whether there could have been a historical connection between John the Baptist and the Mandaeans. Here’s what I answered:

I think that it is entirely possible that there is some connection between the Mandaeans and John the Baptist, in the same way that there is a connection between Christians and Jesus. But since our oldest Mandaean literature may be from as late as the third century, we have to ask what the connection would be between Christianity and Jesus if nothing had been written down for that length of period. Even with written sources, such as those in the NT, Christianity still underwent substantial developments and changes. And so saying that there may well be a historical connection does not mean that the later Mandaeans are not as far removed from the historical John the Baptist as third century Gnostic Christians may have been from the historical Jesus.

  • Gary

    “does not mean that the later Mandaeans are not as far removed from the historical John the Baptist as third century Gnostic Christians may have been from the historical Jesus.” And third century orthodox Christians. Gnostics deserve some respect. :-)
    As much, I think, as the orthodox gang in 200-300 AD.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

      I originally was going to simply do a comparison with the mainstream of developing orthodoxy, as I have made that comparison in the past. But the comparison with Gnostic Christianity is more germane, since Mandaeism is part of the phenomenon known as Gnosticism, and it also helpfully indicates that the Gnostic character of the later religion does not determine whether the earlier figure had a Gnostic viewpoint.

      • Gary

        Just curious, but if Mandaeism is related to Gnosticism, are parts of the Thomas Christians in India related to Gnosticism? Especially in relation to the document about north and south Thomas Christians, with north integrating parts of Hinduism (multiple miscivious Gods, like Gnostics), but south more Jewish-like? Seems like there is not much study going on with Thomas Christians, like Mandeans, before all remnants of their culture disappears.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/ James F. McGrath

          The Thomas Christians of today are the only Reformed Orthodox denomination in the world – i.e. Eastern Orthodox and yet having embraced the Protestant Reformation. Whatever their connection to the apostle Thomas, there is no evidence that they were ever Gnostic, and of course the connections of the Gospel of Thomas to Thomas are tenuous at best.

          One more point: Mandaeism is not merely related to Gnosticism. It is Gnosticism, if that term is to be used at all. The religion has the characteristic features of historic Gnosticism, and so is a form of Gnosticism and not merely a distant relative.

          • Gary

            Thanks.

  • David

    Im mandaean :)


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X