The Satirical Use of Christian Material in the Mandaean Book of John

I learned today that my paper, “The Satirical Use of Christian Material in the Mandaean Book of John,” has been accepted for the Aramaic Studies section at the Society of Biblical Literature 2011 Annual Meeting in San Francisco. I’m excited and honored to be the first to add Mandaic to the list of Aramaic dialects represented in papers presented in that section!

Here’s the abstract:

The Satirical Use of Christian Material in the Mandaean Book of John

Gnosticism is well known for its satirical treatment of texts from the Jewish Scriptures. Mandaean texts, written in a dialect of Aramaic, offer a similarly ambivalent use of material deriving not only from Jewish sources, but also from early Christian texts. This paper will look at the Mandaean Book of John’s satirical reworking of material known from the New Testament, such as its account of John the Baptist’s reluctance to baptize Jesus (for reasons other than those indicated in the Gospel of Matthew). The Mandaean Book of John appears to include material that has undergone an extended history of transmission and reworking, and this material has been shaped by Mandaean interaction with Jews, Christians and eventually Muslims. This paper will seek to tease out clues from allusions to and intertextual echoes of stories and sayings found in Christian sources, in order to piece together the context of the Mandaeans’ polemical engagement with other Aramaic-speaking religious communities in their environment. Particular attention will be paid to deliberate inversions and parodies of well-known Christian material, which presuppose an environment in which the New Testament Gospels were familiar.

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  • Deirdre

    Fabulous news Jim! Congrats!

  • Merrilyn Mansfield

    Hi James,Wow that is great. Can you tell me if you have come across allusions or citations of the 3 Scripture texts that are used by New Testament author's in relation to John the Baptist (Exod 23:20, Isa 40:3-5 and Mal 3:1) in Mandaean texts?Merri

  • James F. McGrath

    Hi Merri! Sorry for the delay in replying. My blog has actually moved to a new location. I have yet to come across clear echoes of those texts, but for the most part Mandaean echoes of Jewish and Christian Scripture tend to be subtle rather than overt, and often involve ironic inversions. If something strikes me as perhaps fitting what you are looking for, I'll try to remember to mention it here.In the mean time, let me point out that we have set up both a project blog where we can post updates about the project, as well as another blog-style web site where we are posting the actual transcribed texts and translations as we complete them. Keep in mind that for now the versions that are and continue to be posted should not be treated as their final form.