Change of Location for 2013 ARAM Conference on Mandaeism and CFP

I received this today via e-mail from the ARAM Society:

ARAM Society for Syro-Mesopotamian Studies is organizing its Thirty Sixth International Conference on the theme of Mandaeism, to be held at the Oriental Institute, the University of Oxford, 08-10 July, 2013.

The conference aims to study Mandaeism and its relationship to Near Eastern religions and Gnostic movements. The conference will start on Monday 08th July finishing on Wednesday 10th July at 6pm. Each speaker’s paper is limited to 35 minutes, with an additional 10 minutes for discussion. All papers given at the conference will be considered for publication in a future edition of the ARAM Periodical, subject to editorial review. If you wish to participate in the conference, please contact The Aram Society before mid-December 2012:

ARAM, the Oriental Institute, Oxford University, Pusey Lane, Oxford OX1 2LE, England.

Tel. 01865-514041 Fax. 01865-516824. Email:


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  • William J E Dempsey

    Mandaeans lived largely just north of Israel; until recently they were found mostly in Iraq. Members of this religion, they say, based their beliefs largely on John the Baptist. While in the Bible in turn, John the Baptist appears as in effect a “cousin” and precursor to Jesus himself.
    All this leads to many interesting speculations on the possible influence or exchange of Mandaean beliefs – the tradition of John the Baptist especially – with the very foundations of Christianity.
    Will anyone at the conference be considering say, the possiblity that the asceticism of John – living with only a rough hair shirt, in the desert – helped shape Jesus’ occasional asceticism too?

    • Where did you get this information from? The Mandaeans do not consider their religion to be based on or derived from John the Baptist, although there is a long Christian/Western misperception of them in these terms.

      But yes, I will be looking at the question of Mandaean origins and their relationship to Christianity as part of an ongoing research project, and so at SBL in November as well as hopefully at the Oxford conference, I plan to present papers related to this subject.

      • William J E Dempsey

        I’m coming to much of this just recently; and haven’t quite digested it yet. But here’s what just a few minutes’ research has apparently taught me on this subject.
        “Studies in Gnosticism and Hellenistic .. ” pp. 471 ff reports Lady Drower (sp?) and Prof. Rudolph. Both noting that references in Mandaean to John the Baptist (and/or the Apostle John) appear – apparently against Bultmann? – rather late. Suggesting that if anything, influence runs from Christianity to Mandaean, rather than vice-versa. My own citation of Bultmann on your Facebook site, might also suggest that.
        On the other hand? More recent research – like your own? – on the (perhaps older?) Mandaean prayer bowls, seems to in effect show a fairly early Mandaean reference to one or more “John”s, north of Galilee. (A region often associated in the NT with “Samaritans,” and other possibly half-Jewish traditions. Which in spite of differences, might have overlapped somewhat.)
        So the question arises: are any Mandaean sources, especially tales of one or more “John”s, 1) early enough to have played a major role in the foundation of Christianity? Or 2) early enough to reflect at least a very early – and slightly different – perspective on a rather ascetic individual. One that Christians were to call John the Baptist; 3) and/or the Apostle John. A John that 4) moreover might even, some speculate, bear some resemblance to the “sage”-like ascetic “Q.”

        • Which bowls are you referring to? The bowls are not so early as to be more useful than our first-century sources which mention John, and their magical purpose means that there is relatively little that they tell us about the figures they mention, other than the fact that they were worth invoking for particular magical purposes.

          I would humbly suggest that, in order to understand what we know about the Mandaeans, what we don’t know, and all the things that seem to interest you, it will be worthwhile, if not indeed necessary, to do more than a little random reading on the internet. Lady Drower’s classic work on the Mandaeans is available for free on, and would be a great place to start, as nothing since has surpassed what it offers.

          • William J E Dempsey

            Driver is of course a terrific start; when I was younger I was very, very impressed with Driver; her balanced and informed summaries of historical information, and her clear style. Though later I became more interested in more speculative hypothesis – like Bultmann’s. And I began wondering whether new original research, based on different hypotheses, might soon find new evidence to back up less traditional conclusions.