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.