Conference Papers (ARAM Conference on the Mandaeans, Morning Session, 8 July 2013)

The ARAM conference on the Mandaeans started this morning, and my paper was in the first session. It was well received and generated interesting discussion and questions. I will share the paper at some point, but the main point is easily summarized. Mandaean literature mentions the name of Jerusalem far more frequently than other literature – the Babylonian Talmud, for instance, or the Nag Hammadi texts. This focus seems to me less plausibly explained in terms of the Mandaeans having their origin in Mesopotamia and borrowing from Jews or Christians, and more plausibly explained in terms of their having a historical connection with Jerusalem.

Thanks to Facebook, and Matthew Morgenstern's taking and sharing photos, I actually have a photo of myself giving the paper:

Charles Haberl presented before me, and gave a fascinating statistical analysis of verbal forms in different chapters of the Book of John, compared with the Syriac Peshitta New Testament (Luke 1) and modern Neo-Mandaic. He concluded that some chapters of the Book of John reflect written sources much older than others.

There was also a presentation on when Zazai d-Gawazta lived, by Mark Lofts, followed by an exploration by Brikha Nasoraia, himself a Mandaean, of art in Mandaean mysticism, with discussion of the images in illustrated Mandaean manuscripts. I am including photos of his slides below so that you can get a sense of what this very distinctive and highly symbolic art is like, in case you have never seen it.


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  • Ian

    Wow, the Mandaean art is fascinating. Is there a reference for reading more about that?

    • James F. McGrath

      Alas, there is no definitive study of the subject, and indeed the specific manuscript that features in the largest number of slides is one that has never been published, never mind translated. There are some unpublished dissertations and some mentions in books, but not a lot. And clearly it is a topic that deserves a LOT of attention and study!