Mandaeans: Mysteries and Misunderstandings

Mandaeans: Mysteries and Misunderstandings May 23, 2015

The Mandaeans and related topics have gotten mentions in the blogosphere and elsewhere online recently, and so I thought I would round up some of those instances:

Brian LePort has been teaching about John the Baptist, and in the process, has been diving into the Mandaean sources.

Tony Burke noted, as did I, the Mandaeans as a significant omission in Nicola Denzey Lewis’ recent book, Introduction to “Gnosticism”: Ancient Voices, Christian Worlds.

Glenn Snyder noted the problematic treatment of the Mandaeans (and much else) in Robert Price’s recent book, The Amazing Colossal Apostle: The Search for the Historical Paul.

See too Peter Kirby’s treatment of the arguments for and against the authenticity of the passage about John the Baptist in Josephus’ Antiquities.

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  • Mark

    Not bad, this:

    “Price’s interpretation, translation, and commentary are consistent with his hypothesis about the historical Paul/Simon, based on his theory for the development of early gnostic groups. So are the arguments of people who theorize a flat earth, six-day creationism, macroevolution, or the ancient alien origins of religion. Similarly to Price, a historian of religion could argue that the Pauline letters derived first from a Vedanta school, later developed through the diverging groups of Svetambala Jainism and Theravada Buddhism, and finally reconciled with a compromise in “bhakti”—but that these historical developments have been colored (blue, naturally) by Krishna/Paul’s avatara to Judea.”

  • John Thomas

    I found Peter Kirby’s article comparing argument for and against whether the paragraph about John the Baptist in Josephus’ Antiquities of Jews was a later interpolation very interesting. In the conclusion, I would also add the fact if the passage is taken out, story has a natural flow as one other reason for thinking to be interpolation. Otherwise I agree with his rationale for the most part. But I agree that it is difficult to say whether it is an interpolation especially considering that Origen has used that passage to argue against Celsus.

    I would like personally that historians further investigate whether the historical character Johanan ben Zaccheus (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8724-johanan-b-zakkai) (primary contributor to Jewish Mishnah) and his favorite disciple and tanna Joshua ben Hananiah (http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/articles/8913-joshua-b-hananiah) had any role to play in the legendary development of characters of John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth in gospel accounts. My primary suspicion in that regard comes from the verse, “Hail to thee who gave him birth” (Pirkei Avot ii. 8) that Johanan ben Zaccheus apparently said of Joshua ben Hananiah according to some Jewish sources because similar verse is placed in the lips of woman addressed to Jesus in the gospel account of Luke, ““Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” (Luke 11:27). But it maybe just my suspicion and nothing more to it.