Online Version of #SBLAAR Conference Paper: Revisiting the Relationship between the Mandaean Book of John and the New Testament

Online Version of #SBLAAR Conference Paper: Revisiting the Relationship between the Mandaean Book of John and the New Testament November 18, 2012

I have posted a copy of my conference paper which I will be reading at the Society of Biblical Literature Conference. This version has full quotation of several relevant chapters from the Mandaean Book of John embedded within the text of the paper at relevant points, online. Those same texts and more can be found at the site we created to share drafts of our translation.

The title of my paper is “Revisiting the Relationship between the Mandaean Book of John and the New Testament.”

As you can gather from what I wrote above, the paper I have posted online is not just the text of what I will say at SBL in the Nag Hammadi and Gnosticism section meeting on the morning of Sunday, November 18th. But hopefully it will still be possible to follow along, for those who wish to do so during the session, and the included primary texts can serve in place of lengthy handouts.

I’ll be interested in feedback on this sort of “digital handout” from those attending the session, as well as on the content of the paper from those in attendance and anyone else who may be interested.


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  • Thank you Dr. McGrath, for the digital handout, for as one who sits outside of your scholarly universe, a visit to The Matrix is always a learning and thought provoking experience for me. Congratulations on your incredible work translating the MBOJ!

    Which allows me to ponder, what if the Mandaeans didn’t agree with what Jesus said in the NT, particularly Mark 10:31 KJV: “But many that are first shall be last; and the last first.” Wasn’t John born six months before Jesus (Luke 1:36), and died about six months before Jesus (Matthew 14:10-12). The first was first, in this instance. Sour grapes among the Mandaean community perhaps?

    On page 15, these quotes seem to me to be influenced by Luke’s infancy narrative, but what do I know. 🙂 Perhaps it will inspire others to read this really interesting conference paper. Thus, taken out of context, referring to the birth of John:

    “The star burned in Jerusalem it shone. The star which came and stood over Elizabeth. When Liliuk heard these things, he cast dust upon his head. The sun set and three lamps appeared.”

    “The star,” might this be the star of Bethlehem? “The dust,” from the manger? “Three lamps”? Possibly the three Wisemen who arrived the night, Jesus is born?

    Well I enjoyed my hour, Revisiting the Relationship Between the Mandaean Book of John & the NT. Good luck with your conference presentation, Professor. Later available On YouTube perhaps?

    • There are indeed points at which one can envisage influence in that direction. But in some cases, I think that unless one has the NT already in mind, one wouldn’t see a connection there. In others there is a more obvious connection. And so I’ve tried to explore the possibility that the Mandaeans may have both had independent tradition, and been influenced at some point by the New Testament, rather than insist that all the material fit into one scenario or the other.

      • I wonder if the Mandaeans initially believed that Jesus had failed in his mission on earth, and only with the help of the spirit of John could the church survive and flourish? Anyway, I am in awe by the amount of effort you have dedicated to this project. I am enjoying this learning experience and wish you the best success with it!