There is a statue of prophet Mani as the "Buddha of Light" in Cao'an Temple in Jinjiang, Fujian, "a Manichean temple in Buddhist disguise", which is considered "the only extant Manichean temple in China." (from "Encyclopedia Iranica")
Manichaeism and Aramaic
Manichaeism was a major Gnostic religion, originating in Sassanid era Babylonia. Although most of the original writings of the founding prophet Mani (in Persian: مانی, Syriac: ܡܐܢܝ, Latin: Manichaeus or Manes) (c. AD 216–276) have been lost, numerous translations and fragmentary texts have survived. Manichaeism taught an elaborate cosmology describing the struggle between a good, spiritual world of light, and an evil, material world of darkness. Through an ongoing process which takes place in human history, light is gradually removed from the world of matter and returned to the world of light from which it came. Its beliefs were based on local Mesopotamian Gnostic and religious movements. Manichaeism was quickly successful and spread far through the Aramaic-Syriac speaking regions. It thrived between the third and seventh centuries, and at its height was one of the most widespread religions in the world. Manichaean churches and scriptures existed as far east as China and as far west as the Roman Empire. It was briefly the main rival to Christianity in the competition to replace classical paganism. Manichaeism survived longer in the East than in the West, and it appears to have finally faded away after the 14th century in southern China, contemporary to the decline in China of the Church of the East – see Ming Dynasty. Mani, an Arsacid Iranian by birth, was born AD 216 in Mesopotamia (Iraq), which was ruled by Persia, then within the Sassanid Empire province of Asuristan. According to the Cologne Mani-Codex, Mani's parents were members of the religious sect of Elcesaites. The king of Persia put him to death in 274 or 277. Mani believed that the teachings of Buddha, Zoroaster, and Jesus were incomplete, and that his revelations were for the entire world, calling his teachings the "Religion of Light." Manichaean writings indicate that Mani received revelations when he was 12 and again when he was 24, and over this time period he grew dissatisfied with the Elchasaite sect he was born into. Mani began preaching at an early age and was possibly influenced by contemporary Babylonian-Aramaic movements such as Mandaeanism, and Aramaic translations of Jewish apocalyptic writings similar to those found at Qumran (such as the book of Enoch literature). With the discovery of the Mani-Codex, it also became clear that he was raised in a Jewish-Christian baptism sect, the Elcesaites, and was influenced by their writings as well. According to biographies preserved by Ibn al-Nadim and the Persian polymath al-Biruni, he allegedly received a revelation as a youth from a spirit, whom he would later call his Twin (Aramaic Tauma (תאומא), from which is also derived the name of the apostle Thomas, the "twin"), his Syzygos (Greek for "partner", in the Cologne Mani-Codex), his Double, his Protective Angel or Divine Self. It taught him truths which he developed into a religion. His divine Twin or true Self brought Mani to Self-realization and thus he became a gnosticus, someone with divine knowledge and liberating insight. He claimed to be the Paraclete of the Truth, as promised in the New Testament.Mani composed seven writings, six of which were written in Syriac Aramaic. The seventh, the Shabuhragan, was written by Mani in Middle Persian and presented by him to the contemporary King of Sassanid Persia, Shapur I in the Persian capital of Ctesiphon. Although there is no proof Shapur I was a Manichaean, he tolerated the spread of Manicheanism and refrained from persecuting it in his empire's boundaries. According to one tradition it was Mani himself who invented the unique version of the Syriac script called Manichaean script, which was used in all of the Manichaean works written within the Persian Empire, whether they were in Syriac or Middle Persian, and also for most of the works written within the Uyghur Empire. The primary language of Babylon (and the administrative and cultural language of the Sassanid Empire) at that time was Eastern Middle Aramaic, which included three main dialects: Judeo-Aramaic (the language of the Talmud), Mandaean Aramaic (the language of the Mandaean religion), and Syriac Aramaic, which was the language of Mani, as well as of the Syriac Christians. "Mani" is a Sanskrit name used in all three Aramaic dialects and therefore common among their speakers.
Manichaeism's views on Jesus are described by historians:
"Jesus in Manichaeism possessed three separate identities: (1) Jesus the Luminous, (2) Jesus the Messiah and (3) Jesus patibilis (the suffering Jesus). (1) As Jesus the Luminous… his primary role was as supreme revealer and guide and it was he who woke Adam from his slumber and revealed to him the divine origins of his soul and its painful captivity by the body and mixture with matter. Jesus the Messiah was a historical being who was the prophet of the Jews and the forerunner of Mani. However, the Manicheans believed he was wholly divine. He never experienced human birth as notions of physical conception and birth filled the Manichaeans with horror and the Christian doctrine of virgin birth was regarded as equally obscene. Since he was the light of the world, where was this light, they asked, when he was in the womb of the Virgin? (2) Jesus the Messiah was truly born at his baptism as it was on that occasion that the Father openly acknowledged his sonship. The suffering, death and resurrection of this Jesus were in appearance only as they had no salvific value but were an exemplum of the suffering and eventual deliverance of the human soul and a prefiguration of Mani's own martyrdom. (3) The pain suffered by the imprisoned Light-Particles in the whole of the visible universe, on the other hand, was real and immanent. This was symbolized by the mystic placing of the Cross whereby the wounds of the passion of our souls are set forth. On this mystical Cross of Light was suspended the Suffering Jesus (Jesus patibilis) who was the life and salvation of Man. This mystica cruxificio was present in every tree, herb, fruit, vegetable and even stones and the soil. This constant and universal suffering of the captive soul is exquisitely expressed in one of the Coptic Manichaean psalms"
Historians also note that Mani declared himself to be an "apostle of Jesus Christ" Manichaean tradition is also noted to have claimed that Mani was the reincarnation of different religious figures from Buddha, Lord Krishna, Zoroaster, and Jesus.
Another source of Mani's scriptures was original Aramaic writings relating to the book of Enoch literature (see the Book of Enoch and the Second Book of Enoch), as well as an otherwise unknown section of the book of Enoch called the "Book of Giants". This book was quoted directly, and expanded on by Mani, becoming one of the original six Syriac writings of the Manichaean Church. Besides brief references by non-Manichaean authors through the centuries, no original sources of "The Book of Giants" (which is actually part six of the "Book of Enoch") were available until the 20th century.
Scattered fragments of both the original Aramaic "Book of Giants" (which were analysed and published by Józef Milik in 1976) and of the Manichaean version of the same name (analyzed and published by W.B. Henning in 1943) were found with the discovery in the twentieth century of the Dead Sea Scrolls in the Judaean Desert and the Manichaean writings of the Uyghur Manichaean kingdom in Turpan. Henning wrote in his analysis of them:
It is noteworthy that Mani, who was brought up and spent most of his life in a province of the Persian empire, and whose mother belonged to a famous Parthian family, did not make any use of the Iranian mythological tradition. There can no longer be any doubt that the Iranian names of Sām, Narīmān, etc., that appear in the Persian and Sogdian versions of the Book of the Giants, did not figure in the original edition, written by Mani in the Syriac language.
From a careful reading of the Enoch literature and the Book of Giants, alongside the description of the Manichaean myth, it becomes clear that the "Great King of Honor" of this myth (a being that sits as a guard to the world of light at the seventh of ten heavens in the Manichaean myth,) is identical with the King of Honor sitting on the heavenly throne in the Enoch literature. In the Aramaic book of Enoch, in the Qumran writings in general, and in the original Syriac section of Manichaean scriptures quoted by Theodore bar Konai, he is called "malka raba de-ikara" (the great king of honor).
Noting Mani's travels to the Kushan Empire (several religious paintings in Bamiyan are attributed to him) at the beginning of his proselytizing career, Richard Foltz postulates Buddhist influences in Manichaeism:
Buddhist influences were significant in the formation of Mani's religious thought. The transmigration of souls became a Manichaean belief, and the quadripartite structure of the Manichaean community, divided between male and female monks (the "elect") and lay followers (the "hearers") who supported them, appears to be based on that of the Buddhist sangha.
While Manichaeism was spreading, existing religions such as Christianity and Zoroastrianism were gaining social and political influence. Although having fewer adherents, Manichaeism won the support of many high-ranking political figures. With the assistance of the Persian Empire, Mani began missionary expeditions. After failing to win the favour of the next generation of Persian royalty, and incurring the disapproval of the Zoroastrian clergy, Mani is reported to have died in prison awaiting execution by the Persian Emperor Bahram I. The date of his death is estimated at AD 276–277.
Manichaeism presented an elaborate description of the conflict between the spiritual world of light and the material world of darkness. The beings of both the world of darkness and the world of light have names. There are numerous sources for the details of the Manichaean belief. There are two portions of Manichaean scriptures that are probably the closest thing to the original Manichaean writings in their original languages that will ever be available. These are the Syriac-Aramaic quotation by the Nestorian [Assyrian] Christian Theodore bar Konai, in his Syriac "Book of Scholia" ("Ketba de-Skolion", eighth century), and the Middle Persian sections of Mani's Shabuhragan discovered at Turpan (a summary of Mani's teachings prepared for Shapur I). These two sections are probably the original Syriac and Middle Persian written by Mani.
The Father of Greatness (Syriac: ܐܒܐ
Abbā dəRabbūṯā; Middle Persian: pīd ī wuzurgīh, or the Zoroastrian deity Zurwān; Parthian: Pidar wuzurgift, Pidar roshn)
The most important religious observance of the Manichaeans was the Bema Fest, observed annually: The Bema was originally, in the Syriac Christian churches a seat placed in the middle of the nave on which the bishop would preside and from which the Gospel would be read. In the Manichean places of worship, the throne was a five-stepped altar, covered by precious cloths, symbolizing the five classes of the hierarchy. The top of the Bema was always empty, as it was the seat of Mani. The Bema was celebrated at the vernal equinox, was preceded by fasts, and symbolized the passion of Mani, thus it was strictly parallel to the Christian Easter.
While it is often presumed that the Bema seat was empty, there is some evidence from the Coptic Manichaean Bema Psalms, that the Bema seat may have actually contained a copy of Mani's picture book, the Arzhang.
Mani wrote either seven or eight books, which contained the teachings of the religion. Only scattered fragments and translations of the originals remain.
The original six Syriac writings are not preserved, although their Syriac names have been. There are also fragments and quotations from them. A long quotation, preserved by the eighth-century Nestorian Christian author Theodore bar Konai, shows that in the original Syriac Aramaic writings of Mani there was no influence of Iranian or Zoroastrian terms. The terms for the Manichaean deities in the original Syriac writings are in Aramaic. The adaptation of Manichaeism to the Zoroastrian religion appears to have begun in Mani's lifetime however, with his writing of the Middle Persian Shabuhragan, his book dedicated to the King Shapuhr. In it, there are mentions of Zoroastrian deities such as Ohrmazd, Ahriman, and Az. Manichaeism is often presented as a Persian religion, mostly due to the vast number of Middle Persian, Parthian, and Soghdian (as well as Turkish) texts discovered by German researchers near Turpan, in the Xinjiang (Chinese Turkestan) province of China, during the early 1900s. However, from the vantage point of its original Syriac descriptions (as quoted by Theodore bar Khonai and outlined below), Manichaeism may be better described as a unique phenomenon of Aramaic Babylonia, occurring in proximity to two other new Aramaic religious phenomena, Talmudic Judaism and Babylonian Mandaeism, which were also appearing in Babylonia in roughly the third century AD.
The original, but now lost, six sacred books of Manichaeism were composed in Syriac Aramaic, and translated into other languages to help spread the religion. As they spread to the east, the Manichaean writings passed through Middle Persian, Parthian, Sogdian, Tocharian and ultimately Uyghur and Chinese translations. As they spread to the west, they were translated into Greek, Coptic, and Latin.
Originally written in Syriac
- The Evangelion (Syriac: ܐܘܢܓܠܝܘܢ; Greek, Coptic: Ευαγγελιον, meaning roughly "good news"). Also known as the Gospel of Mani. Quotations from the first chapter were brought in Arabic by Ibn al-Nadim, who lived in Baghdad at a time when there were still Manichaeans living there, in his book the "Fihrist" (written in 938), a catalog of all written books known to him.
- The Treasure of Life
- The Treatise (Coptic: πραγματεία)
- The Book of Giants: Original fragments were discovered at Qumran (pre-Manichaean) and Turpan.
- Epistles: Augustine brings quotations, in Latin, from Mani's Fundamental Epistle in some of his anti-Manichaean works.
- Psalms and Prayers. A Coptic Manichaean Psalter, discovered in Egypt in the early 1900s, was edited and published by Charles Allberry from Manichaean manuscripts in the Chester Beatty collection and in the Berlin Academy, 1938-9.
Originally written in Middle Persian
- The Shabuhragan, dedicated to Shapur I: Original Middle Persian fragments were discovered at Turpan, quotations were brought in Arabic by al-Biruni.
- The Ardahang, the "Picture Book". In Iranian tradition, this was one of Mani's holy books which became remembered in later Persian history, and was also called Aržang, a Parthian word meaning "Worthy", and was beautified with paintings. Therefore Iranians gave him the title of "The Painter".
- The Kephalaia (Κεφαλαια), "Discourses", found in Coptic translation.
- On the Origin of His Body, the title of the Cologne Mani-Codex, a Greek translation of an Aramaic book which describes the early life of Mani.
Non-Manichaean works preserved by the Manichaean Church
- Some portions of the Book of Enoch literature.
- Some literature relating to the apostle Thomas (who by tradition went to India, and was also venerated in Syria), such as portions of the Syriac The Acts of Thomas, and the Psalms of Thomas. The Gospel of Thomas was also attributed to Manichaeans by the early Church Fathers.
- The legend of Barlaam and Josaphat passed from an Indian story about the Buddha, through a Manichaean version, before it transformed into the story of a Christian Saint in the west.
Brit Hume: Hillary Clinton's failure as Secretary of State
The praises heaped on Hillary Clinton and those two congressional hearings yesterday illustrates what has become an article of faith in Washington. Which is that she has been a great secretary of state. She has certainly try shields a record for number of countries visited a 112. She is deeply serious and as the hearings demonstrated she does her homework. Her conduct -- secretary has been free of diplomatic stumbles -- gaffes. She has worked as one senator noted to the point of exhaustion. But effort is one thing achievement another the question is what are the achievements it would Mark Kerr is a great secretary. Are Arabs and Israelis closer to peace today than four years ago. And the nuclear programs in Iran and North Korea have been halted. As the celebrated reset -- Russia produced a new cooperative relationship. Is there a major new treaty or doctrine that bears her name. The answer -- all these questions is clearly no it's been argued that foreign policy in his administration has been so tightly controlled by the White House. It has been impossible for the secretary of state to leave much of a mark. Possibly true -- absolved her of blame for many things. But it hardly adds up to a case for her greatness -- thing. Unless of course it's avoiding blame -- heels of that we're certainly in evidence at those hearings yesterday -- But there was that one moment where she was really heated -- Senator Johnson and -- the question in the back and forth -- played again and again on networks across the line. Some people said it was her finest moment in that hearing others said not so much politically and we all often look through the prism of politics here. Politically -- do you think that means for her. Well for the moment it looks pretty good -- officer is leaving office with this very high approval rating people admire her greatly good large majorities do. What she said yesterday when she said come -- to a question about the misleading information was given to the public about the attack in the aftermath of and it stayed out there for awhile when she said. What difference does it make? It was strong it was passionate eventually you know -- is the moment of the hearing. If we find out and we may not that if we do find out in the months and years ahead. That this was a deliberate effort to mislead for political reasons and if she had any part in it or could have done something about it that statement won't look so good anymore.
Stephen Returns from India
I have returned from India. I had a great trip. Photos are up at my face book and videos are up at www.youtube.com/aramaic12.
Leon Panetta testifies on Benghazi
Amazing! Panetta claims that he notified Obama that the embassy was under attack and that Obama told him to do what needed to be done to secure it. Then he says that Obama didn't ask and he didn't tell him what was happening during the hours that the attack lasted. He lied and said that the closest military aircraft was over six hours away in Djibuiti, Africa-when it was less that two hours away in Italy and blamed the failure of the mission, not on himself, but upon the embassy staff in Libya! Very odd performance-and he gave all the typical inadvertent gestures humans make when lying (not looking directly at questioner, nervous twitching, ect.). Very odd performance-watch it for yourself.
Unfortunately, America no longer has a free press. What we have is a massive propaganda wing of the Democratic Party and the White House. It is sickening-which brings us to the next issue.
Obama claims right to execute Americans, any time, anywhere, as judge, jury and executioner
Killings carried out under the drone program have ballooned under the president's watch. Democrats and Liberals have complained for years about the Bush policy of monitoring American's phones and using "enhanced interrogation" techniques such as water-boarding. But now that Obama claims the right to kill anyone, anywhere, anytime he would like-the silence-and hypocrisy of the left is deafening.
Pope Benedict resigns
Although I am not Catholic, I have respect for Pope Benedict as a Bible scholar. I think he is one of the best popes the Catholic church has ever had. Sadly, his health is frail and he doesn't feel up to the challenge of leading the Roman Catholic Church. I hope that the Church selects another conservative/traditionalist who is willing to remain faithful to the teachings of Jesus Christ and the doctrines that have been handed down to us by the Apostles.