Tag Archives: Mandaean

The Mandaean religion and the Aramaic background of Manichaeism

Ionuţ Daniel Băncilă. 2018. Die mandäische Religion und der aramäische Hintergrund des Manichäismus: Forschungsgeschichte, Textvergleiche, historisch-geographische Verortung. (Mandäistische Forschungen 6). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag.

Mandaeism, the only surviving Gnostic religion, reflected, recorded, evaluated and thus transformed various religious traditions of different identities. Although a “Mandaean identity” did not develop until after the Islamic conquest of Mesopotamia, one can assume that “Mandaean ideas” were already present in various Aramaic-speaking groups in Mesopotamia.
In his study of the Mandaean religion, Ionuţ Daniel Băncilă asks whether traces of “Mandaic thoughts” can be found in Manichaeism, the second major Gnostic religion in the region. He examines this question in three different methodological approaches: A detailed look at the history of research on the subject shows to what extent previous attempts to explain the relationship between Manichaeism and Mandaeism were subject to the cultural fashions of different epochs; the text-comparative part of the study examines motifs in Manichaeism that can be identified as “Mandaic ideas” on a philological-literary critical basis. In a third part, the Mandaean understanding of history is critically examined and an attempt is made to explain the relations between the two religions geographical and historical vantage point.

Table of Contents


From Sasanian Mandaeans to Ṣābians of the Marshes

van Bladel, Kevin. 2017. From Sasanian Mandaeans to Ṣābians of the Marshes. Leiden: Brill.
This historical study argues that the Mandaean religion originated under Sasanid rule in the fifth century, not earlier as has been widely accepted. It analyzes primary sources in Syriac, Mandaic, and Arabic to clarify the early history of Mandaeism. This religion, along with several other, shorter-lived new faiths, such as Kentaeism, began in a period of state-sponsored persecution of Babylonian paganism. The Mandaeans would survive to become one of many groups known as Ṣābians by their Muslim neighbors. Rather than seeking to elucidate the history of Mandaeism in terms of other religions to which it can be related, this study approaches the religion through the history of its social contexts.
Table of Contents
1. Early Contacts between Arab Muslims and Aramaean Mandaeans and the Date of Zazay
2. Theodore bar Konay’s Account of Mandaean Origins (circa 792)
3. Three Sixth-Century References to Mandaeans by Name
4. On the Kentaeans and Their Relationship with the Mandaeans
5. The Account of al-Ḥasan ibn Bahlūl (Bar Bahlul), second half of tenth century
6. Identifying Abū ʿAlī
7. The Marshes of the Ṣābians
8. Other Reports on the Mandaeans after Abū ʿAlī
9. Back to the Question of Origins
10. Pre-Mandaean Nāṣoraeans
11. The Religious Environment of Sasanian Iraq
12. Mandaeism as a Changing Tradition
Appendix 1. Bar Konay on the Kentaeans, Dostaeans, and Nerigaeans, in English
Appendix 2. Ibn Waḥšīya on Aramaic Dialects
Kevin T. van Bladel (Ph.D. 2004, Yale University), is Associate Professor of Near Eastern Languages and Cultures at The Ohio State University.