Rethinking the Life of Mani

Gardner, Iain. 2020. The founder of Manichaeism: Rethinking the life of Mani. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Mani, a third-century preacher, healer and public sage from Sasanian Mesopotamia, lived at a pivotal time and place in the development of the major religions. He frequented the courts of the Persian Empire, debating with rivals from the Judaeo-Christian tradition, philosophers and gnostics, Zoroastrians from Iran and Buddhists from India. The community he founded spread from north Africa to south China and lasted for over a thousand years. Yet the genuine biography of its founder, his life and thought, was in good part lost until a series of spectacular discoveries have begun to transform our knowledge of Mani’s crucial role in the spread of religious ideas and practices along the trade-routes of Eurasia. This book utilises the latest historical and textual research to examine how Mani was remembered by his followers, caricatured by his opponents, and has been invented and re-invented according to the vagaries of scholarly fashion.


  • Foreword by Jason BeDuhn
  • Introduction to the Many Lives of Mani: Inter-Religious
    Polemic and Scholarly Controversy
  • Mani’s Background and Early Life: Who Was He and
    What Did He Think He Was Doing?
  • Mani’s Career as the ‘Apostle of Jesus Christ’: His Missions
    and the Community He Founded
  • Mani’s Death: Inter-Religious Conflict in Early Sasanian
    Iran and the Memory of the Apostle
  • Appendix A The Dualistic Basis of Mani’s Thought
  • Appendix B The Community in Late-Antique Egypt and the
    Village of Kellis
  • Appendix C Some Comments on the Manichaean Kephalaia and
    the ‘Jesus-Book’ in the Chester Beatty Codex