Gnostic Doctrine

Monday, 11 May 2020

Jewish Origins of the Mandaean People

Jewish Origins of the Mandaean People 



who are the Mandaeans

Mandaeans derived from Aramaic, the word mandayye, from which they take their name, means “gnostic" Kurt Rudolph, Mandaeism (Lieden: Brill, 1978), 29.

They live in Persia and Arabia, especially at Bassora; and regard religion as consisting principally infrequent, solemn ablutions of the body, which their priests administer with certain ceremonies

The Europeans call them "Christians of Saint John", because they have some knowledge of Christ. By the Oriental writers they are called Sabbi or Sabians

The Clementina speak of John the Baptist as a Hemerobaptist, and the disciples of John are accordingly called "Hemerobaptists" ("Homilies," ii. 23; comp. "Recognitions," i. 54); similarly, Banus, the teacher of Josephus ("Vita," § 2), was a Hemerobaptist. Hegesippus (see Eusebius, "Hist. Eccl." iv. 22) mentions the Hemerobaptists as one of the seven Jewish sects or divisions opposed to the Christians. Justin ("Dial. cum Tryph." § 80) calls them simply "Baptists."


The proto-gnostic movement seems to have had a schism over the roles of John the Baptist and Jesus. The Mandaeans followed the teachings of John the Baptist and regarded him as a messianic figure, but they regarded Jesus as a "false messiah." The Mandaeans also rejected Moses and the Pentateuch (first five books of the Bible). 

In Mandaeism, the laity are called mandaiia, "gnostics," while initiates into the priesthood are called naṣuraiia (naṣoreans).

Epiphanius in his Panarion, takes care to note that the heterodox Jewish group of Nasarenes were different than the Christian group of Nazorenes, whom he also describes. He states that they lived primarily on the east side of the Jordan, that they practiced circumcision, observed the Sabbath and the Jewish feasts, honored the patriarchs, but rejected the law of Moses (the Pentateuch).


The existence of the Nasarenes is significant, because the Mandaean version of that term, Nasoraean, is used often in the most ancient Mandaean literature.

In the texts, not only historical persons such as John the Baptist, but also heavenly beings such as Hibil, Sitil and Anos (Enos-Uthra), who symbolize the faith of the Mandaeans are called the Nasoraeans.

l am inclined to look upon these Christians of St. John, as descendants of those Hemerobaptists who were a Jewish sect about the time of Christ.

First, they profess to be Jews ; and say, their ancestors lived on the banks of the Jordan.

The early church writer Epiphanius mentions the Masobotheans and the Hemerobaptists. Besides the fact that they were part of the baptist movement, very little can be said for sure about them. It is likely, however, that at least the Hemerobaptists were very similar to the group of John the Baptist, as the Pseudo-Clementine Homilies refer to him as “one John, a hemerobaptist who was also . . . the forerunner of our Lord Jesus Christ

It is commonly supposed, that this John was John the Baptist, Christ's forerunner mentioned in the Scriptures.

Hence many conclude, that the Sabians are descended from the disciples of John the Baptist.

The Sabians as they are called by the Orientals, or the Mandaeans (mandayye), i. e., Disciples of St. John, as they call themselves, or the Christians of St. John as they are called by Europeans, though they perhaps have some imperfect knowledge of Christ, seem to be a Jewish sect, and the descendants of the ancient Hemerobaptists mentioned by the early Christian writers. At least, that John whom they call the founder of their sect, was altogether unlike John the Baptist, and bore a far stronger resemblance to the John whom the ancients represented as the father of the Jewish Hemerohaptists

Those who believe (in the Qur'an), And those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), And the Christians, and the Sabians—Any who believe in Allah, And the Last Day, And work righteousness, Shall have their reward With their Lord."

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