De Keulse Mani-Codex. Ed. and transl,Johannes van Oort
De Keulse Mani-Codex. Ed. and transl. by Johannes van Oort
(Pimander 11), Amsterdam 2005
Bound, 26,5 x 20,5 cm., 248 pp. illus., index.
ISBN: 978 90 71608 16 2
Dutch | € 35,00
The Mani-Codex was discovered in Egypt shortly before 1970 and subsequently acquired by the University of Cologne. The Greek codex, which was written around 400 CE, consists of a number of minute parchment leaves and is based on reports, probably written in ancient Syriac, concerning the life and origins of Mani (who lived 216-276/7). The Codex confirms that Mani, the founder of an authentic gnostic world religion, was raised in a Jewish environment. In the years 220-240 he lived in a Jewish community in the south of Babylon, near present-day Bagdad in Iraq. He founded his own world church, which was inspired by gnostic-Christian thought, in reaction to the strict nomistic circles in which he grew up. His church, which eventually spread to the Atlantic Ocean in the West and the Pacific Ocean in the East, existed for many centuries, with millions of adherents and even producing its own typical art. Manicheism may also have been an influence on the medieval Cathars; it is certain that Augustine, one of the greatest of Church Fathers, once belonged to Mani's church. It is mainly through Augustine that the gnosticism of Mani's teachings exerted a substantial influence on Western spiritual and intellectual history.
What is especially unique about the Mani-Codex is the fact that Mani's descent is here placed in an unequivocal light. Mani regarded himself as a reincarnation of the heavenly apostle who appears on the stage of world history at certain given moments. As such he placed himself in the tradition of Jesus: he was convinced that he was the Paracelete or Holy Spirit promised by Christ. Van Oort and Quispel demonstrate that Muhammad, too, may be seen in this light. Like Mani, Muhammad saw himself as the incarnation of the 'Apostle of God' (rasūl Allāh) and 'the seal of the prophets'.
The latter finding makes the publication of this translation of the Codex Manichaicus Coloniensis highly topical. The literary structure of the Codex also throws a new and revealing light on the origin of the form and contents of the canonical gospels.