Nasaraeans, Mandaeans, Enochic Judaism, & Christianity.

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Nasaraeans, Mandaeans, Enochic Judaism, & Christianity.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sat Sep 26, 2020 7:43 am

I have been trying to better understand recently the sect which Epiphanius designates as Nasaraeans, an endeavor which has led me down quite a few paths, some of them unexpected:

Epiphanius, Panarion 18.1.1-5:

Against Nasaraeans [Νασαραίων], sect five from Judaism but eighteen of the series.

1.1 Next I shall undertake the describe the sect after the Hemerobaptists [Ἡμεροβαπτιστάς], called the sect of the Nasaraeans [Νασαραίων]. They are Jews by nationality, from Gileaditis, Bashanitis, and the Transjordan [ἀπὸ τῆς Γαλααδίτιδος καὶ Βασανίτιδος καὶ τῶν ἐπέκεινα τοῦ Ἰορδάνου ὁρμώμενοι], as I have been told, but descendants of Israel himself. This sect practices Judaism in all respects and has scarcely any beliefs beyond the ones that I have mentioned. 2 It too had been given circumcision, and it kept the same Sabbath and observed the same festivals, and certainly did not inculcate fate or astrology [οὐ μὴν εἱμαρμένην παρεισῆγεν οὔτε ἀστρονομίαν]. 3 It also recognized as fathers the persons in the Pentateuch from Adam to Moses who were illustrious for the excellence of their piety — I mean Adam, Seth, Enoch, Methuselah, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Levi and Aaron, Moses, and Joshua the son of Nun. However, it would not accept the Pentateuch itself. It acknowledged Moses and believed that he had received legislation — not this legislation though, they said, but some other. 4 And so, though they were Jews who kept all the Jewish observances, they would not offer sacrifice or eat meat; in their eyes it was unlawful to eat meat or make sacrifices with it. They claimed that these books are forgeries and that none of these customs were instituted by the fathers. 5 This was the difference between the Nasaraeans [Νασαραίων] and the others; and their refutation is to be seen not in one place but in many.

Frank Williams, The Panarion of Epiphanius, volume 1, page 46, footnote 27: 27 This group has some traits in common with the Mandaeans, whose usual name for themselves is “Nazoraeans,” and who reject the Pentateuch.

Frank Williams, The Panarion of Epiphanius, volume 1, page 47, footnote 30: 30 Lidzbarski translates the term with which Mandaeans reject the Torah as a Buch des Frevels (= Book of Iniquities).

The Nasaraeans, according to Williams, share traits with the Mandaeans. Most immediately it is the very name of the sect, Nasaraeans, which arrests the attention, since possibly the earliest term which the Mandaeans ever used of themselves is Nasoraeans:

Kurt Rudolph, Gnosis: The Nature and History of Gnosticism, page 343: 343 The earliest self-designations to be found in Mandean literature are “elect of righteousness” (bhirī zidqa) and “Nasoreans” (naṣuraiyī), i.e. “guardians” or “possessors” of secret rites and knowledge. “Mandeans” (mandayī) is of more recent date but refers back to the ancient Mandean word for “perception, knowledge, Gnosis” (manda); it therefore means “the knowing ones, the gnostics.” Nowadays the term denotes more generally the laity in contradistinction to the priests (tarmidī) or initiates (naṣoraiyī).

The rejection of Jewish scripture, while still holding certain Patriarchs in high regard, is apparently both Mandaean and Nasaraean. The Haran Gawaitha, for example, mentions Adam, and Abel, Seth, and Enosh all find a cosmic place in the religion:

Kurt Rudolph, Gnosis: The Nature and History of Gnosticism, pages 358-359: 358-359 The climax of creation is the making of the first man, Adam, whose body is formed by Ptahil and his dark helpers, but whose animating substance, the soul or the “inner (hidden) Adam”, has its origin in the world of light. Around this event a great number of narratives has grown which are not always in harmony one with another, but which clearly show the influence of the gnostic anthropos-myth. In the earthly Adam one sees a counterpart of the heavenly or “great Adam,” also called Adakas (i.e. “hidden Adam”). Just as this one had a wife (Eve) and sons, so had the other: the “cloud of light” (heavenly Eve) and the heavenly Adamites Hibil (Abel), Shitil (Seth) and Anosh (Enosh). The Mandeans derive their origin from Adam and Eve as the “race of Life,” for their souls come from the world of light and have since had to take up their abode in the “darkness” or the “corporeal (earthly) world.” The salvation of these “souls” (nishimta) or spirits (mana) is now a main concern of the Mandean religion. It is believed that the world of light sends forth its “messengers,” “helpers,” “envoys,” in order to teach the faithful by their “call” and to save their souls. As first and most important of these messengers of light there appears the “Gnosis of Life” (manda dehaiyī) who is also called “Son of Life” or “Counterpart of Life” and who is a personification of the redeeming knowledge. At his side stand the three heavenly Adamites, Hibil, Shitil and Anosh of whom the first is later often interchangeable with the “Gnosis of Life”. The redemption of Adam serves as a prototype. He is enlightened by the “Gnosis of Life” about the “mysteries” of the cosmos and thus is redeemed, i.e. his soul or the “inner Adam” (= man) can return to the world of light. The Mandean soteriology originally knows no “historical” redeemers but only “mythological” ones, who appear throughout the various ages of the Mandean world history and who only offer a repetition of the “primeval revelation” to Adam. For the faithful they are always present and can be invoked, above all at the cultic ceremonies. Only as an afterthought the Mandeans created, in opposition to Christianity which they reject, a legend according to which one of their messengers of light (Anosh and Manda deHaiyi are mentioned) appeared in Jerusalem as an opponent of Jesus Christ in order to unmask him as a lying prophet. It follows from this that the Mandeans are descended from a Gnosis that is independent of Christianity and that they have preserved its features until the present day.

The Nasaraean eschewing of (certain kinds of) astrology looks to me like it may also be a Mandaean thing, at least so far as the Mandaean relationship to Judaism is concerned, since, according to the legend of origins, the Mandaeans themselves are former Jews who once adored Adonai (= Yahweh) but no longer do, having abandoned the "sign of the seven" and the "house of the seven" at the birth of a false messiah figure (= Jesus):

Haran Gawaita, Drower translation, pages 3, 8: 3 And sixty thousand Naṣoraeans abandoned the Sign of the Seven and entered the Median hills, a place where we were free from domination by all other races. And they built cult-huts (bimandia) and abode in the Call of the Life and in the strength of the high King of Light until they came to their end. And they loved the Lord, that is, Adonai, until in the House of Israel there was created something which was not placed in the womb of Mary, a daughter of Moses. It was hidden in her womb for nine months and bewitched her until the nine months were fulfilled and she was in labor and brought forth a Messiah.

....

8 Then Ruha scattered the Jews... who is called ‘of the House of the Seven’, and then Adonai sent a staff....

I have seen it supposed that "the seven" in this context are the seven planets (or wandering stars) known to antiquity (Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn), particularly since the Ginza Rba sets itself against the seven planets, regarding them as demonic. But how would the Jews be associated with the seven planets? I believe the following may be the answer to that question:

Porphyry, On Abstinence 2.26: 26 But of the Syrians, the Jews indeed, through the sacrifice which they first made, even now, says Theophrastus, sacrifice animals, and if we were persuaded by them to sacrifice in the same way that they do, we should abstain from the deed. For they do not feast on the flesh of the sacrificed animals, but having thrown the whole of the victims into the fire, and poured much honey and wine on them during the night, they swiftly consume the sacrifice, in order that the All-Seeing <Sun> may not become a spectator of it. And they do this, fasting during all the intermediate days, and through the whole of this time, as belonging to the class of philosophers, and also discourse with each other about the divinity. But in the night they apply themselves to the theory of the stars, surveying them, and through prayers invoking God [τῆς δὲ νυκτὸς τῶν ἄστρων ποιοῦνται τὴν θεωρίαν, βλέποντες εἰς αὐτὰ καὶ διὰ τῶν εὐχῶν θεοκλυτοῦντες]. For these make offerings both of other animals and of themselves, doing this from necessity, and not from their own will. The truth of this, however, may be learnt by any one who directs his attention to the Egyptians, the most learned of all men, who are so far from slaying other animals that they make the images of these to be imitations of the Gods, so adapted and allied do they conceive these to be both to Gods and men.

Jeremiah 8.1-3: “At that time,” declares Yahweh, “they will bring out the bones of the kings of Judah and the bones of its princes, and the bones of the priests and the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem from their graves. 2 They will spread them out to the sun, the moon and to all the host of heaven, which they have loved and which they have served, and which they have gone after and which they have sought, and which they have worshiped. They will not be gathered or buried; they will be as dung on the face of the ground. 3 And death will be chosen rather than life by all the remnant that remains of this evil family, that remains in all the places to which I have driven them,” declares Yahweh of hosts.

Jeremiah 19.10-13: 10 “Then you are to break the jar in the sight of the men who accompany you 11 and say to them, ‘Thus says Yahweh of hosts, “Just so will I break this people and this city, even as one breaks a potter’s vessel, which cannot again be repaired; and they will bury in Topheth because there is no other place for burial. 12 This is how I will treat this place and its inhabitants,” declares the Lord, “so as to make this city like Topheth. 13 The houses of Jerusalem and the houses of the kings of Judah will be defiled like the place Topheth, because of all the houses on whose rooftops they burned sacrifices to all the heavenly host and poured out drink offerings to other gods.”’”

Ezekiel 8.16-18: 16 Then He brought me into the inner court of Yahweh’s house. And behold, at the entrance to the temple of Yahweh, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs to the temple of Yahweh and their faces toward the east; and they were prostrating themselves eastward toward the sun. 17 He said to me, “Do you see this, son of man? Is it too light a thing for the house of Judah to commit the abominations which they have committed here, that they have filled the land with violence and provoked Me repeatedly? For behold, they are putting the twig to their nose. 18 Therefore, I indeed will deal in wrath. My eye will have no pity nor will I spare; and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, yet I will not listen to them.”

Josephus, Wars 5.5.4 §212-214: 212 But before these doors there was a veil of equal largeness with the doors. It was a Babylonian curtain, embroidered with blue, and fine linen, and scarlet, and purple, and of a contexture that was truly wonderful. Nor was this mixture of colors without its mystical interpretation, but was a kind of image of the universe; 213 for by the scarlet there seemed to be enigmatically signified fire, by the fine flax the earth, by the blue the air, and by the purple the sea; two of them having their colors the foundation of this resemblance; but the fine flax and the purple have their own origin for that foundation, the earth producing the one, and the sea the other. 214 This curtain had also embroidered upon it the entire heavenly spectacle [ἅπασαν τὴν οὐράνιον θεωρίαν, all that was mystical in the heavens (Whiston), a panorama of the heavens (Loeb)], excepting that of the signs, representing living creatures.

There seems to have been a strain of Judaism, practiced in the Temple, which revered the seven planets, the heavens, and other astronomical entities. Memory of this strain has been repressed in the Jewish scriptures, relegated to descriptions of heretical moments in Israelite history. Yet it must have been mainstream enough both to register with an outside observer like Theophrastus and to call forth prophetic condemnations by Jeremiah and Ezekiel. And I bet, regardless of how the veil described by Josephus may have been interpreted in later times, that worshipers of the heavenly host would have had their own view of it.

Another similarity is that, while Epiphanius locates his Nasaraeans in the area just east of the Jordan, the Mandaeans themselves bear some kind of connection to the Jordan River:

Kurt Rudolph, Gnosis: The Nature and History of Gnosticism, page 362: 362 Without baptism no “soul” is able to reach the next world. Baptisms take place at all cultic feasts, including weddings. Great sins even require several baptisms. Recent researches have shown that the fundamental features of the Mandean baptismal rite are derived from early Jewish baptismal practices in the Jordan region.

Erik Langkjer, “From 1 Enoch to Mandaean Religion,” page 11: By scrutinizing the Mandaean rituals Eric Segelberg has been able to draw the same conclusion as R. Macuch and K. Rudolph: that they migrated from the Jordan valley.

Yet another is that the Mandaeans trace their history back to well before the destruction of the Temple, while Epiphanius states that his Nasaraeans predated Christianity.

Now, there are also differences between the Mandaeans and the group which Epiphanius calls Nasaraeans. If I understand correctly, for example, Mandaeans do not circumcise their male children. If their religion is partly a reaction against Judaism, however, then perhaps many Jewish customs were changed deliberately in the process of moving eastward, both geographically and ideologically.

There is a particular brand of Judaism for which Mandaeism seems to bear some ancient affinities, and that brand is Enochic. For example, the archangel Uriel rails against the seven stars in a way very reminiscent of what we find in the Mandaic scriptures:

1 Enoch 21.1-6: 1 I traveled to where it was chaotic. 2 And there I saw a terrible thing; I saw neither heaven above nor firmly founded earth, but a chaotic and terrible place. 3 And there I saw seven of the stars of heaven, bound and thrown in it together, like great mountains, and burning in fire. 4 Then I said, “For what reason have they been bound, and for what reason have they been thrown here?” 5 Then Uriel said to me, one of the holy angels who was with me, and he was their leader, he said to me, “Enoch, why do you inquire, and why are you eager for the truth? 6 These are the stars of heaven that transgressed the command of the Lord; they have been bound here until ten thousand years are fulfilled — the time of their sins.”

Furthermore, the relationship between the Enochic literature and the Mosaic Law is uneasy at best:

Andreas Bedenbender, “The Place of the Torah in the Early Enoch Literature,” in Gabriele Boccaccini & John J. Collins, The Early Enoch Literature, page 79: 79 Enochic Judaism diversies, and so does its attitude towards the Torah. That even in later texts explicit quotations of the Torah are missing is easily to be explained: Enoch could know the content of the “tablets of heaven” but the revelation of Sinai was long past his time. What is much more remarkable, Enoch continues to ignore questions about the Mosaic Law. In part, this may be due to the fact that Enochic Judaism found its legal questions answered in other books — especially in Jubilees. In spite of this, the halakhic silence of Enoch should be taken as a warning, not to minimize the differences between later Enochism (or Essenism) and other forms of Judaism. An acceptance of the Torah of Moses doesn’t exclude the possibility that Enoch’s wisdom received an ongoing reverence as revelation of a higher kind. So probably Nickelsburg is right: “Although there is no evidence that the Enochic authors disregarded the content of the Pentateuchal laws, they have leapfrogged Moses and identified Enoch as the primordial recipient of all heavenly Wisdom” (= George W. E. Nickelsburg, Enochic Wisdom and Its Relationship To The Mosaic Torah, page 127).

George W. E. Nickelsburg, “Enochic Wisdom and Its Relationship to the Mosaic Torah,” in Gabriele Boccaccini & John J. Collins, The Early Enoch Literature, pages 81-83:

81-83 I shall summarize, principally, the theses of my three previous discussions of the topic. ....

1. The various authors of 1 Enoch are acquainted with the Pentateuch (as well as much of the rest of the Hebrew Bible). ....

2. This use of material from the Pentateuch (and the Hebrew Bible more generally) notwithstanding, to judge from what the Enochic authors have written, and not written, the Sinaitic covenant and the Mosaic Torah were not of central importance to them. The only explicit reference to this covenant or Torah is in the Apocalypse of Weeks, which states that God made there “a covenant (or law) for all generations and a tabernacle” (93:6). The nal redactor of the Book of the Watchers also seems to allude to this covenant and Torah in 1:4, which stipulates Sinai as the location of God’s descent for the nal judgment. However, God’s judgment of “all flesh” ( Jews and Gentiles) suggests that the Mosaic Torah is not the only benchmark for this judgment. The reference to “the eternal covenant” in 99:2 may be one other rare reference to the Mosaic Torah. This striking lack of attention to the Sinaitic covenant and the Mosaic Torah is further emphasized in the Animal Apocalypse, which recounts the events at Sinai, including the theophany and Israel’s idolatry, but makes no reference to the establishment of the covenant or the giving of the Torah (89:29–35). God had opened the eyes of the sheep (i.e., given them revelation) already at Marah (89:28), where according to Exod 15:25–26 God had made a statute and ordinance with Israel and promised not to punish them if they “listened to his commandments and observed his statutes.” It is noteworthy that this author should take notice of these two obscure biblical verses but ignore the extensive legal and covenantal material in Exodus 20–24. In short, if usage is an indicator, the category of covenant and the word itself were not important for these authors.

And, obviously, Enoch himself is precisely one of those Patriarchs whom Epiphanius lists as respected by his Nasaraean sect.

The Qumranites apparently shared a respect for the Enochic literature, much of it having been found amongst the scrolls, which brings up the following possible connection:

Gilles Quispel, “Gnosticism and the New Testament,” in Vigiliae Christianae, volume 19, number 2 (June 1965), page 79: 79 The curious expression “Lord of Greatness” in Mandaean writings has been found in the Qumran Genesis Apocryphon.

1QapGen (1QGenesis Apocryphon), column 2, lines 3-7: 3 Then I, Lamech, was frightened and turned to Bitenosh, my wife, [and said,] 4 [“Behold,] I adjure you by the Most High, by the Lord of Greatness [במרה רבותא], by the King of all A[ges, ...] 5 [...] the sons of heaven, that you tell me in truth everything, whether [...] 6 [....] Tell me without lies whether this ... [...] 7 by the King of all Ages that you are speaking to me frankly and without lies [....”]

And there are other possible parallels between Mandaeism and Enochic Judaism:

Samuel Zinner, Vines of Joy: Comparative Studies in Mandaean History and Theology, page 73: 73 Qulasta 9 includes the following in its description of Abathur Atiqa (Abathur the Ancient): “There he sits, the scales [of judgment] in front of him, weighing deeds and rewards.” In Jewish traditions Enoch or Metatron holds the scales of justice; we therefore see that in Mandaean texts the equivalent figures of the Ancient of Days and the Enochic-Metatronic Son of Man are apparently merged into a unity.

Samuel Zinner, Vines of Joy: Comparative Studies in Mandaean History and Theology, page 74: 74 Incidentally, another commonality shared between the Ethiopic Book of Enoch and Mandaeaism is the common Mandaic term “elect righteous,” bhir zidqa (plural bhiria zidqa), paralleled in the Ethiopic term ḥeruy sadeq. While occurring predominantly throughout the Parables of Enoch, the configuration is found already in the very first verse of 1 Enoch.

Samuel Zinner, Vines of Joy: Comparative Studies in Mandaean History and Theology, page 76: 76 Lastly, the divine title “Lord of spirits,” ʾegzi’a manafest, found throughout the Parables of Enoch, may be paralleled in the Mandaean phrase maraihun d kulhun nishmata, “Lord of all souls,” found in Ginza Rba 2,2,20.

It is striking that a phrase which so often pops up in 1 Enoch, "righteous elect," also pops up in the Mandaic texts.

There are, of course, quite a few Mandaic parallels with Christianity, as well, including an intense focus on baptism, and even upon running water, as in a river, as the proper venue for baptism:

Kurt Rudolph, Gnosis: The Nature and History of Gnosticism, page 360: 360 The great importance which the Mandeans attribute to their cult practices shows their special character even more clearly. It is not “knowledge” alone that redeems but the cultic rites, primarily baptism and the “mass for the dead,” are necessary for salvation. From this it may be deduced that here the gnostic ideology was amalgamated with that of an older cultic community, a heretical Jewish baptismal sect as is suggested by the water rites, and that thus an original Mandean-Nasorean system came into existence, probably already in pre-Christian times. The central cultic rite is baptism or “immersion” (masbuta, pronounced maswetta) in flowing (“living”) water which is called “Jordan.” It can be administered in any river, but in practice it is confined to certain sites which are in the vicinity of the dwelling places of the Mandeans.

Didache 7.1-4: 1 But with respect to baptism, baptize as follows. Having said all these things in advance, baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (= Matthew 28.19), in living water [ἐν ὕδατι ζῶντι]. 2 But, if you do not have running water, baptize in some other water. And if you cannot baptize in cold water, use warm. 3 But if you have neither, pour water on the head three times in the name of Father and Son and Holy Spirit. 4 But both the one baptizing and the one being baptized should fast before the baptism, along with some others if they can. But command the one being baptized to fast one or two days in advance.

There also seems to be a mild similarity between Mandaean and early Christian rites on behalf of the dead:

Kurt Rudolph, Gnosis: The Nature and History of Gnosticism, page 362: 362 The second chief ceremony of the Mandeans is the mass for the dead, which is called “ascent” (masiqta, pronounced massechtha). It is celebrated at the death of a believer and serves the “ascent” of his soul into the realm of light. It, too, includes lustrations with “Jordan”, viz. river water, anointing with oil and crowning with the myrtle wreath. But the main ingredient is the recitations from the Left Ginza which begin on the third day after death when the soul is divorced from the body and are continued at fixed intervals until the end of the forty-five days’ journey of the soul.

1 Corinthians 15.29: 29 Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them?

But such rites for the dead may have been widespread. The Mandaean view that the soul is divorced from the body only on the third day after death, incidentally, certainly sounds familiar:

Descent of Inana: They shouted at her — it was the shout of heavy guilt. The afflicted woman was turned into a corpse. And the corpse was hung on a hook. After three days and three nights had passed, her minister Ninsubura carried out the instructions of her mistress.

Hosea 6.2: 2 “He will revive us after two days; He will raise us up on the third day, that we may live before Him.”

Midrash, Genesis Rabbah 100.7: Bar Kappara taught, “Until three days [after death] the soul keeps on returning to the grave, thinking that it will go back; but when it sees that the facial features have become disfigured, it departs and abandons it. Thus it says, ‘But his flesh grieves for him, and his soul mourns over him’ (= Job 14.22).”

Midrash, Leviticus Rabbah 18.1: For three days [after death] the soul hovers over the body, intending to reenter it, but as soon as it sees its appearance change, it departs, as it is written, “When his flesh that is on him is distorted, his soul will mourn over him” (= Job 14.22).

There may be a similarity between the way the Mandaeans appropriated early Jewish Christian motifs (Elizabeth, John the Baptist, Mary, Jesus) and the way Greek Christians appropriated early Jewish motifs (Nicodemus, perhaps, for example). Both religious groups, the Mandaeans in Iran and the Christians around the Mediterranean, traced their origins to Palestine, and thus were interested in filling in that back story using Palestinian traditions.

What I find to be especially intriguing is that, not only are there Mandaean parallels with Enochic Judaism, but there are elements of Christianity itself, especially in its Petrine and Gnostic forms, which are Enochic. I have already drawn attention to several connections between Petrine Christianity and Enochic Judaism elsewhere on this forum. As for Gnostic Christianity, just as both the Mandaeans and the Nasaraeans respected certain Patriarchs while not caring a fig about the Mosaic Law, so too the Nag Hammadi texts seem to like some of the figures from the primeval history — Adam, Seth, and Shem — while either ignoring or eschewing the Law. The Gnostic Christians essentially continued the trend of adding new revelation to the implicit canon. Entire hierarchies of archontic beings are spun out of revelatory discourses in the Nag Hammadi texts in ways similar to how various angelic beings are named and ranked in the Enochic texts. Gnostic Christianity added more modern figures to the ancient lists of figures to draw upon: Jesus, John the Baptist, Peter, Judas, and others now fill roles similar to those played by Adam, Seth, and so on. Most vividly, Gnostic Christianity tended either to demote or even to reject outright the Jewish deity, Yahweh; and so do the Mandaeans:

Kurt Rudolph, Gnosis: The Nature and History of Gnosticism, pages 363-364: 363-364 Up to the present day only one Mandean text has emerged which refers, but in a very confused manner, to the history of the sect. It is the “Diwan of the great Revelation, called ‘Inner Haran’” (“Haran Gawaita”). In the other writings there are occasionally allusions to the persecution of the community in Jerusalem by the Jews in the course of which the city was destroyed as a punishment; the reference is probably to A.D. 70. In the Haran Gawaita scroll the legend of John the Baptist as a Mandean prophet and “envoy of the king of light” is interpolated into these events. He appears here, and in other texts, as adversary of Christ. However, he is never described as founder of the community but only as a particularly great “disciple” or “priest” of the Mandean religion. The attempt has been made to deduce from this that we have here historical traditions of the disciples of the Baptist, but this cannot be proved up to now. It is more likely that the Mandeans took over legends of this kind from heretical Christian, possibly gnostic, circles and shaped them according to their ideas. In any case, the figure of John is not fundamental for them. The relations, which have already been mentioned, between the Mandean baptismal ceremony and the world of baptist sects in the east Jordan region at this time (1st century A.D.) are an entirely different matter. Numerous elements in vocabulary and tradition, moreover, demonstrate very clearly that, in spite of the fierce anti-Jewish polemic — the Jewish God Adonai (“my Lord”) is seen as a false god and Moses accordingly as prophet of Rūhā, the evil spirit — the Jewish origin of the community cannot be denied. We are, therefore, ultimately dealing with a heretical Jewish sect which, like other comparable groups of late Jewish religious history, stood in opposition to the official Judaism and was wide open to non-Jewish influences, above all Iranian and gnostic. Unfortunately, nothing can be ascertained about the probable social background. In the context of the Jewish wars of independence and the growing consolidation of Judaism after the destruction of Jerusalem (A.D. 70), its position in opposition evidently led to persecutions of the community and ultimately to its emigration from the Jordan territory — Jordan is today still the name of the baptismal waters — to the east. The Haran Gawaita scroll reports the flight of a large group of “Nasoreans” during the rule of a (Parthian) king Ardbān (Artabanus) from the Jewish rulers to the “inner Haran” territory or the “Median hill-country” (Tura deMadai). The reference is clearly to the penetration by the community, or part of it, of the north-west Iranian territory between Harran and Nisibis or Media during the period of the later Arsacids (1st or 2nd century A.D.). The same document attests immediately afterwards the foundation of a community in Baghdad, i.e. in Mesopotamia, and the appointment of Mandean governors in this region. The Sassanids brought this expansion to an end.

Adonai = Yahweh, who stands rejected as a false god. The impression I get is that the Mandaeans are sort of an eastern version of the western Gnostics. The former drew upon the Zoroastrian, Babylonian, and other cultural influences they encountered as they moved eastward, while the latter drew upon the Egyptian, Hellenistic, and Roman influences they encountered as they moved westward, as it were. And both groups rejected the god of the people to whom they trace their religious heritage.

This post is kind of a mishmash; there is a very real danger of forcing everything together in an unnatural way in order to make sense of a rather complicated picture. Relevant comments and corrections welcome. I am not in any way a scholar of Mandaeism.

Ben.
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Re: Nasaraeans, Mandaeans, Enochic Judaism, & Christianity.

Post by Secret Alias » Sat Sep 26, 2020 11:11 am

But how would the Jews be associated with the seven planets?
Mazel Tov!

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Doesn't get more Jewish than that! Genesis 1:14, "And God said, 'Let there be lights in the heavens to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark seasons, days, years and festivals'...the 4th day (of 7). The menorah's 7 lamps on 6 branches correspond to the lights of the 7 Classical planets: Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun (4th), Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn.
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
― Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, Don Quixote

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Re: Nasaraeans, Mandaeans, Enochic Judaism, & Christianity.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sat Sep 26, 2020 11:26 am

Secret Alias wrote:
Sat Sep 26, 2020 11:11 am
But how would the Jews be associated with the seven planets?
Mazel Tov!
Good one. Forgot about that:

Philo, Life of Moses 2.21.102-103: 102 The candlestick was placed on the southern side of the tabernacle, since by it the maker intimates, in a figurative manner, the motions of the stars which give light; for the sun, and the moon, and the rest of the stars, being all at a great distance from the northern parts of the universe, make all their revolutions in the south. And from this candlestick there proceeded six branches, three on each side, projecting from the candlestick in the center, so as altogether to complete the number of seven; 103 and in all the seven there were seven candles and seven lights, being symbols of those seven stars which are called planets by those men who are versed in natural philosophy; for the sun, like the candlestick, being placed in the middle of the other six, in the fourth rank, gives light to the three planets which are above him, and to those of equal number which are below him, adapting to circumstances the musical and truly divine instrument.

I listed the planets in the OP in the Ptolemaic order, outward from the Earth, and of course in that order the Sun resides in the middle.

ETA:

Clement of Alexandria, Miscellanies 5.6.34.4-5.6.35.2: 34.4 Again, there is the veil of the entrance into the holy of holies. Four pillars there are, the sign of the sacred tetrad of the ancient covenants. 5 Further, the mystic name of four letters which was affixed to those alone to whom the adytum was accessible, is called Iave [Ἰ<αουε>], which is interpreted, “Who is and shall be.” 6 The name of God, too, among the Greeks contains four letters. 7 Now the Lord, having come alone into the intellectual world, enters by His sufferings, introduced into the knowledge of the Ineffable, ascending above every name which is known by sound. 8 The lamp, too, was placed to the south of the altar of incense; and by it were shown the motions of the seven planets, that perform their revolutions towards the south. For three branches rose on either side of the lamp, and lights on them; since also the sun, like the lamp, set in the midst of all the planets, dispenses with a kind of divine music the light to those above and to those below. 35.1 The golden lamp conveys another enigma as a symbol of Christ, not in respect of form alone, but in his casting light, “at sundry times and various manners” (= Hebrews 1.1), on those who believe in Him and hope, and who see by means of the ministry of the firstborn. 2 And they say that the seven eyes of the Lord are the seven spirits resting on the rod that springs from the root of Jesse.

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Re: Nasaraeans, Mandaeans, Enochic Judaism, & Christianity.

Post by Secret Alias » Sat Sep 26, 2020 1:24 pm

It's the only one that matters. Hitting the jackpot. Like finding the clitoris when you're an 18 year old male.
“Finally, from so little sleeping and so much reading, his brain dried up and he went completely out of his mind.”
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Re: Nasaraeans, Mandaeans, Enochic Judaism, & Christianity.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Sat Sep 26, 2020 1:25 pm

It's the only one that matters. Like finding the clitoris when you're an 18 year old male.
What, you think the heavens themselves laid out on the veil of the temple mean nothing in this regard? I beg to differ.

ETA: A modest collection of biblical passages concerning astrological worship in Israel and in Judah:

Exodus 20.4: 4 “You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.”

Deuteronomy 5.8: 8 “‘You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth.’”

Deuteronomy 4.15-20: 15 “So watch yourselves carefully, since you did not see any form on the day the Lord spoke to you at Horeb from the midst of the fire, 16 so that you do not act corruptly and make a graven image for yourselves in the form of any figure, the likeness of male or female, 17 the likeness of any animal that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged bird that flies in the sky, 18 the likeness of anything that creeps on the ground, the likeness of any fish that is in the water below the earth, 19 and do not lift up your eyes to heaven and see the sun and the moon and the stars, all the host of heaven, and be drawn away and worship them and serve them, those which Yahweh your God has allotted to all the peoples under the whole heaven. 20 But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, from Egypt, to be a people for His own possession, as today.”

Deuteronomy 17.2-5: 2 “If there is found in your midst, in any of your towns, which the Lord your God is giving you, a man or a woman who does what is evil in the sight of the Lord your God, by transgressing His covenant, 3 and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the heavenly host, which I have not commanded, 4 and if it is told you and you have heard of it, then you shall inquire thoroughly. Behold, if it is true and the thing certain that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, 5 then you shall bring out that man or that woman who has done this evil deed to your gates, the man or the woman, and you shall stone them to death.”

2 Kings 17.6-19: 6 In the ninth year of Hoshea, the king of Assyria captured Samaria and carried Israel away into exile to Assyria, and settled them in Halah and Habor, on the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes. 7 Now this came about because the sons of Israel had sinned against Yahweh their God, who had brought them up from the land of Egypt from under the hand of Pharaoh, king of Egypt, and they had feared other gods 8 and walked in the customs of the nations whom Yahweh had driven out before the sons of Israel, and in the customs of the kings of Israel which they had introduced. 9 The sons of Israel did things secretly which were not right against Yahweh their God. Moreover, they built for themselves high places in all their towns, from watchtower to fortified city. 10 They set for themselves sacred pillars and Asherim on every high hill and under every green tree, 11 and there they burned incense on all the high places as the nations did which Yahweh had carried away to exile before them; and they did evil things provoking Yahweh. 12 They served idols, concerning which Yahweh had said to them, “You shall not do this thing.” 13 Yet Yahweh warned Israel and Judah through all His prophets and every seer, saying, “Turn from your evil ways and keep My commandments, My statutes according to all the law which I commanded your fathers, and which I sent to you through My servants the prophets.” 14 However, they did not listen, but stiffened their neck like their fathers, who did not believe in Yahweh their God. 15 They rejected His statutes and His covenant which He made with their fathers and His warnings with which He warned them. And they followed vanity and became vain, and went after the nations which surrounded them, concerning which Yahweh had commanded them not to do like them. 16 They forsook all the commandments of Yahweh their God and made for themselves molten images, even two calves, and made an Asherah and worshiped all the host of heaven and served Baal. 17 Then they made their sons and their daughters pass through the fire, and practiced divination and enchantments, and sold themselves to do evil in the sight of Yahweh, provoking Him. 18 So Yahweh was very angry with Israel and removed them from His sight; none was left except the tribe of Judah. 19 Also Judah did not keep the commandments of Yahweh their God, but walked in the customs which Israel had introduced.

2 Kings 21.1-9: 1 Manasseh was twelve years old when he became king, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem; and his mother’s name was Hephzibah. 2 He did evil in the sight of Yahweh, according to the abominations of the nations whom Yahweh dispossessed before the sons of Israel. 3 For he rebuilt the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he erected altars for Baal and made an Asherah, as Ahab king of Israel had done, and worshiped all the host of heaven and served them. 4 He built altars in the house of Yahweh, of which Yahweh had said, “In Jerusalem I will put My name.” 5 For he built altars for all the host of heaven in the two courts of the house of Yahweh. 6 He made his son pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and used divination, and dealt with mediums and spiritists. He did much evil in the sight of Yahweh provoking Him to anger. 7 Then he set the carved image of Asherah that he had made, in the house of which Yahweh said to David and to his son Solomon, “In this house and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen from all the tribes of Israel, I will put My name forever. 8 And I will not make the feet of Israel wander anymore from the land which I gave their fathers, if only they will observe to do according to all that I have commanded them, and according to all the law that My servant Moses commanded them.” 9 But they did not listen, and Manasseh seduced them to do evil more than the nations whom Yahweh destroyed before the sons of Israel.

2 Kings 23.4-5, 11-12: 4 Then the king commanded Hilkiah the high priest and the priests of the second order and the doorkeepers to bring out of the temple of the Lord all the vessels that were made for Baal, for Asherah, and for all the host of heaven; and he burned them outside Jerusalem in the fields of the Kidron, and carried their ashes to Bethel. 5 He did away with the idolatrous priests whom the kings of Judah had appointed to burn incense in the high places in the cities of Judah and in the surrounding area of Jerusalem, also those who burned incense to Baal, to the sun and to the moon and to the constellations and to all the host of heaven. .... 11 He did away with the horses which the kings of Judah had given to the sun, at the entrance of the house of Yahweh, by the chamber of Nathan-Melech the official, which was in the precincts; and he burned the chariots of the sun with fire. 12 The altars which were on the roof, the upper chamber of Ahaz, which the kings of Judah had made, and the altars which Manasseh had made in the two courts of the house of the Lord, the king broke down; and he smashed them there and threw their dust into the brook Kidron.

Job 31.26-27: 26 If I have looked at the sun when it shone or the moon going in splendor, 27 and my heart became secretly enticed, and my hand threw a kiss from my mouth, 28 that too would have been an iniquity of judgment, for I would have denied God above.

Jeremiah 7.17-18: 17 Do you not see what they are doing in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 18 The children gather wood, and the fathers kindle the fire, and the women knead dough to make cakes for the Queen of Heaven; and they pour out drink offerings to other gods in order to spite Me.

Jeremiah 8.1-3: “At that time,” declares Yahweh, “they will bring out the bones of the kings of Judah and the bones of its princes, and the bones of the priests and the bones of the prophets, and the bones of the inhabitants of Jerusalem from their graves. 2 They will spread them out to the sun, the moon and to all the host of heaven, which they have loved and which they have served, and which they have gone after and which they have sought, and which they have worshiped. They will not be gathered or buried; they will be as dung on the face of the ground. 3 And death will be chosen rather than life by all the remnant that remains of this evil family, that remains in all the places to which I have driven them,” declares Yahweh of hosts.

Jeremiah 19.10-13: 10 “Then you are to break the jar in the sight of the men who accompany you 11 and say to them, ‘Thus says Yahweh of hosts, “Just so will I break this people and this city, even as one breaks a potter’s vessel, which cannot again be repaired; and they will bury in Topheth because there is no other place for burial. 12 This is how I will treat this place and its inhabitants,” declares the Lord, “so as to make this city like Topheth. 13 The houses of Jerusalem and the houses of the kings of Judah will be defiled like the place Topheth, because of all the houses on whose rooftops they burned sacrifices to all the heavenly host and poured out drink offerings to other gods.”’”

Jeremiah 44.15-19: 15 Then all the men who were aware that their wives were burning sacrifices to other gods, along with all the women who were standing by, as a large assembly, including all the people who were living in Pathros in the land of Egypt, responded to Jeremiah, saying, 16 “As for the message that you have spoken to us in the name of Yahweh, we are not going to listen to you! 17 But rather we will certainly carry out every word that has proceeded from our mouths, by burning sacrifices to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, just as we ourselves, our forefathers, our kings and our princes did in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem; for then we had plenty of food and were well off and saw no misfortune. 18 But since we stopped burning sacrifices to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have lacked everything and have met our end by the sword and by famine.” 19 “And,” said the women, “when we were burning sacrifices to the Queen of Heaven and were pouring out drink offerings to her, was it without our husbands that we made for her sacrificial cakes in her image and poured out drink offerings to her?”

Ezekiel 8.16-18: 16 Then He brought me into the inner court of Yahweh’s house. And behold, at the entrance to the temple of Yahweh, between the porch and the altar, were about twenty-five men with their backs to the temple of Yahweh and their faces toward the east; and they were prostrating themselves eastward toward the sun. 17 He said to me, “Do you see this, son of man? Is it too light a thing for the house of Judah to commit the abominations which they have committed here, that they have filled the land with violence and provoked Me repeatedly? For behold, they are putting the twig to their nose. 18 Therefore, I indeed will deal in wrath. My eye will have no pity nor will I spare; and though they cry in My ears with a loud voice, yet I will not listen to them.”

Amos 5.25-27: 25 “Did you present Me with sacrifices and grain offerings in the wilderness for forty years, O house of Israel? 26 You also carried along Sikkuth your king and Kiyyun, your images, the star of your gods which you made for yourselves. 27 Therefore, I will make you go into exile beyond Damascus,” says Yahweh, whose name is the God of hosts.

Zephaniah 1.1-: 1 The word of the Lord which came to Zephaniah son of Cushi, son of Gedaliah, son of Amariah, son of Hezekiah, in the days of Josiah son of Amon, king of Judah: 2 “I will completely remove all things from the face of the earth,” declares Yahweh. 3 “I will remove man and beast; I will remove the birds of the sky and the fish of the sea, and the ruins along with the wicked; and I will cut off man from the face of the earth,” declares Yahweh. 4 “So I will stretch out My hand against Judah and against all the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And I will cut off the remnant of Baal from this place, and the names of the idolatrous priests along with the priests, 5 and those who bow down on the housetops to the host of heaven, and those who bow down and swear to the Lord and yet swear by Milcom, 6 and those who have turned back from following the Lord, and those who have not sought the Lord or inquired of Him.”

Wisdom of Solomon 13.1-2: 1 For all people who were ignorant of God were foolish by nature; and they were unable from the good things that are seen to know the one who exists, nor did they recognize the artisan while paying heed to his works; 2 but they supposed that either fire or wind or swift air, or the circle of the stars, or turbulent water, or the luminaries of heaven were the gods that rule the world.

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Re: Nasaraeans, Mandaeans, Enochic Judaism, & Christianity.

Post by mlinssen » Mon Oct 05, 2020 10:14 am

I have another, and a quite interesting one. On Nazarene versus Nazoraios

Gospel of Philip 51

The interlinear of the late Dr. Paterson Brown, your mobile won't support the Coptic font I'm afraid, but perhaps your laptop will

https://www.freelyreceive.net/metalogos ... ph051.html

The apostles who were before us had these names for him: "Jesus, the Nazorean, Messiah", that is, "Jesus, the Nazorean, the Christ". The last name is "Christ", the first is "Jesus", that in the middle is "the Nazarene". "Messiah" has two meanings, both "the Christ" and "the measured". "Jesus" in Hebrew is "the redemption". "Nazara" is "the Truth". "The Nazarene" then, is "the Truth". "Christ" [...] has been measured. "The Nazarene" and "Jesus" are they who have been measured.


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Re: Nasaraeans, Mandaeans, Enochic Judaism, & Christianity.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Mon Oct 05, 2020 10:43 am

mlinssen wrote:
Mon Oct 05, 2020 10:14 am
I have another, and a quite interesting one. On Nazarene versus Nazoraios

Gospel of Philip 51

The interlinear of the late Dr. Paterson Brown, your mobile won't support the Coptic font I'm afraid, but perhaps your laptop will

https://www.freelyreceive.net/metalogos ... ph051.html

The apostles who were before us had these names for him: "Jesus, the Nazorean, Messiah", that is, "Jesus, the Nazorean, the Christ". The last name is "Christ", the first is "Jesus", that in the middle is "the Nazarene". "Messiah" has two meanings, both "the Christ" and "the measured". "Jesus" in Hebrew is "the redemption". "Nazara" is "the Truth". "The Nazarene" then, is "the Truth". "Christ" [...] has been measured. "The Nazarene" and "Jesus" are they who have been measured.

From my notes:

Gospel of Philip 20 apud NH codex 2, page 104, lines 3b-13a: 20 “Jesus” is a hidden name; “Christ” is a revealed name. For this reason “Jesus” is not particular to any language; rather he is always called by the name “Jesus,” while, as for “Christ”, in Syriac it is “Messiah,” in Greek “Christ.” Certainly all the others have it according to their own language. “The Nazarene” is he who reveals what is hidden.

Gospel of Philip 27-28 apud NH codex 2, page 105, lines 24-28a: 27 The visible by the visible, the hidden by the hidden. There are some things hidden through those visible. 28 There is water in water, there is fire in chrism.

Gospel of Philip 51 apud NH codex 2, page 110, lines 6b-17a: 51 The apostles who were before us had these names for him: “Jesus, the Nazorean, Messiah,” that is, “Jesus, the Nazorean, the Christ.” The last name is “Christ,” the first is “Jesus,” that in the middle is “the Nazarene.” “Messiah” has two meanings, both “the Christ” and “the measured.” “Jesus” in Hebrew is “the redemption.” “Nazara” is “the truth.” “The Nazarene,” then, is “the truth.” “Christ” [...] has been measured. “The Nazarene” and “Jesus” are they who have been measured.

Gospel of Philip 57 apud NH codex 2, page 110, lines 21b-24a: 57 The eucharist is Jesus. For he is called in Syriac “Pharisatha,” which is “the one who is spread out,” for Jesus came to crucify the world.

The meaning of "Nazarene" in saying 20 makes some sense, if we are relating the term to the Hebrew naṣar, which can mean to hide, guard, or keep secret. The meaning of "Nazara" and "Nazarene" in saying 51, however, makes no sense, at least not directly, so far as I have been able to determine.

"Christ" being a revealed name makes sense; like other titles, including Augustus (Greek Σεβαστός), it was a term which would normally be translated into other languages. And "Jesus" being a hidden name makes sense, as well; it is not usually translated, but rather, like personal names, is transliterated.
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Re: Nasaraeans, Mandaeans, Enochic Judaism, & Christianity.

Post by mlinssen » Mon Oct 05, 2020 11:53 am

Thanks. The funny thing is that there's nothing in the Septuagint on this, all we have is the "naziyr" of the Hebrew Numbers 6:2

And the hilarious thing is that the Coptic Philip here really seems to be pointing straight to the Greek of both Mark and Matthew...

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Re: Nasaraeans, et al.

Post by billd89 » Mon Oct 05, 2020 12:45 pm

Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sat Sep 26, 2020 7:43 am
There seems to have been a strain of Judaism, practiced in the Temple, which revered the seven planets, the heavens, and other astronomical entities. Memory of this strain has been repressed in the Jewish scriptures, relegated to descriptions of heretical moments in Israelite history.
Temple or Synagogue? Astrological Judaism - and other 'black arts' - (painting images, etc.) existed at the margins, most esp. in heterodox communities of 'Chaldean Jews' and urbane travelers. Such deviances were repressed as heretical only when it disturbed the Jewish authorities, and when they had the power to do so. Why presume they always and everywhere could (and needed to) 'ferret out witches', as Americans would say? I'd assume the opposite.

From Philo, its clear that all manner of heretical and unorthodox Judaisms came to Alexandria c.25 AD. Synagogues of all stripe must have largely co-existed but definitely competed. So 'quasi-Jewish' communities around the Mediterranean must have birthed all kinds of queer ideas into the marketplace of the teeming Cosmopolis over the centuries.

I suspect that 1st C. AD 'Melchizedekians' in Alexandria were another such relic community: 'Egyptian Hebrews' descended from military fraternities of original Jews (mercenaries: 4th - 2nd C. BC), morphed into an agglomeration of dissident/unorthodox 'Jewish' multiracials & (gentile) proselytes.They went forth to preach in what must have been a dizzying variety of far-flung synagogues, with localized versions of an older & necessarily varied Melchizedek mythos (where that was tolerated). Well, that's my hunch, anyway ...

Obviously it's a vain mistake and utter folly to look for 'one true origin' or a 'pure' anything, culturally-speaking.

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Re: Nasaraeans, et al.

Post by Ben C. Smith » Mon Oct 05, 2020 12:52 pm

billd89 wrote:
Mon Oct 05, 2020 12:45 pm
Ben C. Smith wrote:
Sat Sep 26, 2020 7:43 am
There seems to have been a strain of Judaism, practiced in the Temple, which revered the seven planets, the heavens, and other astronomical entities. Memory of this strain has been repressed in the Jewish scriptures, relegated to descriptions of heretical moments in Israelite history.
Temple or Synagogue?
Temple. And also on rooftops.
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