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He was not the only-begotten son of God, the divine sacrifice for the sake of mankind, the only revealer of the gospel of truth. Some of these pieces of information are of considerable importance, e.g., the chronology of Mani’s birth and vocations and a survey of his missionary activities under King Šābuhr I (Polotsky and Böhlig, 1940, pp. The Chinese , composed (rather than just translated) in 731 by *Mihr-Ohrmezd (Haloun and Henning, 1952, p.
His position (although not his lifestyle and biography) can be compared, rather, with that of Moḥammad in Islam. 188), contains a highly legendary Mani vita (Haloun and Henning, 1952, pp.
950, 951-52), which certainly implies supernatural healing power. Its mythical part is a postmortem event, the glorious ascension of the prophet to the Realm of Light according to the eyewitness report of Uzzī (Sundermann, 1986a, p. The completion and endurance of the essentials of his religious system from the very outset and through the centuries are all the more remarkable as, on the other hand, Mani was, to put it in Henning’s words, “always lavish with details. Much more than a logically trained, systematic thinker, Mani was a fanciful artist hounded by ever-new ideas and inspirations. That was so because Mani regarded his religion as the real, unadulterated essence of what, for their time and for their land, Zoroaster, the Buddha, Jesus Christ, and also the prophets of the Old Testament before Abraham had once preached, and what had later been misunderstood or misrepresented by their disciples (Polotsky, 1935, pp. Mani himself was the first to introduce this practice.
Mani, the “Doctor from Babel,” claimed not only to cure the spiritual ailments of mankind but also their bodily diseases (it is certainly an exaggeration to explain Mani’s claim to medical competence as nothing but a metaphorical image for his soul-saving work, as Oerter, 1985, pp. This may have been achieved partly by natural means, and Mani might have obtained genuine medical instruction, but he also claimed to have cured many servants of King Wahrām I “who were on the point of death” (Henning, 1942, pp. It is not impossible, however, that the chronology of Mani’s passion from his arrest in Bēlābād to the day of his death is based on the timetable of a pre-Manichean, Mesopotamian ritual calendar, as it was still practiced in Islamic times among the pagan Ḥarrānians (Sundermann, 1988, pp. Henning uncovered the traces of this dodecadic system and underlined its legendary character; its “figures are no more than approximate values at best” (Henning, 1957, p. When Mani broke with the Elkhasaite community of his childhood and began to propagate his own gospel, on the one hand he had obviously thought out a completely developed, complicated theological and cosmological doctrine, the rules of a system of distinct morals for the perfect and the lay people respectively, clear ideas about the organization of his followers in a hierarchically structured church, and a concept of how to missionize mankind in an effective way. But, on the other hand, Mani’s new doctrine could also claim to be a kind of rectifying and perfecting reform of almost all existing religions. The important consequence for the missionary work was that the Manichean propaganda could outwardly adapt itself to the terms and concepts of other religions to the point of sheer mimicry. But he did win his favor to such a degree that he was authorized to propagate the new faith in the Iranian empire (Sundermann, 1986a, p.
Less informative and even maliciously misleading are Christian sources on Mani’s life—first of all the of Hegemonius (ed. Vermes, 2001; see ARCHELAUS), composed between 330 and 348, and subsequently the works of many other authors who drew on this artful anti-legend (cf.
Yet the are not entirely devoid of merit as a historical source, because it reflects genuine Manichean traditions in its own distorting way (Puech, 1949, pp.
in Mardinu (southern Mesopotamia); he received his revelation in 539 Sel. Mani was killed under Wahrām I, and his followers were persecuted. Nuḥ, however, Mani fell into disfavor because of a failed attempt to cure one of the king’s relatives.
Therefore, the most likely solution seems to be to start from a hypocoristic proper name This misfortune is not the only reason for the almost complete oblivion the work has suffered. Mani was given visions revealing the fate of deceased persons (Sundermann, 1986a, p. Not even Mani’s failure to cure a relative of the king and its fatal consequences are withheld (Biruni, following Jabrāʾil b. One saving quality is Mani’s consciousness of his shortcomings: to make his cosmologic views clear he published a volume of drawings and paintings,” etc. Mani devoted more than thirty years of his life, from 240 to 274 or 277, to the propagation of his new religion and the establishment and consolidation of his church.
His canonical works were, with the exception of the I, fasc. The last part of Mani’s life, his passion and death, is the best documented and least miraculously elevated one. Unfortunately he frequently failed to notice that the details he produced on the spur of the moment did not square with his teachings of the day before. Minute circumstances are absurdly elaborated, but the whole is utter confusion. He gave his theology and cosmology a seemingly Zoroastrian appearance, so much so that even modern scholars were misled into assuming a Zoroastrian “” of Mani’s doctrine (on this problem and its convincing solution, see Schaeder, 1927). 52.1-2, 85), and the conversion of an anonymous king and his princes “far from [Seleucia–Ctesiphon]” (i.e., the Tūrān-šāh?
In any case, the historicity of Mani as a human being has obviously never been challenged. : early missionary work in his paternal community, permanently supported by his Twin Spirit (on which, see below); journeys in Mesopotamia (Sundermann, 1981, pp.
SOURCES ON THE LIFE OF MANI A survey of the sources, both Manichean and non-Manichean, with summaries, is given in Sundermann (1986a, pp.