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Jewish Lore in Manichaean Cosmogony

Jewish Lore in Manichaean Cosmogony: Studies in the Book of Giants Traditions

Volume: 14
Copyright Date: 1992
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 272
Stable URL:
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  • Book Info
    Jewish Lore in Manichaean Cosmogony
    Book Description:

    A work entitled the “Book of Giants" figures in every list of the Manichaean “canon" preserved from antiquity. Both the nature of this work and the intellectual baggage of the third-century Persian prophet to whom it is ascribed remained unknown to scholars until 1943, when fragments of several Middle Iranian versions of the Book of Giants were published by W. B. Henning. Twenty-eight years later, at Qumran, J. T. Milik discovered several copies of a fragmentary Aramaic work which is unquestionably the precursor of the later Manichaean recension. One other important work, Mani’s “autobiography," the so-called Cologne Mani Codex, was brought to scholarly attention in 1970 with evidence that Mani spent his youth among the Elchasaites, a Judeo-Christian sect that observed the Sabbath, strict dietary laws, and rigorous purification practices. Although leading Orientalists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have consistently stressed the Iranian component in Mani’s thought, Reeves argues, in the light of evidence drawn from the above-mentioned discoveries and from a rich panorama of other textual sources, that the fundamental structure of Manichaean cosmogony is ultimately indebted to Jewish exegetical expansions of Genesis 6:1-4. Reeves begins with an examination of the ancient testimonies about the contents of Mani’s Book of Giants. Then, using documents from Second Temple Judaism, classical Gnostic literature, Christian and Muslim heresiological reports, Syriac texts, and Manichaean writings, he provides a detailed analysis of both the Qumran and Manichaean rescensions of the work, demonstrating additional interdependencies and suggesting new narrative arrangements. He addresses a series of quotations from an unnamed Manichaean source found in a paschal homily of the sixth-century Monophysite patriarch Severus of Antioch and a narrative from Thoeodore bar Konai. In sum, Reeves demonstrates that the motifs of Jewish Enochic literature, in particular those of the story of the Watchers and Giants, form the skeletal structure of Mani’s cosmological teachings, and that Chapters 1 to 11 of Genesis fertilized Near Eastern thought, even to the borders of India and China.

    eISBN: 978-0-87820-131-0
    Subjects: Religion
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface and Acknowledgments (pp. vii-viii)
    John C. Reeves
  4. Frequently Cited Abbreviations (pp. ix-xii)
  5. Introduction (pp. 1-8)

    Mani belongs to a select group of personalities who share the distinction of having founded a new religion. The “conscious syncretism”¹ of the resultant religion termed Manichaeism is sometimes remarked. Manichaean literature often invokes the names of select biblical patriarchs, Zoroaster, Jesus, and the Buddha as exemplars of and historical testimony to a chain of authoritative witness² that culminates in the appearance of Mani as the “apostle of Light”³ and the “seal of the prophets.”⁴ Scholars have labored throughout the past two centuries to uncover the historical and cultural presuppositions that allowed Mani to weave such diverse traditional lore into...

  6. Chapter One A Manichaean Book of Giants? (pp. 9-50)

    There are preserved for us, both within Manichaean literature and in the writings of the Manichaeans’ opponents, the titles of works purportedly authored by Mani which were subsequently accorded “canonical” status by his church. Both groups of traditions (that is, internal and antithetical) are remarkably uniform in their accounts of the composition of this canon, despite the diverse chronological and geographical settings of these reports. Such correspondence of detail often extends even to the very order in which the books are listed, giving rise to suspicion that tradition also authorized the sequence in which these works were transmitted. External tradition...

  7. Chapter Two The Qumran Fragments of the Book of Giants (pp. 51-164)

    At least six separate copies of the Aramaic Book of Giants have been identified by J.T. Milik among the Qumran literary remains. These six arc 1Q23, 6Q8, 4QEnGia, 4QEnGib, 4QEnGic, and an unpublished manuscript, 4QEnGie, in the possession of J. Starcky.¹ The fragments of 1Q23 had been previously published by Milik in the first volume of theDiscoveries in the Judaean Desert(=DJD) series as one of “deux apocryphes en araméen.”² Similarly, 6Q8 had been edited by M. Baillet inDJDIII and assigned to the Genesis Apocryphon (1QapGen).³ After incorporating some new readings of doubtful letters, Milik reproduced...

  8. Chapter Three Severus of Antioch and the Book of Giants (pp. 165-184)

    Another possible witness to the original contents of the Manichaean Book of Giants is provided within a sixth-century homily authored by Severus of Antioch. Severus, who served as Patriarch of Antioch from 512 to 518, was a leader of the Monophysite movement¹ in eastern Christianity, an affiliation which led to the condemnation of his writings by a Byzantine synod in 536.² As a result of this censure, his homilies no longer survive in their original Greek form, but they were preserved among the Monophysites by two Syriac translators.³

    Important for our present purpose is his 123rd homily,⁴ a treatise which,...

  9. Chapter Four Manichaean Cosmogony and Jewish Traditions (pp. 185-206)

    We have seen from the foregoing analysis of the Qumran Book of Giants the close relationship that these fragments have with the parallel narratives about the descent of the Watchers and birth of the Giants in both Jewish and Jewish-Christian literature. We have also had occasion to notice the correspondences that exist between the Qumran and Manichaean recensions of that work. Mani’s dependence upon a text like that of the Qumran Book of Giants for his own canonical production is clearly evident.¹ There are, however, further indications that the Jewish legend about the coming of the Watchers and the deeds...

  10. Chapter Five Conclusions (pp. 207-210)

    Did Jewish traditions exert a determinative influence upon the formulation of Mani’s cosmogonical system? Our preceding investigation points toward an affirmative response. Mani made the Enochic legend of the Watchers and the Giants a cornerstone of his theological speculations. He seems to have utilized this Jewish story in two ways. First, it serves as the major structural element in Mani’s exposition of the events which led to the creation of the physical cosmos, and as such, remains a paradigm for Mani’s subsequent depictions of the hostile intercourse between the realms of Light and Darkness. Secondly, the Book of Giants survives...

  11. Bibliography (pp. 211-238)
  12. Indices