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Pentadic Redaction in the Manichaean Kephalaia.
Leiden-Boston: Brill 2009. XI, 242 S. gr.8° = Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies, 66. Geb. EUR 105,00. ISBN 978-90-04-17436-8.
This book by Timothy Pettipiece consists of part I, a rather slender study of 91 pages which gives the book its title, part II (97–222) containing selected chapters from the Kephalaia to which reference is made in the first part and an appendix with a translation of Theodore Bar Khonai’s résumé of the Manichaean myth (223–229). A bibliography and indices round off the book which derives from a doctoral thesis.
Two questions that pose themselves immediately concern the inclusion of the latter half of the book. Why include translations of selected chapters of the Kephalaia given that I. Gardner published a complete translation in 1995? P. gives no reason for covering this ground again except to say on p. 95 (where Gardner’s work is not mentioned) that he has made every effort to include as yet unpublished Addenda and corrigenda by W.-P. Funk which are duly indicated in the footnotes on nearly every page, sometimes with multiple corrections to a page. A comparison of the translations reveals many differences in style and in the understanding of Coptic complex sentences, giving the reader a second take on these texts. Generally, P. uses a more familiar Manichaean terminology than Gardner, e. g. the Third Messenger vs. Gardner’s Third Ambassador etc. The translation is presented within the framework of the page and line numbers of the original, which in some cases puts the translation into a straight-jacket but allows precise cross-referencing. Theodore Bar Khonai’s text (unfortunately only the main text and not his revealing »biography« of Mani) is also presented with the page and line references of the main edition, though this leads to some quite contorted English. Surprisingly, in the main text no use is made of this referencing system. Any reference there to Theodore Bar Khonai is general, forcing the reader to find the relevant passage by himself. Terms that have become personal names are sometimes translated with the article »the« and sometimes not: 313.28 »the First Man«; 314.4 »First Man«; 314.13 »the First Man«.
P.’s thesis is that a patterning has been introduced by editors or compilers into the material contained in the Coptic Kephalaia. In this patterning the number five plays a prominent role. Since the material claims to be an accurate account of conversations Mani held with his disciples this has clear consequences for the authenticity and dating of the text. P. is in particular interested in showing that this patterning is clear evidence for developments and a redactional reworking in the Kephalaia which therefore »should not be seen as a record of the ipsissima verba of Mani himself, nor should it be viewed as a summa of Manichaean theology« (8). He sees the redaction as a reaction to »external pressures such as persecution and martyrdom as well as internal pressures of group solidarity, doctrinal cohesion, and missionary expansion« (11). He identifies »two socio-cultural settings: late 3rd century CE Mesopotamia and late 3rd–4th century CE Egypt« (13). He sees a misunderstanding amongst scholars »that Mani’s own teaching was highly systematized and unambiguous« (13), certainly a point that needs to be discussed. He suggests that evidence for Mani’s own use of pentadic series is meagre and that Mani may have favoured a triadic structure instead (18). In the chapters one (»Basic Ontological Patterning«), two (»Theological Patterning I: Light-Realm«) and three (»Theological Patterning II: Dark-Realm«) P. gives examples of pentadic structuring. As he concedes that Mani may have picked up a pentadic scheme from Greek philosophy for the five elements of the light-soul (35), his insistence on »other derivations« (36) here is not convincing. More impressive is the expansion of three series of emanations, attested in Theodore Bar Khonai, to five in the Kephalaia (43). Similarly, Mani’s seven books are pressed into five (45) by making three writings one. He also demonstrates the consistently five-fold nature of the dark realm.
Where P. struggles is when he tries to find a basis for this development. He suggests on p. 62 that the patterning took place as Manichaeism moved from Mesopotamia to Egypt. He is inclined to identify Mar Adda »the primary Manichean missionary to the west« as the author of the Kephalaia. On the other hand, he turns to An-Nadim (10th c.) to provide a date for certain phenomena (37 n. 54), even when the Iranian material provides clearer answers.
The whole issue of the origin of pentadic structures cannot be resolved just by looking at the Coptic material in isolation. If Mar Adda is the author of the more developed Kephalaia with its pentadic structure then this would be a feature of Coptic texts only, since there is no evidence for Coptic influence on Iranian Manichaean texts (or lost Aramaic texts that were subsequently translated into Middle Persian and Parthian). An instructive example for pentadic structure in Iranian texts is to be found in the Parthian fragment M 6032 published by W. Sundermann in his Mitteliranische manichäische Texte kirchengeschichtlichen Inhalts, Berlin 1981 (Berliner Turfantexte XI) as text 13.1 on pp. 112–115. Sundermann points out that the Parthian text agrees closely with Kephalaia chapter 102 and that this was already recognized by Henning, Boyce, and, with a few specific details by Böhlig, Gnosis III, 1980, 338 n. 95. Böhlig’s work is not listed in P.’s bibliography. Sundermann’s 1981 book is listed but, surprisingly, no other book or article by W. Sundermann, the untiring editor and interpreter of the Iranian Manichaean fragments in the Berlin Turfan Collection, is present in the bibliography. If nothing else, his 1992 article »Iranische Kephalaiatexte?« would have been an obvious choice, posing as it does the pertinent question whether there are Kephalaia texts in the Iranian material and giving a positive answer. P. does not include chapter 102 in his selected translations from the Kephalaia. The topic of this chapter is foreknowledge and why the Light-Nous does not give foreknowledge to the saints just as to the Apostle (= Mani). The answer in the Coptic version is given in five sections, of which the first one is not numbered. The reasons Mani gives are: 1, the electi would not be able to cope with it; 2, they would be disgusted with each others’ thoughts if they knew them; 3, they would know each others’ evil thoughts about themselves and fight; 4, they would know their life-spans …; 5, like magicians, they would use this knowledge to make money. This quite unflattering view not just of human nature but also of the perhaps surprisingly all too human nature of the electi would seem to fit the pentadic scheme very well and might be regarded as a constructed group of five points of which perhaps only points one and two might have belonged to the original text. But the Parthian text M 6032 shows that this was not so, at least not for it. The text is damaged at the beginning but is on the whole well preserved. It clearly contains five sections, each (including the first one) labelled as such with numerical adverbs. Here the reasons are: 1, the electi would abandon the apostle; 2, they would become arrogant; 3, they would despise each other if they knew each others’ thoughts; 4, is damaged but seems to say they would not be able to cope with it; 5, they would become magicians and turn to the material world. A comparison of the two texts shows some difference in sequence. The Parthian text does not give a reason for the first point, that having foreknowledge would cause the electi to abandon the apostle (presumably they would now simply know everything he knows) but this seems more pertinent and pressing than the first point in the Coptic version, that they would not be able to cope with it, apparently relegated to point 4 in the Parthian version. Here we have the material that shows that Mar Adda cannot have been the only source of pentadic patterns in the Kephalaia. The questions these parallel texts pose are indeed interesting. Is the Parthian text a translation of an Aramaic original? Presumably yes. Was this translation done during Mani’s lifetime or later, when the text had undergone restructuring? Was the same Aramaic text the direct or indirect basis of the Coptic text? Generally, we can assume that Parthian texts were translated and adapted in the latter decades of the 3 rd and during the 4th centuries. Since the Coptic texts also date from before the 5th c. we thus have two traditions closely connected to the first century of Manichaeism but of course, as P. argues, not necessarily during Mani’s lifetime. And we can pose the question if this text actually did undergo restructuring or had the five-point answer at its inception, whenever that was. It should be clear that, though An-Nadim’s 10th c. account is indeed very valuable he is not really a source of Manichaean literature as such and therefore there is in fact no need to try to answer questions about Manichaean literature on that basis alone or even in tandem with Theodore Bar Khonai’s account. Indeed, the time should have passed when topics about Manichaeism as such are studied on the basis of one group of sources in isolation.
Likewise the very structured Parthian homilies, the Sermon on the Light-Nous and the Sermon on the Soul, both edited with extensive and valuable commentaries by W. Sundermann, provide a wealth of evidence for various kinds of structuring, including pentadic, and beg the question about the date of this type of text which in part resembles the schematic sections of the Kephalaia and in part even recalls the doctrinal lists used by Buddhists. By the way, the dark realm is consistently and extensively five-fold in the Sermon on the Light-Nous, too.
In short, P. has raised interesting questions and pointed the way to some answers but has by no means exhausted this important subject.