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Mirecki, Paul, u. Jason BeDuhn [Ed.]


Emerging from Darkness. Studies in the Recovery of Manichaean Sources.


Leiden-New York-Köln: Brill 1997. X, 294 S., 10 Taf. gr. 8o = Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies, 43. geb. hfl. 186,-. ISBN 90-04-10760-6.


Howard M. Jackson

This volume is the first in what is planned to be a series of volumes publishing papers originally presented at the annual meeting of the Society of Biblical Literature by members of the Manichaean Studies Group, established in 1995 by the volume’s editors. The series of volumes is proposed each to have a particular thematic focus, and this volume, appropriately enough for the flagship of the series, collects eight essays that for the most part adhere to parameters defined by its subtitle: the recovery of diverse source material relevant for the study of Manichaeism. Two of the essays concern the recent discovery of documents which attest to the existence of a Manichaean community in the late Roman village of Kellis in Egypt; others have for their subjects the Latin Tebessa Codex, the Turkic Manichaean literature, the Coptic Kephalaia Manichaean art, and Manichaean citations in Ephrem Syrus. The final essay, by Hans-Martin Schenke, offers "Marginal Notes on Manichaeism by an Outsider".

Of the two essays on the Kellis finds, Iain Gardner, to whom modern Manichaean studies owes so much and from whose capable hands, in collaboration with others’, critical editions of the Kellis texts are forthcoming, furnishes an up-to-date progress report. The report includes, firstly, a list and brief description of all Manichaean and other literary texts produced or used by the Kellis Manichaean community that have been discovered so far. There follows a section on the documentary texts from the site, most of them personal letters. The concluding section discusses the distinctive Manichaean terminology evident in some of these letters and includes provisional translations of portions of some of them.

"Magical Spell, Manichaean Letter," the second essay on the Kellis finds and the opening essay of the volume, offers, with contributions from Paul Mirecki, Iain Gardner, and Anthony Alcock, a provisional edition of one of these letters (P. Kell. Copt. 35), with photographs (plates 1 and 2), a lengthy introduction, a translation, and commentary. The letter is addressed by a certain Vales to his "master" and "brother" Pshai, both Manichaeans, the purpose of the letter being to supply to its recipient a spell which the latter had on previous occasion requested.

A personal section follows the spell, in which Vales describes the circumstances of his transmission of the spell and makes a request of Pshai in return. The attestation of interest in (if not actual use of) spells in a Manichaean context - all the more in this case, a separation spell designed to create discord between a man and a woman - is interesting given Mani’s explicit injunction against the use of magic, though as Iain Gardner points out in his commentary (30) villagers in a late Roman Egyptian setting may not have seen any contradiction. The personal section that follows the spell is fraught with hermeneutical difficulties, caused in part by problematic translation (e. g., in 3/15-18), that will no doubt be clarified with further study.

Jason BeDuhn and Geoffrey Harrison offer a new critical edition of the very fragmentary Tebessa Codex, with an introduction, translation, and commentary. For the text itself it is fair to say that not much improvement is to be achieved over earlier editions. BeDuhn and Harrison adhere closely to Reinhold Merkelbach’s edition (1988), deviating from it "only in the interest producing a more intelligible translation" (39). These deviations are often a matter of adopting readings or supplements suggested long ago by Alfaric but refused by a more exacting and cautious Merkelbach. Others, however, are supplements or corrections from BeDuhn or Harrison themselves, the most important and convincing of which are based upon their detailed analysis of NT citation or allusion in the document. Indeed, it is this aspect of BeDuhn and Harrison’s work that is its most valuable contribution: the NT citations that accompany the critical apparatus, the commentary, and the concluding sections on "Scriptural Exegesis in the Tebessa Codex" and on "Points of Contact with Christian Patristic Literature" shed important new light on the document’s exegetical method, structure and content. As far as the translation offered is concerned, it can be improved at points - for instance at col. 32.14-15 quid igitu[r] et quia hic should be rendered with something closer to "What (is to be said) then? since here too ..." (compare, e. g., 41.5). Moreover, BeDuhn and Harrison’s objective to achieve a more intelligible translation is severely hampered by their infelicitous decision to match the lines of the codex as closely as possible in the English rendition; the result is all too frequently an English syntax so tortoured as to approach unintelligibility - so, for example, in the translation of 4.6-17.

Larry Clark offers a thoroughgoing survey of the Turkic Manichaean literature. The essay’s primary purpose is to inventory and classify the surviving Manichaean literature in Turkic as a preliminary stage in Clark’s collaborative effort with Alois Van Tongerloo to produce a new, comprehensive edition of this literature. In pursuit of this goal the essay culminates with a tabulation of its results, acccompanied by an extensive bibliography. This is certainly useful enough in itself, but the discussion that explicates a tripartite taxonomy of the literature includes valuable observations on the origin and history of Manichaeism among the Turks that lift the importance of Clark’s essay above the level of mere tabulation.

Wolf-Peter Funk reports on progress in his expert efforts directed at reconstructing the entire Berlin codex of Manichaean Kephalaia from Medinet Madi ("The Kephalaia of the Teacher"), only a part of which has so far been published. His report encompasses three aspects of the reconstruction process. The first is the actual physical reconstruction of the manuscript, a Herculean task given the extremely fragmentary and/or degraded condition in which much of the codex survives. This task is made all the more difficult by the necessity of focusing attention as well upon the second volume of Kephalaia from Medinet Madi (the Chester Beatty codex, "The Kephalaia of the Wisdom of My Lord Mani"), since it appears that leaves originally from the one codex have ended up mistakenly conserved in the other. Funk then reports on the reconstruction of the text, particularly on improvements to be achieved upon the faults occasioned by the haste and incompleteness that typify the otherwise excellent earlier edition by Hans Jakob Polotsky and Alexander Böhlig. Finally, Funk comments upon the genre and authorship of the work as a whole. Two tables listing so far identified unpublished chapters of the two codexes conclude the essay.

Zsuzsanna Gulácsi has contributed an essay on Manichaean art from the Turfan oasis. As its title "Identifying the Corpus of Manichaean Art among the Turfan Remains" suggests, its purpose is primarily the effort to establish revised and more secure criteria for distinguishing Kocho’s Manichaean art from Buddhist and Christian, which all share so many stylistic and iconographic features in common as to make mutual distinction difficult. Gulácsi soundly proceeds from the basis of decorative designs and figural compositions in literary contexts whose content and/or script make them securely Manichaean and extrapolates from these contexts the characteristics exclusively specific to the artistic motifs present in them. By this means Gulácsi arrives at a tabulation of the corpus of Manichaean art from Kocho more likely to be accurate than earlier ones. Her essay is richly furnished with plates of illustrations.

In "Manichaean Citations from the Prose Refutations of Ephrem" John C. Reves, whose work has done so much to shed new light on Jewish esoteric lore in Manichaeism, offers a thematically arranged catalogue of passages from Ephrem’s so-called Prose Refutations that are either explicitly or indirectly citations from Manichaean sources. A good, literal translation accompanies this catalogue and, as well, a detailed and characteristically excellent commentary. The indirect allusions pose the familiar problem of disentangling genuine Manichaean source-material from the heresiological polemic in which Ephrem has so expertly embedded it. But, as Reeves rightly given points out, the recovery of Manichaica from Ephrem is of high importance, given the facts that the Syrian’s mid-fourth century floruit places him at a very early stage of the Manichaean mission, that his Edessene setting afforded him direct access to good information, and that his Syriac preserves, as is so rarely the case elsewhere, Manichaean terminology in the language of its orignal composition.

It is regrettable that the final essay of the volume, Hans-Martin Schenke’s "Marginal Notes", interesting as they are, are no more than brief disconnected marginalia. Given his great expertise on Gnosticism generally and on its primitive "Sethian" form and the Nag Hammadi corpus particular, readers can hardly but be disappointed to have their appetites whetted with allusion to the issue of influence from Manichaeism in Nag Hammadi texts (or vice versa?) and with citation of examples but then to be fed no more than a single brief note (out of three) that pursues this subject with fuller discussion of one of the examples. The subject is certainly worth pursuing - I had myself broached it with the cautious suggestion of Manichaean origin for what I regard as the gnosticized version of the passage from Plato’s Republic in the Nag Hammadi corpus (NHC VI, 5): The Nag Hammadi library in English: 3rd, rev. ed.; San Francisco; Harper & Row, 1988; p. 318. One can only hope that Schenke will take the subject up in detail in the future.

In sum, this volume generally well delivers what its title promises: a collection of essays on the cutting edge of modern Manichaean studies. The book is well edited; I counted an admirably mere half dozen or so typological errors in it.

All the more lamentable is it, consequently, that Brill, usually so scrupulously careful in this regard, overlooked an egregious printing error on pp. 207-208: in place of the second section of the crucial Table 4 which tabulates Gulácsi’s new corpus of Manichaean art from Kocho the first section has been twice repeated. Brill had earlier sent out to me, under separate cover, an "erratum" correcting the mistake for the copy of the volume which I received as an editorial board member of the NHMS series, but the correction sheet did not accompany the copy sent to me for review by the editor of ThLZ and without it a crucial aspect of Gulácsi’s work is severely compromised.