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Pagan Christs, by John M. Robertson, [1911], at

p. 264

§ 14. The Problem of Manichæus.

On the fringes of the historical problem of Buddhism there lies one which is worth at least a passing scrutiny in this connection—that, namely, of the origins of the heretical quasi-Christian sect of Manichæans. The Christian tradition runs that one Scythianos, a Saracen, husband of an Egyptian woman, "introduced the doctrine of Empedocles and Pythagoras into Christianity"; that he had a disciple, "Buddas, formerly named Terebinthus," who travelled in Persia, where he alleged that he had been born of a virgin, and afterwards wrote four books, one Of Mysteries, a second The Gospel, a third The Treasure, and a fourth Heads. While performing some mystic rites, he was hurled down a precipice by a daimon, and killed. A woman at whose house he lodged buried him, took over his property, and bought a boy of seven, named Cubricus. This boy she freed and educated, leaving him the property and books of Buddas-Terebinthus. Cubricus then travelled into Persia, where he took the name of Manes and gave forth the doctrines of Buddas Terebinthus as his own. The king of Persia [not named], hearing that he worked miracles, sent for him to heal his sick son, and on the child's dying put Manes in prison. Thence he escaped, flying into Mesopotamia, but was traced, captured, and flayed alive by the Persian king's orders, the skin being then stuffed with chaff and hung up before the gate of the city. 1

For this narrative, the historian Socrates, writing in the fifth century, gives as his authority "The Disputation [with Manes] of Archelaus bishop of Caschar," a work either unknown to or disregarded by Eusebius, who in his History briefly vilifies Manes 2 without giving any of the above details. In the Chronicon of Eusebius the origin of the sect is placed in the second year of Probus, C.E. 277; but this passage is probably from the hand of Jerome. 3 According to Jerome, Archelaus wrote his account of his Disputation with "Manichæus" in Syriac, whence it was translated into Greek. The Greek is lost, and the work, apart from extracts, subsists only in a Latin translation from the Greek, of doubtful age and fidelity, 4 probably made after the fifth century. By Photius it is stated that Heraclean, bishop of Chalcedon, in his book against the Manichæans, said the [Greek] Disputation of Archelaus was

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written by one Hegemonius—an author not otherwise traceable, and of unknown date.

In the Latin narrative, "Manes" is said to have come, after his flight from court, from Arabion, a frontier fortress, to Caschar or Carchar, a town said to be in Roman Mesopotamia, in the hope of converting an eminent Christian there, named Marcellus, to whom he had sent a letter beginning: "Manichæus apostle of Jesus Christ, and all the saints and virgins with me, send peace to Marcellus." In his train he brought twenty-two [or twelve] youths and virgins. At the request of Marcellus, he debated on religion with bishop Archelaus, by whom he was vanquished; whereupon he set out to return to Persia. On his way he proposed to debate with a priest at the town of Diodorides; but Archelaus came to take the priest's place, and again defeated him; whereupon, fearing to be given up to the Persians by the Christians, he returned to Arabion. At this stage Archelaus introduces in a discourse to the people his history of "this Manes," very much to the effect of the recapitulation in Socrates. Among the further details are these: (1) that Scythianus lived "in the time of the Apostles"; (2) that Terebinthus said the name of Buddas had been imposed on him; (3) that in the mountains he had been brought up by an angel; (4) that he had been convicted of imposture by a Persian prophet named Parcus, and by Labdacus, son 1 of Mithra; (5) that in the disputation he taught concerning the sphere, the two luminaries, the transmigration of souls, and the war of the "Principia" against God; (6) that "Corbicius" or Corbicus, about the age of sixty, translated the books of Terebinthus; (7) that he made three chief disciples, Thomas, Addas, and Hermas, of whom he sent the first to Egypt, and the second to Scythia, keeping the third with him; (8) that the two former returned when he was in prison, and that he sent them to procure for him the books of the Christians, which he then studied. According to the Latin narrative, finally, Manes on his return to Arabion was seized and taken to the Persian king, by whose orders he was flayed, his body being left to the birds, and his skin, filled with air, hung at the city gate.

That this narrative is historically worthless is admitted by all critical students since Beausobre; and recent historians turn from the Christian to the oriental accounts of the heresiarch for a credible view. There "Mani" is described as a painter, 2 who set up a

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sectarian movement in opposition to Zoroastrianism, then in renewed favour in Persia, in the reign of Shapur I. Being proceeded against, he fled to Turkestan, where he made disciples and embellished with paintings a Tchighil [Chinese name for a temple or Picturarum Domus] and another temple called Ghalbita. Provisioning in advance a cave which had a spring, he told his disciples he was going to heaven, and would not return for a year, after which time they were to seek him in the cave in question. They then and there found him, whereupon he showed them an illustrated book, called Ergenk, or Estenk, which he said he had brought from heaven: whereafter he had many followers, with whom he returned to Persia at the death of Shapur. The new king, Hormisdas, joined and protected the sect; and built Mani a castle. The next king, Bahram or Varanes, at first favoured Mani; but, after getting him to debate with certain Zoroastrian teachers, caused him to be flayed alive, and the skin to be stuffed and hung up as alleged by the Christians. 1 Thereupon most of his followers fled to India, and some even to China, those remaining being reduced to slavery.

In yet another Mohammedan account we have the details that Mani's mother was named Meis or Utachin, or Mar Marjam (Sancta Maria); and that he was supernaturally born. 2 At the behest of an angel he began his public career, with two companions, at the age of twenty-four, on a Sunday, the first day of Nisan, when the sun was in Aries. He travelled for about forty years; wrote six books, and was raised to Paradise after being slain under Bahram "son of Shapur." Some say he was crucified "in two halves" and so hung up at two gates, afterwards called High-Mani and Low-Mani; others that he was imprisoned by Shapur and freed by Bahram; others that he died in prison. "But he was certainly crucified." 3

Thus the sole detail which the Mohammedan and Christian writers have in common is that of the execution with its exemplary sequel.

Both accounts, it will be observed, make Mani an innovating heretic; but the Persian treats him as inventing his doctrine, while the Christian makes it traditive. The Persian story, however,

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makes him compose and illustrate his book in Turkestan, with the possible implication that such a book was a novelty in Persia, despite Mani's profession. Baur and Neander, accordingly, combining the Christian clue of the name Buddas with the Persian clue to Turkestan, infer that in that territory Mani acquired a knowledge of Buddhism. 1 To this solution, however, there are several objections. In the first place, there are in Manichæism only shadowy analogies to Buddhism; and in the second, the name Buddas is plausibly interpreted as being merely a Greek corruption of Butm or Budm, the Chaldaic name of the terebinth tree—a simple translation of Terebinthus. 2 On the other hand, Ritter has conjectured that "Terebinthus" may be a corruption of Buddha's title "Tere Hintu," Lord of the Hindus. Finally, it has to be noted that Herodotus repeatedly mentions a people called the Budini3 among whom were settled the Neuri, who "seem to be magicians"; so that "Buddas" might be a reminiscence of their repute. We have thus a pleasing variety of choices!


264:1 Socrates, Hist. Eccles. i, 22.

264:2 Eusebius, Hist. Eccles. vii. 31.

264:3 So Tillemont and Lardner (Works, ed. 1835, iii, 256, 261). Beausobre (Hist. de Manichée et du Manichéisme, 1734, i, 122) held it to be by Eusebius.

264:4 Cp. Neander, Gen. Hist. of Christ. Church, Eng. tr. (Bohn) ii, 166, note, as to the evidence for embellishment in the Greek and Latin versions.

265:1 Epiphanius, citing the Greek version, has neokoros, "temple officer."

265:2 Dr. Marcus Dods, in his preface to Mr. Stothert's translation of the writings of Augustine against the Manichæans, writes: "Hyde......tells us that in Persian mani means painter, and that he was so called from his profession." This is a careless repetition of an old blunder of two good scholars, Fabricius and Wolff, exposed by p. 266 Beausobre (ed. 1734, i, 71), from whose work Dr. Dods quotes a passage (cited by him as on i, 79) which occurs only two pages later. Hyde simply wrote: "Manes Persa, in eorum libris dictus Mani pictor, nam talis fuit professions sua" (c. 21, p. 280).

266:1 D’Herbelot, Bibliothèque Orientale, s.v. Mani, following the Persian historian Khondemir and others. Hyde (De relig. vet. Persar. c. 21), also following Khondemir, gives the detail as to temple-painting; reads "Ertengh" as the name of Mani's book; has no mention of Hormisdas, making "Behrem" reign when Mani returns to Persia; and states that Mani was crucified.

266:2 Gustav Flügel, Mani, seine Lehre and seine Schriften, 18f 2 (trans. from the Fihrist of Muhammad ben Ishak al Nurrâk, with commentary), pp. 83-4. Meis is a name of the lotus or pepper-tree. Id. p. 117.

266:3 Id. pp. 84, 97, 99-100, 102-3; Beausobre, i, 206.

267:1 Neander, as cited, ii, 170, regards the cave in Turkestan as a "Buddhist grotto."

267:2 Beausobre, i, 54-55; Hyde and Bochart as there cited; Neander, as cited, p. 166, note.

267:3 Herod. iv, 105-9.

Next: § 15. The Manichean Solution