The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great

By Henry Chadwick | Go to book overview

25 Mani

In the middle years of the third century gnostic dualism found a fresh and vigorous embodiment in Mani (216-76). He was brought up in Mesopotamia among a Jewish Christian baptist sect, followers of Elchasai, but left them at the age of 24 to found his own group. Like other sects since, he intended to supersede all the separate religious societies and to embrace all major religions of the time. He understood himself to be an inspired prophet, identical with the promised Paraclete, and therefore one of the line of prophets not only from the Old Testament to Jesus but also including Buddha and Zoroaster. He declared that his religion was not confined to one region or linguistic area but was to be taken by missionaries to all lands. Previous founders of religions had written next to nothing and failed to ensure a stable coherent future; Mani's writings would rectify that. Well within his lifetime his missionaries established communities in the Nile and Oxus valleys and had soon reached Chinese Turkestan and Spain. For over nine years the young Augustine was an adherent in north Africa, and after his conversion in 386 his anti-Manichee writings offer much information. In the twentieth century major finds of Manichee documents have been made in Egypt (Coptic probably translated from Syriac) and Turkestan. In the Persian empire the mission had success, and from there successfully infiltrated the Roman empire, soon to cause anxiety to the imperial authorities and also to bishops. In Persia Mani himself fell foul of authority and was executed in 276. His followers had an annual spring festival, called the Bema, for a memorial of his death and for confession of sins.

Central to his thinking was the problem of evil, the permanence and ineradicability of which showed that if the supreme God was good, he was not also omnipotent. What his angels could do was to contain evil and prevent a complete takeover. Cosmic conflict between powers of light and darkness, spirit and matter, had resulted in a mixture felt in human nature's awareness of tension between physical appetites and higher aspirations of the soul. Mani divided followers into a celibate Elect and a lower order of Hearers who cooked selected food for the Elect and were allowed sexual relations at safe periods of the monthly cycle. They were discouraged from having children since this incarcerated sparks of divine light in soggy matter. Wine was strictly forbidden as an invention of the devil.

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The Church in Ancient Society: From Galilee to Gregory the Great
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • The Church in Ancient Society iii
  • Prefatory Note vi
  • Contents vii
  • Abbreviations ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: The First Followers of Jesus 5
  • 2: The Jewish Matrix 13
  • 3: Jews and Christians Survive Rome's Crushing of Revolts 21
  • 4: The Hebrew Scriptures in the Church 27
  • 5: Interpreting Scripture 32
  • 6: Apostles and Evangelists 43
  • 7: Women Among Jesus' Followers 53
  • 8: 'Barnabas', Jewish Christianity, Trouble at Corinth 56
  • 9: Ignatius of Antioch 65
  • 10: Didache 84
  • 11: Marcion 89
  • 12: Justin 93
  • 13: Irenaeus of Lyon 100
  • 14: The New Testament Text 108
  • 15: Celsus: A Platonist Attack 110
  • 16: Montanism: Perpetua 114
  • 17: Tertullian, Minucius Felix 118
  • 18: Clement of Alexandria 124
  • 19: Julius Africanus 130
  • 20: Hippolytus and Liturgy 132
  • 21: Origen 135
  • 22: Cyprian of Carthage 145
  • 23: Dionysius of Alexandria 161
  • 24: Paul of Samosata 166
  • 25: Mani 170
  • 26: Plotinus, Porphyry 173
  • 27: Diocletian and the Great Persecution; Rise of Constantine 176
  • 28: Constantine 190
  • 29: The Seeds of Reaction 201
  • 30: The Church at Prayer 212
  • 31: Athanasius, Marcellus, and the Gathering Storm 226
  • 32: A Fiasco at Serdica 240
  • 33: Religious Division 254
  • 34: Athanasius' Return 260
  • 35: Constantius' Double Council of Unity 279
  • 36: Julian and the Church 295
  • 37: Damasus, Siricius, Papal Authority, Synesius of Cyrene 314
  • 38: Basil of Caesarea (Cappadocia) 331
  • 39: Ambrose 348
  • 40: Ambrosiaster 379
  • 41: Donatism 382
  • 42: Monks: The Ascetic Life 394
  • 43: Messalians 411
  • 44: Schism at Antioch 415
  • 45: Jerome and Rufinus 433
  • 46: Pelagius, Caelestius, and the Roman See in Gaul and North Africa 446
  • 47: Julian of Eclanum 464
  • 48: Augustine 473
  • 49: John Chrysostom 479
  • 50: Innocent I and John Chrysostom's Honour 499
  • 51: The Christological Debate, I 515
  • 52: The Christological Debate, Ii 538
  • 53: The Christological Debate, Iii 557
  • 54: The Aftermath of the Council of Chalcedon 592
  • 55: Justinian, Origen, and the 'Three Chapters' 612
  • 56: The Ancient Oriental Churches 628
  • 57: The Church and the Barbarian Invasions in the West 633
  • 58: Pope Gregory the Great (590-604) 658
  • 59: Worship After Constantine 675
  • 60: Pilgrims 684
  • 61: Penance 688
  • Further Reading 694
  • Dates of Roman Emperors 714
  • Index 721
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