THE GNOSTIC BIBLE
Edited by Willis Barnstone and Marvin Meyer
Boston & London 2003
Mani's teaching embraced a highly complex historical drama of supracosmic proportions in which humanity's past origin,present predicament, and future possibilities are described.The drama centers its theological concern on the existential question of the origin of evil in human experience.Mani employed a typical apocalyptic scheme in which cosmic history was divided into three time periods:past,present,and future.
In the past time there existed two eternal principles, one all good and the other all evil. The good principle exists exclusively within the kingdom of light and finds its focus in the father of greatness, whose fourfold majesty embraces divinity,light, power,and goodness.His throne is surrounded by at least 156 peace-loving entities: twelve aeons (or eternal realms, in three groups of four each) and 144 aeons of aeons.The kingdom of light is constructed of five elements or stoicheia (air,wind,light, water,and fire) and contains five peaceful "dwellings" (intelligence,knowledge,reason,thought,and deliberation).(In Manichaeism many things are given in five,even the five trees of paradise reminiscent of Gospel of Thomas 19.)
The evil principle and the kingdom of darkness are he complete antitheses of the good principle and the kingdom of light.The many monstrous and agitated inhabitants of the kingdom of darkness are ruled by five evil archons (demon,lion,eagle,fish, and dragon), who are in constant opposition to each other and who,collectively,make up the hellish prince of darkness.
They are sexually preoccupied and controlled by their passions,and they dwell in an ominous netherworld of smoke,fire,wind,water,and darkness.The two kingdoms are completely distinct yet eternally coexistent.
The "present time" begins when the evil inhabitants of the kingdom of darkness drive a wedge into the kingdom of light in a lustful desire to mingle with the light.The kingdom of darkness is thoroughly aroused,and its terrifyingly vicious inhabitants enter the light in a full-scale invasion.The father of greatness responds by evoking a series of entities who may need to be sacrificed to the invaders so as to satisfy them and stop the assault. The first evocation is the mother of life,who then evokes the primal man,who fights the incoming forces of darkness but loses his battle.The five evil archons (who constitute the prince of darkness) then consume some of the light elements of the primal man's armor.Having unwittingly fallen into the trap of the father of greatness, they are now dependent on the light for their continued existence.The primal man awakens from his sleep of forgetfulness,remembers his divine origins,and prays for his rescue.
The father of greatness responds by evoking a series of beings who initiate the rescue of the primal man: the friend of lights evokes the great architect,who then evokes the living spirit,who evokes his five sons (the custodian of splendor,the great king of honor,Adamas of light,the king of glory, and Atlas).The living spirit cries out from the kingdom of light into the darkness to the primal man, who answers.The cry and answer (representing the divine word of salvation and the positive human response) are hypostasized,that is,they become divine beings who ascend to the kingdom of light. The living spirit then grasps the primal man by the hand and rescues him from the kingdom of darkness.
The rest of the drama in the "present time" focuses on the work of the father of greatness to regain all of the light particles swallowed by the five evil archons.The living spirit first creates ten heavens and eight earths out of the material corpses of the slain demons.He separates the swallowed light particles into three types: the first is undefiled,and from these he creates the sun and the moon; the second is only partly defiled, and from these he creates the stars;the third is completely defiled,and so he creates an elaborate cosmic mechanism to distill the light from the matter.The living spirit then evokes the third messenger,who evokes the zodiacal twelve maidens,collectively the maiden of light,who operate the cosmic three wheels created to distill the light particles out of the material universe.Another evocation is the column of glory (the Milky Way),which transports the recovered light particles from the distilling three wheels to the moon and then the sun,which function as ships transporting the light particles to their temporary haven (the new earth created by the great architect).
The third messenger and the maiden of light then excite the sexual nature of the male archons,causing them to ejaculate the light particles from within them.The sin that excites the archons falls to the earth, becoming the source of all plant life.The female archons miscarry their light-bearing fetuses,which fall to the earth and copulate among themselves,becoming the source of all animal life.The sum total of all of these precious light particles trapped in deadly matter,including plants and animals,is called the suffering Jesus (Jesus atibilis),who is on the light cross (crux luminus).
The prince of darkness,in an attempt to frustrate the cosmic distillation of light particles,gives birth to the two evil demons,Sakla (Ashqulan) and Nebroel (Namrael),who eat the monstrous offspring of the miscarried fetuses in order to ingest their light particles.The two demons then copulate,and Nebroel gives birth to exact miniature replicas (the "image of God" of Genesis 1:26-27) of the confused light-matter macrocosm:Adam and Eve.
In a typically gnostic "inverted exegesis" of Genesis 1-5 (a hermeneutical feature shared with some forms of gnosticism),the sexually oriented evil creator can create only by copulation and birth,and so can create only matter (which is inherently evil).He is unable to create in the manner of the father of greatness,by asexually evoking pure spiritual entities.Consequently,Adam (representing humanity) is specifically designed by the evil creator in his own image (Genesis 1:26) to procreate sexually (Genesis 1:27-28).Thus,Adam can only continue the evil cycle of birth,copulation,and rebirth,and in so doing he fulfills his natural evil inclination to "be fruitful and multiply" (Genesis 1:28; 5:4b).Adam's evil material nature (representing human sexuality) thus entangles the precious light particles,transmitted through male seed,in potentially endless generations of material bodies (representing human history;see Genesis 5:1-32).
But Adam is ignorant of the light within him and his true origin in the kingdom of light and so is unable to recognize and redeem the light particles.
The evocations of the father of greatness then send Jesus of light to awaken Adam (Genesis 3:1) to inform him of his true nature (Genesis 3:4-5) and to lead him to self-recognition (Genesis 3:7,11a,22a).Jesus of light helps Adam eat of the salvific tree of life (Genesis 3:22),warns him of the dangers of sexual procreation with Eve, and so encourages a sexually abstinent lifestyle (the ideal model of behavior in Manichaean ethics).Then Eve and a male archon copulate,and Eve gives birth to Cain (Genesis 4:1),who then copulates with his mother Eve,who gives birth to Abel (Genesis 4:2),and so begins the incestuous interaction of Cain (Genesis 4:2a) and Abel with Eve and with each other's daughters borne by Eve (Genesis 4:17).Eve then receives magical knowledge from an evil archon, which enables her to copulate with the ascetic Adam.She succeeds in her desire and bears Seth (Genesis 4:25a), who,as the first true son of Adam (Genesis 5:3,4b),contains a significantly larger amount of light particles than the other offspring of Eve.
The ascetic Adam and Seth,self-conscious particles of light entrapped in innately evil material bodies,become the exemplary human figures for Manichaean ethics (Genesis 4:26b;5:1-32).
The "future time" is the third and final act of the historical cosmic drama,and it provides for Manichaean ethics a preview into the system of reward and punishment.The final and great war will break out among the unenlightened powers of darkness when the distillation of light particles from the material cosmos has neared its completion. Jesus will return at a decisive eschatological moment as the great king and will judge humanity and the infernal powers.The elect will become angels,the auditors will be judged righteous,and the sinners will be cast into hell with the sexually promiscuous woman Eve and her hellish offspring.The cosmos will disintegrate and burn in a conflagration for 1,468 years.
The remaining light particles will be gathered and finally return by ascent to the kingdom of light,while the prince of darkness and his diabolical minions will be cast into a bottomless pit permanently sealed with a huge stone for all eternity.The two principles of light and darkness will again be two separate and distinct entities,never again to commingle.
Song of the Bema, 223
Let Us Worship the Spirit Let us worship the spirit of the comforter,bless lord Jesus who sent us the spirit of truth.
He came and split us from the world's error.
He came with a mirror,we looked.
In it was the cosmos.
When the holy spirit came she disclosed the way of truth.
It taught us two natures,light and darkness,distinct from the beginning.
The kingdom of light has five greatnesses: father and his twelve aeons,and the aeons of aeons, the living air,the land of light,and the enormous spirit through whom they breath and which nourishes them with light.
But the kingdom of darkness has five storehouses: smoke and fire and wind and water and darkness.
Their advocate creeps in them, inciting them to make war on each other.
When making war they dared attack the land of light.
They supposed they could vanquish it and didn't know that their plans would crash down on their own heads.
There was a horde of angels in the land of light,ready to pour out and break the father's enemy.
They were pleased to have the father's word to rout those rebels who saw themselves exalted.
The angels were like a shepherd who sees a lion padding near to destroy the fold,who cunningly takes a lamb and sets it as a snare to catch the lion.
With a single lamb he saves his fold, heals the lamb, and wounds the lion.
Such is the way of the father who sent forth his strong son and made from himself his virgin armed with five powers to fight the five abysses of the darkness.
When the watcher stood at the borders of light, he showed them to the virgin who is his soul.
In their abysses they stirred,desiring her.
They opened their mouth to swallow her.
He held her power fast.He spread her over them like nets over fish.
He had her rain down on them like purified clouds of water.
She stabbed inside them like piercing lightning. She crept into their inner parts.She bound them.
They knew nothing.
When the first man finished his war,the father sent his second son.
He came,lifted his brother out of the abyss.
He made the whole world out of that mixture of the light and darkness.
He spread all his powers of the abyss to ten heavens and eight earths.
He shut them up into this cosmos and made it a prison for all powers of darkness.
It was also a place of purification for the soul swallowed in them.
He established the sun and moon and set them high to purify the soul.
Daily they took in refined parts up to their height,yet however they mixed the dregs they couldn't move them up or down.
The whole world halts for a season.
A great building is being built outside the world.
As soon as the workers finish,the cosmos will dissolve,catch fire, and flame will melt it away.
All life,the relic of light wherever it is,he will take to himself and then project an image.
The counsel of death—it is all darkness—will meet and create a likeness of itself and the ruler,but in a flash the living spirit comes,succors the light,and will lock up the counsel of death and darkness in a house made to hold them there forever.
There is no other way to freeze the enemy.
He won't be received to the light,for he is a stranger, yet he can't be left in his land of darkness.
He must not engage in a war greater than the first one.
A new aeon will be built in the place of the cosmos that will dissolve.
In the aeon the powers of light may reign, since they have performed and fulfilled the will of the whole father,subdued the hated over him forever.
This is Mani's knowledge. Let us worship and bless him.
Whoever trusts him will be blessed and live with justice.Glory and victory to our lord Mani.
Spirit of truth from the father.
He reveals to us the beginning, the middle,and the end.Victory to the soul of the blessed Mary,Theona,Pshaijmnoute. 13
11 The Coptic uses the Greek word Theona.Theona is identified by Allbery as one,along with Mary of a pair of martyrs.The name also suggests Mary as a female god.
12 The Bema was a rostrum on which Manis picture was displayed during the Bema feast. The Bema celebration commemorated the death of Mam in the early spring of the year (just as the death and resurrection of Jesus were commemorated during the Christian holidays of Good Friday and Easter,also in the spring of the year.A the Bema celebration,songs like this song of the Bema were sung.In the song the comforter (or paraclete) is Mani.
13. Another Manichaean name or epithet. In Coptic noute means "god."