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Bardaisan, Marcion & Mani

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The role played by Bardaisan, Marcion and Manichaeism in the religious history of Edessa

12th November 2004

by Peter Eyland

Justin writing in the West (but with a knowledge of the East) wrote that, in his time, the word “Christian” was used as a blanket term for an undifferentiated class of people.

1 Apology26 he wrote: “Simon … Meander … Marcion … all who take their opinions from these men are … called Christians." He likened this usage of the word to the way the word “philosopher” was used by the Greeks (1 Apology 7). [1]  In Edessa, by Ephrem Syrus’ time, there were at least four belief systems that were popularly identified as Christian.  They were, the followers of Marcion, Bardaisan, [2] Mani and Palût. [3]  In Drijvers’ language, these added “new tessera to the variegated religious mosaic” of Edessa (Drijvers, 1980:194).  See Appendix 1 for the religious background of Edessa.

In this essay Marcion, Bardaisan and Mani are discussed in relation to their lives, works, successes, beliefs and rituals, i.e. their role in the religious history of Edessa.

map of the Christian Near East

Map from Butcher (2003:107)


The Beginning of the Marcionites

Hoffmann (1984:74) has Marcion actively teaching between 110 and 150 CE. [4]  The argument for dating his career sometime through this period is clearly centred on Justin, who wrote: “Marcion … who is alive even at this day (καὶ νῦν ἔτι) ,  … has caused many of every nation (κατὰ πᾶν γένος ἀνθρώπων) to speak blasphemies (1 Apology 26).”  Justin already knew of Marcion’s considerable success in the East from his time at Samaria [5] and Ephesus (Hoffmann 1984:45).  His surprise at finding Marcion still alive attributes a long and successful working life to Marcion prior to Justin’s encounter with him.[6]

When Marcion’s work evidently began, Pliny was investigating charges against the Christians of Asia Minor and wrote of them as “increasing in variety”.   Since he seemed to think that all Christians followed the same rites (Hoffmann 1984:19), the “variety” may have referred to different belief structures for Christians and thus could have included some Marcionites at this time.

Marcion’s name appeared in the Chronicle of Edessa where it has under §5: “In the year 449 (137/8 CE) Marcion forsook the Catholic Church.”  The author did not mention where any announcement took place, but since it was unlikely to have occurred at Rome,[7] it seems to have been in Asia Minor.

There are a number of things that can be gleaned from Marcion’s “forsaking” the “Catholic” Church.  Firstly, an author/editor of the Chronicle of Edessa inserted this item anything up to four centuries later than the event, [8] and so the word “Catholic” (although seemingly appropriate from a later perspective) may well be anachronistic.  Secondly, the initiative for the action was given to Marcion, i.e. it was not forced on him.  Thirdly, the date was some thirty years from the start of Marcion’s career, when it might well have been opportune for a successful entrepreneur to declare independence.  Fourthly, since “Christian” remained an undifferentiated term, Marcion’s name early in the document implies that he was an important Christian influence at Edessa.  With no mention of any other founder of Christianity in Edessa, [9] or even of Palût at the turn of the second century, [10] the Chronicle of Edessa may be suggesting that the Marcionites were the representative, if not original, Christians at Edessa.

Also, Bauer (1996:29) noted that Bardaisan disputed with Marcion and not the Palûtians and suggested this indicated that the Palûtians were not significant. Bauer concluded that in Edessa "Christianity was first established in the form of Marcionism … not much later than the year 150” (Bauer, 1996:29)

There is some support for this position later in the Chronicle of Edessa (§12) where it stated that it was not until “the year 624 (312 CE) Conon the bishop laid the foundations of the Church of Edessa”.  Granted that 312 CE was the time that the first “Catholic” church building was started, the mention of a “shrine” in Syriac: shrine in the church of the “Christians” a century before in 202 CE,[11] suggests that the building was Marcionite.  The Chronicle record implies that Abgar VIII tolerated the religion (Ross 2003:135).

In the fourth century, Cyril of Jerusalem (315­386 CE), wrote a letter to caution his people about unintentionally ending up in the wrong Christian church (Catechetical Lecture, 18.26). [12]  Blackman (1948:4) presumed from this that many of Cyril’s towns had only a Marcionite church building.  It could then have been easily true of Edessa at the turn of the second century.

The Success of the Marcionites

Ephrem the Syrian, (306 ­ 373 CE) in an interesting complaint, expressed his anger about a nomenclature that had apparently for a century, excluded “Catholics” in Edessa from taking the name “Christian”.  Writing of Palût, the “Catholic” bishop of Edessa, Ephrem grieved that the heretics “call us Palûtians, and this we quite decisively reject … cursed be those who let themselves be called by the name Palût instead of by the name Christ” (Ephrem, Madrâsh 22). [13] The claim seems to have been a historical one, i.e. the Marcionites claimed the name “Christian” and this had been accepted by the local (if not provincial) population for years.

The popularity of Marcion can be gauged from the numbers of Marcionite martyrs. Eusebius calls the numbers “immense”,[14] which probably means “uncomfortably large”.[15]

Theodoret of Cyrrhus (393 ­ c. 458/466 CE) in his letter To Leo, Bishop of Rome, (Letter 113) probably exaggerated when he wrote: “By the help of God’s grace working with me I rescued more than a thousand souls from the plague of Marcion.”  Eznik de Kolb (5th century) in Confutation of the Sects, (4) [16] wrote of Marcionite churches in Syria and Armenia as late as 445 CE.

Marcion’s Beliefs

Marcion started with the “radical view that the church’s teaching must conform to the gospel of Paul” (Hoffmann, 1984:237).  Since, according to Marcion, Paul in Galatians 3.1­14, made “law” and “grace” antithetical,[17] Marcion repudiated the whole of Jewish law and rejected the Creator who gave the Law that was written in the Jewish Bible.  As regards interpretation, Hoffman (1984:8) noted that: “Marcion opposed the spiritual and allegorical exegesis of the OT, which Christian interpreters themselves derived from the Hellenistic rabbis”.

Marcion called the creator the “Cosmocrator” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 1.27.10)[18].  Since the message of Jesus was then not associated with the Cosmocrator, Marcion taught that Jesus’ revelation of the Father meant the Father was a hitherto unknown Good God.  Ephrem Syrus has Marcion describing him as “the Stranger” in Discourses to Hypatius, 3.  The Father is then “above the God who made the world” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 1.27.5).  The Good God graciously sent Jesus to reveal that the Creator’s Laws and wars were not the true way (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 1.27.5).[19]  Salvation came by hearing the Crucified One and loving one’s enemies.

To make it clear what Paul’s Gospel was, Marcion collected what he considered to be the ten authentic letters of Paul as the start of a closed set of authoritative documents.  These were edited.  For example, he removed the idea “that God who made the world … is the Father” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 1.27).

A natural conclusion from his ideas about God’s relation to Creation led Marcion to say that Jesus only appeared to be human. Tertullian wrote that Marcion seized on the incredibility of an incarnate God “to reject the bodily substance of Christ” (Tertullian, Against Marcion, 3.8).[20]  Marcion needed an authoritative Gospel so he chose Luke because he was seen to be close to Paul.  Marcion omitted all birth stories and genealogies from Luke to make it start with: “In the fifteenth year of Tiberias Caesar, Jesus[21] came down to Capernaum” (Bruce, 1958:251).  Doceticism[22] is seen in other wording, such as, Jesus was “manifested in the form of a man” (Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 1.27.1­2  “in hominis forma manifestatum”).[23]

Even though Marcion, with the Gospel of Luke and the Pauline “Apostle” corpus (Frend, 1965:67), had a closed authoritative canon, he always had the problem of authenticating the tradition within it.  There is the suggestion that Marcion also included a set of Psalms but the text is not clear. [24] Maruta of Maipherkat (De Sancta Synodo Nicaena) has the Marcionites with a book called saka in Syriac (summa in Latin).   Harnack proposed the possibility that it was the Antitheses which Marcion was used in place of Acts (Blackman, 1948:64).  This remains a proposal.

Marcionite asceticism

Salvation also involved rejecting the Creator’s world with its physical enticements.  This led to ascetic practices.  One such practice was avoiding marriage and asking the married to abstain from sexual relations (Frend, 1965:68).  This was called sexual purity.  In syriac: sexual purity Since there were no children among full members, Marcion relied entirely on new catechumens for growth.  The number of catechumens would have always exceeded full members (Blackman 1948:3, n.5) and this may have caused the decline of the church in the end.

Another ascetic practice was to avoid meat and eat fish (Vöbus,ö &1958: part I, 2, 2).  In this connection, Hoffmann (1984:22) asserted: “There is evidence that Marcion, for all his disdain for the Jewish law, prescribed strict dietary observances … and it is known that Marcionite presbyters abjured the use of wine in … the eucharist”

Marcionite rituals

Tertullian (Against Marcion 1.14.3)[25] proposed that Marcion’s rejection of the Creator meant rejecting the use of anything to do with creation, including the materials used in rituals.  However Hippolytus (Refutation of all heresies, 10.15)[26] suggested that Marcion’s use of water in baptism was aimed at subverting the intention of the Creator.

Tertullian (Against Marcion 1.29)[27] has Marcion insisting on celibacy before baptism. Tertullian also mentioned that the Marcionites used the same ritual sign in baptism that the “Catholics” use,[28] but to counter this he warned that formal resemblance in rituals was not a guarantee that they were genuine (Hoffmann, 1984:20).[29]

Tertullian criticized the Marcionites for letting women exorcise, lay hands on the sick and suggested they might baptise  (Prescription for the Heretics 41).[30] Eznik de Kolb (fl. 453 CE) affirmed that women baptised (Confutation of the Sects, 4)[31] and there were Marcionite deaconesses “though Marcion would not permit them to be priests” (Eznik de Kolb, Confutation of the Sects, 4)[32].

Tertullian also criticized their loose form of government (Prescription for the heretics 41).[33] Interpreting this, it may have been that Marcion favoured democracy in church management (Blackman, 1948:6).

Bauer’s comment probably sums up Marr impact:

 “A great number of the baptised … joined Marcion without hesitation as soon as he appeared, finding in him the classic embodiment of their own belief. What had dwelt in their own inner consciousness in a more or less undefined form until then, acquired through Marcion the definite form that satisfied head and heart” (1971:194).


Bardaisan’s life

The Chronicle of Edessa, has Bardaisan[34] born on the 11th July 154 CE, [35] (Drijvers, 1984:4) and his death around 222 CE (Drijvers, 1984:XI p.190).  He was a highly independent thinker, essentially separate from the normal Hellenic tradition.  He provided a new explanation of how things came to be, along with an understanding of the essence of the forces that people regularly faced in their daily lives.  He also offered people the opportunity to play a significant role in determining the future of the world.

Epiphanius (Panarion 56) reported that Abgar VIII and Bardaisan were brought up together.[36]  Bardaisan in Book of the Laws of the Countries was said to have studied Chaldean Astrology, [37] but no longer believed that the stars governed human history.  In legendary biographies handed down by Michael Syrus and Agapius of Mabbug (Drijvers, 1980:78) Bardaisan was said to have been educated “by a pagan priest at Hierapolis­Mabbug” (100 km SE Edessa near the Euphrates) and became a Christian deacon after hearing Bishop Hysaspes preaching.  The only interest in the legend is its connecting Edessa with Hierapolis, rather than the neighbouring Harran (Drijvers, 1980:78).  For the locations of these cities, see the map in appendix 2.

Bardaisan was said to be personable and charming according to Julius Africanus (κεστοί 29) [38].  Aberkios (In the Vita of Aberkios) was said to have met with Bardaisan somewhere between Edessa and Nisibis and described him as distinguished by his descent and wealth (Drijvers, 1984:5.)   Ephrem Syrus was more scathing as he wrote: “with (costly) attire and jewels [the Devil] adorned Bardaisan”.[39]

Bardaisan “was a man of syntheses and harmony” which was probably why he opposed the radical Marcionites (Drijvers, 1980:193). There was nothing ascetic in Bardaisan’s view of life.  He was more a “humanist” rather than an ascetic and enjoyed the sports of hunting and archery.  He married and had a son Harmonius.

Bardaisan’s works

Bardaisan was an admired and effective teacher.  He was called the “father” of Christian Syriac literature and hymnology (Stevenson, 1963:398) because of his 150 catchy madrâshêê.  Wellesz (1967:8­9) indicates that there are three main forms of Syriac poetry, Memra, Madrâshê and Sogitha.  Madrâshê or teaching songs, as composed by Bardaisan were strophic poems sung by a soloist and a choir responded at the end of each stanza with the same phrase.  They were the forerunner of the Byzantine kontakion

Bardaisan formed his own community and meeting place where his psalms were sung. His songs were popular for a very long time.  Ephrem Syrus wrote 150 years after Bardaisan’s death:

“In the lairs of Bardaisan are melodies and chants.  Since he saw the youth longing for sweets, with the harmony of his songs he excited the children” (Ephrem Madrash 1:17). 

Ephrem Syrus perfected this art form by writing his own madrâshê to counter Bardaisan.

Bardaisan was seen initially to be within the Christian milieu.  He wrote dialogues against Marcion c 200 CE.  The “Book of the Laws of the Countries” was another dialogue that revealed Christians were a “new race” who lived in societies without being bound any laws but those of their own faith  (Ross, 2003:120­1)It also discussed “fate” (q.v. see below and Appendix 3).

Eusebius of Caesarea (c.260 ­ 340 CE) regarded Bardaisan as “most able”, “highly skilled” and his dialogues were seen as a “powerful defence of Christian truth” (Eusebius, History of the Church 4. 30). Also according to Eusebius (History of the Church 4.30) the Book of the Laws of the Countries was first written in Syriac and then translated into Greek.   Drijvers (1966:67, 81) argued that the distinction made in the Book of the Laws of the Countries between physis (physis, Nature generally) and   kyana (kyana, a specific nature)[40]  “can only be clearly rendered in Syriac”.  It seems to have been written down by his disciple Philippus (Drijvers, 1966:67). [40] Ross (2003:119­120) noted that the Book has little to upset even the “strictest advocates of orthodoxy” and suggested that it may have been subtly altered to make it acceptable.  

Later, around 435 CE, Rabbula of Edessa forcibly converted the Bardaisanites and destroyed their building (Drijvers, 1966:226).  Despite this severe persecution, Jacob of Edessa (c. 633­708 CE) still found Bardaisanites in his time (Segal, 1970:36).  They were probably not groups but individuals who had leanings to “cosmological and anthropological speculations” (Drijvers, 1966:152).

Bardaisan’s beliefs

Barhadbeshabba indicated that Bardaisan accepted the Christian scriptures and “numerous revelations beside them” (Drijvers, 1966:104).  Though he may not have acknowledged the Old Testament if his Psalms were meant to replace David’s (Bauer, 1971:29).  

Ephrem Syrus (Madrash 1.18) wrote: “He did not read the prophets but the books of the Zodiac” (Bauer 1971:30).  Also Ephrem Syrus refers to Bardaisan’s Apostolos but it is not clear what was included (Bauer 1971:30). 

Bardaisan introduced Tatian’s Diatessaron to Edessa as the Gospel, and made it popular there.  This may explain why the gospel edition of a heretic became the gospel of the orthodox (Bauer 1971:31).

In Bardaisan’s Cosmology (q.v. see Appendix 3) the body was completely subject to fate, the spirit was perfectly free to choose good, and the soul was partially free and partially controlled by fate through its material aspect.  Man was only judged for those actions that he had the freedom to choose.  Evil came into the world accidentally, and God sent down souls from the realm of light into men’s bodies so that by faith and knowledge they may purify creation.  Their liberated souls then

Adam did not bring death but blocked the upward path of his soul by not choosing the good (Drijvers, 1984:XI.205­6).  Christ taught that choosing the good was in accord with man’s true being.

Maruta of Maipherkat (middle 4th century) does not quite agree with the above description, for example ascribing dualism to Bardaisan (Drijvers, 1966:106­108).  However his summary of the Bardaisanites also mentions Marcionites and Manichaeans, and though probably using an independent source from Barhadbeshabba, seems to have coalesced ideas from the other two groups.

Ephrem Syrus also wrote of Bardaisan’s use of pagan Syrian mythology, such as that associated with Hierapolis­Mabbog.  The poetry inherent in Bardaisan’s hymns would have allowed him (like Hesiod and Homer before him) to elaborate on traditional and popular themes.  It enabled him to affirm the harmony and richness of life and (contra Marcion) provide a positive image for sexuality.

Bardaisan was an important link “in the transmission of Hermetic lore in the Near East”  (Ross, 2003:137).  He added an interest in Music, Astrology, cosmological speculations and Medicine to Edesseans (Drijvers, 1966:228).  He may have influenced the Syriac speaking Christians towards the learning of Greek Medicine and Philosophy and been a root cause of the later handing on of that material to Islam (Drijvers, 1966:228).



Mani’s Life

Mani was born in Mesopotamia on the 14th April 216 CE, (Lieu, 1992:36).[41]  The dating of his life during Shapur’s reign is in agreement with al­Tabari (Annales, p.830) [42] and Alexander Lycopolitanus (contra Manichaei opinions disputatio 2).[43]

The Cologne Mani Codex has replaced the Acta Archela as a source for the life of Mani because the Acta set out to denigrate Mani through “falsification and caricature” (Lieu, 1994:152). Späät (2004:1) has argued that Hegemonius projected Simon Magus’ life over Mani to show that he was a “run of the mill” heretic.

The Cologne Mani Codex (11) has Mani with his mother “until the fourth year”.  Then, he “gained entrance to the teachings of the baptists [44] (τό δόγμα τῶν βαπτιστῶν)  With his father, he joined the vegetarian Baptist sect in Mesopotamia.  Its founder, according to the Cologne Mani Codex (94), [45] was Elchasai   (Ἀλχασαῖος). The change of vowel in the founder’s name does not stop him being identified with the Elchasai(os) who seems to have written the “Book of Elxai” (Lieu 1994:84) as described by Christian writers (Lieu, 1992:39­40).   Arab writers called such sects Mughtasilah or “self­baptisers” (Weburn 1998:67).

The data in the codex cannot be accepted uncritically because of the way it shows Mani as an implausibly benign and imperturbable being.  In the manner of all good propaganda, it seems to present a heroic vision rather than a real person. 

Mani declared that at twelve, he had a revelation from his Syzygos (σύζυγος) or his Pair­comrade (Lieu, 1992:44), who was an evocation of Jesus the Luminous  Jesus the Luminous.  Age twelve was also a significant age in Jesus life.  Mani detached himself “gradually” (Cologne Mani Codex 30, 4­7) and “covertly” (Cologne Mani Codex 4, 12; 25, 2­12; 26, 1­6; 73, 17­22; 74, 1­2) from the sect (Scibona, 2001:453).  He called himself a “solitary one” (μονήρης).  According to Lieu (1992:46) this is reminiscent of the Syriac word for a “solitary one”, solitary one , which was a fundamental concept in early Syrian monasticism.  Mani stopped harvesting food from the communities’ fields and asked for them “as a pious gift” , (ἐν λόγῳ εὐσεβείας) Cologne Mani Codex 9).[46] 

Mani eventually challenged other members over the validity of their ritual ablutions and food washing (Cologne Mani Codex 80.18 ­ 83.19).  He argued that the body, under their terms, was always ritually impure because it was continually forced into that state (i.e. moulded) by its original design (i.e. the bad mould that was used in creation).[47]   Since ritual impurity was an inevitable outcome of physical life, the body could not be purified merely by another physical part of living (i.e. washing).  Mani declared that what purity was really about was the separation of Light from Darkness, and for that, what was needed was new knowledge (γνῶσις) rather than physical water. 

This was said to have produced violence against him (Cologne Mani Codex 100.1 ­ 101.3), which initially led him to despair.  His Syzygos appeared to encourage him and give him a world­wide commission to teach as a “true prophet”.  He then ranged from Mesopotamia (perhaps Nisibis)[48] to India on missionary expeditions. 

Mani was also said “to have accompanied Shapur the Persian king during his military campaigns” (Alexander Lycopolitanus, contra Manichaei opinions disputatio 2) and enjoyed his protection.[49]  His teaching spread into the Roman Empire, and across Central Asia into China.  It exercised a major appeal in the Syriac­speaking region around Edessa.

Alexander Lycopolitanus (contra Manichaei opinions disputatio 2)[50] placed his death under Shapur but this seems to have made a mistake, as al­Tabari has the details of Mani’s execution by Vahram.[51]  Mani’s death was either on the 2nd March 274 (Henning’s date) or the 26th February 277 (Taqizadeh’s date) as discussed by Henning and Taqizadeh (1957:106­21) [52].

Mani’s Message

Manichaeism was a missionary religion that expanded rapidly in the third and fourth centuries.  Mani saw its message as universal and as the Apostle of Jesus Christ he intended to supersede Christianity (Brown 1969:93).  Mani’s dialogue was with Marcion and Bardaisan of Edessa.  Mani, perhaps learning from Marcion about the need for a closed set of writings that were both definitive and authoritative, wrote his own canonical scriptures.  Perhaps learning from Bardaisan, he wrote popular madrâshe.  Adapting after his death, the Eastern and Western Manichaeans became more coloured by their local religions.

Mani had a canon of seven books originally written in Syriac.  They were the Living Gospel, the Treasure of Life, the Pragmateia, the Book of Mysteries, the book of Giants, the Letters and Psalms and Prayers (Lieu, 1992:8).  Other writings included, the Shâbuhragân which was a summary of Mani’s teaching, two Kephalia,[53] Homilies and a Synaxes on the Living Gospel (Lieu, 1992:8­9).

Mani taught that cosmic history had three epochs (ἀρχὴ καὶ μεσότης καὶ τέλος) with three “evocations” of divinities (rather like Hesiod’s Cosmogony) which affected three classes of humans (Elect, Hearers, and Sinners).  This is summarized in Appendix 4. 

In Mani’s message there were two principles two principles, a good one good one , in the Region of Light region of light and an evil one in the Region of Darknessregion of darkness (Lieu, 1992:10­11) This does not say that there was equality between the principles.  Severus of Antioch attributed to Mani that, “the difference between the two Principles is as great as between a King and a pig” (Welburn 1998:161).  Alexander of Lycopolis affirmed that for Mani: “God’s goodness far surpassed that of mani’s evil” (contra Manichaei opinions disputatio 2).  Drijvers (1966:124) wrote that Manichaeism “never styled the darkness a god” which means it was possible that for Mani “an ontological dualism and a theological monotheism coexist[ed] coherently” (Scribona, 2001:455).

The main difference between the principles was that one was spirit and the other was material.  Alexander of Lycopolis  (contra Manichaei opinions disputatio 2) objected to the Manichaeans use of (ύλὴ ) , (hylê matter) to designate the Evil principle as (ἄτακτος κίνησις) (random motion).  There may be in this the suggestion that, as with Bardaisan, the main characterisation of evil was in the mingling of Darkness with Light rather than the Darkness itself.

Mani’s works

Apart from his canonical books, Mani was an indefatigable correspondent  (Lieu 1994:149).  He was said to have addressed one of his letters to his community in Edessa. 

According to Ephrem Syrus, Mani, like Bar Daysan, disseminated his teachings in Nisibis and Edessa with madrâshê (Beck, Hymnen contra Haereses, I.16), which probably referred to Mani’s Psalms and Prayers.   It was these madrâshê that appealed so strongly to the Syriac­speaking people.  He also used the Diatessaron, the Acts of Thomas and Gospel of Thomas and he esteemed Marcion for his asceticism (Drijvers, 1984:17­18).  

Eusebius (History of the Church 7.31), Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechesis ad illuminados 6.20­35), Porphyry of Gaza (Life of Porphyry, Bishop of Gaza, 85.3­7, 66­67) and Epiphanius (Panarion) all wrote as Christian bishops against Mani [54], which suggests that Manichaeism was seen as a dangerous threat by disguising itself as Christianity.  In the sixth century Zachariah of Mitylene and Severus of Antioch also gave “accurate accounts of Manichaeism (Lieu 1994:128) and this shows the continuing success that Manichaeism enjoyed.

Mani gave peoples’ lives a significant part in an elaborate cosmic drama.  Men and women could become part of the “Elect”, a radical elite actively disengaging from the environment so as not to cause any harm to it and to concentrate particles of Light within their bodies.  They also traveled as missionaries bringing their canon of books with them.  Others became “Hearers” and could live their normal lives while gaining forgiveness and cleansing from the Elect through vicarious rituals.  Through sheltering and feeding the Elect, Hearers were also actively contributing to the salvation of the cosmos (Brown 1969:99).

Concluding Remarks

Marcion was actively teaching between 110 and 150 CE.  He took Paul’s opposition to the Law of Moses seriously and repudiated the whole of the Jewish Bible. Marcion announced the Good god above the Creator god.  He defined the first closed New Testament canon which may have stimulated the ultimately “orthodox” to follow his lead.  His canon was authoritative, but its authenticity was a problem.  Marcion’s group may have been the first to be called “Christians” at Edessa.  His rejection of the Creator’s world led into asceticism, and though the Marcionites were very successful for a long time, the lack of children and family nurturing may have contributed to their decline.

Bardaisan lived 154 ­ 222 CE.  His teaching songs became very popular and through them his influence lasted a long time.  In his cosmology, the body was completely subject to fate, the spirit was perfectly free to choose the good, and the soul was partially free and partially controlled by fate through its material aspect.  Man was only judged for those actions that he had the freedom to choose.  He was not an ascetic, which distinguished him from Marcion.  He included the popular mythology and beliefs. He stimulated an interest in natural philosophy, which may have contributed to passing on Greek medicine and science to the Arabs.

Mani lived 216 ­ 274/7 CE.  Perhaps learning from Marcion, he chose to write his own canon, which made it both authoritative and authentic. Perhaps learning from Bardaisan he used teaching songs as well.  Mani held that God/light and matter/darkness were two initially separate principles.  For him, God seems to have been the stronger. He developed an elaborate cosmology that showed how Light and Darkness were accidentally mixed, what that meant for his day, and how they were to be permanently separated by God.  Personal salvation was through severe ascetic practices, or the helping of others in their ascetic practices.  Both of these activities contributed to the ultimate restoration.

All three had a profound effect on the religious history of Edessa and the surrounding region, as demonstrated by their rapid and enduring success.



Primary Sources

Beck, E., 1957, Des heiligen Ephraem des Syrers Hymnen contra Haereses, CSCO vols. 169­170, Louvain

Cameron, R., and Dewey, A.J., trans., 1979, The Cologne Mani Codex “Concerning the Origin of his Body”, Scholars, Missoula

Dodgeon M.H. and Lieu S.N.C., 1991, “The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars”, Routledge, London

Ephraim, 1921, S. Ephraim’s Prose Refutations Of Mani, Marcion, and Bardaisan, trans. Mitchell C.W., Clowes, London

Eusebius, 1965, The History of the Church from Christ to Constantine, translated by G.A. Williamson, Penguin

Guidi, I., trans., 1955, “The Chronicle of Edessa”, Chronica Minora, CSCO

Gwatkin, H.M., 1914, Early Church History to AD 313, Macmillan, London

Phillips, G., trans., 1876, Doctrine of Addai, London

Stevenson, J., 1963, A New Eusebius, SPCK, London

Welburn, A., 1998, Mani, the Angel and the Column of Glory, Floris, Edinburgh

Secondary Sources

Bauer, W., 1971, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, German original, copyright J.C.B.Mohr, Tüübingen, 1934, English Translation by Robert A. Kraft, Gerhard Kroedel, etc., Fortress Press, Philadelphia

Bethune­Baker, J.F., 1908, Nestorius and his Teaching, Cambridge UP

Blackman, E.C., 1948, Marcion and His Influence, SPCK, London

Brown, P., (1969), “The Diffusion of Manichaeism in the Roman Empire”, Journal of Roman Studies, 59:92­103

Bruce, F.F., 1958, The Spreading Flame, Paternoster, Plymouth

Butcher, K, 2003, Roman Syria and The Near East, British Museum Press

Drijvers, H.J.W., 1966, Bardaisan of Edessa, Royal VanGorcum, Assen,

Drijvers, H.J.W., 1980, Cults and Beliefs at Edessa, Brill, Leiden

Drijvers, H.J.W., 1984, East of Antioch, Studies in Early Syriac Christianity, Variorium Reprints, London

Frend, W.H.C., 1965, The Early Church, Hodder & Stoughton, London

Frye, R. N., 1983, “The Political History of Iran under the Sasanians”, Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 3.1, ed. Yarshater E., Cambridge

Hoffmann, R.J., 1984, Marcion: On the Restitution of Christianity,  Scholars Press, Chico

Lieu, S.N.C., 1992, Manichaeism in the Later Roman Empire and Medieval China, Mohr, Tübingen

Lieu, S.N.C., 1994, Manichaeism in Mesopotamia and the Roman East, Brill, Leiden

Lightfoot, J.B., 1889, 1890, The Apostolic Fathers, Macmillan, London

Ross, S.K., 2001, Roman Edessa. Politics and Culture on the Eastern Fringes of the Roman Empire, 114­242 CE, London/New York, Routledge

Scibona, C.G., (2001), How Monotheistic Is Mani’s Dualism? Once more on monotheism and dualism in Manichaean gnosis”, Numen: International Review for the History of Religions, 48:444­467.

Segal, J.B., 1970, Edessa ‘The Blessed City’, Clarendon, Oxford

Spät, E., (2004), “The ’Teachers’ of Mani in the Acta Archelai and Simon Magus”, Vigiliae Christianae, 58: 1­23

Vööbus, A., 1958, History of Asceticism in the Syrian Orient, CSCO vol 184 subs 14, Peeters, Louvain,

Wellesz, E., 1967, “Early Christian Music”, New Oxford History of Music, Vol II, ed., Hughes, Oxford, London

Yahshater, E., ed., The Cambridge History of Iran, 3(1), Cambridge UP, 1983


Appendix 1: The Religious background at Edessa

The religious background at Edessa included numerous deities from the range of cultures that made up its sociological structure.  Drijvers (Drijvers, 1980:175­6) saw three main pagan traditions at Edessa.  These were Babylonian deities such as Nebo and Bel, Aramaean deities such as Atatgatis and Hadad from Hierapolis (other deities also from neigbouring Harran), and Arab gods such as Azizos and Monimos.  This composition of deities was also found at Palmyra, so it is representative of the wider area around Edessa.  One difference from other cities was that there were no dyads or triads at Edessa (Drijvers, 1980:178). The strong appeal of Astrology (as shown from Doctrine of Addai and Ephrem) was evidence of general Mesopotamian religious views and priestly interest.  Drijvers (1980:177) noticed there was no evidence of Iranian religious influence until the fifth century

Edessa was also influenced by the Graeco­Roman culture and religions, being linked to Antioch with a busy highway (Drijvers, 1984:2).  Drijvers saw Edessa as having “all the characteristics of a Greco­Roman city” but “in Syriac disguise” (Drijvers, 1984:3).[55]  This was probably why the Graeco­Roman characteristics of the population remained unchanged under later Iranian authorities.  Drijvers suggested that the popularity of Parthian dress among the higher ranks of society was more due to the influence of Alexander than any Iranian pressures (Drijvers, 1980:178).

Appendix 2: Map showing Edessa, Hierapolis and Carrhae

Map from Butcher (2003:107)

Appendix 3: The Cosmology of Bardaisan

Drijvers (1966:97­8) gives three traditions of sources for the cosmology of Bardaisan.  First there is Barhadbeshabba ‘Arbaïa (late 6th century), who was in agreement with Îwannîs of Dàrâ (early 9th century) and Moses bar Kepha (d.903 at 90).  Second, there is Theodore bar Khonai (late 8th century) who seems to be a separate tradition.  Finally there is Agapius of Mabbug who was also in agreement with Michael Syrus and Bar Hebraeus.

 Barhadbeshabba uses the Syriac word ithya Ithya: Greek οὐσία or στοιχεία for the Bardaisan’s four “Stoic” elements that make up the world. 



"The four ithya were :

They were initially ordered at the four cardinal points of the compass (as shown in figure 1 from Burkitt’s Preface to Mitchell, 1921:1.cxxiv).

Moses bar Kepha wrote that Bardaisan said, it “was formed from five elements” (Drijvers, 1966:98).  Darkness Darkness was the fifth ithya “dwelling in the depths” (Drijvers, 1984:108) and an enemy of the four.  However Theodore bar Khonai, in Drijvers second tradition of sources (1966:123), did not mention Darkness.  This probably indicates that for Bardaisan, Darkness was not an active evil (as with Mani).  Evil originated in the confusion of the four ithya.  Ross (2003:126) commented that Darkness as a source of evil was derived from Persian religious ideas.


God was the sixth ithya, far above the four ithya, and identified with light and pure νοῦς (mind).  God was then not the Creator or source of the material Universe as it was eternal.  The idea of pre­existing chaotic matter has also been seen in Genesis 1:2 interpreted as “the Earth became formless”.

Another initial arrangement has the ithya ordered by weight, with the heaviest at the bottom as shown in figure 2 (also from Burkitt).  In this context, the four ithya functioned as intermediaries between light and darkness. (Drijvers, 1984:XI.197).

The four ithya were said to have atomic structure.  That is, their smallest parts had individual qualities that were defined by colour, smell, taste, form and sound.  Their qualities thus corresponded with the five senses (Drijvers, 1984:XI.198).  In terms of colour: light is white, fire is red, wind is blue and water is green (Drijvers, 1966:137).

 Bardaisan apparently taught that evil arose when the four ithya “by an unlucky chance” (in Barhadbeshabba ‘Arba ïa’s words)[56] were accidentally confused and Darkness took the opportunity to mingle with them (Drijvers,[56] 1984:5).

God’s act of creation occurred when he sent the Logos Logos or Word of Thought word of thought who partially separated the darkness from the four ithya.  He created a form of order (the mystery of the cross) that was to last for 6000 years (Drijvers, 1984:XI.198, 110). The innumerable combinations of the ithya were like chemical molecules, which gave rise to the many forms of the created world.

The creative Νοῦς (Mind) was then also the rescuing Νοῦς (Mind) (Drijvers, 1984:XI.206).  The world was to be ultimately purified through the actions of men in purifying their “souls”.  It was only the later authors who identified the “Word of Thought” with Christ Christ so this may not have been original to Bardaisan (Drijvers, 1984:XI.206).  In the tradition of Theodore bar Khonai, the Word of Thought was called the “wind of the heights” wind of the heights.  This may represent a translation of “the spirit of God” in Genesis 1:2 as “a great wind”. (Drijvers, 1984:XI.202­3, 1966:101)

At creation “the seven planets” (i.e. the five planets and the Sun and the Moon) were assigned their fixed courses and given a part in world government (Book of the Laws of the Countries p.14, l.12­18, l18­30, l3, Drijvers, 1966:78­85).  In connection with this government, he used the Stoic expression διοίκησις τοῦ κόμου (administration of the world) (Drijvers, 1984:XI.191, 194).

Bardaisan considered that Man had body, soul and spirit (Drijvers, 1984:XI.203).  The body had no free­will and was subject to laws of naturenature and fate fate

The soulsoul was the vehicle of animal life and came down from the world of light to enter the body at birth (Drijvers, 1984:XI.204).  As the non­material soul descended through the planets it acquired seven material qualities proportionate to its closeness to the seven planets.  Agapius of Mabbug and Michael Syrus wrote that, according to Bardaisan, the brains came from the Sun, the hair from the Venus, the skin from the Moon etc (Drijvers, 1984:XI.200). Thus, the timing of the soul’s descent partially determined its fate.  Ephrem Syrus noted the comparison: “the soul … in comparison with the body … is ‘subtle’ and in comparison with the body it is ‘corporeal’”.[57]

The spirit was a divine gift, tied to the soul and linked man to God.  The spirit gave the ability to choose between good and evil, so right acts were the true nature of man and helped return his spirit to its origin.  The various νόμιμα βαρβαρικά (foreign customs) in the Book of the Laws of the Countries showed that the liberty given by the spirit was stronger than the power of fate (Drijvers, 1984:XI.190)

The body then is completely subject to fate, the spirit is perfectly free to choose good, and the soul is partially free and partially controlled by fate through its material aspect.  Man was then only judged for those actions that he had the freedom to choose.

Body soul and spirit separated at death. Bardaisan naturally denied bodily resurrection because the body was only a material vehicle for the essential nous.  The soul was partly material, being made of the more “subtle elements” which dissolved at death (Drijvers, 1984:XI.205).  (Drijvers speculated that these ithya were light and fire, though this could include air as well).  As the soul ascended through the planets it gave back what it received until as pure nous it enters the realm of light.   The soul reached its destination when after the journey to heaven the soul enters the bride­chamber of light. (Drijvers, 1984:XI.197).

Although Bardaisan used Ithya(ithya) to denote one of the four elements and Ithutha (ithutha) for the essence or “being” of that element (Bethune­Baker 1908:213), Ephrem Syrus used Ithya (ithya) for “being”, and reserved Ithutha (ithutha) only for God (Drijvers, 1966:134).  Ephrem therefore said the Bardaisan made the elements equal to beings like God.   Ephrem also mentioned that the later Bardaisanites spoke of God sending three agencies to order the world: spirit, force and thought, but Bardaisan had only one agency, the Word of Thought (Drijvers, 1966:140­1).

Appendix 4: The Cosmology of Mani

The First Epoch (ἀρχή)

In the beginning the Father of Greatness Father of Greatness had four powers, Divinity, Light, Power and Wisdom. 

The Region of Light was made from 5 elements elements (στοιχεία) , which were:

It also had 5 “dwellings” dwellings, within which were :

The other residents were 12 Aeons and 144 Aeons of Aeons, which were all hypostases of the Father (Lieu, 1992:11). 

The Region of Darkness had 5 “worlds” 5 worlds which contained :

Each was ruled by an evil Archon and collectively they formed the Prince of Darknessprince of darkness (Lieu, 1992:12).  Out of each cavern a tree grew, which united to form the Tree of Death (Lieu, 1992:13).

The Middle Epoch ( μεσότης)

The middle epoch, (which was Mani’s Present), started when “a fortuitous combination” of motions aroused the forces of Darkness to ascend into the Light.  The Father of Greatness ”evoked” a second series of hypostases through the Mother of Life who in turn “evoked” the Primal Man.  The Primal Man used the 5 elements of Light as armour.  He came to battle the combination of the 5 Archons, who took the form of the Prince of Darkness.  The Primal Man was defeated (as intended by the Father of Greatness) and some of the elements of Light were swallowed by the Darkness, thus ensuring the future defeat of Darkness (Lieu, 1992:14).

The Primal Man evoked the Friend of the Lights, who in turn evoked the Great Builder, who in turn evoked the Living Spirit, who in turn evoked his 5 sons ­ one from each of the elements of Light (Lieu, 1992:14­15). 

The Living Spirit issued “The Call”the calland the Primal Man “The Answer”the answer.  The Call and Answer then hypostasised into divinities who both ascended to the Living Spirit and the Mother of Life.  The Living Spirit then came down and extended his right hand to the Primal Man who grasped it and was carried upwards (Lieu, 1992:16­17).

The Living Spirit and his 5 sons descended again, and the Archons of Darkness were defeated.  The Living Spirit (now the Demiurge) then created the Earth from their dead bodies and the Firmament from their skins.  The created universe thus becomes a “hospital” for the swallowed Light and a prison for Darkness.   In all, eight earths and ten heavens were created (Lieu, 1992:17­18).

The swallowed Light was separated into three groups.  The undefiled Light became the Sun and Moon.  The slightly defiled Light became the stars.  The heavily defiled Light needed the three wheels or spheresthree wheels or spheres to help them rise.  They were formed from wind, water and fire.

A third series of hypostases were evoked by the Father of Greatness to operate the wheels.  The series started with the Third Messenger third messenger who evoked the Maiden of Lightmaiden of light.  The Maiden of Light was really the Zodiac i.e. Twelve Maidens twelve maidens (Lieu, 1992:18). 

The Third Messenger appeared naked in the Sun and the Maiden of Light appeared naked in the Moon.  The male archons, who had previously swallowed Light particles, ejaculated them as seed.  The power of Sin sinwithin the archons tried to mingle with the Light seed, but generally failed.  Sin fell to the Earth to form vegetation that trapped Light particles.  The female archons self­impregnated and then spontaneously aborted.  The abortions abortions formed the animals.  Thus Light particles were scattered in plant life and to a lesser extent in animals (Lieu, 1992:18). 

However, the mechanism had been constructed and set in motion to collect all the Light particles and bring them up to the Region of Light via the Column of Glory column of glory , one of the third series of evocations).  As a counter­attack, two demons two demons ate the abortions’ offspring and copulate to form Adam Adam and Eve Eve.  Humans were thus formed to keep Light particles trapped through lust and procreation  (Lieu, 1992:21).

Jesus the Luminous Jesus the Luminous was sent to find Adam.   He then exorcised Adam’s demons, revealed the Father of Greatness, and warned against intercourse.  However things went wrong (as they are allowed to do so from time to time) and children were born (Lieu, 1992:22).  Jesus the Luminous, as the father of all apostles, evoked the Great Nous to enter the world through the teaching of true religious leaders.  The Great Nous adorned the soul with the elements of Light, which then engender the five virtues of love, faith, contentment, patience and wisdom. 

However there is a constant battle between the “new Man” and the “old Man” (described by the Apostle Paul) and the soul has lapses of consciousness about its divine origins.  To help the soul there are 5 commandments: do not lie, do not kill, do not eat animal flesh, keep being pure, be poor.  There are also 3 seals: control the mouth (speech and eating), control the hands (no action to hurt Light particles), and control the breast (no sex) (Lieu, 1992:25).

The Final Epoch ( τέλος )

When nearly all Light has been liberated a great war will break out.  Jesus will come a second time as the Great King to judge and reward.  Those holding up the universe (The Column of Glory and the 5 Sons) will let it collapse and burn.  The Prince of Darkness and his followers will be confined in outer darkness, and Darkness will be permanently separated from Light (Lieu, 1992:29­30).

[1] Justin, 1 Apology 7: “among the Greeks … all called by the one name "philosopher," though their doctrines be diverse, so also among the Barbarians this name on which accusations are accumulated is the common property of those who are, and those who seem wise. For all are called Christians.”

[2] Ross (2001:13) for example has Bardaisan as “the founder of a long lived …. Christian sect”

[3] Ephrem Syrus, (306 ­ 373 CE) expressed his anger about a nomenclature that had apparently for a century, excluded “Catholics” in Edessa from taking the name “Christian”.  Writing of Palût, the “Catholic” bishop of Edessa, Ephrem grieved that the heretics “call us Palûtians, and this we quite decisively reject … cursed be those who let themselves be called by the name Palût instead of by the name Christ” (Ephrem, Madrâsh 22).

[4] Hoffmann (1984:74) gives Marcion’s birth as c. 70 CE.  Marcion’s birth date has been variously reported as 85, 95 and as late as 110 CE (e.g. The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume IX, 1910).

[5] Justin was born in Samaria according to his own testimony. 1 Apology 1.1 has: “I, Justin, the son of Priscus and grandson of Bacchius, natives of Flavia Neapolis in Palestine”.

[6] Irenaeus, who was taught by Polycarp, wrote in Against Heresies, 3.3.4: “Polycarp himself replied to Marcion, who met him on one occasion”, i.e. Marcion and Polycarp were contemporaries. Polycarp seems to have written against Marcion in his letter to the Philippians (Hoffmann, 1984:51).  Eusebius dated Polycarp as active between 98 to 117 CE (History of the Church 3.36) so Marcion seems to have been working successfully in Asia Minor before 117 CE (Hoffmann, 1984:53­54). Clement of Alexandria (Miscellanies 7.17.105f) dated Marcion’s emergence in Hadrian’s rule. Irenaeus is inconsistent with this. He wrote: “Marcion … succeeding [Cerdo], flourished under Anicetus” (Against Heresies, 3.4.3). That is, Irenaeus has Marcion begin work in Rome not earlier than 150 CE, and becoming successful sometime after that (Hoffmann, 1984:44).  This late date was part of Irenaeus’ argument that “heretical succession” came later than “apostolic succession”.

[7] If Marcion was well established by 138 CE then it is unlikely that he went to Rome for recognition and acceptance.  Justin Martyr and Polycarp do not mention any visit of Marcion to Rome.  Irenaeus, Tertullian, and Epiphanius seem inconsistent and vague about such a visit.  Since they were not sure whether or when Marcion went to Rome, it creates doubt that such a visit occurred. (Hoffmann 1984:74) wrote: “it seems doubtful that Marcion ventured to Rome.”

[8] The last date in the Chronicle of Edessa (also titled, A History of Events by way of Compendium) was 850 SE (538/9 CE).  It seems to have been composed from some official records.

[9] There is no record of the legendary Addai before Eusebius.

[10] Doctrine of Addai, (p.39) stated: “Palût, who was a deacon, [Addai] made an elder”, but later this is contradicted on p.49: “when Addai the Apostle died … he was not able to place the hand upon Palût. Palût himself went to Antioch, and received the hand of the priesthood from Serapion, Bishop of Antioch.”  Since Addai was most likely legendary and perhaps a Manichaean (with Drijvers), Palût’s historicity rests on his association with Serapion.  Phillips noted W. Cureton dismissed the second quote as a careless addition, however being unintentionally contradictory it may contain a historical kernel. Eusebius (History of the Church, 5.23.4) wrote that Osrhoene bishops and churches were involved in the 197 CE Easter controversy.

[11] Chronicle of Edessa §8 “In the year 513, (202 CE) … the Daisan (river) … waters … carried away everything that was found before them … and they destroyed the shrine (or nave) of the church of the Christians.”  “Haikla” haikla was cited from Segal (1970:24).

[12] Cyril of Jerusalem (Catechetical Lecture 18.26)since one might … say that there is a Church of evil doers, I mean the meetings of the heretics, the Marcionists and Manichees, and the rest, … that you may avoid their wretched meetings … do not simply inquire where the Lord’s House is, for the other sects of the profane also attempt to call their own dens houses of the Lord καὶ γὰρ αἱ λοιπαὶ τῶν ἀσεβῶν αἱρέσεις κυριακὰ τὰ ἑαυτῶν σπήλαια καλεῖν ἐπιχειροῦσι nor merely where the Church is, but where is the Catholic Church.”

[13] Cited from Bauer, (1996:21).

[14] Eusebius qualified Apollinarius of Hierapolis’ statement (book 3) on truth being vindicated by martyrs (5.16.21): “This seems to be false … for some of the other heretical sects have immense numbers of martyrs … this is surely no reason why we should … acknowledge that they have the truth … Marcionites claim an immense number of Christian martyrs, but they do not truly acknowledge Christ himself.”

[15] Examples from Eusebius include: “Metrodorus, who in Marcion’s heretical sect passed for a presbyter, was … put to death” (History of the Church 4.15.46). Three men died as Christians under Valerian in 257 CE and Eusebius (7.12) adds  “a woman … battled a similar ordeal. But she is thought to have belonged to Marcion’s sect.”  In Eusebius, (Martyrs of Palestine, 10), “there was burned … with [Peter Absalom] … one who belonged to Marcion’s heresy, and called himself a bishop; and he gave himself up to this as in the zeal for righteousness, although … not in true knowledge, and endured martyrdom … with this God’s martyr.”

[16] Cited by Hoffmann (1984:20)

[17] In 1 Tim 6.20 “antitheses” may refer to Marcion (Hoffmann, 1984:73)

[18] Cited in Gwatkin, (1914:98­9)

[19] Cited in Gwatkin, (1914:99)

[20] Cited in Stevenson, (1963:101)

[21] Where the Syriac word Iesu Iesu is written instead of the more usual isho  Isho

[22] “Docetic” from the Greek word δοκέω , expresses how something shows itself phenomenally

[23] Cited in Gwatkin, (1914:96­99)

[24] The Muratorian fragment (Stevenson 1963:146) has: “But of Arsinous, also called Valentinus, or of Miltiades, we receive nothing at all, who have also composed a new book of psalms for Marcion … ” “Arsinoi seu Valentini vel Miltiadis nihil in totum recipimus, qui etiam novum psalmorum librum Marcioni conscriptserunt …”  This seems to say that these psalms were not written by the Marcionites, but Stevenson noted that the text is “hopelessly corrupt” (Stevenson 1963:147).

[25] Tertullian (Against Marcion 1.14.3): “[Marcion] has not disdained the water which the Creator made, with which he washes his people; nor the oil with which he anoints them; nor that union of honey and milk with which he gives them the nourishment of children; nor the bread by which he represents his own proper body, thus requiring in his very sacraments the ‘beggarly elements’ of the Creator.”

[26] Hippolytus (Refutation of all heresies, 10.15):“[Marcion] imagines that he annoys the Creator, if he abstains from the things that are made or appointed by Him.”

[27] Tertullian (Against Marcion 1.29) “According to Marcion, the flesh is not immersed in the water of the sacrament, unless it be in virginity, widowhood, or celibacy, or has purchased by divorce a title to baptism.

[28] Tertullian (Against Marcion 3.22.5­7)  “[Christ] signed them with that very seal of which Ezekiel[28] spake: ‘… set the mark tau upon the foreheads …’. Now the Greek letter tau and our own letter T is the very form of the cross, which He predicted would be the sign on our foreheads … these things are also found amongst you … the sign upon the forehead, and the sacraments of the church, and the offerings of the pure sacrifice”.

[29] Tertullian (Prescription for the Heretics, 40) “Mithra … sets his marks on the foreheads of his soldiers; also celebrates the oblation of bread, and introduces an image of a resurrection, and wreathes a crown before a sword. ­ limit[s] his chief priest to a single marriage? He, too, has his virgins; he, too, has his proficients in continence.”

[30] Tertullian (Prescription for the Heretics 41). “The very women of these heretics, how wanton they are! For they are bold enough to teach, to dispute, to enact exorcisms, to undertake cures ­ it may be even to baptize.” “Ipsae mulieres haereticae quam procaces! Quae audeant docere, contendere, exorcismos agree, curationes repromittere, forsitan et tingere.”

[31] Eznik de Kolb (Confutation of the Sects, 4) “he has the boldness to ask women to administer baptism, which no one from the other sects has taken upon himself to do”.  Cited by Hoffmann (1984:22)

[32] Cited by Hoffman (1984:17)

[33] Tertullian (Prescription for the heretics 41): “Their ordinations, are carelessly. administered, capricious, changeable. At one time they put novices in office; at another time, men who are bound to some secular employment; at another, persons who have apostatized from us, to bind them by vainglory, since they cannot by the truth. Nowhere is promotion easier than in the camp of rebels, where the mere fact of being there is a foremost service. And so it comes to pass that to­day one man is their bishop, to­morrow another; to­day he is a deacon who to­morrow is a reader; to­day he is a presbyter who tomorrow is a layman. For even on laymen do they impose the functions of priesthood.”

[34] Drijvers, (1966:217) doubted the tradition that Bardaisan was born on the bank of the Daisan (i.e. “son of the river Daisan”) because Ephrem Syrus did not mention it.  The tradition came from Theodore bar Koni, Liber Scholiorum, ed. Scher, A., CSCO 55:69 as cited by Ross, (2003:179, n.15).

[35] Chronicle of Edessa 6. “The year 465, in the month Tammuz, on the eleventh day, Bardesanes was born.”  The start of 313 SE (Seleucid Era) was October 1 CE, so the start of 465 SE was October 153 CE.

[36] Cited from Ross (2003:179 n.14).

[37] This was also affirmed by Eusebius (Praep. Evang. 6.9.32)

[38] Julius Africanus (c. 160­240 CE) went to Osrhoene with Septimius Severus’ expedition in 195 CE. In his κεστοί or Embroideries (29), he mentioned that he had met Bardaisan in Abgar VIII’s court at Edessa and found him to be a skilful archer.

[39] Cited by Drijvers (1966:161)

[40] Cited by Drijvers (1966:67)

[41] For example: “oil is a liquid nature”.

[42] Ephrem Syrus wrote that he was from Babylon (Beck, Hymnen contra Haereses, XIV:8)

[43] al­Tabari (Annales, p.830): “In Shapur’s time Mani the Zandik[42] appeared”. Cited from Dodgeon and Lieu (1991:285)

[44] Alexander Lycopolitanus (contra Manichaei opinions disputatio 2): “The first expounder of [Mani’s] doctrines to visit us was a man called Papos, after whom came Thomas, and again some others after both of these. Manichaeus himself is said to have lived during the reign of Valerianus and to have accompanied Shapur the Persian king during his military campaigns.”  Cited from Dodgeon and Lieu (1991:65)

[45] English cited from Welburn, (1998:13) and Greek from Cameron and Dewey (1979:14)

[46] Cameron and Dewey (1979:76)

[47] Cited from Camerom and Dewey (1979:12)

[48] Cologne Mani Codex “ τὸ γὰρ σῶμα τοῦτο μιαρόν ἐστιν καὶ ἐκ πλάσεως μιαρότητοσς ἐπλάσθη "

[49] Suggested by Lieu (1994:149) in connection with the Acta Archelai

[50] Brown (1969:93) dismissed the view that Shapur saw Manichaeism as a kind of cement for his empire.

[51] Alexander Lycopolitanus (contra Manichaei opinions disputatio 2): “for having offended Shapur in some way, [Mani] was put to death”.

[52] al­Tabari (Annales): “It is said that Mani the Zandik tried to convert [Bahram] to his religion, but he had the matter scrutinized and found him to be an apostle of Satan; so he ordered that he should be killed, then skinned and his skin to be stuffed with chaff and to be hung up at one of the gates of Gunde­Shapur, which gate (since that) is called the Mani­gate; he also executed his companions and adherents.” Cited from Dodgeon and Lieu (1991:289)

[53] Cited from Yarshater (1983, 3.1:119).

[54] The Kephalia of the Teacher and the Kephalia of the Wisdom of my Lord Mani

[55] Cited from Lieu (1994:54­59)

[56] According to Drijvers Atargatis was the “Tyche” of Edessa (Drijvers, 1980:180) as found on some coins (Ross 2003:115) . This expresses Drijvers’ view that the religious concepts of one culture became “the vehicles of another culture in order to keep the world identifiable (Drijvers, 1980:174).

[57] Cited from Drijvers 1966 (:100)

[58] cited by Drijvers 1966:156


Buxton = Oxford Readings in Greek Religion, Richard Buxton, Oxford University Press, 2000
CMD = The Concise Mythological Dictionary, G.P.Putnam’s Sons, 1963
MWM = The Ancient Mysteries, M.W.Meyer, University of Pennsylvania Press, Philadelphia, 1999, (copyright 1987)

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