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The Living Gospel of Mani

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Estimated Range of Dating: 240-274 A.D.

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Information on the Living Gospel of Mani

Henri-Charles Puech, as revised by Beate Blatz, writes: "Up to this point we have considered only the 'gospel', or more exactly the different gospels, read, used and commented on by Mani and his adherents. But by 'Gospel of Mani' we ought, strictly speaking, to understand a work by the founder of Manicheism, the original gospel composed by Mani himself. ... 'Living', the epithet applied to this gospel, is frequently employed in the language of Manicheism, and was inherited from Gnosticism (cf. for example, 'the living Spirit', 'the living soul', 'Jesus, the Living One', perhaps also - see H.H. Schaeder, Urform und Fortbildungen des manichäischen Systems, p. 88, note 1 - Mani haija, Manixaios, Mani 'the living'). The term might imply that the document was presented and considered as of divine origin or nature, as emanating from the higher world of Light, Truth and Life (cf. the tradition or legend reported by Mirkhond (in Kessler, Mani, p. 379), according to which, to prove his prophetic claims, Mani produced a book, the 'Gospel', and said: 'This book has come down from heaven'). It means in any case that the work brought to its readers a message of regenerating truth, which could bring about and accomplish their spiritual resurrection and thus procure for them salvation" (New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 1, p. 404-405)

They comment further: "It is very difficult to form any very precise or exact idea of the content of the work. If we may believe Photius, or pseudo-Photius (c. Manich. I 12, PG CII 36 A), it contained a falsified account of the life or of certain acts of Jesus ('. . . in which certain destructive and ill-omened acts of Christ our God are invented by a disposition hostile to God'). Peter of Sicily on the contrary (Hist. Manich. 11, PG CIV 1257 C) affirms that it did not touch on any such subject. The impression left by a testimony of much greater value - that of al-Biruni, who had the writing in his hands - is that it was a gosple of a special kind, and one of which the form and content contrasted strongly with those of the canonical Gospels received by the Christians. Al-Biruni writes in fact (A. Adam, Texte zum Manichäismus, (KLT 175), 1954, p. 1): 'The adherents of Mani have a gospel of a special kind, which from the beginning to end contains the opposite of what the Christians hold. And they confess what stands therein, and declare that it is the genuine Gospel, and its demands that to which the Messiah held and which he brought; everything outside this gospel is invalid, and its adherents [sc. of the Church's Gospel] speak lies about the Messiah.'" (New Testament Apocrypha, vol. 1, p. 406)

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Kirby, Peter. "The Living Gospel of Mani." Early Christian Writings. <>.