Tuesday, October 26, 2010

I Didn't Know That ...

Did you know that the Mandaean community of Iraq (and now of 'everywhere' because of a recent exodus from their homeland) despite underlying hostilities directed against the ancient Jewish religion still consider Abraham to be their forefather? I didn't know that myself. Here is the pertinent passage from Wolf-Peter Funk's paper at the Sixth International Conference on Manichaeanism:

Although the Pentateuch (and Jerusalem) traditions are hardly seen in a less hostile light where they are mentioned in the book itself, the amalgamation process suggested to be at the origin of the Mandaean community by various particular traits of this work - i.e. the Haran Gawaitha - (and strongly argued by Drower in her introduction) leaves considerable room for a more diversified reception of typically “Jewish” traditions. I do not know how much historical depth, if any, can be attributed to an orally communicated assertion such as the one reported by Drower (1953, vii, quoted from her earlier work), “Abraham was of our people – we called him Bahram,” which is the name that in the literature usually appears as Bihram (cf. his role as the possible founder of Mandaean baptism rites, “the baptism of the great Bihram, son of the mighty,” ibid., 6f., n. 9). If there was any chance for similar equations in antiquity, one may assume that Mani was likely to adopt the more “Christian” variant of that name. [source]

I have to admit - I didn't know that. What is particularly striking about this new information is that Abraham is specifically connected with the making of proselytes in all traditions. A Jewish convert for instance is called 'son of Abraham.' The interest in Abraham extends to the Marcionite tradition, where (a) water immersion is still identified in some sense as a 'baptism on behalf of the dead' and (b) Abraham's bosom is still regarded as a priveleged place in Sheol. Is there some connection here? Did Marcionite baptism invoke Abraham? It is difficult to say. I was suprised enough to learn about the Mandaean claims about baptism coming from Abraham.

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