5th Century AD: Wings of Parchment


Two pages from the Cologne Mani Codex, “a lump of parchment fragments the size of a matchbox,” that tells the story of the early life of Mani, the Persian prophet and the founder of Manichaeism.

The work—made in 5th century Egypt— “bears the somewhat puzzling title Perì tês génnēs toû sṓmatos autoû (On the origin of his body),” which scholars now believe refers to the idea of Mani as a spiritual being who only temporarily took on a physical existence. It tells the story of his early life up to his maturation and the beginning of his mission to spread his faith throughout the world.

Manichaeism itself was a major religion that thrived between the third and seventh centuries from the Roman Empire to China. It rivaled Christianity for a time as a contender to replace classical paganism, its most famous adherent being St. Augustine, who embraced the religion for nine years prior to his final conversion to Catholicism.

Seen as a Gnostic religion—Mani was recognized not only as an apostle of Christ but as a reincarnation of Zoroaster and Buddha—Manichaeism preached a complex dualistic cosmology: a universal struggle between good and evil. It taught that God was powerful and good, yet not omnipotent. In the clash between Good and a separately existing Evil, the world and humanity come into being as a battleground for this epic struggle. A large array of deities, demons, and other cosmic figures take part in the religion’s intricate cosmogony and mythos.

The codex at the University of Cologne is here.
Source: entry on the codex from the Encyclopaedia Iranica.

This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s