The Manichaean Psalms of Heracleides

Manichaeanism

This “forbidden” book of the Christian bible is a very short one!!! I think it’s an enjoyable one though. Also I FINALLY figured out how to not only have a featured image but also to insert images into the text! Yay! Enjoy!

Before we get into the text, let me give you some context/background. Manichaeism/Manicheism is a dualistic religious system with Christian, Gnostic, & pagan elements, founded in Persia is the 3rd century by Manes (circa 216-circa 276). The system was based on a supposed primeval conflict between light & darkness. It spread widely in the Eoman Empire & in Asia. It survived in Chinese Turkestan until the 13th century. The origin of the word comes from the 17th century; from late Latin Manichaeus (from the name Manes) plus -ism. Ok, let’s get into it.

A Song from the Manichaean Psalms of Heracleides

Mary, Mary, know me, but don’t touch me. Dry the tears of your eyes, & know that I’m your master, only don’t touch me. For I’ve not seen my father’s face.

Your God was not taken away, as you thought in your pettiness (or smallness). Your God didn’t die; rather, he mastered death. I’m not the gardener. I’ve given, I’ve received…, I didn’t appear to you until I saw your tears & grief…for me.

Cast aside this sadness away & perform this service. Be my messenger to these lost orphans. Hurry, with joy, go the the 11. You’ll find them gathered on the bank of the Jordan. The traitor convinced them to fish as they did earlier, & to lay down the nets in which they caught people for life. (I’m assuming here that they are talking about Judas Iscariot.)

Say to them, “Arise, let us go. Your brother calls you.” (Not your master, not your teacher, but “your brother.”) If they disregard me as brother, say to them, “It’s your master.” If they disregard me as master, say to them, “It’s your lord.” Use all your skills & knowledge until you bring the sheep to the shepherd.

If you see that they don’t respond,  make Simon Peter come to you. Say to him, “Remember my words, between me & you. Remember what I said, between me & you, on the Mount of Olives. I’ve something to say, I’ve no one to whom to say it.”

Rabbi, my master, I shall carry out your instructions with joy in my whole heart. I shall not let my heart rest, I shall not let my eyes sleep, I shall not let my feet relax until I Bring the sheep to the fold.

Glory to Mary, because she has listened to her master, she has carried out his instructions with joy in her whole heart. (I’m also assume here that the text is talking about Mary Magdalene.)

(This translation of a song from the Psalms of Heracleides is based on the Coptic text in ‘A Manichaean Psalm-Book: Part II‘ (Stuttgart: KohlHammer, 1938), ed. C.R.C. All berry, 187. See John 20:1-18. Also the Gospel of Thomas 92.)

The Psalms of Hercleides are part of the beautiful collection of songs in the Nanichaean Psalm-Book, a songbook used in worship by followers of Manichaeism. Manichaeism was a world religion that was founded by Mani (or Manes), a 3rd century prophet who grew up in the context of a Jewish-Christian baptismal community, received a revelation from an angel he referred to as the twin, & eventually was called the apostle of light for the Manichaean religion. Extending from Erope & North Africa to Central Asia & China, Manichaeism developed as a universal religion that incorporated Christian, Buddist, & Zoroastrian (a monotheistic pre-Islamic relig or ancient Persia founded by Zoroaster in the 6th century BC.) ideas. According to the teachings of Zoroaster, the supreme god, named Ahura-Mazda, created twin spirits, one of which chose truth & light, the other untruth & darkness. Later writings present a more dualistic cosmology in which the truffle is between Ahua-Mazda (Ormazd) & the evil spirit Ahriman. The scriptures of Zoroastrianism are the Zend-Avesta. The language survives in isolated areas of Iran & India, where its followers are known as Parsees. Which to me, looks very similar to the Jewish Pharisees.

In a number of ways Manichaeism resembles Gnosticism. In the Psalms of Heracleides, Mary Magdalene is mentioned several times. In one portion of the psalms, various characteristic features of disciples & apostles of Jesus are enumerated, & a description of Mary is included. It’s said that “Mary is one who casts net in an effort to catch the other 11 who were lost.” Martha, Salome, & Arsinoe are also mentioned, & Martha is called Mary’s sister. These 4 women disciples may also be named in the First Apocalypse of James from the Nag Hammadi library. Again in the Psalms of Heracleides, in a similar list of disciples, Mary is proclaimed to be “the spirit of wisdom (or Sophia). In the song from the Psalms of Hercleides translated here, the tender discussion between a man (Jesus) & a woman (Mary) is based on the story of Mary Magdalene meting the risen Christ in the garden, in John 20:1-18. In the song Mary is mandated to be the messenger to the lost orphans, the 11 male disciples, & authority to Simon Peter & the others. And she is to be given glory, according to the song, ‘because she has listened to her master, she has carried out his instructions with joy in her whole heart.’

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