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MANI , the founder of Manichaeisman important Gnostic and universal religion with pronounced syncretic tendencies and a marked missionary driving forcewas born in the year 527 of the Seleucid calendar, which was calculated in Babylon as starting on April 3, 311 bce. According to the evidence of al-Birunial-Bīrūnī, this equates to the year 216217 ce, during the reign of the last Arsacid Parthian ruler, Ardawan (r. 213224 ce). A comparison with Chinese and Coptic sources allows an even more accurate dating of his birth, in the spring of April 14, 216.

The Greek name Manichaios (Latin, Manichaeus ) is a transcription of a name of Semitic origin, Mani Hayya (Mani the Living). The epithet Hayya (Living) indicated a particular quality of divine beings or benign individuals providing healing and life-giving power. The term thus represents an important feature of the spiritual life work of Mani: namely, his desire to establish himself as a doctor and healer of both body and soul, performing various miraculous cures that are mentioned in the stories and hagiographic accounts of his life. The honorific title "Lord Mani" (Mar Mani ), was also known to the Chinese via the transcription Mo-mo-ni and to the Tibetans as Mar Ma-ne. The form Manes (the madman) was used in etymological wordplay (mania, "madness") by opponents in order to attack what they considered the absurd nature of his teaching. In the same way, the original Aramaic word mana (vessel), was turned around so that instead of being the "vessel of life" (mana hayya ), insulting epithets were coined, such as the "vessel of Evil" (Ephraim) or "vessel of the Anti-Christ" (Acta Archelai ).


Third-century ce Mesopotamia was a flourishing province of Parthian, and later the Sassanid, empire. It had a high level of civilization and urban and commercial development (in contrast to the Iranian upland, with its agricultural economy and its predominantly warrior, feudal society). This aristocratic environment, based upon particular, overtly national values, was encouraged by Sassanid Zoroastrianism and the priestly cast of the magi, whose ascendancy was growing thanks to the groundwork of the high priest Kirdīr.

It was this aristocratic environment of Mesopotamia that came into conflict with the universalism of Mani and his ascetic teachings (preaching abstinence from agricultural labor and marriage), a situation that risked jeopardizing the religious, social, and economic basis of the empire. This increased importance of trade was not well-regarded in Zoroastrian ethical thought, in contrast to Manichaeism, in which we find an imaginary merchant ship (in the figurative language of its parables) and metaphors such as the Treasure and the Pearl, or the Merchant traveling in search of valuable merchandise, representing the itinerant nature of the seeker of knowledge, a feature common to both Manichaeism and Buddhism.

The extensive movement of peoples and goods in Mesopotamia encouraged religious, philosophical, and cultural interchange. The close proximity of beliefs from the Hellenism of late antiquity, Chaldean astrology, esoteric and Gnostic communities, and elements of Semitic paganism all produced a particularly syncretic environment. Furthermore, the vigor and growing spread of Christian proselytism now existed alongside Judaism, which had become entrenched over several centuries, and both Zoroastrianism and Buddhism had a presence in those areas adjacent to the great caravan routes that had encouraged the spread of Buddhism from India to Central Asia.

All of these belief systems influenced the spiritual development of Mani to varying degrees. Such an auspicious situation, in terms of geography and culturecosmopolitan, eclectic, and with flourishing tradeopened a wide range of possibilities in terms of religious and philosophical opportunities. The distinctive features that caused the emergence of Mani, in the context of a varied and dynamic social outlook, were suffused with a concern for metaphysical and religious inquiry. His father, Patek, was no stranger to these views, for he belonged to the Elkasite baptismal community (the Mughtasilah "those who are washed, who are purified"mentioned bythe Arabic chronicler al-Nadīm [d. 995]).


Mani was born in a place in northern Babylon, at Gaukhai in the Bēth Derāyē region, of Iranian parents. His father, Patek, was from Hamadan and his mother, Maryam, was from the noble Parthian Kamsaragan family. Mani's origins were a source of pride to him; he was aware that he came from an important part of the world in terms of its cultural, social, and religious relevancea clear indication of its spiritual vitality. Mani al-babiliyu ("the Babylonian") as he was called in Arabic sources, would refer to the land of his birth on numerous occasions, with gratitude that he came from a cosmopolitan, eclectic land, a privileged starting point for his universalistic and missionary impulse. This drove him to spread his message in far-off lands: "A thankful pupil am I (Mani), I have come from the land of Babylon, I have come from the land of Babylon and I am posted at the door of Truth I have come forth from the land of Babylon so that I might shout a call into the world" (M4a, Parthian).

The ancient prestige of Babylon"gateway of the gods" (bāb-ilāni ), as its name meanswould thus be enhanced according to new needs of faith and salvation as a "gateway of Truth," as a means of getting to heaven, in line with the symbolism found in the language of various Gnostic and Manichaean passages, which regard religious teaching as a "gateway of salvation" (dar ī uzēnišn ; M 5714, Middle Persian). The gates were opened by a savior who would proclaim a "call," launched by Mani to begin the missionary preaching drive, starting with the apostle himself, who was the first of the "heralds" of the message of salvation to be spread throughout the world.

Descriptions of Mani also survive in the polemical and heresiological works of Christian writers and confirm that his physical appearance was twofoldboth Iranian and Mesopotamian, as when, in the Acta Archelai (XIV.3), Mani is described arriving dressed in "a multi-colored cloak of a somewhat ethereal appearance, while in his hand he held a very strong staff made of ebony-wood. He carried a Babylonian book under his left arm and he had covered his legs with trousers of different colors, one of them scarlet and the other colored leek-green, and his appearance was like that of an old Persian magician or warlord." Persian in appearance, like a wise man or magician as well as a warriorfor his clothes resembled that of a priest of the god Mithras (again, according to the Acta Archelai [XL.7])this description of Mani is a clear and figurative representation of the dual nature of his ethnic and cultural rootsIranian and Mesopotamianand also illustrates another extremely important detail of the missionary activity and artistic and cultural output of Manichaeismnamely, the book.

Another epithet, "apostle," also appears in a Syriac inscription ("Mani, Apostle of Jesus Christ," a formula used by Mani to refer to himself that occurs in the Epistula Fundamenti passed on by Augustine) inscribed on rock crystal, on which there also appears what seems to be a picture of Mani in the center of a triptych of figures. He is wearing a hat and a band, his hair is flowing, and he has a long beard with a parting in the middle. Another representation, on a copper plate from the Oldenburg expedition in Turkestan, instead shows an image with oriental features. Here, Mani has long hair over his shoulders and a Middle Persian inscription, "the face of the Apostle of Light." Another probable depiction, more Chinese in style, is on a wall painting of Kočo (VIII-IX sec.), showing him as a church dignitary surrounded by his elect, with a beard and mustache, a richly-decorated hat, and a halo consisting of a lunar crescent surrounding a reddish-white solar disk.

The Physical Body and First Teachings

According to the Arabic sourcesthe Fihrist of al-NadīmMani was lame, but this reference to a physical disability can be interpreted in one of two ways. It may be seen as a term of condemnation and contempt by a religious opponent (normal practice in heresiological Muslim literature) intended to emphasize the physical (and hence psychological and spiritual) deformity of the heretical adversary, variously described as lame, cross-eyed, or a leper. On the other hand, it may be seen as a physical symbol of otherness, and of a lopsided walk (compared to the normal, erect posture) that is typical of exceptional individuals such as fortune-tellers, healers, shamans, and therapists. These types of individualslike Oedipus, Melampus, Jason, or indeed Jacobhave been studied by Carlo Ginzburg (1992, pp. 206224), who finds they are geographically and culturally closer to Mani, who after his night battle with the angel beside the river Yabboq limps because of a dislocated hip.

Walking lopsidedly is thus the sign of a physical abnormality, of an otherness that characterizes ecstatic experiences and journeys that anticipate going into the world of the dead, into a supernatural dimension involving those who are apparently dead. This could correspond to a side of Mani's characternamely, his ability as a wise man and healer, as well as his ability to wield miraculous powers (Middle Persian, warz ). It was this aspect of Mani that influenced those who met him to convert. One such convert was the king of Turan, who was convinced of the merit of Mani's teaching because of his ability to levitate. In another episode, Mani miraculously showed to the skeptical king of Messenia the Paradise of Light with all of the gods in the immortal Air of Life, causing the king to faint. Mani then brought him back to consciousness by laying a hand on his head.

The miraculous, restorative power of Mani is thus shown mainly in cures. For this reason he is describedand describes himselfas a doctor, a therapist who treats both body and soul, wounded and imprisoned in the world of Matter. Thus, his healing was a means of conversion, a tangible sign of his message of salvation effected by restorative words (salubria verba in the Epistula Fundamenti ), fully justifying the epithet "living" (hayya ) that follows his name.

Yet these healing powers also resulted in his condemnation. In his last appearance before the Sassanid king, Wahrām I (prompted by the Zorastrian priests), the king accused him of being unskilled in war and hunting, and also of being an inattentive and ineffective doctor. Mani's defensereminding the king of the benefits he had given to his family, the exorcisms that had given release to his servants and those who had been cured of fevers and deadly illnesseswas of no avail. The possession of miraculous healing powers was part of a whole raft of spiritual abilities gained during mystic and ecstatic experiences in visions and revelations by angelic beings and, in particular, by the angel known as "the Twin" (Greek, syzygos ; Middle Persian, narjamīg ; Arabic, al-Tawm ).

The first revelation, which Mani experienced at the age of twelve, led him to renounce the rituals of the Elkasite baptist community in pursuit of more interior knowledge. It was the spiritual double of Mani, his protective angelic twin, who revealed to him the hidden mysteries of gnōsis. This was the main feature of his message, a gnōsis involving both knowledge and understanding of the human conditionand the pursuit of a regime of physical and mental asceticismin order to achieve the appropriate separation within the individual life of the "mixture" of the two "principles" (or "natures," "substances," "roots") of Light/Wisdom, as opposed to Darkness/Ignorance. The mythical development of "two principles" was regarded as taking place in three "periods" of time (initium, medium, and finis, according to Augustine). These represent a first phase, in which Good and Evil were separate; a second phase, corresponding to mankind's present existence, in which the two principles were mingled after the onset of Matter' and a third future stage at the final apocatastasis, when Evil would be defeated and the two principles would separate once more. This outline forms the basis of the cosmological, soteriological, and eschatological myth of Mani's dualist system, a radical and absolute dualism that considered not just myth and metaphysics but also anthropology and ethics, so that microcosm and macrocosm reflected one other. Thus, the drama of the creation of the world and the redemption of Light imprisoned by Matter was the same as the inner experience of the Manichaean believer, with his existence enlightened by gnōsis and the Nous that would redeem his soul.

The Initial Teachings

Mani's first teachings were subject to many Jewish and Gnostic influences, as well as to teachers such as Marcion (d. 160?) and Bardaisan (154222 ce). Mani probably inherited from Marcion a number of his views opposing the Old Testament, even if in the system of Mani various heterodox Jewish positions, like those of Qumran (Reeves, 1991), should be stressed. They are particularly recognizable in the structure of the Elkasite baptismal community into which Mani was introduced by his father and where he had his first religious experiences. It is far from insignificant that during this period apocryphal, apocalyptic literature (by Adam, Seth, Enoch, Shem, and Enosh) that was Gnostic in character was circulating; these works, along with the Christian Gospels, the Pauline Epistles, and the Acts (of John, Peter, Paul, Andrew, and Thomas) influenced Mani's initial spiritual training. Paul and Thomas were particular favorites of Mani, the former as an example of the ideal apostle who went all over the world and spread the message of salvation, regardless of adversity and persecution, and the latter because he had set out to preach the gospel in India and was thus the predecessor of Mani, whose own first mission was also to India.

From the philosophy of Bardaisan, who lived during the second and third centuries and was an exponent of Syriac Gnosticism derived from Greek and Iranian ideas, Mani was probably influenced by the idea of the two principles of Light and Darkness and their intermingling, and, therefore, by a number of mythical personifications that were remarkably similar (such as the Father of Greatness and the Mother of Light, which recall the Father of Life and Mother of Life in Bardaisan). He must also have inherited from Christians and Bardesanites the use of music as a way of elevating and purifying the soul. His knowledge of Zoroastrian religious teaching should also be mentioned, especially as regards the two principles, the three periods of time, and the importance of the complete nature of the separation. The Buddhist elementremarked upon by al-Bīrūnī, who mentions an Indian influence on the doctrine of transmigrationmust also have influenced Mani's monastic organization and some of his injunctions, such as the nonviolence prescribed for the elect.

The aspect of Mani's teaching that is most different from the various forms of ascetic Gnosticism and proselytizing was his own prophetic and apostolic missionvia preachingwith a missionary zeal that spread his message of universal salvation both east and west. Once again it was his angel twin who ordained his missionary calling when he was in his twenty-fourth year (240 ce), driving Mani to divorce himself from the Elkasite community in order to undertake a missionary enterprise that would last for a further thirty-five years, during which time he would gain converts and encourage missions and those who followed him. He began by sailing to India, to the kingdom of Tūrān andfollowing the positive reception of Šābuhrthroughout the provinces of the empire: Persia, Media, Parthia, Adiabene, Babylon, Messenia, and Sushan. He also sent missions beyond the empire, and in the West, in Syria and Egypt, under the leadership of Addā, he succeeded in gaining important converts in the city of Palmyra, converting Nafšā, the sister of the queen Zenobia (and perhaps even Zenobia herself).

While in the East, under the leadership of Ammō, there were missions in Margiana and in Bactria, beyond the Oxus, and perhaps even in Armenia. In his missionary drive following the "call" proclaiming the words of salvation to mankind, Mani took the apostle Paul as his example and attempted to make himself the final link in a whole chain of redeeming figures. Beginning from the biblical line of Adam, Seth, Enosh, Enoch, Shem, and Noahand with the addition of Zoroaster, Buddha (even Laozi, according to the Chinese Compendium ), and Jesusthis line of apostolic succession was ended with Mani himself, fulfilling the prophecy that depicted him, as he was called in Islamic sources, as the "Seal of the Prophets" (khātim al-nabiyyīn ). The purpose of his coming was to perfect and fulfill the religions that had gone before him. Their teachings had been incomplete and imperfect before Mani's supreme revelation and his words of life, which he passed on in "living books."

The Spread of Mani's Teachings

The dissemination of Mani's message led to his being known in Central Asia in a large number of different ways and by many different expressions, such as the returning "Messiah-God," from a Christian perspective, or as "Mani the Buddha of Light" (Mo-ni-guang-fo ), or as the "All-knowing king of the law" in Chinese texts, according to Buddhist phraseology that identified him with the future Buddha, Maitreya, and thus called him Buddha (burxan ) or God (tängrï ). The eclectic and syncretic aspect of his teaching was not always well-received, and in some cases, as recorded in an eighth- or ninth-century Tibetan text, he was addressed as "the deceitful Persian Mar Ma-ne," and accused of dressing up his message in Buddhist guise, borrowing various beliefs in order to construct his own completely different versions.

Yet this chameleon-like ability, which encouraged the widespread expansion of his teaching, was the distinctive characteristic of Mani and his successors, enabling them to blend "wisdom and action" (M 5794, wihīh ud kirdagān ), "wisdom and ability" (Mani Codex of Cologne 5.4: sophia kai eumēchania ), and finding, as the Chinese texts remark, the "skillful means" (fang bian ) that allowed them to adapt themselves to every geographical, cultural, and social situation in order to boost conversions and establish communities and institutions. With this practical wisdom, Manichaean gnōsis displayed the dual Buddhist ideas of prajñā (awareness) and upāya (means), showing a practical and industrious attitude that would enable it to flourish in a variety of places and obtain widespread recognition.

From this point of view, Mani was not an ascetic who was cut off from the world, and even if he preached detachment from Matter, involving fasting and abstinence, his approach toward daily life was anything but pessimistic and rejectionist. On the contrary, his clever strategy of promotion and general consensus was optimistic and proactive, cleverly avoiding any "radical" fundamentalist and anti-universal attitude, though with unfortunate political consequences resulting in his conflict with royal authority.

From the start of his missionary career, Mani sought the support of government and the Sassanid royal family, and he was staunchly supported by Šābuhr, even becoming part of the royal entourage (komitaton ) and traveling with him to the provinces of the empire and on a campaign against the Romans. Perhaps it was also because of his Parthian noble ancestry, and for this reasonnot just as a Gnostic metaphorhe was called "son of the king" (Puech, 1949, p. 36). Because of his attendance at court, Mani's religious imagery depicted royal and feudal institutions of the palace of Ctesiphon. Beginning with the figure of the Father of Greatness and his heavenly entourage of Eons, Kingdoms, and Divinitieswhich made up the "retinue" (padwāz ) of the King of Paradiseother characters were added, including the "friends," those who stood in the presence of the King (parwānag ), and the "guardian of the gate" (darbān ).

Mani's ascension into heaven after his death on February 27, 277 ce, when he was sixty (following his suffering in prison), is the subject of a story (M5569) that mixes royal and warrior images, a story that became the paradigm for the fate of the devoted followers of his teachings. Much like a king who dons armor and is given divine garb, a diadem of light, and a marvelous garland, the Apostle Mani ascends to heaven in an apotheosis of light and glory to reach the Father.

The Preachings and Authored Works

Mani's preaching was thus strategically aimed at the royal circle, as is shown by the stories of famous conversionssuch as the brother of the King of Kings, Mihršāhand hence his first work was a book dedicated to his protector, the King of Kings, Šābuhr, titled Šābuhragān (Nībēg; "Book dedicated to Šābuhr"), written in Middle Persian and containing cosmology, prophecy, and apocalyptics.

Mani also wrote eight books in Eastern Aramaic: the Living Gospel, a kind of New Testament, which put forward a new version of the four Gospels and the Epistles of Paul, explaining the purpose of his mission; the Treasure of Life, a work of theology and apologetics; the Mysteries (al-Nadīm gives us the titles of eighteen chapters); the Pragmateia, a collection of Manichaean mythology; the Image, a collection of pictures representing teachings; the Giants, inspired by the Book of Giants and dealing with apocalyptics; the Letters, important organizational and missionary documents; and, finally, the Psalms and Prayers.

In Mani's versatile linguistic competence (he spoke Aramaic and Middle Persian), there are signs of the universal nature of his message, disseminated in many scripts and languages (Greek, Latin, Coptic, Iranian, Turkish, and Chinese). His writings were inventive, and he created a simplified Eastern Syriac alphabet (for the Iranic languages) that eliminated the complicated use of scribal heterograms, thus facilitating a better understanding and use of the languages (Parthian, Middle Persian, Sogdian) that spread his teachings. Thus, one of the prayers dedicated to Mani praises him as "interpreter of religion" (M 38 Parthian). His new gospel message continued to be translated into new languages and scripts.

The fundamental importance of the book as a secure means of transmitting truthfully his spiritual teaching and avoiding any possibility of misrepresentation reveals another important aspect of Mani's character. In addition to being a preacher, he was also an artist who gained a reputation as a tremendous communicator. He did this not simply via stories that had cumulative symbolic effect, but rather by accompanying these stories with pictures illustrating his baroque and impressionist mythology. The use of these pictures demonstrated that his missionary work did not involve only religion and writing, but that Mani was a painter as well.


The art of Manichaean manuscripts became famous in posterity, consisting of refined, finely-decorated miniatures with ornamental floral arrangements and bright colors. This work verified Mani's reputation as a calligrapher and as a painter (in Islamic sources) able to draw a large perfect circle. He was also regarded as the inventor of a kind of lute.

Mani, the Apostle of Light, was thus a custodian of divine revelation, a conscious syncretist, a miracle worker, a wise and able man, a rhetorician, a lyric and epic storyteller, and a dramatist. His original intellectual and artistic character indicates that he was a poet and visionary rather than a theologian and philosopher. Mani was detested and cursed as the founder of a heretical religion by the major religions of his day, Zoroastrianism and Christianity, and subsequently by Islam. Yet he was lauded as the Savior in hymns by the faithful, as well as in festivals such as Bēmathe day commemorating his death and his spiritual presence among believers.

See Also

Bardaisan; Gnosticism, article on Gnosticism from Its Origins to the Middle Ages; Manichaeism, overview article and articles on Manichaeism and Christianity, Manichaeism in Central Asia and China, Manichaeism in Iran, and Manichaeism in the Roman Empire; Marcion.


Ginzburg, Carlo. Storia notturna. Per una decifrazione del sabba. Torino, 1989. English translation Ecstasies: Deciphering the Witch's Sabbath. New York, 1992.

Gnoli, Gherardo. "Introduzione generale." In Il Manicheismo, volume I: Mani e il Manicheismo, edited by Gherardo Gnoli, with the assistance of Andrea Piras, pp. XI-LXVII. Milan, Italy, 2003. Translation and comment of Manichaean texts: Greek (Luigi Cirillo) Coptic (Serena Demaria, Sergio Pernigotti), Iranian (Enrico Morano, ElioProvasi), Turkish (Peter Zieme), Chinese (Antonello Palumbo), Arabic (Alberto Ventura).

Gulácsi, Zsuzsanna. Manichaean Art in Berlin Collections. Turnhout, Belgium, 2001.

Klimkeit Hans-Joachim. Gnosis on the Silk Road. San Francisco, 1993. Translation of Iranian and Turkish texts.

Klimkeit Hans-Joachim. "Jesus, Mani and Buddha as Physicians in the Texts of the Silk Road." In La Persia e l'Asia Centrale. Da Alessandro al X secolo, pp. 589-595. Rome, 1996.

Hegemonius, Acta Archelai (The Acts of Archaelaus ), translated by Mark Vermes, introduction and commentary by Samuel N.C. Lieu, with the assistance of Kevin Katz. Turnhout, Belgium, 2001.

Lieu, Samuel N.C. "A New Figurative Representation of Mani?" In Studia Manichaica, edited by Ronald E. Emmerick et al., pp. 380-386. Berlin, 2000.

Panaino, Antonio. "Strategies of Manichaean Religious Propaganda." In Turfan RevisitedThe First Century of Research: The Arts and Cultures of the Silk Road, edited by D. Durkin-Meisterernst et al., pp. 249-255. Berlin, 2004

Puech, Henri-Charles. Le manichéisme: son fondateur, sa doctrine. Paris, 1949.

Reeves, John C. "The 'Elchasaite' Sanhedrin of the Cologne Mani Codex in Light of Second Temple Jewish Sectarian Sources." Journal of Jewish Studies 43 (1991): 68-91.

Richter, Siegfried G. The Manichaean Coptic Papyri in the Chester Beatty Library. Psalm Book, Die Erakleides-Psalmen. Turnhout, Belgium, 1998.

Skjærvø, Prods Oktor."Bardesanes." In Encyclopædia Iranica III, edited by Ehsan Yarshater, cols. 780b-785b. London and New York, 1989.

Stein, Rolf Aurel. "Une mention du manichéisme dans le choix du bouddhisme comme religion d'état par le roi tibétain Khri-sro. lde-bcan." In Indianisme et bouddhisme. Mélanges offerts à Mgr Étienne Lamotte, pp. 329-337. Louvain-la-Neuve, 1980.

Tardieu, Michel. Le manichéisme. Paris, 1981.

Tardieu, Michel. "La conception de Dieu dans le manichéisme." In Knowledge of God in the Graeco-Roman World, edited by T. Baarda et al., pp. 262-270. Leiden, 1988.

Van Tongerloo, Alois. "Manichaeus Medicus." In Studia Manichaica, edited by Ronald E. Emmerick et al., pp. 613-621. Berlin, 2000.

Widengren, Geo. Mesopotamian Elements in Manichaeism. Uppsala, Sweden, 1946.

Widengren, Geo. Mani and Manichaeism. New York, 1965.

Wurst, Gregor. The Manichaean Coptic Papyri in the Chester Beatty Library. Psalm Book, Die Bema-Psalmen. Turnhout, Belgium, 1996.

Andrea Piras (2005)

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Mani (216-276) was a Persian prophet and the founder of Manichaeism, the best known and most developed of the Gnostic religions. Mani's religion spread quickly but was eventually stamped out through opposition from other religions, notably Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Islam.

Patek, the father of Mani, was a native of Hamadan, ancient Ecbatana, and apparently belonged to the Arsacid princely family. He left Hamadan and settled in Babylonia, where Mani grew up among the Mandaeans, a Baptist sect of Gnostic tendencies. In 240-241 he felt called upon to proclaim openly his new religion and call people to the truth. His faith was a universal one. He believed that God had periodically revealed the truth through His chosen apostles, Zoroaster, Buddha, and Christ, and Mani considered himself the true prophet of his day for all humanity.

His teachings were primarily based on an old Persian dualism pushed to the extreme. He envisaged two separate and independent principles, light and darkness (or spirit and matter). The creation of the world was the outcome of an invasion on the realm of light by the forces of darkness, as a result of which elements of light were devoured by demons of darkness. Man, animals, and plants were conceived by demons in a desperate attempt to retain the particles of light they had swallowed.

The universe is a machinery set up by the deities of light to redeem the absorbed light and return it to its original abode. The light in man could be released, or his spirit saved, by a realization of his origin and of his place in the scheme of things through the teachings of an inspired leader. In practice, salvation can be achieved through abstinence, prayers, and worship. To attend to the business of the world would be to promote the scheme of the demons.

A strongly moralistic religion, with marked ascetic tendencies, Manichaeism forbids its elite (from whom the clergy is drawn) to marry, engage in trade, slaughter animals, or cut plants. The commoners (hearers), however, are reluctantly allowed to do so. Mani's cosmology reveals syncretic elements with a strong Gnostic bias. Several cycles of gods are postulated as emanating from the Father of Greatness, the supreme Lord of Light.

Mani seems to have begun his career by a journey to the easternmost provinces of Persia and Sind. He is reported to have attracted or converted Peroz and Mehrshah, two sons of Ardashir I, founder of the Sassanid dynasty. Upon Ardashir's death in 241, Mani returned to western Persia, where he found favor with Ardashir's successor, Shahpur I, to whom he dedicated one of his books, Shapurgan. During Shahpur's reign Mani engaged in intense missionary activities. Eventually, however, the opposition of the Zoroastrian priesthood enlisted the support of Bahram I, who ordered Mani arrested and fettered. He died in prison a martyr.

Mani left a number of books, treatises, and epistles, mostly in Syriac, among which were the Book of the Two Principles, The Book of Secrets, and The Living Gospel. Popular Persian beliefs regard him as an extraordinary painter and the author of Artang, a wonderfully illustrated work. Manichaean manuscripts were in fact written with calligraphic artistry and were often illustrated.

Further Reading

Selections of Manichaean writings are in A. V. Williams Jackson, Researches in Manichaeism (1932); Charles Allberry, A Manichaean Psalm-book, Part II (1938); and Mary Boyce, The Manichaean Hymn-cycles in Parthian (1954). The latest work on Mani in English is George Widengren, Mani and Manichaeism, translated by Charles Kessler, in the "History of Religion" Series (1965). See also F. C. Burkitt, The Religion of the Manichees (1925). □

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MANI , family in Iraq and Ereẓ Israel. According to family tradition, the family is of Davidic origin and its name is an acrostic of Mi-Geza Neẓer Yishai.

elijah ben suleiman (1818–1899), one of the best-known Iraqi rabbis, was born in Baghdad, where he studied at the Beit Zilka rabbinical academy and was one of the outstanding pupils of R. Abdallah *Somekh. In 1856 he settled in Ereẓ Israel, first in Jerusalem, but two years later he moved to Hebron. He played a prominent role in the development of the Jewish community there. In 1865 he was appointed chief rabbi of Hebron and retained this post until his death. By nature an unassuming and generous man, he was outspoken and adamant in matters of religious observance. He made several journeys on behalf of the Hebron community: to India in 1873; Egypt, 1872 and 1878; and Baghdad 1880. In 1879–80 a fierce argument broke out between R. Elijah and two prominent members of the community, Mercado Romano and R. Raḥamim Joseph Franco, which split the community into two factions. In the end R. Elijah's views prevailed. R. Elijah wrote several books dealing with traditional and mystical Jewish studies. Of these, the following were published: Zikhronot Eliyahu, a collection of religious precepts, arranged in alphabetical order, of which two parts appeared (Jerusalem, 1936, 1938); and Karnot Ẓaddik (Baghdad, 1867). Many of his responsa were published in the Jerusalem Me'assef and in the writings of contemporary rabbinic scholars.

[Abraham Ben-Yaacob]

suleiman menahem (1850–1924), Elijah's eldest son, was appointed rosh av bet din in Hebron when his father died. After the death of Ḥayyim Hezekiah *Medini, he was elected chief rabbi of Hebron. israel (1887–1966), the son of shalom ezekiel, Elijah's second son, studied law in Paris. During the British Mandate he was appointed magistrate (1927) and district judge in Jaffa (1932). In 1936 he became the first Jewish judge in the newly established Tel Aviv district court. isaac malchiel (1860–1933), Elijah's fourth son, became a district judge in Hebron. He was an enthusiastic supporter of *Herzl. In 1901 he moved to Jerusalem to practice law. From 1926 to 1929 he was district judge in Jaffa. His sons-in-law were Daniel *Auster and Giulio *Racah. elijah moses (1907– ), great-grandson of Elijah, during the Mandatory regime served as a lecturer in the Jerusalem law school. In 1948 he was appointed judge in the district court of Jerusalem, and from 1962 he served as a justice of the Supreme Court of Israel. His brother abraham (1922– ) was professor of physics at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. mazal (Mathilda) *mosseri was the daughter of Isaac Malchiel.


M. Mani, Rabbi Eliyahu Mani (1936); A. Ben-Yacov, in: Ḥemdat Yisrael … le-Zekher Rabbi Ḥ. Ḥ. Medini (1946), 89–97; O. Avisar (ed.), Sefer Ḥevron (1970), 100–7, 132–4, 153–4.

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MANI (Mana ii ; fourth century c.e.), Palestinian amora. His teachers were firstly his father *Jonah, R. Yose (tj, Ter. 8:9, 46a; Sanh. 3:6, 21a), and then R. Judah iii (tj, Pes. 6:1, 33a; Beẓah 1:1, 60a); he also referred to Hezekiah as his teacher (tj, Ber. 3:5, 6d, et al.). He visited Caesarea where he attended lectures by R. Isaac b. Eliashib (Ta'an. 23b) and other scholars of that town (e.g., Oshaya b. Shemi, Zerikah, etc). In his early years he lived in Tiberias, but later R. Ḥanina (or Hananiah), the head of the academy in Sepphoris, retired in his favor (tj, Pes. 6:1, 33a) and he remained there until his death (Eccl. R. 11:3). He held halakhic discussions with Zeira ii (Mak. 22a). Z. Frankel dates his death in 399 c.e. (the view of I. Halevy that it was before 355 is untenable). It is not known whether he outlived R. Judah iii (the statement in Weiss, Dor, vol. 3, p. 102 is due to a mistranslation of a passage in tj, Ber. 3:1, 6a: "When R. Judah's sister died, Mani did not attend her funeral"). He appears to have been strict and uncompromising in his halakhic rulings, and he expressed his strong doubts as to the correctness of the permission granted by his father and R. Yose for bread to be baked on the Sabbath for the army of Ursicinus (c. 353 c.e.; tj, Sanh. 3:5, 21b), despite that fact, in a case of extreme emergency he permitted the bakers of Sepphoris to sell their bread in the market on the Sabbath for the army of Proclus (ibid.; see Lieberman, in: jqr, 36 (1946), 352–3). He also refused to agree that agricultural activity take place during the sabbatical year in a place called Yabluna on the grounds that it was not in Ereẓ Israel proper. On one occasion he strongly disapproved of his teacher, Judah, making appointments for money (tj, Bik. 3:3, 65d). Most of his teachings are in halakhah, but the few in aggadah are of great interest. He explained Saul's reluctance to exterminate the Amalekites, including their children and cattle, on the grounds that they were innocent according to the Torah (Yoma 22b). He also taught that reciting the Shema at its proper time was greater than studying the Torah (Ber. 10b). Mani was apparently not altogether easy to get on with. Not only was he not on good terms with the patriarch and his household, who distressed him so much that he had to pray for relief, but in his domestic life he was also unhappy (Ta'an. 23b).

In addition to R. Mani, there was an earlier amora called Mana and it is not always certain which is meant. In Ecclesiastes Rabbah 5:4–5 both are found.


Weiss, Dor, 3 (19044), 102–3; Halevy, Dorot, 2 (1923), 373–84; Hyman, Toledot, s.v.; Epstein, Mishnah, 399–404; Ḥ. Albeck, Mavo la-Talmudim (1969), 398.

[Harry Freedman]

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Mani (mä´nē): see Manichaeism.

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Maṇi (Skt.). Jewel in the shape of a tear-drop, powerful in removing the causes of sorrow or of evil.

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mani (It., plural of mano). Hands.