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Page:Catholic Encyclopedia, volume 10.djvu/778

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NASORAANS


700


NASOR^ANS


remnants oxcoptcd, the writings of the so-called Christ inn (Inoslics have perislied. I Names, II Doctrines. Ill Diseipline and Ritual, IV History.

I N'amks. Manda'an (N'NIJ??) is a Babylonian- Araniaie word in dialeetie form, nieaiiinp;: Gnosties, -yiMffTikoi, "those who are koikI .it knowing". The Hel)r(-w word for knowledge ll'\f2 Madda is of the same root and is the noun from which the adjective Mandaya is derived. It is the name adopted by the sect itself, being employed in their sacred books, and is characteristic of their worship of the tiTH N1JD 7nl)ffi5 T^5 j-w^t or "knowledge of life". Another name also found in their sacred books is that of Sa- bians (X"3V) wliich means Baptists (j;3V to bap- tize in .Syriac and .\ramaic). This name is known to the Mohammedans (sing. Sahia, pi. fr. Subd'u) from the Koran (Sure V, 7.3; II, 59; XXII, 17) in which Christians, Sabi.ans, and Jews are enumerated as reli- gions which can be tolerated by Islam. It, is based on the prominence of frequent baptism in their religious discipline and hence they are no doubt referred to by the Fathers as Hemerobaptists viupofiaTTTta-Tai i. e. practising daily baptism. The name SoK/Saloi was even known in Greek writers. The name, however, most frequently used in their sacred literature is that of Xasorseans, N'X"11VK3 which is also the usual Arabic (sing. Nasra?ii, pi. Nasdra) for Christians. The coincidence is striking, the more so as the Naso- rieans have no leaning towards Christianity, but rather contempt and hatred for it; nor do their doctrines be- tray any approximation to Christian beliefs, except perhaps in that of the existence of a saviour, although some of their ceremonies bear a superficial resemblance to Christian mjsteries. If, however, we remember that the Manichsans in Europe paraded as the true Christians, though their system has but the use of half a dozen terms in common with Christianity, and that some Gnostic sects had barely any similarity with the Church of Christ, though self-styled Christians, it becomes less strange that even Manda?ans should have styled themselves Nasoraeans. The term Kristi&nd, as transliteration of the Greek word, they reserve for the followers of Jesus Christ. Christianity was no doubt a name to conjure with, but the absence of any rea.son for the adoption of the title remains a mystery. It is suggested by some that the name is only given to the most perfect amongst them, but this seems contrary to fact. The name "Christians of St. John" is of European origin and based on a mistake. The Nasoraeans have an extraordinary veneration for St. John the Baptist, who figures largely in their mythology. This veneration, together with the sim- ilarity of their rites to Christian sacraments, led the first missionaries from Europe to regard them as decendants of the Christians baptized only with the baptism of St. John. Such, e. g. was the impression of the Carmelite Ignatius a Jesu, who lived some years in Bassa and wrote a description of the sect (16,52).

II DocTHiNEs. These are to be gathered from a voluminous compilation called Genza or "The Treas- ure", and sometimes Sidra Rabba or "The Great Book", of which copies dating from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries are in the Bibliothfeque Natio- nale at Paris and have been published by Petermann (Thesaurus s. Liber Magnus, vulgo Liber Adami, etc., Berlin, 1S67) in Xasoriean script and language. The former is not unlike Estrangela with vowels added in the modifications of the consonants, and the latter elo.sely resembles that of the Aramaic in the Talmud. The same text in Syriac characters with a somewhat free Latin translation was published by Norberg (London and Gotha, 1817). Selections from the Gen- za (about one fourth) have been translated into Ger- man by Brandt. This book is arbitrarily divided into two sections, called the Right and the Left Genza from the curious Nasor;Ean custom of writing these two portions in one volume but in inverted positions, the


left being u.sed at funerals and being written for the benefit of the dead. The Genza is a collection of writings from all ages and .sources, some dating even after the Mohammedan conquest. Another sacred book is the Kolasta, or "Summa" or itractiral vadcmecum containing hymns, liturgies, rites for marriages, etc. (published as "Qolasta" by iMiling, Stuttgart, 1867). ^ The Sidra de Yahya i. c. Book of St. John or Drdshe de malke, " Lectures of the Kings" was published in 1905 by Lidzbarski and translated with commentary by Ochser in 1905. The Diwan, a priestly ritual, was published by Euting (1904), but the A.sfar Malwashe, an astrological work on the signs of the Zodiac, is not yet published. In recent years finds of Nasortean inscriptions on pottery have added to our knowledge of their popular superstitions (Pog- non, "Une incantation en Mandaite", Paris, 1892; "Inscriptions Mand." Paris, 1898-9; Lidzbarski, "Ephem f. Sem. Epigr.", Giessen, 1900).

These sources show Nasora^anism to be a form of Gnosticism which stands towards late Babylonian polytheism somewhat as Neo-Platonism stands towards the Greek and Roman Pantheon. It is an attempt to allegorize the ancient m.yths as being phases of man's creation and salvation, though Naso- ra?anism never rids itself of fantastic Eastern imagery. Probably through Nabatsean commerce these south- ern Babylonians came into contact with the Jews of the east of the Jordan and developed a worship of St. John the Baptist. Their daily baptism is however earlier than St. John's practice and is probably the cause of their belief regarding St. John rather than the effect of it. They likewise absorbed a great deal of Indian and Parsee philosophy till they developed their doctrine of the Light-King, which is similar to the Manicha?an concept of the universe, though without an absolutely rigid dualism. No religion therefore bears a nearer resemblance to Nasor;eaiiism than that of Mani, who himself was an eastern Bajitist in his youth. Finally, through contact with the monothe- ism of Jews, Christians, Mohammedans, and later Parsees, they gradually drifted towards the acceptance of one God. Their worship of the Light-King is one of singular beauty and elevation. Their a;onology is extremely intricate; the a'ons are called by the mys- tical name Utra (X""iniV which means: Riches or Potencies; Hebrew Iti'V). It will suffice to mention a few prominent ideas. Pira Rabba is the source, origin, and container of all things. The meaning of Pira (NTD) is uncertain; of various suggested mean- ings, perhaps that of "Fruit" (Hebr. nS) is the most likely. This "Fruit" is like the Indian "Golden Egg", the transcendental and unconscious "Fullness of Being" out of which all things develop; it is the seed of the fig tree of the Gnostic Docetse (q. v.) ; it is the piiBos of the Valentinians. This Pira Rabba is possessed and filleil by the MAna Rabba: the Great Spirit, the Great Illustrious One, the Great Splendour or Majesty. From the Mana Rabba emanates the First Life, who prays for companionship and ijrogeny, whereupon the Second Life, the Utra Mkayyema or World-constituting Mon, the Architect of the Uni- verse, comes into being. This divine architect gives forth a number of xons, who with his permission in- tend to erect the universe. This however displeases the First Life at whose request the Mdnd RabbS pro- duces as surveyor or foreman of the architect's a^ons the Mandi d'Hayye or yvCxm ttjs fu^s the Personified Knowledge of Life i. e. the friend and counsellor of the First Life.

This Manda de Hayye is the Christ of the Naso- rseans after whom they are called and around whom all their religious ideas group themselves. As god of order he has to battle with the a>ons of chaos and thus realize the divine idea in the world. The whole is a bold and obvious allegory: Marduk is sent by his father Ea to do battle with the powers of Tiamat.