The Mandaean tradition represents a living stream of the Gnostic
tradition surviving from classical times up to the present. According to the Haran Gawaitha, the Mandaeans have existed in the region centering around Iraq since the reign of Artabanus V of Parthia, dating to the third century C. E. There is some scholarly support for suggesting Mandaean origins predate formation of Christianity and perhaps even influenced the heterodox Jewish circles from which Christian tradition first emerged. There certainly seems to have been some interaction with other Gnostic movements forming in the early classical period. For instance, scholars have suggested early Mandaean influence on formation of the Manichaean tradition.
For general introduction to the Mandaeans, we offer an article by Kurt Rudolph:
Kurt Rudolph, The Mandaean Religion
And an extend extract from the classic 1937 study by Lady Dower:
E. S. Drower, The Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran (Leiden: Brill 1962, reprint of 1937 edition).
(This complete book is also available as a scanned pdf file in our library collection).
- The Ginza Rba - Canonical
Prayerbooks of the Mandaeans. Excerpt from: E.S. Drower, Canonical Prayerbook of the Mandaeans, Leiden: 1959
- The Haran Gawaitha from The Haran Gawaita and the Baptism of Hibil-Ziwa: The Mandaic Text Reproduced Together with Translation, Notes, and Commentary by
E. S. Drower (Citta del Vaticano, 1953). This important source book is long out of print and now very difficult to find. (This text version presented here lacks the many footnotes that helped clarify the text, therefore a pdf version of the original text is also provided.)
- Gnostic John the Baptizer: Selections from the MandŠan John-Book by G.R.S. Mead. This short book offers an evaluation of a Mandaean scripture by one of the most insightful early scholars of Gnostic traditions.
Fragments from the Mandaean Scriptures
In Mandaean texts, including these short excerpted texts below, the word "Uthra" is frequently encountered -- in Mandaean, the Uthra is a "divine messenger of the light" or "angel". When read with contemplation, these nine brief Mandaean hymn and prayer texts offer stunning insights into the nature of the Mandaean Gnosis.
These excerpts are published in: Willis Barnstone ed., The Other Bible (Harper, 1984), pp 697-701; original source citations for the texts are found in Foerster Werner, Gnosis: A Selection of Gnostic Texts (Oxford, 1974).