Monday, February 28, 2011

Online Mandaic Lexicon

As a result of Charles Häberl's hard work, an online Mandaic lexicon is now available.

It is a work in progress, both in terms of content (lexemes will continue to be added as they are encountered) and in terms of formatting. Nevertheless, those interested in the Mandaic language, more broadly in Aramaic, or in the Mandaeans and Mandaism, will certainly find it interesting and useful immediately!


  1. James, I was wondering if your translation of the Mandaean John Book has gotten down to chapter 19 and 20? It would seem to me that the puzzling reference to the mashkil-ship in chapter 20 is a reference to the idea that John (Yahya) went across the Jordan with his angelic instructor (= maskil Qumran Aramaic) as a kind of vessel. Is it generally agreed that the terminology is shared? The translation I have (by Mead I think) came before the Qumran discovery.

    It would also seem that chapters 19 and 20 vaguely resemble the account of Secret Mark insofar as chapter 19 represents a kind of oath or creed which is followed by the crossing of the Jordan. In my archaic translation John is said to go 'betwixt the Jordan.' I know that Mandaeans preserve knowledge of Psalm 114 (113 LXX) in the Mandaean Ginza R. 5.2 (Lidzbarski, 178); and later, in the story of the baptism of Manda d Hayye by Yohana in Ginza R. 5.4 (Lidzbarski, 192), it is said that the waters of the Jordan turned backward at the glory of Manda Hayya. Is the John Book 20's reference to John traveling 'betwixt the Jordan' yet another allusion to the waters of the Jordan dividing?

  2. The reference in the Letter to Theodore is:

    Jesus taught him the mystery of the Kingdom of God. And thence, arising, he returned to the other side of the Jordan

    As I am sure you are aware the Jordan is quite a river in some places (up to 45 feet wide) with quite rapid water flow. The ancient Israelites couldn't have stood twelve large stones in a stream and then had their descendants think they lay buried beneath the surface if it were so. When Jacob crossed he had the help of angel; the ancient Israelites had the tabernacle (whose fire presumably was thought to dry up and push back the water cf. the Samaritan conception of the crossing of the Sea).

  3. And here is the Mead translation of the pertinent section in the John Book:

    The Sun opened his mouth and spake unto Yahyā: "Thou hast three [head-] bands [and] a crown which equals in worth the whole world. Thou hast a Instructor (mashklil?) ship, which sails about here on the Jordan. Thou hast a great vessel which sails about here 'twixt the waters. If thou goest to the House of the Great [One], remember us in the Great's presence." Thereon Yahyā, opened his mouth and spake to the Sun in Jerusalem: "Thou enquirest about the [head-] bands, may the Perfect (pl.) watch o'er thy crown. This mashklil-ship they have carpentered together with glorious splendour. On the vessel that sails 'twixt the waters, the seal of the King has been set. She who in thy house plays the wanton, goes hence and approaches the dung-house; she seeks to have children from her own proper spouse, and she does not find them. If she then has fulfilled her vow, and she departs she is unworthy for the House of the Life and will not he alotted to the Light Dwelling. [John Book 19, 20]

  4. What I propose to be a mystery rite presumably baptism or the instruction preceding it appears in chapter 19:

    YAHYĀ proclaims in the nights and says: "Through my Father's discourses I give light and through the praise of the Man, my creator, I have freed my soul from the world and from the works that are hateful and wrong. The Seven put question to me, the Dead who have not seen Life, and they say: "In whose strength dost thou stand there, and with whose praise dost thou make proclamation?" Thereon I gave to them answer: "I stand in the strength of my Father and with the praise of the Man, my creator. I have built no house in Judæa, have set up no throne in Jerusalem. I have not loved the wreath of the roses, not commerce with lovely women. I have not loved the defective,1 not loved the cup of the drunkards. I have loved no food of the body, and envy has found no place in me. I have not forgotten my night-prayer, not forgotten wondrous Jordan. I have not forgotten my baptizing, not [forgotten] my pure sign. I have not forgotten Sun-day, and the Day's evening has not condemned me. I have not forgotten Shilmai and Nibdai, who dwell in the House of the Mighty. They clear me and let me ascend; they know no fault, no defect is in me."

    To my ignorant eyes this seems very similar to the redemption baptism of the Marcosians in Irenaeus. Not only does the word 'redemption' and 'redeem' come up here and in the Haran Gawaitha but the structure of the original statement by John seems very similar to the things Irenaeus records among the followers of Mark in AH 1.21:

    spiritual marriage which is celebrated by them, after the likeness of the conjunctions above. Others, again, lead them to a place where water is, and baptize them, with the utterance of these words, "Into the name of the unknown Father of the universe--into truth, the mother of all things--into Him who descended on Jesus--into union, and redemption, and communion with the powers." Others still repeat certain Hebrew words, in order the more thoroughly to bewilder those who are being initiated, as follows: "Basema, Chamosse, Baoenaora, Mistadia, Ruada, Kousta, Babaphor, Kalachthei." The interpretation of these terms runs thus: "I invoke that which is above every power of the Father, which is called light, and good Spirit, and life, because Thou hast reigned in the body." Others, again, set forth the redemption thus: The name which is hidden from every deity, and dominion, and truth which Jesus of Nazareth was clothed with in the lives(2) of the light of Christ--of Christ, who lives by the Holy Ghost, for the angelic redemption. The name of restitution stands thus: Messia, Uphareg, Namempsoeman, Chaldoeaur, Mosomedoea, Acphranoe, Psaua, Jesus Nazaria.(3) The interpretation of these words is as follows: "I do not divide the Spirit of Christ, neither the heart nor the supercelestial power which is merciful; may I enjoy Thy name, O Saviour of truth!" Such are words of the initiators; but he who is initiated, replies, "I am established, and I am redeemed; I redeem my soul from this age (world), and from all things connected with it in the name of Iao, who redeemed his own soul into redemption in Christ who liveth." Then the bystanders add these words, "Peace be to all on whom this name rests." After this they anoint the initiated person with balsam; for they assert that this unguent is a type of that sweet odour which is above all things.

    The initiations described by Origen in Against Celsus actually feature the initiate directing his formulas to seven angelic beings as with the material in the John Book.

    I won't post any more information I promise. I have confess that it was Andrew Criddle who directed me to take a second look at this stuff in a discussion group.

  5. And one more thing. I don't have Lidzbarski's original text (but I think I found it at but couldn't mashklil = Intellect/Wisdon power = משכל יל

  6. The Drower and Macuch lexicon says "etymology and meaning unknown" and guesses that it could be a kind of wood for making boats. There may well be a connection with klila = wreath, and since Mandaean texts love puns, the possibility of a connection through word-play with a similar-sounding word is definitely worth considering.

    I have a draft of chapters 19-20 done but have not yet gotten to the point of trying to make headway on some of the specific difficulties and obscure terminology.

  7. Thanks James. You know I found the original German of Lidzbarski and I think that answered some of my original questions. I don't mean to bother you with all of these questions. I just thought it was interesting that Celsus seems to connect the questions to the seven watchers (some sort of initiation rite I guess) with Mark 10:17 - 31 in what we know about his original text from Origen (Contra Celsum 6.16 - 21). I guess it needs more investigation later. Appreciate your help.