Friday, June 10, 2011

The Mandaic Book of John

As an update on the Mandaean Book of John translation project, let me share the news that a blog has been created for the purpose of posting completed drafts of both the typed Mandaic text and English translation of the Mandaean Book of John. It can be visited at  Please keep in mind that, for the time being at least, what is posted are drafts and not final, polished, corrected and edited versions of either the text or the translation, unless otherwise specified.

Since the texts I will be talking about in my conference paper at the Society of Biblical Literature International Meeting in London in July, "The Reception of Lukan Infancy Traditions in the Mandaean Book of John," would be rather much for a "handout," hopefully it will be not only adequate but better to provide the Mandaic text and English translation online. Here are direct links to the relevant sections:

Chapter 18 Mandaic
Chapter 18 English
Chapter 32 English

I will also make a copy of my paper available in due course.

(Cross-posted at Exploring Our Matrix)


  1. Another stupid question (as you are the only Mandaean Aramaic expert I know). I noticed that in Ephrem the Marcionite god is frequently described as 'strange' (= nwkry). Yet just today I happened to stumble upon the idea that the same word in Mandaean Aramaic means 'sublime.' I am wondering if Ephrem is making fun of something that effectively got lost in translation in the fourth century. I don't believe that the Greek Fathers ridiculed the Marcionites for 'strangeness.' This seems to have been something that was unique to the Syriac speaking Fathers.

    I will look up nwkry in Jastrow and various Hebrew dictionaries. But isn't it possible that Marcionite Aramaic might have been the precursor to Mandaean Aramaic? I wonder how we get from 'alien' or 'strange' to 'sublime'?

    1. There might indeed be a linguistic connection. I would need to look into other Aramaic dialects and do some comparative investigation to tell. In Mandaic, the same term can mean "alien" and "strange" and "sublime" and so it is not a matter of getting from one to the other, but of one word having the potential to mean any of those things, depending on the context and how it is used. And just as the Mandaeans in their literature love puns and word plays, I wouldn't be surprised if critics of them and others who used a term for sublime/transcendent which could also mean "strange" focused on the latter meaning.

  2. Another idiotic question while I have your attention. Clement of Alexandria somewhere derives the name 'Jesus' from Jason. As stupid as this is, it is hard not to take one's eyes away from the Marcionite name for Jesus (= Isu) and its similarity to asu (= to heal). Does Mandaean Aramaic have any forms of 'healing' which look like yod-samek-vav?

    1. The form of the name seems closest to what we also find in Rabbinic sources, i.e. Yeshu, without the final ayin, which in several Semitic languages and dialects came to not be pronounced, including Galilean Aramaic, if I remember correctly, and also Mandaic.