Gnostic Myth in Manichaeism?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The widespread assumption that the Manichaean religion depended on some antecedent form of “Gnosticism” requires critical assessment. Manichaean myth shows no distinctive points of connection to theogonic, cosmogonic, or cosmological details in those narratives typically classed as belonging to “gnostic” sects. Striking narrative parallels between Manichaean and “gnostic” accounts of anthropogenesis, therefore, are anomalous, and may be best explained by independent dependence on a common source, rather than direct contact between Manichaeans and gnostic groups. A variety of evidence suggests this common source to be Jewish demiurgical traditions inspired by a desire to insulate God from responsibility for flaws in human nature. In light of this analysis, Manichaean continuity directly with Jewish narrative traditions, without “gnostic” mediation, appears to be more fundamental to the religion’s core myth than previously supposed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)188-219
Number of pages32
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2020


  • Manichaeism
  • Sethian Gnostic
  • anthropogenesis
  • cosmogony
  • cosmology
  • theogony

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Religious studies


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