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Mandaeanism is a Middle Eastern religion with ancient Gnostic origins, though from the Gnosticism that predated Christianity. While a millennium or more ago Mandaeans were found throughout Persia and Babylonia, today they remain only in isolated pockets of Iran and Iraq. Many have fled the region during the unstable political climate since the 1990s, and ended up as refugees all over the world. They are most often confused with Sabians by outsiders to both religions.

The Aramaic word manda translates into the Greek word gnosis and Mandaean or Mandaeanism can thus literally be translated into Gnostic or Gnosticism. It is the only remaining Gnostic church still in practice.

Mandaean beliefs

The Mandaean religion has a more strict dualistic nature than Gnosticism. Instead of a large pleroma, there exists a more clear division between light and darkness. The ruler of darkness is called Ptahil (similar to the Gnostic Demiurge) and the originator of the light (i.e. God) is only known as "the great first alien Life from the worlds of light, the sublime one that stands above all works". This being emanated other spiritual beings which became increasingly corrupted, and their ruler Ptahil created our world.

Mandaeans believe that Jesus and Moses were false prophets; instead they follow John the Baptist. It is uncertain whether the origin of the Mandaeanism is among followers of John the Baptist, or whether they merely adopted him. Their scripture contains the book of John the Baptist which includes dialogue between him and Jesus. They have a hierarchical clergy, practice frequent baptism, and hold public worship on Sundays. They deplore fasting, monasticism, and the celibacy of Christian nuns, monks and (in some Christian denominations) priests and bishops.

The main Mandaean scripture is the Ginza Rba. It is written in Mandaean, a language closely related to the Aramaic language.


Many believe that Mani, the founder of Manichaeism, was brought up as a Mandaean, but later left Mandaeanism to found his own religion. However this is doubted.

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