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Rethinking The 'Marys' Of Manichaeism

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Chapter Summary

For nearly three centuries, scholars have discussed Manichaeism's exact relationship with other religious movements, including what became orthodox Christianity and various forms of Gnosticism. In the Egyptian Manichaica, two figures appear whose names may be translated as 'Mary'. The name of Arsenoe (who seems to attract more attention from Manichaeism than from any other religious tradition of antiquity) has no biblical witness, but appears in 3 Maccabees and once in the First Apocalypse of James. Stephen Shoemaker argues for a rethinking of the general consensus that 'Mary' in Gnostic writings signifies Mary of Magdala rather than Mary of Nazareth. In contrast with Gnostic tendencies, she engages in conflict with neither Peter nor any other apostle. As in both Gnostic and non-Gnostic Christian groups, the Manichaean Miriamic figure plays the role of the ideal believer; that is, she embodies the virtues in the event, obedience and fidelity.

Keywords: Arsenoe; Christianity; First Apocalypse of James; Gnosticism; Magdala; Manichaeism; Mary; Nazareth; Peter



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