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Augustine And His Sources: The ‘Devil's Snares And Birdlime’ In The Mouths Of Manichaeans In East And West

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Chapter Summary

In the often-cited first sentence of Confessions. 3.6.10, Augustine describes the Manichaeans as arrogant fools, very carnal and garrulous in whose mouths were the devils snares and birdlime concocted with the addition of syllables of name and of the Lord Jesus Christ and of the Paraclete, the Comforter, the Holy Spirit. Augustine links the methods of bird-catching to the Manichaeans several times in his writings. The preparation and use of birdlime is described briefly by Pliny the Elder in his Natural History. Birdlime is a viscid and adhesive substance made from dried mistletoe berries kneaded with oil which is used for entangling birds wings by contact with it when one wants to snare them. The birdlime metaphor is rare in the extant Manichaean texts. Versions in Coptic, Parthian, Sogdian, Old Uighur and Chinese have survived in different states of preservation in East and West.

Keywords: Augustines Confessions; birdlime; devils snares; Manichaean elements



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