Chapter 8 Manichaean Rituals: Elect and Lay Practices

In: The Manichaean Church in Kellis
Håkon Fiane Teigen
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My loved daughters, who are greatly revered by me: The members of the holy church, [the daughter] of the Light Mind, they who [also are numbered] with the children of God; the favoured, blessed, God-loving souls; my shona children. It is I, your father who is in Egypt, who writes to you; in the Lord, – greetings! Before everything I greet you warmly, and your children together, each by their name. I am praying to God every hour that he will guard you for a long time, free from anything evil of the wicked world: You being for us helpers, and worthy patrons, and firm unbending pillars; while we ourselves rely upon you.

P.Kellis V Copt. 31, ll.1–19

The above citation introduces a letter found at House 3, one of several which can be attributed to Elect authorship. It articulates an Elect perspective on the central theme of the current chapter, namely the patterns of interaction between Auditors and Elect, and relates, as we shall see, to perhaps the most vital form of interaction, the institution of almsgiving. We start by identifying the Elect and, implicitly, those instances of Elect-Auditor interaction that can be discerned in the House 3 letters, before analysing the rhetorical strategies and contents of these letters, in order to consider the way ‘Manichaeism’ was put into practice by the laity.

The arguably most important study of Manichaean institutions is Jason D. BeDuhn’s The Manichaean Body (2000), which treats the behavioural norms and rationales pertaining to food alms and the Elect meal. By analysing normative Manichaean discourse, BeDuhn shows how subjection to the Manichaean ethical regime was intended to produce a specific type of disciplined, ‘Elect’ bodies. It was through such bodies that the Elect became vehicles for the salvation of souls, enacted by their daily meals. The discipline allowed the Elect bodies to separate soul from matter through their digestion, freeing Light from its imprisonment in foodstuff. BeDuhn argues that this constituted the core, so to speak, of Manichaean practice:

[T]he food ritual was the focal point of Manichaean communal organisation, the raison d’être of Manichaean discipline, and the key to understanding how normative Manichaeism proposed to produce “souls” liberated from the bonds of contingency by the actions of the very body in which they were imprisoned.1

Manichaean institutions, in BeDuhn’s reconstruction, were geared to serve this central ritual. The Church itself, with its hierarchy and initiation rituals, had the function of spreading and propagating Mani’s teachings, but also guaranteeing the legitimacy of the Elect authorities to which alms were presented, and thus the efficacy of the salvific ritual. Almsgiving was an important part of what made the Auditors full members of the Church.2

BeDuhn focuses on the institutions surrounding the meal in normative discourse, not the practicalities of communal life and organisation. Touching briefly on Manichaeism as a socio-religious organisation, he notes:

The designation “church” may be applied to Manichaeism legitimately insofar as it refers to an organized, centrally administered institution – for such Manichaeism was, during at least part of its history. Mani apparently instituted a hierarchy through which he could direct the far-flung missionary activity he instigated. We know nothing of the origin and development of this system of administration … For our purposes, it is enough to recognize that Manichaeism existed as an institution capable of promoting its aims and enforcing its rules.3

Certainly, although Manichaean authorities sought to reproduce norms and institutions, and had success in certain areas and periods, it is not a given that specific communities in fourth century Egypt shared in or were able to maintain them. They clearly succeeded to some extent, otherwise we would hardly have found traces of such discourse in Egypt. It could well be, however, that internal tensions – in particular relating to the Elect regime – hampered maintenance or prevented the emergence of an effective Church organisation, or that it did not extend to distant localities such as the Dakhleh Oasis.

In trying to elucidate the functioning of this ‘system of administration’ in Kellis, there are two chief aspects that need to be considered: the ability of Manichaean authorities to mobilise Auditors for almsgiving and other rituals, and their ability to enforce discipline among the Elect themselves. They must, on the one hand, have found mechanisms to ensure stable and mutually beneficial ties between the two levels of adherents, and, on the other, ensured that internal Elect discipline and authority was maintained. These two issues were related, as the arguments of Lim concerning the North African church organisation indicate (see Chapter 1), but we postpone the latter to the next chapter. Here, we examine the former: the bonds between Auditors and Elect at Kellis.

Scholarship of Manichaeism has generally taken this relationship to have been located within small, intimate ‘cells’, ‘each comprising a handful of Electi with their devoted Hearers’.4 Such cells have also been considered primarily domestic, with small gatherings of Auditors waiting upon visiting Elect in their homes, in strong contrast to the communal worship dominant in Turfan. This view has lent Manichaeism in the Roman Empire an aura of secrecy. Lane Fox, for instance, described the gatherings Augustine attended in these terms: ‘Every day, not before the late afternoon, members would meet in rooms in private houses, like “cells” in a mobile, secret group.’5 The Kellis texts have been taken to support such a reconstruction. In his article on domestic Manichaean practice, BeDuhn used papyri from Kellis to illustrate the intimate relations fostered in Elect-Auditor cells.6 The visit of Elect to lay homes, with the accompanying meal ritual, allowed the laity to become ‘active participants in a mystery that served towards the liberation of their own souls, as well as the souls of all living beings. Angels literally filled the room where such a sacred meal was occurring, activating a portal between sacred and profane dimensions of reality.’7 However, as we shall see below, a full account of the Kellis evidence shows that it primarily pertains to more mundane, and more institutionalised, aspects of Elect-Auditor interaction. It allows these Manichaean gatherings to shed some of the mystique.

Unfortunately, the papyri are not, as a rule, explicit in their depiction of such ties. Both religious practices and the presence of Elect in the documentary texts generally have to be established indirectly, a point to which we return. Furthermore, in order to consider whether or how practices fit into a distinctly Manichaean framework, we have to put them in dialogue with other texts, and examine the way Manichaean traditions and the Kellis material can mutually illuminate each other. Such a synthetic approach has been challenged. Lim has argued that

[b]y insisting on the identification and recovery of Manichaeans across the centuries and the continents as one of their chief goals, scholars in the field are unwittingly joining forces with the likes of Augustine to create and sustain a master discourse about who and what the Manichaeans were.8

Below, we focus on the texts from Medinet Madi: sources that were produced in the vicinity of and broadly contemporary with the Manichaean community at Kellis. However, other texts, ranging from the writings of Augustine to Central Asian traditions, are also adduced and can be compared to these. It is argued that the evidence shows a degree of coherence that cannot simply be ascribed to scholarly reconstruction; rather, it reflects the institutions, or techniques for reproducing patterns of interaction, of a Manichaean church organisation.

The Berlin Kephalaia, in particular, provides several passages of interest. It is often seen as a ‘scholastic’ product, whose complicated doctrines were of little relevance to the daily lives of adherents. Certainly, its main purpose was to systematise cosmological and anthropological teachings, not to provide a blueprint for social interaction. However, it does provide insight into practices considered normative or taken for granted by the compilers: the institutional ‘templates’ that Manichaean leaders in late antique Egypt drew upon to construct a Manichaean social world.9

1 Identifying Elect

Our first task here is to identify Manichaean actors and actions in Kellis, and in order to do so, we need some criteria. Identifying Elect should, in theory, not be too difficult – their ascetical regime was, after all, geared towards setting them apart from worldly society. Unfortunately, it has not left visible traces in the archaeology from House 1–3.10 Instead we have to rely on authors to identify themselves, or others, as Elect. Here, too, we encounter problems: such identity markers were often omitted in daily correspondences, as Malcolm Choat has noted.11 A further difficulty in the present context is limiting identification to monks of a specifically ‘Manichaean’ persuasion. Terms such as ‘righteous’ and ‘Elect’, current in scholarly literature and useful for separating them from mainstream Christian monks, do not appear as self-designations in the documentary corpus (although ‘Elect’ does occur in P.Kellis V Copt. 15, 16). This may be taken to signal the absence of Elect from Kellis, as recently argued by Mattias Brand, who has taken a minimalist view and only accepts the identification of Elect present in the Nile Valley.12 As we shall see below, however, there is ample reason to add several other figures to this list, some of whom were active in Kellis.

While ‘Elect’ as an identity marker is absent, there are figures who can be identified as Elect based on terms of religious office. As presented in the introduction, the Manichaean hierarchy was regularly depicted as consisting of the archegos, Teachers, bishops, and presbyters, to which we can add deacons (see Chapter 9, Section 2.1). The literary texts examined in the previous chapter indicate that Manichaeans in Kellis were well acquainted with the hierarchy. Unfortunately, the only somewhat distinctly Manichaean title is that of ‘Teacher’. It is used as a self-designation by the author of P.Kellis VII Copt. 61, and to designate an important actor in the Maria/Makarios correspondence. Although the term ‘teacher’ (ⲥⲁϩ) itself is ambiguous, both instances show that the figure in question is an important religious authority – he is, for instance, referred to as the ‘Great Teacher’ (P.Kellis V Copt. 20) – and there is little reason to doubt that we are dealing with a top official in the Manichaean hierarchy.13 Other clerical titles used by the Manichaeans for Elect officials were shared with the Christians,14 as were common monastic designations such as ‘monk’ and ‘apa’.15 Brand has argued that identifying people as Elect based on such titles alone is hazardous. He points to the presence of officials in the House 3 papyri that are explicitly marked as ‘of the catholic church’, and therefore restricts himself to identifying the Teacher and the figure of Apa Lysimachos (see below) as Elect, noting that ‘others are not beyond question’.16 However, the designation ‘catholic church’, and the names associated with it – Ouonsis, Harpokrates, Jakob – occur only in official Greek documents, not in the private Coptic correspondence of House 1–3.17 Moreover, the criterion that Brand uses to identify Lysimachos as an Elect is not a specifically Manichaean self-designation, or use of distinctively Manichaean cues, but the consistent application of the title ‘apa’ to him by Makarios, and his closeness with the Pamour family. As pointed out in Chapter 5, Lysimachos’ own two letters evince no specifically Manichaean cues. It is here argued that actors appearing with religious titles in the House 1–3 material can reasonably be assumed to be Elect officials, insofar as the labels are used by known Manichaean actors and they figure within the private social circles of the House 1–3 community. Although not beyond questioning, this assumption is more reasonable than taking a ‘Catholic’ Christian context as default, or refraining from making a judgement. Criteria for identifying Elect have to be of degree, rather than of kind.

Based on the criterion of official titles, several actors can be identified as Elect. First, there are a few actors only referred to by their titles. In addition to the Teacher, mentioned above, this category includes two deacons, one interacting daily with Makarios in P.Kellis V Copt. 19 and one associated with Lysimachos in P.Kellis VII Copt. 72. Both are located in the Nile Valley. Of the Elect officials known by name, we mainly find those bearing the designation ‘presbyter’. These are Pebos and Ploutogenios, addressed as ‘the presbyters, my children’ by the Teacher in P.Kellis VII Copt. 61, and Saren, who is labelled ‘presbyter’ by Horion in P.Kellis V Copt. 18 and ‘our brother’ in P.Kellis VII Copt. 58. In these instances, affiliation with Manichaeism is well-established, and at least in the case of Saren, we find close interaction with Manichaeans in the Oasis. A less clear-cut case is Psais the presbyter in the letter P.Kellis VII Copt. 92. The author is Timotheos, a name found in several other letters (and for a ‘monk’ in the KAB, see below), but which was common and so cannot be identified with certainty. The letter does mention several Pamour associates. Furthermore, there is strong evidence for the presence of an Elect by the name of Psais in other documents.18 Although more tentative, Elect status seems likely here, as well.

Two monastic titles, ‘apa’ and ‘monk’, are suggestive of Elect status. ‘Apa’ is applied to two figures in the archive: Lysimachos, whose Elect status is reasonably clear, and a certain Psekes, who applies it to himself in the only letter attributable to him, P.Kellis VII Copt. 90. Psekes’ letter is written in an educated style and contains several religious cues, among them the ‘embrace’ formula.19 Although not certain, the context is probably Manichaean. He may further be identifiable with a ‘father’ Psekes, who occurs in Matthaios’ P.Kellis V Copt. 25, and a Psekes ‘presbyter’ in P.Kellis I Gr. 48. Regarding ‘monk’, the Greek term monakhosοναχός) does not occur in House 1–3. It is, however, used in the KAB for two men, Timotheos and Petros. The latter pays for a topos Mani (ll.320, 513), probably to be identified as a Manichaean religious institution (see Chapter 9, Section 3.3). The names recur separately in various House 1–3 texts, Timotheos being fairly common. But in the Petros letters, two actors by these names occur travelling together, and an identification of them with the KAB monks was suggested by the editors.20 Both are referred to as ‘our brother’, and the letters, while lacking Manichaean cues, have features strongly suggestive of a religious context. Not least, two Petros letters feature the Coptic term ‘monk’ (C. ϩⲗⲗⲟ).21 The term is ambiguous, as it can simply mean ‘old man’, and it is not explicitly applied to either Petros or Timotheos, but in P.Kellis V Copt. 39 it occurs in connection with scribal activity and in a context where it may conceivably relate to one of them. The names, moreover, occur in two other letters of note: ‘our brother’ Timotheos brings news in Apa Psekes’ P.Kellis VII Copt. 90, and a Petros is involved in a matter concerning Saren the presbyter in P.Kellis V Copt. 18. The identification of Petros and Timotheos as Elect remains very probably, and we may in fact be dealing with an Elect circle active in the Oasis.

Three authors who designate themself ‘father’ (ⲓ̈ⲱⲧ) can be identified as Elect based on letter contents. These are the authors of P.Kellis V Copt. 31, of 32–33, and of P.Kellis I Gr. 63, respectively, a group of letters that we may collectively refer to as the ‘Father letters’. In each instance, the author uses the familial term ‘father’ in a religious sense, and labels the recipients ‘catechumens’, ‘children’ of the church, and/or supporters cast in religious terms. A more detailed analysis of their rhetorical devices leaves little doubt that we are dealing with alms-related letters sent by Manichaean Elect, as we shall see. The author of P.Kellis V Copt. 31 states that he is ‘your Father who is in Egypt’. The Father in P.Kellis V Copt. 32, however, is located in, or close, to the Oasis, and moreover states that he will travel to the recipient, presumably in Kellis.

These letters provide vital evidence for the practice of almsgiving in the village. The absence of names, unfortunately, makes further identification of these ‘Fathers’ impossible – although there is one possible exception. Style and palaeography strongly imply that the scribe who wrote P.Kellis V Copt. 32–33 also wrote Theognostos’ letter P.Kellis VII Copt. 84. The editors concluded: ‘It seems more probable than not that 32, 33 and 84 were all written by the one scribe; but whether Theognostos himself composed the remarkable Manichaean sentiments in 32 (especially) is an unanswerable question.’22 If so, Theognostos would have to be identified as an Elect. His close relationship to Lysimachos, who sent letter P.Kellis I Gr. 67 to him with a Syriac address and asking him to mind his ‘sobriety’, as well as Ision, could point in this direction. It would moreover explain why Pekysis, in P.Kellis VII Copt. 73, requests Psais III to consult ‘our brother’ Theognostos on matters of ‘life eternal’. If this is correct, we should also consider his constant companion, Horos. He might be identified with Horos, recipient of another letter by Lysimachos, P.Kellis V Copt. 30, and with a Horos located with Lysimachos in P.Kellis VII Copt. 72. On this reconstruction, these two would provide a highly interesting case of Elect embedded in lay families. It would have strong implications for the way we view Elect life, as well as for our understanding of familial ties and economic activity in the House 1–3 texts. However, it may be that Theognostos asked the scribe of P.Kellis V Copt. 32 to write on his behalf, and there may have been more than one Horos. Without further evidence, the matter will have to remain unresolved.

This does not exhaust possible identifications. Piene, travelling with the Teacher in the Nile Valley and assisting him with church activities in Alexandria, was clearly an Elect in training. A certain Ision may similarly have been Elect in training; he is a ‘Syriac reader’ located with Lysimachos in P.Kellis I Gr. 67, and Philammon II calls him ‘our brother’ in P.Kellis VII Copt. 82, where he is travelling to Theognostos in Kellis.23 More generic references to Elect can be adduced: a reference to a ‘blessed one’, located in the vicinity of Psais III in P.Kellis V Copt. 35; as well as a reference to ‘bishops’ by Lysimachos in P.Kellis V Copt. 30 and to ‘the brotherhood’ by Matthaios in P.Kellis V Copt. 25, both in the Nile Valley. Finally, the possible existence of a Manichaean monastery in the vicinity of Kellis provides support for identifying some of the ‘fathers’ and ‘brothers’, such as ‘brother’ Ouales (P.Kellis V Copt. 35–36), ‘father’ Pebok (P.Kellis V Copt. 12), or the several ‘fathers’ in the Petros letters, as Elect. We return to this question in Chapter 9.

We should certainly be careful not to make too strong assumptions, especially when seeking to trace identified Elect in other documents. Many of the relevant names – Pebos, Ploutogenios, Psais, and Timotheos – are quite common. Some instances of possible or likely identifications are broached in the course of this and the next chapter. However, the actors who are assigned religious titles or, in the case of the Father letters, conduct elaborate symbolic performances, remain our most secure identifications. They serve as our main vantage points for examining Elect-Auditor interaction in Kellis. This still leaves us with a sizable group: six unnamed and eight named actors identifiable as Elect, totalling 14 actors (Table 7). All these texts belong to the same period, i.e. the second half of the fourth century, apart from P.Kellis I Gr. 63, whose father N. N. was probably active in the 330s. The actual number of Elect could therefore be smaller, as unnamed actors may be identifiable with named ones, or with each other, although it seems equally possible that it might be higher.

Table 7
Table 7

Elect in the House 1–3 material

2 Auditor Almsgiving

According to the polymath Abu Rayhan al-Biruni (fl. 11th century), Mani forbade the Elect the ‘acquisition of anything, except from food for one day and clothing for one year’.24 Such an injunction must indeed go back to Mani himself: passages from the CMC as well as fragments of Mani’s Šabuhragan and of his Epistles from Turfan attest to the veracity of al-Biruni’s quotation.25 The Elect were not allowed to accumulate food, goods, or land, but still needed to be fed, clothed, and housed. These tasks fell to the Auditors, by way of almsgiving. Alms were the ‘financial lifeblood of the church’, as Tardieu has put it.26 Furnishing the Elect with food was particularly important, as the meals were both, in principle, rituals of cosmic significance, and, more prosaically, because they had to be supplied on a daily basis.27 Food alms therefore form the main topic of discussion below, although the donation of textiles and recruits are also attested in the letters.

2.1 Literary Traditions

Begging for alms is often seen as the original norm for Elect. Mani himself is depicted as begging for his food in an unfortunately lacunose passage from the CMC (142.3–13), and the image of the wandering Elect, walking from house to house seeking lay shelter and a meal remained a powerful ideal. However, at least in the eastern branch, the meal became a collective affair. The Chinese Compendium, a summary of teachings and practices of the group written sometime before 731 CE (when it was translated into Chinese), proscribes that the Elect wait for alms together in their monastery: they should only go out to beg if none are forthcoming.28 Monasteries were furnished with an official called the e-huan-jian-sai-bo-sai (probably for Pa *arwāngān ispāsg, ‘servant of the alms’), together with a lay official, which rotated monthly and collected (or received) alms.29 This office appears to be a late (and transient) development, as the term is not known from early Iranian texts and later disappears.30 At any rate, the meal was an elaborate ritual conducted while the Elect were gathered together in the evening, with a ceremonial giving of the food by Auditors (the ‘invitation’, MP niwēdmā). Their donation, given to a representative of the community, was accompanied by hymns and homilies.31 The Auditors then withdrew, leaving the Elect to reflect, eat, and conduct their own after-meal hymns and prayers.32

The eastern practices might well contrast with a continued tradition of begging monks in the Roman Empire. The author of the Tebessa codex refers back to the time of the Christian Gospels, a time when the Auditors ‘helped the elect and, receiving them under their roofs and into their own homes, they provided them with the necessities of life’, presumably indicating that this remained a central ideal.33 Yet, normative discourse on food rituals in the west did recognise collective meals and ceremonial receptions, a point which hitherto has not received proper attention. A chapter of the Berlin Kephalaia depicts Auditors bringing the ‘table’ to the Elect, accompanied by hymns and prayers; here some form of ceremony is taken for granted (1 Ke. 346.22–347.9).34 Moreover, many chapters from the Kephalaia imply collective meal consumption. Keph. 85 deals with an Elect having to go out to gather alms, which is presented as causing some anxiety and causing him to ask the Apostle for guidance. The passage of his question reads:

Sometimes, also, a teacher [of the] church where I am, or some of the foreign brethren, may [ask me] about a portion of alms, concerning some food that they need. I know that what I do is good, as I am obeying the one who commands [me], who sends me on the road to a foreign country. Again, if I [take] up the alms and it is brought to the church, the br[others] and the sisters can take their sufficiency of it. I know and perceive that I have therein a great success, by this matter. [Never]theless, I am also afraid lest in any way I commit a sin when [I wa]lk on the path, as I trample upon the earth, [tre]ading on [the Cro]ss of Light

1 Ke. 208.23–33

Mani’s response comes in the form of a parable: The Cross of Light (the world soul) and the alms (its constituent parts) are like a sick person, and the Elect is like a doctor who must at times cause pain in order to heal (1 Ke. 212.10–12). But although this suffering is to a certain extent inevitable, it does not imply that the Elect are allowed to cause unnecessary pain, by acting violently or gluttonously. Instead, the Elect are to rely on the Auditors, and lead the almsgiving ‘by word’ to the Auditors (1 Ke. 213.5–6). The citation above shows that the questioner takes as his starting assumption that going out to collect alms means bringing them back to ‘the church where I am’, where it was distributed and eaten by the brethren in the (local) church. Going out to collect alms was moreover only sometimes (ⲟⲩ̣ⲛ ⲥⲁⲡ) necessary, in instances when a superior commanded it. Mani’s answer shows the reasoning behind this: going out to receive alms involves harm to the earth, which is at times necessary but should generally be avoided. It is better to instruct the Auditors to provide the necessities. Collective meals are similarly taken for granted in the important keph. 38.35 It describes how souls are liberated by the Light Mind, which enters the body and fashions an Elect. However, bodies can continue to experience rebellions, e.g. sickness, doubt, and apostasy. To prevent this, the community is to sit in council and put the potentially errant Elect straight. Sin resurfaces if the Elect does not heed the advice, manifesting itself in anti-social behaviour, described in these terms:

If again […] to that place, then again sin shall rise […] and clothe him with lust and vanity and pride. He separates from his teacher and his brethren. [He sh]all always [w]ant to go in and to come out alone. He shall want to eat and to drink alone, a solitary man (ⲟⲩⲁⲉⲉϥ ⲛ̄ⲣⲙ̄ⲛ̄ⲟⲩⲱⲧ). [He sh]all always [w]ant to walk alone. Indeed, this is the [si]gn that the familiarity (ⲧⲧⲁⲡⲥ̄) of his brethren does not act on him.

1 Ke. 98.15–22

The term ⲧⲁⲡⲥ ̄– (l.22), translated ‘familiarity’, also has the meaning ‘custom, habit’.36 It shows that the Elect were expected to reinforce good conduct among themselves through regular interaction, emulating each other’s habits. Eating, drinking, and travelling on one’s own result in ‘sin’, in becoming ‘solitary’ (ⲣⲙ̄ⲛ̄ⲟⲩⲱⲧ).37 Clearly, communal gatherings were vital occasions at which the Elect were to reinforce each other’s ‘familiarity’. Several other traditions can be adduced. Keph. 81, cited in the next chapter, depicts a group of 50 Elect fasting and eating together. Keph. 150 depicts Elect turning to another for alms if they are lacking (1 Ke. 364.14–17), pointing to a practice of internal distribution – or at least sharing – of food.

Waiting collectively for alms and consuming them together, then, was perceived as the normative pattern by the author(s) of these traditions, in agreement with the Compendium. While recognising individual begging, Manichaean authorities in the west clearly considered the ritual meal to be an affair pertaining to the Elect as a community, central for reinforcing Elect discipline, and so shared in the notions of ceremonial alms receptions and collective meal consumption found in a more developed form in the eastern tradition.

2.2 Manichaean Alms at Kellis

It is certainly difficult to separate almsgiving from other charitable transactions in the papyri, where knowledge of the underlying purpose of the transaction is generally taken for granted. As in the case of identifying Elect, technical terms found in Manichaean texts relating to piety and mercy (Gr. εὐσέβεια, ἐλεηµοσύνη, C. ⲙⲛ̄ⲧⲛⲁⲉ),38 are largely absent. There are, however, transactions that can be taken to represent almsgiving with some certainty. Most securely identified are those in the Coptic Father letters P.Kellis V Copt. 31–32, which contain requests for gifts of goods described in terms that imbue the gifts with a spiritual dimension. The editors were the first to note that they should probably be taken as alms.39 Majella Franzmann has treated these letters in a series of studies on lay religiosity and almsgiving in Kellis, showing how the Biblical allusions and other religious notions present in the letters fit into a Manichaean Auditor – Elect framework.40 To these we should add the request from a letter by another identifiable Elect: the ‘father’ in P.Kellis I Gr. 63, writing to Pausanias and Pisistratos, who uses a similarly spiritual language in relation to a gift. Perhaps we can add the requests made by Apa Lysimachos in P.Kellis V Copt. 30 and P.Kellis I Gr. 67, addressed to Horos I and Theognostos, respectively, although the language and contexts here are less clear.

Unambiguous technical terms for Auditor – Elect alms are, as noted, absent. But a term often applied to Christian charitable meals in antiquity, agape (ἀγάπη), is at times employed for Auditor – Elect alms in Manichaean sources.41 For the Manichaeans, the Elect were the truly poor, and charity for the Elect was thus true agape. This term is also found at Kellis, designating charitable gifts in the form of foodstuff in documents connected to Horion and Tehat: in Horion’s letters P.Kellis V Copt. 15 and 17, in Tehat’s accounts P.Kellis V Copt. 44, 47, as well as in the KAB.42 Although it cannot be proven beyond doubt that Horion and Tehat refer to Elect alms, there are strong reasons to accept this interpretation, as we shall see below.

A few other transactions mentioned by lay writers may also be alms for the Elect, despite the absence of technical vocabulary. In addition to discussing agape, Horion orders clothes on behalf of Saren the presbyter in P.Kellis V Copt. 18 and gives a cowl to the ‘brothers’ in P.Kellis VII Copt. 58. If his identification as an Elect presbyter is correct, the gifts to Saren should be understood as alms. Pekysis discusses a matter of two girls requested as a ‘service to the church’ (P.Kellis VII Copt. 73, ll.16–17), which likely relates to the practice of giving children into the care of Elect for education and training as new Elect. The sojourn of Piene with the Teacher known from the Maria/Makarios letters suggests a similar donation. The copying of books may be another instance of almsgiving, as argued in Chapter 7.

Finally, an appeal by Tehat might be read as an appeal for charity to Elect. The passage is unfortunately heavily fragmented, but is worth quoting in full:

If there is a bowl (?) of vegetables (?) […] Indeed, this is the time: Send a pot (?) […] to these orphans (ⲁⲛ̣ⲉⲓⲟⲣⲫⲁ[ⲛⲟ]ⲥ ̣); for you did send […] If this is what your heart has […] me, your mother; so that you throw (?) like this […] Tapshai […] for him to […] to you. A […] happened […] Tkoou […] seek after it […] Now then, the […] Have pity for them, and you set up (?) [some] pots for them; in that they have no father nor mother. And until you know (?), the baked loaves […] every widow (ⲭⲏⲣⲉ ⲛⲓⲙ) eats (?) […] find it […] charity (ⲛⲁⲉ?); and he […] and he has mercy (ⲛϥⲛⲁⲉ ̣) on them in their […] with Tbeke […] baked loaves to them. What is the manner of […] your heart receives to them (?). Do not […] Greet […] on their behalf […] You […] place in you […] Do not […] according to the manner of […] their father Hor […] these strangers (ⲛⲓϣⲙ̣̄̈ⲁⲉⲓ) […] all of them. Lay your hands on […] which they sent after [… …] Who is it really that takes care of them and their anxiety(?) in their hearts? For, are there any others for them?

P.Kellis V Copt. 43, ll.6–3843

Franzmann expresses scepticism as to whether the ‘orphans’ mentioned in the request can be identified as Elect.44 The usage of ⲛⲁⲉ̣ could link this passage to the Medinet Madi literature, where a common term for alms is ⲙⲛ̄ⲧⲛⲁⲉ (‘charity’), but it was not particular to the Manichaeans. Yet the passage strongly recalls stock terms and themes employed in reference to the Elect: not only ‘orphans’ and ‘widows’, common terms in connection with Christian alms, but also ‘strangers’.45 Most striking is the similarity to a passage from the Sermon on the Great War (SGW), in which Mani is depicted as weeping for his persecuted Elect:

I weep for my widows (ⲛⲁⲭⲏⲣⲁ) who h[ave no one that will]

stretch his hand to them (in order to help). I weep for my [orphan]ed

ch[ildren] (ⲛⲁϣ[ⲏⲣⲉ ⲛ̄ⲟⲣⲫⲁ]ⲛⲟⲥ), these lonely strangers (ⲛⲓϣⲙⲙⲁⲓ ⲛ̄ⲁⲧⲣⲱⲙⲉ), for w[ho will lo]ok

after them? At [whose] tabl[e] (ⲧⲣⲁⲡⲉⲍ[]) will they eat?

Hom. 17.11–14

Here all three terms occur together, in the context of alms, with woeful rhetorical questions similar to those of Tehat. This interpretation of the passage from Tehat’s letter certainly remains tentative, but the possibility that she refers to preparations of an Elect meal should not be dismissed – particularly not in light of the occurrences of agape in her accounts, and considering her close relationship to Horos I and Horion, themselves organisers of agape.

To sum up, while there are no unambiguous acts of Auditor – Elect almsgiving, there are several requests and transactions that can reasonably be interpreted within this framework. The most well-established of these are the letters written by Manichaean authorities, P.Kellis I Gr. 63 and P.Kellis V Copt. 31–32. To these we should probably add the agape of Horion in P.Kellis V Copt. 15 and 17, and his gifts to the presbyter Saren in P.Kellis V Copt. 18 and P.Kellis VII Copt. 58. A few other passages are also suggestive of Elect alms, but the aforementioned provide the main starting point for the analysis below.

2.3 Soliciting Alms

Let us first consider how the Elect went about being ‘leaders’ of the alms ‘by word to the catechumen’, i.e. the rhetorical construction of Elect alms letters, before moving on to their practical implications. The Father letters provide the primary examples for this purpose. Letter P.Kellis V Copt. 31 is addressed to a group of women by an author who styles himself ‘your father who is in Egypt’ (ll.7–8). His incipit contains a tripartite greeting, situating the women as ‘members of the Holy Church’, ‘[daughters] of the Light Mind’, and ‘children of God’, and praising them as ‘favoured’, ‘blessed’, and ‘God-loving’ (ll.2–6). The letter body starts with a prayer for God to guard the women against the evils of the world due to their mutual relationship: ‘You being helpers, worthy patrons and firm unbending pillars; while we ourselves rely upon you’ (ll.17–19). This relationship, however, does not appear to be based on direct interaction:

Indeed, when I heard about your good, God-loving fame; I rejoiced greatly. I was very grateful to you, ten million times! Whether we are far or we are near: indeed, we have found remembrance (ⲡⲣⲡⲙⲉⲩⲉ) among you.

P.Kellis V Copt. 31, ll.20–26

Through their good deeds, the lay women at Kellis have achieved a good reputation (ⲡⲉⲧⲛ̄ⲥⲁⲓ̈ⲧ⳿ ⲉⲧⲛⲁⲛⲟⲩϥ) that has reached the author and incurred his gratefulness all the way over in Egypt, phrased by way of the ‘far but near’ formula. Moreover, by their deeds – perhaps help to other Elect familiar to the author – the women had equally displayed appreciation for the Father, who was presumably a figure of some stature in the community. He continues by praying for that ‘this knowledge and this faith’ shall stay with them in the future (ll.26–29), implicitly tying the strength of their faith to their good deeds. Only after this introduction does he turn to the more mundane purpose of the letter: a request for two choes of olive oil. Although the rest of the letter is quite fragmented, it is apparent that this request is occasioned by some hardship the author is experiencing.

The author of P.Kellis V Copt. 32 simply calls himself ‘your father’, and writes a single ‘our loved daughter’. He, too, situates her in relation to the community with a tripartite greeting: she is a ‘daughter of the Holy Church’, a ‘catechumen of the faith’, and a ‘good tree whose fruit never wither, which is your love that emits radiance every day’ (ll.1–7). From the image of the tree he turns to one of wealth: the woman has acquired riches in the treasuries in the heights, ‘where moths shall not find a way, nor shall thieves dig through to them to steal; which (storehouses) are the sun and the moon (ⲡⲣⲏ ⲙⲛ̄ ⲡⲟϩ)’ (ll.10–13).46 Finally, he states that her ‘deeds resemble her name’, Eirene (ll.14–15).47 These turns of praise echo Manichaean interpretation of New Testament passages, which are used in a particular way to put emphasis on the importance of good deeds: Eirene’s faith is the ‘tree’ which bears ‘fruit’ in the form of ‘love’, which in turn ‘emits radiance’ in the form of good deeds. The image of ‘treasure’ in the ‘storehouses’ of the sun and the moon expresses, by way of Matt. 6:19–20, the Manichaean notion that an Auditor’s good deeds are ‘Light’ that literally goes up to be stored in the heavenly bodies. Franzmann has taken the depiction of Eirene as radiating light to imply that she is placed on pair with the Elect.48 However, this image should probably rather be read in light of a passage from the Berlin Kephalaia (1 Ke. 227.18–26), which describes how the Auditors’ Light particles (i.e. ‘soul fragments’), through good deeds, travel before them to the heavenly bodies and await their death before final judgement. After this rich introduction follows the tripartite prayer for well-being in body, soul, and spirit until their next meeting. The author then broaches more mundane matters: he wants Eirene to mix warp and send oil and wheat. But even these matters are intertwined with a metaphor: her actions lay the foundations of a ‘house’ where she will find eternal rest (ll.28–31).49 At the end of this discussion, he exhorts her to ‘fight in every way to complete the work, for a person knows not at what hour the thief will come to dig through the house’ (ll.40–45).50 A certain threat can perhaps be detected: the ‘thief’ can still undermine her salvation if she stops doing work on behalf of the Church.51 Finally, the father ends by rejoicing over her recovery from an illness. Considering his previous forceful assurances that Eirene’s good deeds have already been stored in the heavenly bodies, but will give her spiritual benefits only if she continues to perform them, one might consider the possibility that her illness had occasioned some doubts, which the author is trying to dispel.52

There is little reason to doubt that these letters deal with requests for alms by Elect. Their shared concerns provide insight into topoi that the Elect could draw on in order to persuade Auditors to donate. Both letters start with introductory formula that depict the value of the Auditors to God, the Church, and the writer. Both put a strong emphasis on the importance of good deeds. Good deeds are tied to the resilience of the recipients’ faith and ultimately to their very salvation. Both authors connect the practical performance of good deeds (i.e. expressions of faith) to requests of assistance, in both cases involving foodstuff – and, in P.Kellis V Copt. 32, textile work, – they are to receive.

The final Father letter considered here, the Greek P.Kellis I Gr. 63 to Pausanias and Pisistratos, has a different structure and purpose. At the same time, it shares many of the same concerns. The author, who does state his name (although it is unfortunately lost in a lacuna), starts by praising his recipients. The opening lists positive attributes of the recipients, differing from the tripartite structure of the Coptic letters, but ‘reputation’ plays a key role, as in P.Kellis V Copt. 31. Pausanias’ and Pisistratos’ ‘good reputation’ is ‘great and without limit’ in ‘our mind and speech’, ‘recorded and testified’ by way of the ‘most sincere mind in you’ (ε̣ἰλι[κρι]ν̣ε̣σ̣τάτῳ νῷ̣) (ll.5–11).53 Subsequently, instead of making a request, the author and his companions offer thanks for gifts, in a particularly striking passage, as translated by Worp:

And yet, knowing that this letter will gladden (you) in due measure, consequently we hasten to make use of this and to send off to the […] word of the divinely generated conceptions which we cherish inside towards your pious character. For we are most pleased and rejoice when (or: that?) we shall receive both the indications of your sympathy and the welcome letter of yours, I mean […]; and now we benefit from a few fruits of the spirit and (later) again we benefit also from the fruits of the soul of the pious […] (καρπῶν ψυχικῶν τῆς ε̣ ὐ̣σ̣ε̣βο̣ῦ̣ ςφ̣ο̣ρα̣ς̣) and filled with both we shall set going every praise towards your most luminous soul inasmuch as this is possible for us. But only our lord the Paraclete is competent to praise you as you deserve and to compensate you at the appropriate moment.

P.Kellis I Gr. 63, ll.11–30

After this display of gratitude, the author shifts to more prosaic matters, noting that the basket (τ̣ὸ̣ σπυρίδιον, l.31) that Pausanias and Pisistratos sent has arrived, and that he has forwarded (some of) its contents to lord [..]ryllos.54 He ends by saying that he prays for the two to remain helpful, and greets from various brethren, whose names are mostly lost (ll.38–39).

As in P.Kellis V Copt. 31, the author appears to be located at some distance from the recipients, and may primarily be familiar with them by way of their ‘good reputation’. As in P.Kellis V Copt. 32, he employs language of spiritual ‘fruits’ to refer to the Auditors’ good deeds: they are tied to pious donations to himself and his brethren, as seen in the sudden shifts from mundane gifts to higher, ‘spiritual’ matters, and back to the discussion of a basket. Moreover, by his assertion that he and his companions will be filled by ‘fruits of the soul of the pious […]’ when they receive the gifts, it seems that the gifts are goods for consumption.55 We should probably understand P.Kellis I Gr. 63 as a letter of thanks for alms, and alms, moreover, that the recipients would consume at a ritual meal. It is supported by the author’s final assertion in the lines quoted: that he and his companions will make praise on behalf of the Auditors’ ‘luminous soul’, i.e. the living soul that is purified through the meals, ‘inasmuch as this is possible for us’.56 Their praise is linked to the ‘recompense’ (i.e. salvation) of the Auditors discussed in the next line, although he hastens to piously emphasise that, in the final instance, full salvation is in the hands of the Paraclete.

Several of the same topoi are found here as in the two Coptic Father letters: the spiritual authority of the author, the importance of good deeds/reputation of the recipients, the spiritual recompense for their deeds, and not least a link between good deeds, salvation, and specific donations of goods to the author.

In these three letters, then, we find Elect employing elaborate symbolic performances to persuade or reassure the Auditors of their value to the Church. Such performances were not always necessary, however. Letter P.Kellis I Gr. 67 by Apa Lysimachos to Theognostos, which contains a request for a notebook, is much less elaborate: while the main letter body is lost, and Lysimachos does exhort Theognostos to mind his ‘sobriety’ (προσέχετε ἑαθτ[ους] σες νήψεως, ll.6–7), one may compare the comparatively curt introductory formula (ll.1–3) to those of the Father letters. This might be an indication of the less formal ties between him and Theognostos; the latter was closely connected to several of Lysimachos’ associates, such as Ision and Philammon II, and presumably intimately known to Lysimachos himself. Asking for alms could, in other words, be a more mundane affair, and so may not always be obvious in the letters.57 In contrast to the close ties between Lysimachos and Theognostos, the Elect authors of P.Kellis V Copt. 31 and P.Kellis I Gr. 63 seem not to have been directly familiar with their recipients. Their rhetorical displays function to assert their religious credentials in the absence of pre-existing, direct ties. Another context must, however, have occasioned the symbolic performance of the author of P.Kellis V Copt. 32, who had had prior contact with Eirene (see below). His eagerness to reassure her of the value of her deeds, and the scriptural allusions he employs to do so, may well stem from a perceived need to comfort her in the wake of sickness – or even religious doubt.

2.4 Providing Alms

The above-considered letters not only tell us much about Elect requests, but can reveal much about the way Auditors were expected to arrange for donations. For one, it is clear that they were expected to contribute alms to unfamiliar Elect even across large distances, and so not only to supply their local itinerant. As pointed out above, the author of P.Kellis V Copt. 31 knew his recipients by reputation, and likely had not previously had direct contact with the women in Kellis. However, he still assumed that they would be willing to send alms to him all the way over in the Nile Valley, by way of a ‘son’ he sends to retrieve them (l.41). Similarly, the ‘father’ in P.Kellis I Gr. 63 emphasises the great extent of the reputation of Pausanias and Pisistratos in his letter, and his symbolic performance can be seen in light of a need to reassure them of the spiritual value of their gifts, despite a lack of prior familiarity.

While some, perhaps prominent, Elect could solicit alms from afar, others cultivated personal bonds. The Father in P.Kellis V Copt. 32 was acquainted with the recipient, Eirene: he ends a tripartite prayer for health in body, gladness in soul, and joy in spirit with the phrase ‘until we see you (pl.) again’ (l.24), and grieves over her sickness and rejoices in her recovery, of which he has been informed by shared contacts (ll.45–49). He also mentions practical matters which the two were to conduct face-to-face:

Furthermore, I write, giving you the remembrance that you […] for the matter is fine, until I come up. Once you have laid the foundation of your house, fight in every way to put on its coping that you may be at ease therein forever. Do the work and mix the warp (?) until I come. If you have oil standing, give a chous to our brother; let him send it to me, or two naturally (?), if also there is wheat, give him eighteen maje; until we meet one another and settle our account

P.Kellis V Copt. 32, ll.24–40

The meeting of the two is presented as a rather mundane, perhaps even regular, affair: the Father comes to supervise her work and settle accounts (ϯ ⲡ̣ⲛ̣̄ⲱⲡ, lit. ‘give our count’). The account that they are to settle, if taken in the sense of monetary compensation, makes the status of this transaction as almsgiving uncertain. Eirene may have been unable (or unwilling) to pay for the oil and grain from her own pocket, and so required compensation, perhaps from communal funds.58 Gardner, however, has recently suggested that it should be taken in the sense of a spiritual exchange.59 At any rate, although the author appears to be located in the vicinity, and even plans to visit, he also directs Eirene to send alms from a distance, through ‘our brother’ – another Elect, located with Eirene, or a lay figure with particular responsibilities for alms? Eirene’s donations of oil, wheat, and textiles were in other words not intended for the single Elect Father at his visit, even though the author appears to be located in the immediate vicinity: they had to be shipped off over a distance for another Elect – or, more probably, an Elect group, as we shall see.

The letters dealing with agape allow us to glimpse almsgiving from the lay perspective. Horion’s dealings, in particular, provide several interesting details. In P.Kellis VII Copt. 58, he berates Tehat and Hatre for asking for payment for a cowl which he had given to the ‘brothers’. The editors suggest that Horion had expected Tehat/Hatres to provide the cowl as alms, and is somewhat indignant that he has to pay for it.60 It indicates that Horion was responsible for relaying alms on behalf of other Auditors, even if disagreement may arise as to who was to shoulder the expenses. He himself is found purchasing resources for the agape. In P.Kellis V Copt. 15, he writes ‘brother’ Horos I about practical arrangements that he has made:

I have received the agon of oil from our son Raz. Look, I left it [with them] for the agape, like you said. You also write: “Buy 6 maje of wheat”. I will buy them at 1200 to the artaba; thus 705 nummi for these 6 maje. I have also received the jlge from our son Pateni (?). Look, I filled it and sent it by way of Raz. As you receive it, write to me. Do not bother (?) yourself about the agape. I will do it, rejoicing. Yes, our brother Pakous is south of the ditch, harvesting. If he does not come by that day, I will send his share south to him (ll.14–27)

Horion has ‘left it’ (ⲁⲓ̈ⲕⲁⲁ̣ϥ̣), i.e. the oil, with a group of people. He does not have to specify who ‘they’ were; the aside in the last quoted line shows that Horos, too, was regularly concerned with the agape, as also indicated by a similar discussion in P.Kellis V Copt. 17. Horion was apparently responsible on his end, but received orders from Horos.

The interpretation of these transactions as Elect alms has not gone undisputed, however, and has been questioned by Brand. He points to a problem found in the lines where Horion describes sending a share south to ‘our brother’ Pakous. While acknowledging that some proposed alternative interpretations do not fit the context (charity for the poor, meals commemorating martyrs, and funerary meals), Brand states that ‘the agape … was not a typical Manichaean meal either, as parts could be sent elsewhere’.61 However, I do not think it at odds with what we know and can reasonably surmise about almsgiving from the Kellis evidence. As discussed, all the certain instances of Elect alms here involve goods being sent elsewhere. In fact, Horion’s transactions bear a great resemblance to those of the Coptic Father letters. The combination of wheat and oil is not found elsewhere in the archive: it features solely in Horion’s two agape-letters, P.Kellis V Copt. 15 and 17, and in the two above-mentioned Coptic Father letters – in both instances intended for charitable gifts.62 Horion’s use of distinctively Manichaean cues in both these letters, as discussed in Chapter 5, seem to underscore the religious significance of these transactions. Combined with the presence of Petros and the presbyter Saren in Horion’s other letters, we have strong reasons to think that Horion had particular concerns for managing ties with the Elect.63 More difficult to reconcile with a Manichaean context, perhaps, is the statement that Pakous is ‘harvesting’ (ⲉϥⲕⲱⲧϥ̄), an activity normally not permissible to Elect. However, the phrase is ambiguous.64 Moreover, it is somewhat strange for Pakous to receive a charity meal while harvesting out in the field. Pakous is not just in the fields outside the village, either, but ‘south of the ditch’, i.e. somewhere on the road to Khargeh (or in Khargeh itself). There are, then, reasons to take Pakous’ ‘harvesting’ in a non-literal sense.65

Turning to some other possible instances of alms in Horion’s letters, most relate to the figure of Saren. He recurs in both of Horion’s letters to Tehat/Hatres, where he is seen to have sent orders for clothes that Horion transmits to Tehat/Hatres. It is clear that Horion and Saren had regular interaction. More details are provided in a passage from P.Kellis VII Copt. 58:

These fabrics and these cowls belong to our brother Saren. Now, as he will come (would you be?) so very kind […] bid (?) Eraklei to write to get them to come to the Oasis; and I shall [(also?) go] there and see you. He wants the fabrics to be made into jerkins […] Also, you are to cut them with their cloak(s): two mna for [each?] cloak, one mna […] staters for large warp and this cloak. (Wool?) from the place he will also send to you (ll.21–26)

It appears that Saren was about to make a journey (ⲉϥⲛⲁⲓ̈ ϭⲉ, l.21) in order to meet with Horion and Tehat/Hatres, presumably in order to receive the clothes. The last line, if the editors’ suggestion for reconstruction is correct, may indicate that he provided wool for the clothing, perhaps acquired from laity active in the Valley, although both the reconstruction and the subject of the sentence is open to interpretation. It is at any rate not wholly unexpected to find Elect involved in textile transactions: we have already seen it in the Father’s interaction with Eirene in P.Kellis V Copt. 32. The presence of Saren presbyter indicates that alms were, at least at times, mediated by Elect officials, a point to which we return in Chapter 9.

Accounts are the last group of documents examined here. For the Coptic accounts, a Manichaean context is clear. Their author, Tehat, notes two agape contributions. In P.Kellis V Copt. 44, she writes: ‘The agape of Theodora: She has given a maje of olives and a half maje of grapes’ (ll.12–13). In P.Kellis V Copt. 47, she addresses a group of associates, writing: ‘The lentils and lupin seeds: Make them as an agape for me (ⲁⲣⲓⲟⲩ ⲛ̄ⲁⲕⲁⲡⲏ ϩⲁⲣⲁⲉⲓ)’ (ll.10–11). Just as the ‘agape of Theodora’ is agape given by Theodora, so the agape that ‘they’ are to make for the author is presumably one that will be given on behalf of her. That the author has to account for the agape contributions she receives (or demands) also suggests that she is not the ultimate recipient. Tehat’s letter P.Kellis V Copt. 43 may provide support for this: she there has to persuade her ‘son’ to prepare and send a pot of vegetables(?) (ⲧ̣ⲛⲛⲁⲩ̣ ⲟⲩϩⲛⲟ, ll.7–8) to a group of ‘orphans’ or ‘strangers’ – however, as pointed out, the context is very uncertain. At any rate, Tehat’s activities can be seen in light of the similar roles played by her associates Horos I and Horion. Taken together, the evidence from the Tehat/Horion circle suggests that these figures had some sort of responsibility for sending alms to Elect from locals in Kellis, with Horion as an intermediary.

Finally, we must briefly consider the evidence for agape from the KAB. The role of Tehat seems to be confirmed by an entry in this document, where six (small) matia wheat are designated as ‘for agape of Tehat’ (ἐις ἀγάπη Θατ, KAB 106).66 Following my interpretation above, this entry would indicate that the KAB author has promised to provide an agape contribution that Tehat will send on.67 However, this entry is not the only agape entry found in the KAB. In addition to Tehat, the author gives agape for a certain Tanoup. Furthermore, the manager lists yearly, unmarked payments for agape, concentrated in the first four months of each year.68 It could perhaps be suggested that these were the author’s (or landlord’s?) personal contributions, which the Elect received on a regular basis for parts of the year. But there are several problems with this interpretation. The KAB also features payments to a local (?) episcopal church: to the church (880, 883), to the bishop (706), and ‘to the church for the bishop’ (620–621). Although these, too, could conceivably be Manichaean, they are difficult to square with concurrent payments of agape. Furthermore, the regular agape payments include wine, which, although not decisive, speaks against a Manichaean context.69 Finally, there is some evidence to suggest that the author was affiliated with a more mainstream Church.70 Of course, the author may not have seen it in such binary terms, and contributed agape both to Manichaean Elect and to the ‘Catholic’ Church. Still, it seems imprudent to conclude that all the agape entries in the KAB relate to specifically Manichaean alms.

At any rate, the acts of Auditor-Elect almsgiving visible in the Coptic evidence are not intimate occasions. Instead, the Elect either retrieved the alms themselves, or awaited them at a separate location, as was also suggested by the Medinet Madi texts. This should alert us to an often-overlooked fact when dealing with the practicalities of Elect-Auditor relations: Auditors could not be expected to show up at Elect gatherings every day. Even eager Auditors, located in the same village or city as an Elect or an Elect group, would have needed mechanisms for delivering alms at the times when they could not come themselves. For most lay adherents, this would presumably have been most days (perhaps explaining why Monday was set apart for special ‘prayer gatherings’). Instead, Auditors who were more involved with the Church than others took on the responsibility of making sure that the Elect received the necessities they were due. This would explain the relay system that we have seen the contours of above, where certain Auditors collected and sent alms to Elect who gathered at particular centres, so that Elect agents did not (generally) have to collect them themselves.71

2.5 Sharing Alms

These donations can also tell us something about the Elect to whom they were given. First, we may note that the food alms in the Coptic material consist primarily of oil and wheat, as well as olives, grapes, lentils, and lupin seeds. This diet is in line with what is known of the Elect dietary norms.

More interesting are the many indications that alms were received and consumed by Elect groups, rather than individuals. This is suggested already by P.Kellis I Gr. 63 (quoted above), where father N. N. writes on behalf of a plurality of individuals, presumably Elect, who have all been filled (ἀ̣πολ̣αύ[οε̣ν̣) by ‘spiritual fruits’. The amounts of wheat and oil requested in the Coptic Father letters are also revealing in this regard. They are much larger than those needed for any individual Elect. The author of P.Kellis V Copt. 32 requested one or two choes, i.e. 1.5–3 litres, and 18 mat. wheat, amounting to almost two artaba, or c.58 kg. One artaba was enough to sustain an active, adult man for a whole month;72 two artaba are wholly unlikely to be intended for a single person. The author of P.Kellis V Copt. 31 asked for two choes oil (about six litres), and explicitly writes on behalf of a plurality of people (ll.29–34). The Elect must either have had the food stored for them (in communal spaces?) or consumed it in groups upon delivery – or, as seems most likely, a combination.

These Father letters provide strong evidence to the effect that Elect received food (and presumably consumed meals) collectively. Horion’s letters suggest a similar picture. In P.Kellis V Copt. 15, Horion purchased six matia wheat – a little more than half an artaba, or around 18kg – and sent one agon oil, i.e. 1.5 litres, of which he says: ‘I left (ⲁⲓ̈ⲕⲁⲁϥ) it [with them]73 for the agape’ (ll.15–16). It is clear that the agape is delivered and handed over to a plurality of recipients. Likewise, in P.Kellis V Copt. 17, Horion refers to one or two agon oil, 1.5–3 litres,74 and makes an aside: ‘we take in much oil for the agape, in that we are many, and they consume much oil’ (ll.23–25). As in the letters of the Fathers examined above, the size of the deliveries and the explicit reference to a plurality of consumers show that we are dealing with an Elect group. Furthermore, although not pertaining to food alms, Horion and Tehat intended to provide Saren the presbyter with multiple cowls, jerkins, and cloaks in P.Kellis VII Copt. 58. Horion also notes that he donated a cowl to a plurality of ‘brothers’ in that letter. This would only make sense if these were received on behalf of a group.

2.6 Summary

To conclude, the evidence for almsgiving from Kellis is in line with the evidence adduced from other Manichaean traditions. It required the coordination of both Auditors and Elect, which in turn made it possible for the Elect to expect alms sent as far afield as the Nile Valley. The evidence suggests that the Elect regularly received alms (and in all likelihood consumed meals) as a group, rather than as individual itinerants. This goes against a common assumption in previous scholarship. Scholars have often taken it to be the case that, in practice, the Elect received their meals individually while visiting Auditors. According to BeDuhn, local lay groups would primarily gather in the home of one of their numbers, where the visiting Elect was received and fed. Although pointing out that the Kellis evidence shows some degree of communication and maintenance of bonds across distances between Elect and Auditors, his focus is on local receptions:

[c]areful organization and communication was necessary to prepare for the arrival and hosting of an Elect, and is attested by the documents from Kellis. The Elect depended entirely on the ordinary adherent for safety, housing, food, clothing, and other supplies necessary to the Manichaean mission. These responsibilities continued to some extent even after the Elect had departed, as the Manichaean families would continue to provide needed items as requested by letter and messenger.75

However, while it is a priori likely that Elect visits necessitated ceremonial attention, and that Elect in practice would eat in the homes of Auditors when travelling, the Kellis evidence does not, as far as we can determine, provide any evidence for this. Instead, the texts left to us relate to supplies sent from Auditors in Kellis to Elect gathering elsewhere – and not only those that belonged to ‘their’ local cell: some of the Elect were not familiar with the Auditors who furnished them with alms at all. Small, intimate alms ceremonies have presumably left less of an imprint in written documents than requests for larger quantities of goods over distances. Yet this also indicates that almsgiving had received a routinised, institutionalised form in fourth-century Egypt.

3 Elect Services

Lay responsibilities are only half the story, however. The Elect, in return for meals and other gifts, undertook the arguably more important task, from their point of view, of caring for the Auditors’ souls. Almsgiving was certainly a two-way transaction: by releasing the Light present in the food alms offered by the Auditors, the Elect helped their souls gain a share in salvation. But the Elect also assisted in a variety of other ways: they participated in ritual gatherings, offer prayers for their souls, provided instruction in religious knowledge, and perhaps other forms of ritual expertise, as we shall see below.

3.1 Ritual Gatherings

Lay and Elect interaction was, in theory, facilitated by communal gatherings on a regular basis. In the eastern tradition, the laity were to attend the daily Elect meal gatherings, the occasion on which they delivered their alms offerings, involving communal psalm singing and prayer. They were also exhorted to attend a weekly gathering, which seems to have been designated for Mondays.76 Here, too, both Elect and Auditors engaged in prayers and singing of psalms, as well as reading of scripture, fasting, and confession. There seems to have been ritualised interaction between Elect and Auditors on such occasions: keph. 122 (1 Ke 292.4–8) provides a mythical explanation for the ‘call’ that the congregation would chant and the ‘answer’ with which the Elect would respond during one (unspecified) gathering. From the Homilies, we know that the Church had a ‘reader’ (ἀ ναγνώστης): a minor church official of the type found in the contemporary ‘Catholic’ Church – although an Elect in the Manichaean Church, – whose readings were also attended by the laity. In addition to these regular meetings, there were rarer and/or ad hoc gatherings. Most importantly, the community gathered every year for the Bema ceremony, in order to commemorate Mani’s death. It featured a month of celebrations that included psalm singing, communal readings, prayers, fasting, and vigils, leading up to a central ritual of confession and a meal in front of the bema, Mani’s empty ‘throne’. Funeral services were another occasion for ritual gatherings. Manichaean ‘death masses’ have been suggested based on the content of psalms such as those in the Psalm-book, with parallels drawn to the Mandaean massiqta-liturgy, where ritual specialists help facilitate the ascent of the soul of the dead.77

As we saw in the previous chapter, there is much evidence for prayers, psalms, and other material used in presumably liturgical settings from Kellis. Unfortunately, what gatherings they may have been used at, and whether Elect were present, remain unknown, although the find of a Bema Psalm suggests that this festival was celebrated. The laity of House 1–3 do not regularly discuss ritual gatherings in their letters. Only one contains an (incidental) reference to regular church gatherings: in Matthaios’ P.Kellis V Copt. 25, he relates that his brother is located in the north (Alexandria, as per P.Kellis V Copt. 24 and 29), and that the Teacher ‘makes him to read in church’. This passage signals Elect presence at, and – considering Piene’s status as the Teacher’s protégé, – performance of, readings of scripture in church. Matthaios’ language certainly implies that such gatherings were regular. The fact that Ision, in P.Kellis I Gr. 67, had become a ‘Syriac reader’, presumably the office previously discussed, could indicate that Syriac texts were occasionally read.

Some more indirect evidence points to ritual gatherings. Matthaios may allude to another form of ritual gathering in the letter discussed above. In order to explain why he has not gone to see his father, he writes:

Thus, I have been here in Antinoou since the day when the Teacher came south; (and) I have been unable to find a way to go […], nor to visit my father, because they are mourning in the city for the blessed soul of my great mother. We are remembering her very much. And I was distressed that she died when we were not with her, and that she died without finding the brotherhood gathered around her.

P.Kellis V Copt. 25, ll.48–56

This strongly suggests a ritual funerary gathering of the sort previously argued by scholarship. The editors take it to indicate a role for the Elect in administering to Auditors at the point of death.78 As seen in the previous chapter, several hymns and prayers from Kellis address the soul as it was preparing for and ascending to the Land of Light, and the prayer found in T.Kellis II Copt. 2A5 may have been used on such an occasion. It is not clear whether ‘great mother’ should be taken to indicate a figure of religious authority (implying a ceremony for a departed Elect) or, as the editors prefer, Matthaios’ literal grandmother.79 Either way, that Matthaios reports on it to Maria I shows that it was a gathering of importance also to the Auditors.

Barring the literary remains themselves, these pieces of evidence pertain to activities in the Valley. The attendance of Elect at ritual gatherings in Kellis, or even the existence of such gatherings there, remain unattested by the documentary papyri. Still, the presence of Elect in the vicinity of the village does show that such interaction is at least plausible. The evidence, referred to at various points above, includes the Elect Father coming to visit Eirene; Ision travelling to Theognostos; Petros and Timotheos travelling between the ‘mother’ and ‘son’; and the presbyter Saren set to visit Horion and/or Tehat.80 In P.Kellis V Copt. 35, Ouales appears to expect that a ‘blessed one’ is located in the vicinity of Psais III on a regular basis, as he writes concerning certain texts: ‘Quickly, you send them to me by a blessed one’ (ll.41–42). Together with the mundane nature of the visits of the Petros letters and of the Father in P.Kellis V Copt. 32, the material suggests that Elect encounters were not necessarily a rare experience – and, as we shall see in the next chapter, there may well have been an Elect gathering point in the vicinity of Kellis. It is not unlikely that Elect in or near Kellis would have presided over gatherings similar to those of their brethren in the Valley.

3.2 Religious Instruction

Elect assistance could also take on more didactical forms. Several chapters from the Berlin Kephalaia, such as keph. 115 (referred to below), show Mani answering questions from Auditors. Presumably, he was considered a model for Elect who would similarly have to respond to questions from the laity. A passage from the ‘Sermon on the Great War’ relates how the Church will be persecuted to the brink of destruction, but will afterwards be rebuilt, and at this point the Auditors will return en masse to listen to the ‘reader’, and the churches and the Auditors’ houses will become ‘schools’ (ⲁⲛⲥⲏⲃ̣ ⲛ̄ⲧ̣ⲥⲃⲱ, Hom. 30.32). By providing knowledge as well as prayers, the Elect ensured the spiritual health and eventual salvation of the Auditors on whom they depended.

Augustine’s experiences provide some striking evidence for such activities in practice. As an Auditor, he read texts – including Manichaean astrological texts – with his mentor, the Manichaean bishop Faustus.81 His studies were not only private. Along with a group of other Auditors, he had regular and lively discussions with Elect in Hippo, especially with ‘two men of fairly good reputation, men of quick wit and leaders in those discussions of theirs, who were closer to us than the others’.82 He mentions a scandal of an Elect ‘whose discussions we frequently attended in the quarter of the fig merchants’.83 These passages provide vivid examples of occasions on which Elect and Auditors met for discussions and instruction in Manichaean doctrine, outside the framework of ritual gatherings.

In contrast, the evidence from Kellis is not extensive, and mostly indirect. As discussed in Chapter 7, the discovery in House 3 of T.Kellis II Copt. 1, a wooden board listing the five aspects of the divinity called the Third Ambassador, evinces attempts at providing more advanced religious instruction to the Kellites.84 The documentary texts provides some glimpses of Elect taking on the obligation of teaching members of the community. Makarios relates that Piene, the brother of Matthaios who took to follow the Teacher, was taught Latin by him. The passage reads: ‘And Piene: The great Teacher let him travel with him, so that he might learn Latin. He teaches him well’ (P.Kellis V Copt. 20, ll.24–26). It seems unlikely that Latin was the only part of the curriculum, which likely also involved religious knowledge, considering that Piene was to read in church. Likewise, Lysimachos informs Theognostos that his ‘brother’ Ision has become literate in both Greek and Syriac (P.Kellis I Gr. 67).85 If the preserved documents from Kellis are any indication, Ision being taught Syriac literacy must surely have been intended for reading and translating Manichaean religious texts.

Instruction of these two boys should probably be seen in light of Elect apprenticeship, reserved for youths being groomed for Electhood, rather than as part of general didactical service to Auditors.86 For Elect instruction of everyday Auditors, we are kept in the dark. Yet a passage from P.Kellis VII Copt. 73 might illuminate how religious knowledge spread through lay networks. The author, Pekysis, solicits a ‘service for the church’ (ⲡϣⲙϣ̣ⲉ̣ ⲛ̄ⲧⲉⲕⲕⲗⲏⲥⲓⲁ, ll.16–17) from the recipient, Psais III, in the form of two recently orphaned girls. In order to persuade Psais, Pekysis asks him to talk to Theognostos: ‘Our brother Theognos will tell you everything. He will speak to you about the girl and […] the [great (?)] matter, so that we may attain life eternal […]’ (ll.20–24). Although fragmented, the passage strongly suggests that Theognostos was to be called upon in order to convince Psais III of the religious value of the donation. If, as I take it, Theognostos was an eager Auditor who had close ties to Lysimachos and Ision, this can explain his authority here: through his friendship with Elect he had acquired the religious knowledge that he, in turn, could impart to Psais III to explain the importance of this ‘service’. It also provides a good example of how religious knowledge had to be mobilised in order to justify specifically Manichaean practices, as argued in Chapter 7. Such practices and motivations would have led Elect teachings to be disseminated through lay networks.

3.3 Prayers

Prayers were considered an important part of the Elect-Auditor relationship. The Elect would daily provide for lay souls through their meals, both through the act of eating and by way of special after-meal prayers.87 Prayers assisted in the redemption of the Auditors and their families, and the Elect derived their authority in part from the efficacy of their prayers. This is shown in keph. 115, where an Auditor asks Mani whether alms and intercessory prayers by the Elect also help the salvation of those who are already dead. Mani is made to answer in the affirmative, and in his answer, he draws on mythical parallels to demonstrate how pure souls can assist in the release of other souls (1 Ke 279.15–26). An instance of Elect praying on behalf of the Auditors’ souls can be detected in the Greek Father letter P.Kellis I Gr. 63. The author here wants to reassure the two lay recipients, Pausanias and Pisistratos, that their alms-act will give the proper spiritual benefit in return for the gifts they have sent. His subsequent promise to ‘set going every praise’ on behalf of their ‘most luminous souls’ in the wake of ‘having been filled’ by spiritual fruits could well relate to after-meal prayers on behalf of the Auditors, given in exchange for alms.

3.4 ‘Magical’ and Practical Services

Finally, we may have a case of more ‘illicit’ ritual services provided by Elect to Auditors, in the form of magical practices. Mani is, according to some traditions, said to have banned sorcery.88 But BeDuhn noted that ‘[a]mong the “magical” services offered by the Elect, we find in correspondence prayers for the physical well-being of addressees, invoking the blessings of the divine forces on their life, as well as the occasional spell for the use of the recipient in quite mundane matters’, citing P.Kellis V Copt. 31, 32, and 35.89 The two former relate to the spiritual health of the recipients and the solicitation of alms, as argued above. But the latter, Ouales’ P.Kellis V Copt. 35, deals explicitly with ‘magic’. The papyrus consists of two texts: the upper half contains a magical spell for the separation of two lovers, the bottom half contains Ouales’ accompanying letter, with an explanation for the spell and a request for other writings to be sent with a ‘blessed one’ in return. Shared Manichaean identity is indicated by the oath Ouales swears by ‘our lord the Paraclete’ (l.27). Thus, in spite of Mani’s (likely) disapproval, Ouales and Psais III did not shy away from magic. Perhaps, as Rebillard argued for Christians in North Africa, they did not think their religious identity to be relevant for the practice they engaged in.90 However, the religious framework of the exchange seems difficult to square with this, and there are other possibilities. They may have considered Mani’s ban to apply to other types of magic than the one they engaged in, or been unaware of it: it was not an important part of his teachings, and one that could be conveniently ignored. Or perhaps awareness of the unsanctioned nature of the task could explain an enigmatic aside from Ouales regarding the text he is sending: ‘for my part knowing that it will not be brought to brother Kallikles, I am sending’ (ll.32–34).91

This is far from the only spell found at Kellis; the House 1–3 documents include several examples of charms and astrological calendars (P.Kellis I Gr. 82–90), as do papyri from elsewhere in Kellis, indicating that such requests were not unusual.92 Being able to harness the ritual powers of the Elect for more prosaic ends would provide an incentive for the Auditors to stay invested. For the Elect, producing magical formula would have been an efficient way to provide the laity with ‘tangible’ evidence for their religious competence.93 This may have made the movement’s authorities less inclined to emphasise criticism of such practices found in canonical texts.

However, it is important to sound a note of caution here: there is no evidence that Ouales was, in fact, an Elect. Apart from his pious invocation of the Paraclete, he does not utilise elaborate cues, nor does he identify himself as a religious authority. The understanding of him as an Elect hinges on the possibly monastic setting for this letter. While the involvement of a ‘blessed one’ indicates that the milieu that frames the incidence included Elect, it does not mean that he was one himself.

That many – if not most – Elect were expected to have some level of literacy would at any rate have made them useful for the Auditors in a range of settings, in addition to that of copying magic. A more mundane Elect scribal service might be found in P.Kellis I Gr. 48. Here, a certain Psekes guarantees for the release of a slave by Valerios, who explains his act by invoking his ‘exceptional Christianity’ (ὑπερβ̣ολὴν χ[ρι]στιανότη̣τ̣ο̣ς̣). Psekes is styled, in Worp’s reconstruction, ‘our most reverend father’ (α̣ἰδε[σιµω]τάτου πατρ[ὸς ἡµῶν]) (ll.9–10), and it is quite plausible that ‘(of the) monks’ ([µο]ναχ̣ῶν) should also be restored in relation to his introduction (ll.10–11). At the end of the document, he is given the abbreviated title πρ() (l.20), probably for presbyter. These factors seem to suggest that Psekes was a religious leader acting on behalf of monks. Worp notes, against the hypothesis that this was a Christian manumission in ecclesia, the bilateral character of the document and the absence of a bishop or other church representatives.94 However, these objections would not hold much weight if the context is a Manichaean one, in which the presence of an Elect official, acting on behalf of the monastic community, may well have been sufficient to secure its validity. If so, he might be identifiable with Psekes, author of P.Kellis VII Copt. 90, who is a candidate for Electhood based on his title ‘Apa’, use of elaborate (albeit not distinctively Manichaean) religious cues, and association with ‘our brother’ Timotheos.95 Thus, although the evidence is not conclusive, it could plausibly attest to an Elect providing both an earthly witness (as required by Roman law) and a spiritual guarantee for the validity of the manumission.

3.5 Summary

To sum up, there is evidence from Kellis for the Elect ministering to Auditors through a range of channels, although mostly indirect. The evidence for ritual gatherings in the documentary texts is unfortunately meagre, and restricted to activity in the Nile Valley. The psalms discussed in Chapter 7 do strongly suggest that communal gatherings were practiced in Kellis as well. We cannot be sure of whether, or how often, the Elect participated, although they were certainly active in the area. There is also some evidence, if again chiefly indirect, for advanced religious instruction taking place, and for the Elect bolstering their authority by channelling their spiritual and scribal abilities into more practical matters, such as the production of spells.

4 Conclusions

From the above, the Elect-Auditor interaction visible in the Kellis texts emerges as largely consonant with what can be discerned from Manichaean traditions from Medinet Madi, as well as other sources. Almsgiving in mid-fourth century Kellis had undergone some degree of routinisation, by way of stable ties between Elect and Auditors. Alms were delivered by specific lay people, or retrieved by the Elect themselves, on a regular basis, both within local communities and across regional distances. In return for alms, the Elect provided services geared towards caring for lay souls, participating in communal ritual, providing prayers and instruction, and perhaps procuring magical formulae and other, more ‘mundane’ services. The frequency with which the Elect attended on the laity cannot be known, although the evidence suggest that meetings were not necessarily rare. The close Elect-Auditor relationships developed through these different types of interactions functioned as a way for the Elect to disseminate discourse, practices, and notions of beliefs within the network, and potentially to reinforce their own status, through displays of religious knowledge and eloquence. By participating, the Auditors received spiritual benefits from, and could avail themselves of the practical, ritual competence of, the Elect.


BeDuhn, The Manichaean Body, 24.


Ibid., 53–65.


Ibid., 29–30.


Lieu, ‘Precept and Practices’, 79.


Robin Lane Fox, Augustine: Conversions and Confessions (London: Penguin Books, 2015; repr., 2016), 121.


BeDuhn, ‘Domestic Setting’, 260ff.


Ibid., 263; followed by Baker-Brian, ‘Mass and Elite’, 166.


Lim, ‘nomen manichaeorum’, 166–67.


This is especially the case if, as has been argued by e.g. Pettipiece, the Berlin Kephalaia represents a tradition that grew throughout the fourth century, with new traditions added to address needs and concerns within the Egyptian community. Pettipiece, Pentadic Redaction, 12–13. Note however Chapter 9, Section 4, n.115.


Archaeological evidence for Manichaean practice in general, apart from texts, may not be all that likely. However, one feature that might be considered is the practice of burial, in particular as relates to the Kellis 2 (east) cemetery. The bodies here were wrapped in linens, few artefacts (and no jewelry or amulets) were found, and it was only in use in the fourth century; see Michael Birrel, ‘Excavations in the Cemeteries of Ismant el-Kharab’, in Dakhleh Oasis Project: Preliminary Reports on the 1992–1993 and 1993–1994 Field Seasons, ed. Colin A. Hope and A. J. Mills (Oxford: Oxbow, 1999), 41. Bowen comments that: ‘the Christian Kellis 2 cemetery has been devoid of garments with the exception of the upper part of an infant’s hooded tunic. This is unusual for it is known that Christians had a penchant for being buried fully clothed; the majority of the 20 000 plus Coptic textiles in collections throughout the world were retrieved from cemeteries (Carroll 1986, 1).’ Bowen, ‘Textiles, Basketry and Leather’, 97. To this we can compare depictions by two non-Manichaean writers in China, who relate that the Manichaeans there buried their dead naked; see Paul Pelliot and Émmanuel-Édouard Chavannes, ‘Un traité manichéen retrouvé en Chine’, Journal Asiatique (1913): 338, 55–56.


Choat, ‘Monastic letters’, 46, 57–58.


Brand, ‘Speech Patterns’; and id., ‘Manichaeans of Kellis’, 217–19.


See e.g. the Teacher’s own allusions to Mani’s Epistles. Gardner, ‘A Letter from the Teacher’.


For a discussion of secular vs. religious usage of these terms in general, see Choat, Belief and Cult, 57–73.


Found in several of the doxologies for individuals from the Medinet Madi Psalm-book, e.g. 2 Ps. 47.22–23. For the meaning of this term, generally used in Christian religious contexts, see Tomasz Derda and Ewa Wipszycka, ‘L’emploi des titres abba, apa et papas dans l’Egypte byzantine’, Journal of Juristic Papyrology 24 (1994).


Brand, ‘Speech Patterns’, 107.


P.Kellis I Gr. 24, 32, 58. Ouonsis is partly an exception, but only occurs as patronymic of ‘Ploutogenes son of Ouonsis’, whose name is still partly legible on the papyrus used for the account P.Kellis V Copt. 47.


Psais the ‘monk’ occurs with Petros (see below) in O.Kellis I 121, an ostrakon from the West Church. See also ‘our brother’ Psais, named by Apa Lysimachos in P.Kellis V Copt. 30; Psais, agent of Ouales in his letter to Psais III, P.Kellis V Copt. 36 (identical to a ‘blessed one’, an agent requested in P.Kellis V Copt. 35?); and Psais ‘the great’ who occurs with ‘father’ Bemophanes in P.Kellis I Gr. 75, also a letter of the Psais/Andreas circle.


See P.Kellis VII, 160–61.


See P.Kellis V, 235.


The term occurs in P.Kellis V Copt. 39 and 40. Of the other Coptic letters, it only features in P.Kellis V Copt. 11, where it is somewhat ambiguous, and in P.Kellis VII Copt. 68, where it should probably be taken in the sense ‘old man’ See further the discussion in Chapter 9.


P.Kellis VII, 136.


Especially if his becoming a ‘Syriac reader’ implies that he held position as a minor official who read in church, as is argued by Gardner (‘P. Kellis I 67 Revisited’, 226), and if the Manichaean office of ‘reader’ was reserved Elect, as argued by Nils A. Pedersen, Studies in the Sermon on the Great War: Investigations of a Manichaean-Coptic Text from the Fourth Century (Aarhus: Aarhus University Press, 1996), 164 n.38. Here we should also note Piene who read in church. The office was perhaps chiefly held by youths under preparations for Electhood.


Al-Biruni, Athar, trans. Reeves, Prolegomena, 212.


A MP Manichaean fragment, M 731v., gives a part of the same injunction and explicitly quotes Mani’s Epistle to Mesene, showing al-Biruni to be well-informed. See BeDuhn, The Manichaean Body, 128–35.


Tardieu, Manichaeism, 70.


See above; for further recent treatments, Jason D. BeDuhn, ‘The Manichaean Sacred Meal’, in Turfan, Khotan und Dunhuang: Vorträge der Tagung Annemarie v. Gabain und die Turfanforschung, ed. Ronald E. Emmerick, et al. (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1996); id., ‘Eucharist or Yasna? Antecedents of Manichaean Food Ritual’.


Lieu, ‘Precept and Practices’, 85.


BeDuhn, The Manichaean Body, 138; see further Takao Moriyasu, ‘The Flourishing of Manichaeism under the West Uighur Kingdom. New Edition of the Uighur Charter on the Administration of the Manichaean Monastery in Qočo’, in World History Reconsidered through the Eyes of the Silk Road, ed. Moriyasu Takao (Osaka: Osaka University, 2003), 75.


There is no trace of an office called ‘servant of the alms’ in Iranian texts, although the Chinese term clearly derives from an Iranian one. See Werner Sundermann, ‘A Manichaean Liturgical Instruction on the Act of Almsgiving’, in The Light and the Darkness, ed. Jason D. BeDuhn and Paul A. Mirecki (Leiden: Brill, 2001), 208. In the later Uighur realm, the office was replaced by the xroxan; Moriyasu, ‘Flourishing of Manichaeism, 75–77.


BeDuhn, ‘The Manichaean Sacred Meal’, 5; Sundermann, ‘Liturgical Instruction’, 203–4.


BeDuhn, The Manichaean Body, 149–57; Sundermann, ‘Liturgical Instruction’, 208.


Codex Tebestina, col. 17 (v.i) trans. Vermes, in Gardner and Lieu, Manichaean Texts, 269.


‘Table’ (τράπεζα) was regularly used as a metonym for the Elect meal. Henri-Charles Puech, Sur le manicheisme et autre essais (Paris: Flammarion, 1979), 74–75, 257.


It is one of the longest in 1 Ke., and has parallels in Parthian, Sogdian, Turkic, and Chinese traditions tied to the Sermon of the Light Nous; material that ultimately seems to be rooted in Mani’s Book of Giants. Sundermann, Der Sermon vom Licht-Nous, 11–19. See further Chapter 5.


From ⲧⲱⲡ, ‘be accustomed, familiar’, see Crum 422b. See also the Medinet Madi homily ‘On Prayer’: ‘Your (Mani’s) habit (ⲧⲕ̄ⲧⲁⲡⲥ ̄) [remains] in my heart more than [my] brothers and my relatives’ (Hom. 2.24–25).


For this term, see Choat, ‘The Development and Usage of the Term Monk in Late Antique Egypt’, Jahrbuch für Antike und Christentum 45 (2002), 20.


The verb ⲛⲁⲉ (‘have mercy, charity’) appears in Makarios’ letter P.Kellis V Copt. 19 and Tehat’s P.Kellis V Copt. 43. For the latter, see below. For such terms more generally, see BeDuhn, The Manichaean Body, 128–29.


P.Kellis V, 207. See the analysis below.


Majella Franzmann, ‘An “heretical” Use of the New Testament: A Manichaean Adaptation of Matt 6:19–20 in P. Kell. Copt. 32’, in The New Testament Interpreted: Essays in Honour of Bernard C. Lategan, ed. Cilliers Breytenbach, et al. (Leiden: Brill, 2006); ead., ‘Tehat the Weaver’; ead., ‘The Treasure of the Manichaean Spiritual Life’, in In Search of Truth, ed. Jacob A. van den Berg, et al. (Leiden: Brill, 2011); ead., ‘Manichaean Almsgiving’.


P.Kellis V, 70–71, 77; Anthony Alcock, ‘The Agape’, Vigiliae Christianae 54, no. 2 (2000). For the link between love and charity to the Elect in the Berlin Kephalaia, see also 1 Ke. 279.11–19, 166.13–16, 230.4–5. Cf. Brand, ‘Manichaeans of Kellis’, 219–26, but see below.


For these, see the discussion below, and P.Kellis IV, 80–82.


For the revised translation of the last line, see P.Kellis VII, 366.


Franzmann, ‘Manichaean Almsgiving’, 3; also Brand, ‘Manichaeans of Kellis’, 215.


‘Widows’ and ‘orphans’ occur in several Medinet Madi texts in reference to the Manichaean community, and in several instances, it is clear that Elect in particular are meant; e.g. 2 PsB. 53.24–25, 62.17, 175.22; Hom. 44.26.


For an analysis of the images of the ‘good tree’ and the ‘treasure’, see Franzmann, ‘Treasure’. See also the discussion of tree-imagery in Makarios’ letter P.Kellis V Copt. 22 in Chapter 5.


See the comments in P.Kellis V, 24. See also P.Kellis VII Copt. 105 (l.81).


Franzmann, ‘An Heretical Use’, 156–57.


For the image of the ‘house’, see Franzmann, ‘Treasure’; Gardner, ‘Once More on Mani’s Epistles’, 301–2.


The religious language and the request for warp and oil are strongly intertwined – so much so that Gardner considers whether the request itself might be symbolic. Gardner, ‘Once More on Mani’s Epistles’, 301–2, and see below, section 2.4.


See also Franzmann, ‘Treasure’, 241–44.


For the connection between physical and spiritual illnesses within Manichaean thought, see e.g. keph. 86.


From εἰλικρινῆς, ‘unmixed, pure, sincere’. A more ‘Manichaean’ translation might be ‘most pure’ or ‘most unmixed’. Note the Manichaean emphasis on individuals separating good from evil within themselves.


Possibly [Ky]ryllos, but the spelling of Kyrillous with a second upsilon is to my knowledge unattested. Could the name be [Be]ryllos? This name is found in papyri of the later Roman Empire (P.Oxy. XIV 1679, SB XXVI 16581), fits the lacuna, and its associations with ‘light’ and ‘radiance’ fits nicely with the Manichaean context of this ‘lord’.


This is especially the case if the word following ε̣ὐ̣σ̣ε̣βο̣ῦ̣ ς at the start of line 24, which Worp transcribes as … φ̣ο̣ρα̣ς,̣ should be resolved as ἀναφορᾶς (‘offerings’), a term often used for Manichaean alms-offerings in the Medinet Madi literature, giving: ‘(fruits) of the souls of the pious offerings’ (my translation).


For the argument that this likely refers to an after-meal prayer on behalf of the Auditors’ souls, see below.


However, Theognostos’ religious role is admittedly somewhat uncertain: it could be that the curt performance is due to him in fact being a junior Elect. This would also make good sense of Lysimachos’ comment regarding his sobriety. However, see the discussion above, Section 1.


There is evidence to suggest that the Elect accumulated communal funds, which could presumably be used for alms. See the discussion of c. Faust. 5.5 in Chapter 9, Section 3.2.


Gardner, Founder of Manichaeism, 102.


P.Kellis VII, 23.


Brand, ‘Manichaeans of Kellis’, 222.


It may also be noted that the oil-to-wheat ratio of Horion’s purchase in P.Kellis V Copt. 15 (1.5 litres oil & 18 kg wheat = 12 kg wheat per litre) is of the same order of magnitude as that requested by the Father in P.Kellis V Copt. 32 (3–6 litres & 58 kg = 9.5–19 kg wheat per litre oil).


The importance of oil is particularly interesting, and can perhaps be compared to evidence such as the anti-Manichaean Acta Archelai (11), which implies that olive oil was used to anoint the Elect after the meal. See BeDuhn, The Manichaean Body, 148.


Crum (129b) gives: ‘gather corn, fruit, wood’, and so it does not necessarily denote agricultural work.


While it is here argued that normal Elect practice was to eat collectively (below), it must have been a practical necessity that those who were out preaching received alms on the road, at least in areas with limited lay support. An Elect by the name Pakous is not otherwise known, but see perhaps Pakous the presbyter in the KAB (142), or Pekos, author of P.Kellis VII Copt. 120.


For the ‘small’ and the ‘large’ mation used in the KAB, see Table 1. Six small mat. amount to 7.8 kg.


This may have its background in a close relationship between Tehat and the account author: Tehat had (as seen in Chapter 4) ties to the circle of Tithoes in House 2, where the codex was found, and the KAB contains payments to a textile workshop and a loan connected to Tehat (as touched on in relation to Faustianos in Chapter 4). Without identifying the KAB author, however, the exact nature of this relationship cannot be determined.


Bagnall (P.Kellis IV, 82–83) describes five main features that characterise the expenditures on agape in the KAB: 1) they appear in entries both for dapane and hyperesia, i.e. what seems to be unspecified service expenses; 2) they are mostly in wheat, but twice in wine, once in barley, and once in cheese; 3) two instances are associated with specific individuals (Tehat and Tanoup); 4) the amounts vary considerably and so are not fixed; and 5) they are concentrated in the first four months of each year. What these features might signify for agape practice remains unclear. Varying amounts could indicate that the number of recipients also varied, in line with a varying numbers of Elect in need of agape (cp. Horion having to note, in P.Kellis V Copt. 17, that there are ‘many’ (more than usual?) present), but this is very speculative. For the wine payments, see below.


Although the presence of wine among the contributions could be seen as evincing a non-Manichaean context, we cannot be sure that they were sent directly to the Elect, and not, for instance, sold or exchanged for other goods first (significantly, in P.Kellis V Copt. 15 and 17, Horion informs that he has received money to pay for oil for the agape). At the same time, one may note De mor. 2.16.47, where Augustine says that the ‘juice’ the Elect drink is nothing other than alcohol-free wine (caroenum, which Teske notes ‘refers to a sweet wine that had been boiled down to a third of its original amount.’ Teske, The Manichaean Debate, 60 n. 9).


See ibid., 80–84, for a ‘Catholic’ Christian link, esp. 83–84.


For the existence of Manichaean communal centres where such gatherings would be held, see Chapter 9, Section 3.


L. Foxhall & H. A. Forbes (1982), cited in Dominic W. Rathbone, Economic Rationalism and Rural Society in Third-Century A.D. Egypt: The Heroninos Archive and the Appianus Estate (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 109–10.


For this reconstruction the editors noted: ‘Here the reading is particularly difficult; but the sense must be something like: “I have put it aside for the agape”. We cannot simply read ⲛ̄ⲧⲟⲧⲟⲩ; perhaps the best possibility is ⲟ̣ⲩ̣ⲧⲱⲟⲩ (“I left it among them for the agape”).’ P.Kellis V, 144.


Some fragmented lines (ll.26–27) also refer to three xestes. This would make the amount 4.5 litres altogether, if these are to be taken as in addition to (and not a repeated reference of) the aforementioned one agon.


BeDuhn, ‘Domestic Setting’, 261.


See Puech, Sur le manicheisme, 96–97; BeDuhn, ‘Manichaean Weekly Confession’, 277–78.


Widengren, Mesopotamian Elements, 108. See also Siegfried Richter, ‘Die manichäischen Toten- oder Seelenmesse‘, in Ägypten und Nubien in spätantiker und christlicher Zeit, ed. Stephen Emmel, Martin Krause, Siegfried G. Richter, and Sofia Schaten (Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 1999).


P.Kellis V, 78.


Ibid., 193.


See P.Kellis V Copt. 32, 38–41, P.Kellis VII Copt. 58, 80.


See De mor. 2.8.11, 2.19.71, Conf. 5.7. See also van Oort, ‘Young Augustine’; BeDuhn, Augustine’s Manichaean Dilemma I, 123–31. Note the debate of van Oort and Coyle, discussed in Chapter 7, Section 5, n.117.


De mor. 2.19.71, trans. Teske, The Manichaean Debate, 101.


De mor. 2.19.72, trans. ibid.


See the discussion in the previous chapter, and see also BeDuhn, ‘Domestic Setting’, 263.


Following Gardner’s (‘P. Kellis I 67 Revisited’) interpretation of this text.


As argued by Baker-Brian, ‘Mass and Elite’, 180–81 (already cited). For Ision, see also above.


For previous known allusions to such a prayer, see BeDuhn, The Manichaean Body, 147–48.


See Mirecki, Gardner, and Alcock, ‘Magical Spell’, 10–11 n.44. For rejection of such practices by an early church authority, Mani’s disciple Kustaios, see the criticism of Elect who practice astrology in the SGW (Hom. 30.2–4).


BeDuhn, ‘Domestic Setting’, 265–66.


See Rebillard, Christians and their Many Identities, 74–75; but cf. the discussion in Chapter 5.


For another explanation for this aside, see Mirecki, Gardner, and Alcock, ‘Magical Spell’, 31.


E.g. P.Gascou 84, from House 4, and P.Gascou 87, from D/8. See Worp, ‘Miscellaneous New Papyri’.


Perhaps such a continued role might further explain finds of protective magical incantations in Aramaic, written in Manichaean script, found in Mesopotamia (dated fifth–seventh centuries). See Pedersen and Larsen, Manichaean Texts in Syriac, 5–8.


P.Kellis I, 142.


Since the manumission in P.Kellis I Gr. 48 was given in letter format, Apa Psekes’ long-term presence in the Nile Valley (per P.Kellis VII Copt. 90) does not prevent an identification.

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