Chapter 9 The Manichaean Church: Elect Organisation

In: The Manichaean Church in Kellis
Håkon Fiane Teigen
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This chapter continues the investigation of Manichaean social institutions begun in the previous chapter. Whereas the focus there was on Elect-Auditor practices, we here turn our attention to Elect peer interaction. The dominant scholarly view of the Elect in the Roman Empire is that they largely constituted a disorganised body, characterised by absent institutions and weak cohesion, an interpretation that the present chapter seeks to challenge.

As we have seen, Manichaean communities have generally been taken as organised in intimate, domestic groups, or ‘cells’, in which Auditors received Elect in their houses. This organisation has been considered both a necessity and a liability to the movement. On the one hand, cells allowed for closely-knit groups between which itinerant Elect could move in relative safety. Thus, they provided a measure of protection against persecution. On the other, they have also been seen as weakening or excluding a church organisation. Jason D. BeDuhn has recently pointed out how adherents may have suffered from being constrained to the private sphere, unable to perform public acts of worship to affirm private self-definition.1 A stronger dismissal was put forth by Peter Brown, who ascribed the decline of Manichaeism in part to Elect itinerancy: ‘Manichaeism was out of date…. It represents a more primitive strand of asceticism [than Christian monasticism]: it continued the radical isolation from the world, the obligatory vagrancy of its Syriac homeland.’2 The combination of isolation and vagrancy led to the Elect being out-competed by the better-organised Christian monastic movement. This argument has been more fully articulated by Richard Lim with regards to Manichaeans in the Latin west. The Elect regime itself, he maintains, was not conductive to the organisation of a ‘Church’:

To speak unequivocally of one Manichaean church in any given city is misleading insofar as it blinds our analytic eye to the diversity of “sub-cultures” present. Diversity is unavoidable and would come as the result of the fundamentally different conditions between the lives of the elect and that of hearers, and on the other hand, due to the specific patterns of socialization and contact which might make one group of hearers and one group of elect share more in common than with their counterparts of the same “rank.”3

As Lim rightly points out, patterns of socialisation that isolated Elect from each other would have weakened the ability of church authorities to coordinate action, reinforce commitment to ascetic discipline, and impose sanctions on misbehaving Elect. Auditor scrutiny may have gone some way to provide social pressure to conform, as is argued by BeDuhn.4 However, the lack of practical mechanisms for pressure by the ‘in-group’, i.e. Elect peers, would in the end make it difficult for authorities to prevent abuse of religious authority or fractioning by independent-minded Elect. If an effective church organisation ever existed in Roman Egypt its authorities must have sought ways to deal with these issues.

The previous chapters have shown that a picture of the community at Kellis as a ‘cell’ of Auditor receiving the occasional vagrant Elect does not capture the evidence there. On the contrary, the community was rather extensive, Elect engaged actively with their adherents, and alms were often sent across distances to Elect groups. Below, we consider the implications of this argument for Elect organisation in more detail. Three central aspects of the Elect regime will be examined: itinerancy (and its role within the Church), peer supervision (in particular as it relates to the hierarchy), and finally the perennial question of Manichaean monasteries. In each case, as in Chapter 8, we examine different literary testimonies, before moving on to the Kellis evidence. In particular, the writings of Augustine receive more attention here than previously, as it is primarily his testimony that has been taken to prove that Elect peer interaction, leadership, and monastic communities were absent in the Roman Empire. As this chapter aims to show, the claim that Roman Manichaeism was characterised by absent Elect institutions is not tenable. It has not been argued based on Manichaean sources, and derives from a reading of Augustine that does not properly situate his polemics.

1 Itinerancy and Group-Making

1.1 Literary Traditions

Itinerancy, the practice of frequent travel and lodging with laity, is one of the most distinctive features of Manichaean ethics, although it had its origin in the tradition of wandering monks among Syro-Mesopotamian Christians.5 Among the Manichaeans, it was connected to their (rather conventional) notion of the soul as a stranger to the world. In order to free it from the body, the Elect had to become strangers themselves, avoiding worldly attachments and (re-)orienting their souls towards their heavenly origins. Al-Biruni provides a succinct formulation, quoting a rule that Mani imposed on the Elect to ‘continually journey throughout the present world, engaging in missionary work and guiding people onto the right path’.6 The Elect appropriated the wandering ‘holy man’ as part of their self-representation, and the ideal is articulated in a wide array of texts. Thus, the title of a collection of Coptic psalms found in the Medinet Madi Psalm-book, ⲯⲁⲗⲙⲟⲓ ⲥⲁⲣⲁⲕⲱⲧⲱⲛ, probably means ‘psalms of the wanderers’ or ‘pilgrims’.7 A chapter from the Berlin Kephalaia concerning the perfect Auditor (necessarily one who models himself on the Elect), keph.91, describes its essence:

His house, in his reckoning, shall be like these lodging houses (ⲛⲓⲙⲁⲛϭⲓ̈ⲗ[]). He says: I am living in a house for rent by some days and months. His brothers and his relatives shall be, in his reckoning, necessary as foreign people who take up with him while travelling on the road with him.

1 Ke. 228.25–29

Whether there were more detailed regulations is unclear. A late source, the Muʿtazilite author al-Jahiz (fl. ninth century), had heard that Manichaean Elect considered it a sin to sleep more than two days in the same house.8 Nothing so specific is to my knowledge found in the Manichaean material itself. As we shall see, traditions from both the eastern and western sphere expect Elect to meet regularly in specific buildings. The rule not to remain at any one place was probably taken to pertain to sleeping arrangements in a particular house, and there may have been exceptions.

Manichaean texts moreover suggest that itinerancy was not taken to imply isolation. In fact, there is evidence which indicated that isolation was to be avoided and group travel strongly encouraged. A passage from keph. 38, cited more fully in Chapter 8 (Section 2.1), states that one can always spot an errant Elect by that: ‘He shall always want to go in and to come out alone … He shall always want to walk alone’. Well-behaving Elect were those who travelled with their peers. A later observer indicates that this was also adhered to in practice. Al-Jahiz, quoted above, was also informed by his source that: ‘They (zindiq monks) always wander in pairs. Whenever you observe one of them, look around, and you will soon see his companion’.9

1.2 Augustine

Itinerant behaviour is indicated for several of the Manichaean authorities with whom Augustine interacted. It seems to be implied in the behaviour of Felix, an Elect who travelled to Hippo in order to preach and minister to the local Auditors, and of the bishop Faustus, who spent many years away from Carthage, presumably ministering to Manichaeans elsewhere in North Africa.10 These also show that such travels did not preclude long-term stays in the same city. An Elect presbyter, Fortunatus, resided for a long time preaching in Hippo, and Augustine had regular meetings and cultivated close bonds with specific Elect during his time in Carthage.11 Moreover, three passages, in particular, have been taken to imply that the Elect generally lived a vagrant existence, separated from their Elect brethren and precluding any significant role for Elect groups. Two of these are connected with Augustine’s depiction of the monastic project of his friend Constantius.12 These passages are considered in detail in the discussion of monasticism below, where it is argued that they are often misinterpreted. The third passage pertains to an incident that Augustine recalls from his time in Carthage.13 Augustine relates that he saw a group of Elect walking together and exhibiting immoral behaviour:

I myself – and not I alone but also the people who in part have already been set free from that superstition and who in part will still, as I hope, be set free from it – saw at a crossroads in Carthage, in a very well-known square, not one but more than three of the Elect, who were passing together behind some women or other, hustle them with such an immodest gesture that they outdid the impurity and impudence of all the scum of the earth. It was clear enough that this stemmed from a longstanding habit and that they lived in that way among themselves, since none of them was afraid of the presence of a companion, and in that way they demonstrated that all or almost all were involved in this evil. For they were not men from one house but men who certainly lived in different places; perhaps they had together come from the place where the meeting of all of them had been held.14

Several features of this passage suggest that it cannot be taken as evidence for a primarily dispersed and isolated Elect existence. First, it can be noted that seeing Elect walking together was apparently not an extraordinary occurrence. Shortly after the above-quoted passage, Augustine also relates that he often encountered a group of Elect who regularly visited the theatre together, accompanied by a presbyter.15 More importantly, the care Augustine takes to emphasise that these particular Elect were not from ‘one house’ should alert us to the implied assumption that there were Elect who were from ‘one house’, i.e. a group of several, associated Elect. In fact, he seems to be indicating that these Elect were, not from ‘one house’, but from several ‘houses’ or Elect groups – only in this way does his argument that the public behaviour of these ‘more than three’ Elect attests to the evil ways of ‘all or almost all’ of them ‘among themselves’ make sense: it is meant to demonstrate that bad behaviour permeated several, different groups of Elect. The Elect were so morally deprived, in his estimation, that peer pressure within such groups did not work. Whether he was right in his assessment is moot; what is important is the implications that Elect peer interaction was intended, presumably by leading authorities (as seen in keph. 38), to keep such behaviour in check.

The above-quoted passage shines light on another way in which the Elect strove to maintain peer community. The final line regarding ‘the meeting of all of them’ shows that, to Augustine, large gatherings of ‘all’ Elect were mundane affairs: the most plausible explanation for why these Elect, coming together from different groups, would be walking together. Such a gathering is presumably of the same type as that which he describes earlier in the same work, and to which he refers at the start of his debate with Fortunatus: a daily gathering of Elect for the consumption of a meal.16

1.3 The Kellis Evidence

The Elect known from Kellis were certainly frequently on the move. The best-documented example is the Teacher himself. Matthaios describes how he and his retinue went north from Antinoopolis, together with Piene, in P.Kellis V Copt. 25, and Piene himself writes that he was going to travel with the Teacher all the way to Alexandria as seen in P.Kellis V Copt. 29. Makarios mentions ‘brothers’ coming from Alexandria bearing news of Piene, who was now planning to come south again, like the Teacher had already done per P.Kellis V Copt. 24. However, to the activities of the Teacher we may add a long list of journeys made by every other well-documented Elect.17 Their travels took place both within the Oasis (in P.Kellis V Copt. 32 and the Petros letters) and up and down the Nile Valley (in the case of the Teacher). Lysimachos may have remained in Antinoopolis, at least for a while, but in general the material depicts a highly mobile group of Elect.

It is likely that this should be attributed to the norm of itinerancy. Admittedly, it is never made explicit that the Elect are ‘wanderers’ in or ‘strangers’ to the world – although Tehat’s mention of ‘these strangers’ in P.Kellis V Copt. 43 would, if referring to Elect, reflect this idea, as tentatively broached in the previous chapter. The continuous journeys of the Teacher and Piene should certainly be interpreted in light of itinerancy, and those of the other Elect suggest that this was a practice generally ascribed to. The question remains, rather, how such behavioural patterns affected their ability to organise. ‘Itinerant’ is often set in opposition to ‘organisation’.18 As we saw, Elect itinerancy has been taken to cause weakened group-cohesiveness and organisation. Individual Elect, staying with their own circles of Auditors, would be free from pressure to conform to institutional discipline. The lack of mechanisms for peer reinforcement would leave the Church vulnerable to fragmentation. Against this hypothesis, however it is argued here that Elect mobility should rather be seen as part of the effort of Church authorities to maintain and strengthen group cohesiveness.

First, the documented travels largely take place within the framework of communal activity. A particularly important function may have been to mediate between lay and Elect groups in relation to alms. Thus, in P.Kellis V Copt. 32, the Father travels in order to oversee Eirene’s textile work and cater to her spiritual needs; in P.Kellis VII Copt. 58, Saren met with Horion to retrieve textiles. Itinerancy, moreover, could function to strengthen the far-reaching network of adherents, disseminating news, information, and writings. The travels of Petros and Timotheos provide good examples. The ‘son’ writes: ‘When our brother Timotheos came, I asked him about you (pl.). He says that you are well’ (P.Kellis V Copt. 39 ll.5–7); and similarly, concerning Petros: ‘[I] inform you that our brother Petros came here. I [asked] after the children. He says: “They are well, as you yourselves will learn from their letters”’ (P.Kellis V Copt. 40 ll.4–6). Certainly, Elect were not the only actors to do so, but their high frequency of travel would have increased the network’s connectivity. These passages alert us to the manner in which the ethical injunction of itinerancy could be used as an instrument to serve the wider church community.

Secondly, there are good reasons to think that Elect usually travelled in groups. Certainly, the Elect we find in the material are not isolated, but, as a rule, present with peers. It has already been argued that most instances of almsgiving point to communal meals, but it is also evinced by the instances where they write or greet. For instance, Lysimachos greets from ‘our brothers’ in P.Kellis V Copt. 30 (l.21), and he is present with at least one fellow Elect (or Elect-to-be), Ision, in P.Kellis I Gr. 67. Only a few letters do not mention companions.19 Some of the ‘brethren’ could be Auditors: we find Philammon II relating how he and others (presumably fellow Auditors) may leave with Apa Lysimachos in P.Kellis VII Copt. 82. Yet, the presence of more than one Elect is often implicit, and at times explicit. So, for instance, in P.Kellis VII Copt. 72, Pamour III relays greetings from ‘those of Apa L(ysimachos) and Horos (ⲛⲁⲁⲡⲁ ⲗ. ⲙⲛ̄ ϩⲱⲣ)’ (ll.35–36), and among the others subsequently listed is a deacon. This phrase could may imply that Elect were grouped together in ‘companies’, as Iain Gardner has drawn attention to. He adduces contemporary papyrological evidence, in the form of P.Oxy. XXXI 2603 (=P.Harr. 107), a fourth-century letter of introduction from Oxyrhynchus identified as of Manichaean provenance.20 The writer, Paul, asks the recipient to receive a group of people: ‘in love, as friends, for they are not catechumens but belong to the company of Ision and Nikolaos (τῶν περὶ Ἰσίωνος καὶ Νι̣κ̣ολά̣ου ἰδ̣[ί]οι), and “if you do anything for them, you have done it for me”’.21 The phrase ‘if you do anything for them, you have done it for me’ is, as Gardner has shown, a direct quote from Mani, where he paraphrases Matt. 25:40 and equates the Elect with the ‘least’.22 We are, in other words, dealing an Elect group. Taken together with the group of Lysimachos and Horos, we may well be dealing with a practice of assigning Elect groups to named individuals.23 To Gardner’s argument here, we can add Augustine’s depiction of a group of Elect under tutelage of a presbyter, whom he saw regularly visiting the theatre in Carthage, found in De moribus (cited below). Certainly, Elect did not always travel in groups, but it must have been a common strategy.

The glimpses of Elect behaviour from the Kellis papyri, then, suggest that norms of itinerant behaviour were widely adhered to. Elect itinerancy involved errands linked to alms and to the maintenance of a cohesive network. It clearly did not produce a movement of isolated religious virtuosi, content with catering to their own individual constituencies. Rather, Elect mobility was channelled into serving the organisational needs of the Church. Group travel served as a mechanism for the preservation and reinforcement of the Elect ethos. It is of course true that this mode of organisation still left the Elect much freer and more independent than, for instance, monks in Pachomian monasteries, a point which may have given some credence to the charge that they ‘lacked’ discipline and organisation coming from other Christians. However, the Elect we glimpse in the archive appear to have worked hard to maintain Church institutions.

2 Hierarchy and Supervision

2.1 Literary Traditions

Manichaean traditions assume that the Elect coordinated their activity, organising missionary work and ritual activities in common, under the direction of a hierarchy. It consisted of the archegos, 12 Teachers, 72 bishops, and presbyters. An ecclesiastical ideology had developed in which the numbers of officials were considered to be modelled on both Jesus’ 12 disciples and 72 envoys, as well as on the order of cosmic Light divinities.24 The officials were ordained by a ‘laying on of hands’ (χειροτονία) by superiors, as for instance evinced by keph. 9 of the Berlin Kephalaia.

As to their practical tasks and functions, the sources are not explicit, but some information can be gleaned. The leadership had an important role in supervising groups and disciplining Elect. In the ‘Sickness letter’ found at Kellis, Mani asks to be informed of disbelieving subordinates, writing: ‘And any presbyter whom you … and he does not take from you my teaching: Write to me and tell me who or where he is, so that I myself will know him’ (P.Kellis VI Copt. 53,81.2–6). Several passages from the Medinet Madi indicate that, at the time of their authorship, the entire leadership was to gather in order to deal with Elect discipline. This is the case in keph. 38, which depicts the four grades of officials gathering in order to counsel an errant Elect and prevent his defection (1 Ke. 97.30–98.3). Such a ‘corrective’ gathering is also described in keph. 149, where a sinning Elect is brought into the midst of the church (1 Ke. 360.17–20). The final decision to punish Elect may have resided with higher officials, at least at the time of Mani: a passage from his ‘Sickness letter’ (quoted in Chapter 7) implies that it was specifically in the Teacher’s power to ‘divest’ Elect of their ministry, based on reports he obtained from other Elect (P.Kellis VI Copt. 53,61.12–16). It is no wonder that the circulation of false rumour and slander was considered a grave sin by Manichaean authorities, as made explicit in several Medinet Madi texts.25

One office that has been of particular interest is that of presbyter. The most frequently used term for this office in Iranian texts is mānsārār, ‘house-master’, and in the Chinese Compendium this title is glossed as ‘masters of the halls of law’.26 Presbyters have therefore often been linked to the leadership of Manichaean monasteries in the east. In the CMC (e.g. 89.9–10), Mani’s father Pattik is titled οἰκοδεσπότης, ‘house-master’, which literally corresponds to MP mānsārār. It has been argued that this term may reflect the terminology of the ‘Elchasaite’ community, rather than that of the Manichaean author(s) of the CMC.27 Yet it seems unlikely that the usage of mānsārār in Iranian sources is a coincidence. The Manichaeans may well originally have drawn on the Elchasaites for organisational terminology, even if the western community settled on the term ‘presbyter’ for this office.28

However, there is another reason to suspect that the presbyters or ‘house-masters’ were not monastic leaders, at least not in the western tradition, as there is evidence to suggest that this office was tasked rather with supervising itinerant Elect companies. The Berlin Kephalaia contains a chapter, keph. 81, wherein an Elect leader describes a monastic gathering. He describes himself as presiding over a group of fifty Elect, who gather daily in the church (ϩⲛ̄ ⲧⲉⲕⲕⲗⲏⲥⲓⲁ) in order to fast (1 Ke. 193.31–194.1). The Elect is described both as ‘leader’ (ⲁⲣⲭⲏⲅⲟⲥ)29 and ‘head’ (ⲁⲡⲉ). But his heart is troubled, and he asks Mani for permission to withdraw from his position, ‘that I may walk in the midst of my brothers like the elders (ⲛⲧϩ̣[ⲉ ⲛ̄]ⲙ̄ⲡⲣⲉⲥⲃⲩⲧⲉⲣⲟⲥ)’ (1 Ke. 194.29–30). He can hardly be asking to be made an ‘elder’ in a literal sense. Rather, this leader wants to be released from a heavy office, as head of fifty Elect, in favour of a lighter one, a presbyter who ‘walks’ with the brethren. It seems, then, that presbyters were taken to travel with the common Elect, rather than preside over large gatherings. Presumably, they had some responsibilities for these Elect. Conversely, it suggests that leadership of larger monastic gatherings was restricted to upper clergy, i.e. Teachers and bishops. It should be noted that their practice, too, involved itinerancy, and how these duties were combined remains unknown.

Elect outside the hierarchy were expected to do their share of organisational work for the Church. The eastern evidence shows a developed system of minor officials, performing specific tasks, such as scribes and alms-supervisors.30 The western evidence features readers and deacons.31 It was shown in the previous chapter, based on keph. 85, that individual Elect could be sent out by a superior to gather alms on behalf of the brethren. In contrast to the alms-supervisor in the Iranian material, it is not described as an office, and was likely not institutionalised as such in the west. However, the passage does alert us to the role of ‘superiors’ in coordinating alms-gathering.

2.2 Augustine

Augustine himself is among our sources for the hierarchical structure sketched above, depicting its officials in his late work, De haeresibus. He here adds the statement that even normal Elect were sent ‘to strengthen and support this error where it exists, or to plant it where it does not’.32 That Elect were sent out to establish or reinforce local groups implies a degree of central coordination of their activities, if his words can be taken at face value. The example of Felix, who travelled to Hippo to preach and so replaced Fortunatus, may provide an example of this happening in practice. Elect itinerancy, as argued above, was part of the Church’s strategy. The bishop Faustus, moreover, emerges from his writings as a central authority among North African Manichaeans.

Yet, it is frequently argued that the organisation evident in Augustine’s writings cannot have been particularly effective. Decret, taking Faustus to have been the only bishop in North Africa, argued that his absence shows the lack of Manichaean leadership there, in contrast to the plethora of Christian bishops.33 W. H. C. Frend noted that ‘the dropping of the senior Manichaean grades in favour of two categories only, Elect and Hearers, is an African specialty.’34 Lim, in particular, has criticised the idea that Elect officials were of any importance in North African communities. He has argued that:

the whole Manichaean hierarchy in Carthage, if it existed at all in any meaningful way, was at best opaque. The identity and whereabouts of a bishop was so well concealed that he could not even be approached by Manichaean hearers bearing complaints. This situation Augustine says, was occasioned by his fear of being exposed by informers and of being apprehended by the authorities.35

The central leadership, then, was absent, even impossible to find. For the lower ranks, Lim considered the freedom of Fortunatus to stay in Hippo to preach, and his replacement as the Elect representative in Hippo by Felix, a doctor, as incidents signalling a lack of regard for rank or division of tasks within the church. As a consequence, the hierarchy was unable to restrain rampant unseemly behaviour among the Elect, as indicated by Augustine’s aside regarding the emergence of an austere, schismatic group, the Mattarii.36 However, this depiction seems to me to rely on a faulty interpretation of Augustine’s testimony. We consider each point below: the unavailability of the leadership, the freedom of the lower ranks, and the Mattarii schism.

First, whether Faustus was the only bishop (and not just a particularly charismatic and important one), as assumed by Decret, is unclear. At any rate, the very different structures and sizes of the two Churches, which in the case of Manichaeism saw even ‘simple’ Elect involved in ministering to the flock, makes equating Manichaean and Christian bishops misleading. Furthermore, Lim’s argument for the opaqueness of the hierarchy and difficulty in locating high officials is based on an incident described in De moribus. The passage concerns an Elect whom Augustine had reported for bad behaviour, but who could not be punished due to fear, within the leadership, of being betrayed to the Roman authorities; a response that Augustine claims he had received also on another occasion when he came with a similar complaint.37 In Teske’s translation, it reads:

We also received this response when we reported to the leaders of the sect that a woman had complained to us. In an assembly where she was along with other women, where she felt confident because of the holiness of the Manichaeans, after several of the Elect had entered and one of them had put out the light, she was seized in the dark in the embrace of one of them, though it was not certain who it was … And this was done on the night when you celebrated the vigil of a feast. But really, even if there was no fear of betrayal, who could bring before the bishop for condemnation a man who had taken such precautions not to be recognised? As if all of them who had entered at the same time were not involved in the same crime! For the light was extinguished while they were all joking rudely.38

Augustine, then, claims to have participated in reporting bad behaviour among the Elect on two different occasions. Complaints were received by ‘leaders of the sect’, among whom a bishop apparently presided over the proceedings. As the last sentences make clear, it is not the bishop who was difficult to locate, but the Elect culprit, who had taken care to seize the woman in a dark room while hiding among other Elect (who, in Augustine’s estimate, were therefore complicit). Rather than indicating an oblique structure, this passage suggests that Auditors had relatively easy access to the leadership, and that reports of misbehaviour was a routine occurrence – even if the leaders did not always act on it. The passage even suggests that disciplinary matters were handled in a manner that largely agrees with the picture emerging from the Manichaean sources cited above. Admittedly, the Teacher, who plays such an important role in Mani’s Sickness letter, is missing from Augustine’s account. There may not have been one in North Africa.

The collegial nature of Manichaean leadership in matters of discipline and monastic supervision is again implied in passages concerning the establishment of a monastery in Rome, during which the Auditor Constantius met with the bishops there (see further below). Augustine states that Constantius ‘complained that his great efforts were hindered by the corruption of the bishops by whose help he had to carry out his project’.39 The accusation of corruption is unsubstantiated and clearly a rhetorical figure. Even though the project was promoted by a wealthy and influential lay person, episcopal approval was still needed. Only when Constantius managed to persuade one of them to spearhead it was it realised. It is, moreover, again in agreement with the Kephalaia; as we saw, keph. 81 indicated that large Elect gatherings were generally supervised by officials of a higher order than presbyter (i.e. bishops or Teachers). Another event related by Augustine could even suggest that the leadership as a collective settled doctrinal questions: at the end of his debate, the presbyter Fortunatus states that he would consult his superiors (maiores) in Carthage on the issues raised by Augustine.40

Turning to the lower ranks, the freedom that they enjoyed is tied to the particular structure of the Manichaean church, where ordinary Elect were themselves a kind of officials, rather than a lack of structure. Fortunatus’ reference to ‘superiors’ show that he thought himself to operate within the framework of a hierarchy. Felix replacing Fortunatus as nominal leader does not appear very significant: Elect officials were necessarily less closely tied to particular localities.41 That Manichaean patterns do not conform to Christian ones should not lead us to consider them somehow deficient. Still, as Lim points out, it is true that our knowledge of their specific responsibilities remains meagre. One task that might be detected is the presbyters’ responsibility for ‘walking’ with the brethren, found in keph. 81. In De moribus, Augustine claims that he regularly saw a group of Elect accompanied by a presbyter while in Carthage. The passage runs: ‘we very often encountered in theatres, along with an old priest, members of the Elect who were, we thought, quite respectable in terms of their age and their way of life’.42 The regularity with which he (and other Auditors) observed this group suggests that they may have constituted a ‘company’. Informal friendship among like-minded, ‘respectable’ Elect can perhaps not be entirely excluded, but the presence of the presbyter was presumably noted by Augustine because it reinforced his rhetorical point: the presbyter was supposed to be supervising and leading by example, and so was failing his duty by taking them to the theatre.

Finally, there is no reason to disbelieve Augustine’s testimony regarding the schism of the Mattarii. However, it does not prove an inability among Elect in general to adhere to the precepts. A comparable dispute over Elect practice took place in the late seventh-century Manichaean Church, as related by al-Nadim, indicating that the issue was a matter of differences in interpretation, not ‘lax morals’.43 One important difficulty that Augustine does highlight, however, is the role of rumour within the movement. His criticisms of the movement in De moribus provides the best evidence for this. He and his fellow Auditors had, he claims, heard rumours of misconduct concerning nearly all of the Elect he knew, and he describes specific instances of false rumours being spread by the Elect themselves.44 While his stories may be hyperbole, the difficulty of verifying rumour would certainly have caused much anxiety and distrust within the Church. These conflicts must have contributed to Augustine’s own, eventual disillusionment, and they show the potential negative effects of reliance on their system of mutual scrutiny. Elect officials clearly faced great difficulties, compounded by the threat of persecutions in the 370s, 380s, and onwards. Yet Augustine’s evidence highlights the extent to which they managed to maintain a Church organisation in spite of such problems.

2.3 The Kellis Evidence

Given that the evidence from Kellis reflects the Church from the point of view of the laity, it is unsurprising that the evidence for Elect officials and their practical concerns is limited. It is not non-existent, however. The hierarchy and its responsibilities would have been well-known to the laity through its depiction in Mani’s Epistles found at the site. There is, moreover, one preserved letter by a certified Elect official: despite his busy itinerary, the Great Teacher found time to address the presbyters, Ploutogenios and Pebos, and other ‘children’, presumably located in the Oasis. The letter is notable for its concern with discipline. The chief preserved part is the opening, with a prayer which reads: ‘I pray always to Jesus Christ: That he will guard you for me with this fragrance ((excellent conduct)) as you are [honoured] by everyone corresponding to [your] conduct’ (P.Kellis VII Copt. 61, ll.9–13).45 The following lines, although very fragmented, continue the theme of protecting their virtue (ll.15–16).46 The length of the letter indicates that he discussed other matters as well, but it is notable that the incipit puts such a great stress on exhortations to good conduct. The Teacher was clearly expected to show concern even for the behaviour of Elect far beyond his immediate purview.

Turning to ‘bishops’, the only occurrence of this office is in Apa Lysimachos’ letter to Horos I, P.Kellis V Copt. 30, in its largely lost first half. At the end of this discussion, Lysimachos mentions ‘the bishops’ (ⲛⲉⲡⲓⲥⲕ̣[]ⲡ̣ⲟⲥ), perhaps shortly after having mentioned (the) Teacher (ⲥⲁ̣ϩ̣). He follows up by expressing amazement ([ϯ]ⲣ̣̄ϣ̣ⲡⲏⲣⲉ), presumably dismay, about some events involving ‘our children who are among [our?] kindred’ (ll.3–5). He is clearly discussing matters pertaining to the Manichaean hierarchy, and perhaps specifically to the ‘death of Joubei’, mentioned at the end of the letter (l.24tr). Unfortunately, the thrust of his discussion is lost. Bishops are otherwise not mentioned in the material.47 Only the Teacher in the Valley and the (local) presbyters are seen interacting with the Manichaeans connected to Kellis.

More remarks can be made concerning the presbyter, the most frequently mentioned office in the material. First, we may briefly consider the figure of Saren the presbyter. As we have seen, he was closely involved with Horion, appearing in both of the letters to Tehat/Hatres, where he is found receiving a plurality of cowls, strongly suggesting that he was acting on behalf of a group. Saren is himself responsible for sending the order to Horion, and for retrieving the clothes. If he is acting in his capacity of presbyter, we have an example of a presbyter responsible for a group of Elect and a strong indication that this office included a responsibility for alms gathering. Secondly, it is noteworthy that the Teacher singled out presbyters specifically as his addressees among other ‘children’ in P.Kellis VII Copt. 61. Presumably, they were the highest-ranking Elect in their area. Not least, one of these presbyters, Pebos, can be identified elsewhere in the archive. A Pebos linked to matters of religion features in two other letters: P.Kellis VII Copt. 111 and 120. The latter deals with religious scripture located with a ‘father’ Pebos. The author, a certain Pekos, asks Pamour III to collect texts from Pebos:

About this book that Lamon has: Let the Acts be copied. But the Gospel: Let them bring it to me from father Pabo. These 5 maje of figs […] you let them bring it to me. As for the other ones: Wait until I send them to you. If <you> did not receive this letter,48 make him give it and send it to the house of father Pebo.

P.Kellis VII Copt. 120, ll.3–15

‘Father’ Pebos/Pabo, then, was head of a ‘house’ and involved with keeping religious texts. It seems not unreasonable to link him to the presbyter greeted by the Teacher: although the name Pebos occurs with some frequency in the Greek material from other parts of Kellis, it is rare in the House 1–3 texts. The same letter speaks of other activities relating to ‘the father’, presumably Pebos, in relation to a ‘cell’ (ⲣⲓⲉ) and to a ‘place of convalescence/rest’ (ⲡϣⲧⲟ). Pebos occurs again as an authority involved with religious texts in P.Kellis VII Copt. 111. Here, Pebos is the primary author, addressing Psais III, whom he greets ‘in the lord’ as his ‘brother’. There is no explicitly Manichaean cue in the letter. However, Pebos writes:

Since I told you: “Bring 10 tetrads north of the ditch” – I have come south. I asked Olbinos. He said “We do not want all these”. I said: “Surely not, why would we want to destroy all these things?” Is it now to stop writing the tetrads? Also, everything I have spoken to you about: Do not neglect it!

P.Kellis VII Copt. 111, ll.5–14

The passage strongly suggests that Pebos was a leader of some sort, responsible for ordering and collecting ‘tetrads’. Tetrads were copied by Psais III, presumably in Kellis, but they were brought ‘south of the ditch’ and given to Olbinos. This Olbinos adds a postscript, where he indicates that he is located in Hibis, and so the ‘tetrads’ were sent from Kellis to Hibis.49 Olbinos, moreover, is careful not to contradict Pebos’ orders or infringe on his writing (although spelling his name ‘Pabo’);50 he was evidently a subordinate of Pebos. He adds requests concerning textile work and ends with a formula: ‘I ask you, my brothers, my masters, that you will take on this burden (C. ⲣ̄-ⲉⲡⲓⲅⲉⲙ ̄, Gr. ἐπιγεµίζω, ‘lay as a burden’) and do these things for me’ (ll.41–44). A similar request to take on a ‘burden’ (C. ⲱⲧⲡ) occurs in P.Kellis VII Copt. 73: there it is used for the donation of two girls as a ‘service for the church’ that will be ‘a hard burden (ⲱⲧⲡ ϫⲁⲃⲁⲧ) at the judgement’ (ll.17–18) – i.e. presumably a deed that will weigh heavily in the person’s favour after death.51 Olbinos’ request similarly implies religious reward for undertaking a task. It suggests that the textile work is a form of alms, giving further reason for assigning Elect status to him, or at least to his superior, Pebos. It is indeed likely that the tetrads themselves were alms, as broached in Chapter 7.52 Psais III’s task of writing ‘tetrads’ appears to be part of a larger effort to produce religious literature. If the identification of the presbyter Pebo addressed by the Teacher with the Pebos’ in P.Kellis VII Copt. 111 and 120 is accepted, we have important testimony for how Elect officials worked to secure the production of Manichaean literature in the Oasis by ordering and collecting texts. Furthermore, it would support the proposition that presbyters were responsible for alms collection on behalf of Elect groups, already seen in the case of Saren.

Finally, we can consider how Elect more generally sought to maintain the cohesiveness of the Church, especially vis-à-vis the Auditors. BeDuhn has argued that mutual scrutiny between Elect and Auditors characterised the movement. He focuses especially on the Auditors’ supervision of the Elect and its role in reinforcing Elect commitment to the regime, citing the complaint made by Makarios in P.Kellis V Copt. 19 about the behaviour of a certain deacon.53 Many letters attest to the other side of this coin, namely concerns of the Elect for upright behaviour of the Auditors. An emphasis on virtuous behaviour pervades the rhetorical performances of the preserved Elect letters to the laity. For instance, in P.Kellis I Gr. 67, we find Lysimachos exhorting Theognostos to heed his sobriety. The author of P.Kellis V Copt. 32 showed great concern for the spiritual state and continued commitment of his addressee, Eirene. The authors of P.Kellis V Copt. 31 and P.Kellis I Gr. 63 praised the ‘good reputation’ of the lay recipients, earned through their deeds, along with other virtues. It might be objected that we (at least in some cases) are dealing with a stock topos, not necessarily real concern, but this rather reinforces its status as a presumably core value to the Church. Moreover, concerns for good reputation and righteous behaviour trickled down to some of the Auditors. Thus, in P.Kellis V Copt. 19, Makarios exhorted Matthaios to good behaviour by citing Mani on respecting teachers even when they are distant: ‘Now, be in worthy matters; just as the Paraclete has said: “The disciple of righteousness is found with the fear of his teacher upon him (even) while he is far from him, like (a?) guardian”’ (ll.8–11).

To summarise, concerns for Elect discipline pervaded the community’s religious discourse. That members of the hierarchy played a role in maintaining discipline seems clear, even if their responsibilities are not directly discussed. Apart from the Teacher, the most visible figures are the presbyters, who appear to have been responsible for smaller Elect groups, presumably ones active in the Oasis, as evinced by the activities of the presbyters Saren and Pebos. The material suggests that the office involved organising alms collection. Finally, the Elect paid great attention to ‘good behaviour’ within the community at large.

3 Communal Spaces and ‘Monasteries’

3.1 Literary Traditions

Having argued that Elect regularly acted in groups, and that they sought to maintain a cohesive organisation, we now have to face an oft-recurring question in Manichaean studies, namely the existence of monasteries in the west. Church historical texts from Turfan relate that the early disciples founded monasteries in the Roman Empire already during the time of Mani.54 These could be retrojections reflecting later practices, however. It has been argued that monastic institutions were only adopted under the influence of Buddhism in Central Asia, even if this has not won universal acceptance, and the issue remains contested.55

The term ‘monastery’ occurs in a Coptic translation of passages from Mani’s own Living Gospel.56 The ‘monasteries’ in this passage seem to belong to the baptists of Mani’s youth, and so may not be relevant for understanding Mani’s community. However, there is certainly much evidence for the notion of specifically religious buildings set aside for the Elect in other Medinet Madi texts.57 The SGW predicts a time when worldly institutions are replaced by holy ones, when ‘temples of the gods of this world will become a dwelling place ([ⲙⲁⲛ̄ϣⲱⲡ]) for the Elect and the Holy Church’ (Hom. 26.11–12). In the Berlin Kephalaia, the construction of buildings for the Church is considered part of the Auditors’ alms-obligations. Keph. 80 exhorts the Auditors to ‘build a dwelling (ⲙⲁⲛ̄ϣⲱⲡⲉ) or construct some place (ⲧⲟ[ⲡⲟⲥ])’ (1 Ke. 193.12) for the Holy Church as alms.

More often, it seems, the term ‘church’ (ⲉⲕⲕⲗⲏⲥⲓⲁ) is used to designate physical spaces built and ‘set apart’ for Elect activities. Most explicitly, keph. 158 lists ‘churches and houses’ (ⲛⲉⲕⲕⲗⲏⲥⲓⲁ ⲙⲛ̄ ⲛ̄ⲏⲓ) among alms to be given to the Elect (1 Ke. 396.7–9).58 A similar text from Turfan exhorts the Auditors to build monasteries as alms.59 Keph. 81, referred to in Section 2.1 above, described a leader presiding over fifty Elect who gathered daily ‘in the church’ (1 Ke. 193.31–194.1). Keph. 85, quoted in Section 2.1 of the previous chapter, is framed as a question of an Elect who had received orders from a superior of his local church (ⲧⲉⲕⲕⲗⲏⲥⲓⲁ ⲉϯⲛ̄ϩⲏⲧⲥ̣). Perhaps these passages could be taken to mean ‘congregation’, rather than to imply a building. However, several passages show an implicit differentiation between the terms ⲥⲁⲩϩⲥ̄ (‘congregation’, ‘assembly of adherents’) and ⲉⲕⲕⲗⲏⲥⲓⲁ. In keph. 70, Mani seats himself ‘in the church, in the middle of the congregation (ϩⲛ̄ ⲧⲉⲕⲕⲗⲏⲥⲓⲁ ϩⲛ̄ ⲧⲙⲏⲧⲉ ⲛ̄ⲧⲥⲁⲩϩⲥ̄)’ (1 Ke. 169.27–28, my translation). The passage implies two different spaces: a physical space, the ‘church’, and a social space, the ‘congregation’. Another passage, found in the homily on Mani’s last journeys and death (SNC), feature three female Auditors who address a lament to the departed Mani: ‘all the worlds need to grieve over you in the midst of your churches (ϩⲛ̄ ⲧⲙⲏⲧ[ⲉ ⲛ̄ⲉⲕ]ⲉⲕⲕⲗⲏⲥⲓⲁ) and weep publicly in your congregations (ⲛⲉⲕⲥⲁⲩϩⲥ)’ (Hom. 59.13–17), implying a distinction between closed ‘churches’ and open ‘congregations’. It is clear that a concept of Elect-specific buildings, called ‘dwelling place’ or ‘church’, was known to Manichaean authorities in Egypt.

Rather than the existence of such buildings, the question should be how common they were in the west, and what went on inside them. Regarding the second question, we have to look at the eastern material for comparison. A section of the Chinese Compendium (briefly referred to in Chapter 8, Section 2.1) dealt explicitly with the layout of monasteries and provides an idea of their functions. The Compendium prescribes five rooms: one for storing religious texts and images, one for fasting and preaching, one for worship and confession, one for religious instruction, and one for sick Elect. It further states: ‘In the five rooms set up as above, the community of monks should live in common, practising good works with zeal. The monks should not build individual rooms, kitchens or storehouses’.60 This gives a rather clear idea of what the building was intended for in the east: religious activities such as copying books and fasting, but not (comfortable) facilities for living.61 Meals were presumably taken in the room for fasting and preaching. A text in Uighur Turkic describes monasteries as ‘the healing place (otačılık) of the element gods’: i.e. the place where Light Elements were purified and released through the Elect ritual meal.62 Much uncertainty regarding monastic buildings has revolved around whether Manichaean ‘monasteries’ were intended as communal living spaces. The most frequently used term for ‘monastery’ in the east, MP mānīstān, had the original sense ‘house, home, dwelling-place’.63 The passage in Uighur Turkic mentioned above also speaks of monasteries as ‘resting places’,64 and the Parthian term ārām, ‘rest, resting place’, was used for ‘monastery’ in Parthian texts alongside mānistān.65 ‘Rest’ was tied to the healing of the Light Elements, but monasteries could be ‘places of rest’ and ‘healing’ in a more literal sense: the Compendium prescribed a room for the treatment of sick monks.66 However, there are good reasons to think that monasteries were intended mainly for religious works and gatherings, not sleeping. The passage from the Compendium only includes room for sick monks, and is explicit in that the monastery should not include separate living quarters. The Iranian evidence suggests that the Elect were generally to abstain from extended stays in monasteries.67 In a recently published MP fragment of a letter by Mani, he greets an Elect located in a ʿspync, ‘hostel’, indicating the temporariness of Elect stays in such places, if a monastery – as is very probable – is intended.68 Passages from a Uighur royal decree, the ‘Monastery scroll’ containing rules for Manichaean monasteries, imply that members of the upper hierarchy may have resided in monasteries at the time of Uighur patronage, although this could be a late development.69

Returning to the western material, it is as indicated not explicit, but what can be gleaned overlaps to a large extent with the eastern material. Communal dining was clearly a central function. That meals took place in churches is clear from keph. 85, cited in Chapter 8, where the Elect who went to gather alms was expected to bring them back to a local church. The church described in keph. 81 was the location for the daily fasts of fifty Elect, and an important location for the ‘healing’ of the Light: the author describes how ‘angels’ were released during their fasting. Presumably, these buildings facilitated scribal activities, festivals, and gatherings (ⲥⲁⲩϩⲥ̄) involving the laity, such as prayer meetings, as well, even if this is not made explicit. With regards to sleeping, however, the SGW describes how female Elect, in an idealised future, will sleep in the palaces of the aristocracy, not monastic buildings (Hom. 24.9–10). Keph. 91 cited in Chapter 8 describes the ideal Auditor as treating his house like a lodging house (ⲙⲁⲛ̄ϭⲁⲓⲗ[]) for temporary residence. The term ⲙⲁⲛ̄ϭⲁⲓⲗⲉ, ‘lodging house’, literally translates to ‘place of rest’, similar to the term ārām (and ʿspync). Perhaps the metaphor likens the house of a perfect Auditor to the monastic buildings of Elect and their temporary function.70

Western traditions, then, clearly did prescribe the use of buildings dedicated to the Church as regular gathering points for Elect. The evidence, while not extensive, indicates that Elect were supposed to gather daily at ‘monasteries’ for meals and other rituals, but probably had to make sleeping arrangements elsewhere. It may be that travelling Elect could spend nights there while journeying, making them literal ‘lodging houses’. This conception was clearly an early development, and is consistent across different Manichaean traditions, although some functions – including, perhaps, sleeping arrangements – may have varied.

3.2 Augustine

The testimony of Augustine has been taken to show that ‘monasteries’ were a novelty among Manichaean Elect, at least in Roman North Africa. This is usually seen as demonstrated by an episode in Rome, described in De moribus. Augustine narrates how a wealthy Auditor (who is later revealed to be Constantius, a later ‘Catholic’ convert)71 often had to defend the morals of the Elect in discussions, as they were criticised for their practice; they ‘lived here and there as vagabonds in a very wicked manner’, and so he decided to gather them into his home. Although he was first rebuffed by the Manichaean bishops in Rome, he found a rustic, unlearned bishop who agreed to participate in the project. Augustine relates how the Elect first gathered in the house, although many subsequently left:

The bishop praised him and agreed. He chose to be the first to live in his house. After he did this, all of the Elect who could be found in Rome assembled there. When the rule of life from the letter of Mani was proposed, many found it intolerable and left. But out of shame, nonetheless, more than a few remained.72

The project did not end well. Quarrels erupted between the remaining Elect, with several making accusations against Constantius and claiming that they could not endure the rules, to which he replied that they should either overhold all the commandments or none. The project collapsed when the bishop was disgraced: it was revealed that he had food brought to him in private, paid for from a private purse. Augustine retold this story in his polemic against bishop Faustus, while attacking the Elect lifestyle:

Faustus went so far as to dare to say that you do not carry money in your wallet. We would not criticize this in your case if it were not that you profess one thing and live in another way. Or did he perhaps speak the truth that you do not carry money in your wallet, though you have gold in chests and bags? There is still living that Constantius, who is now our brother as a Catholic Christian. He gathered many of you together in Rome into his house in order to carry out the commandments of Mani … And when your weakness caved in under these commandments, you were scattered, each on his own path. Hence, those who wanted to persevere in them created a schism from your society and, because they sleep on mats, they are called Mattarians.73

Augustine, then, seems to depict the Elect as dispersed and isolated, with only the ‘Mattarians’ continuing to live together in congregations. This presentation has often been accepted by scholars. It has, moreover, been taken as proof of the collapse of Manichaean ascetic discipline. Decret, for instance, took it to show a certain degree of neglect by the busy Church officials.74 More strongly, it led Lim to conclude that:

From these various accounts we can catch glimpses of the diversity within the rubric of the “something” we call Manichaeism. We sense the powerlessness of any central authority to regulate the activities of the itinerant elect, as well as the absence of a “central place”, especially during the times when the sporadic persecutions were particularly intense, where the Manichaeans in a city, both the elect and the hearers alike, could meet face to face on a frequent and regular basis.75

However, the picture is more complex. The passage from Contra Faustum in fact shows that the Elect possessed communal treasuries, if Augustine’s assertion regarding their possession of gold ‘in chest and bags’ is to be believed (it would certainly be in agreement with evidence for temple treasuries in Turfan).76 Another passage shows that they were not as scattered as this excerpt has been taken to imply. In a less rhetorically loaded passage from De moribus, Augustine speaks of an Elect gathering in Carthage, ‘the place where the meeting of all of them had been held’, where the Elect gathered for meals on a regular basis, as argued above.77

What, then, are we to make of this incidence? We should certainly not believe Augustine when he says that the Elect in Rome were unaware of Mani’s ‘true’ commandments regarding monastic life, but it may well be that there was room for interpretation. As pointed out above, while the authoritative Manichaean tradition clearly did have a concept of ‘central places’ for the Elect, it probably did not include individual rooms and sleeping arrangements. This did not mean that the Elect did not in some sense ‘live’ together: when not travelling, they would eat, pray, sing, and practice together in such places on a daily basis. But they did not have ‘monasteries’ in the sense of permanent living quarters for large Elect groups, like those developing in Pachomian communities in Egypt. This was the novelty of Constantius’ project, representing an attempt to reform Manichaean places along the lines of Pachomian monasteries, as already pointed out by Decret.78 Augustine is exploiting a disagreement among the Manichaeans concerning how to organise Elect asceticism, specifically regarding sleeping arrangements, in order to criticise their practice. While presenting the Elect who rejected Constantius’ rule as unfamiliar with Mani’s commandments, it is in fact Constantius who attempts a novel interpretation.79 As Augustine readily admits in De moribus (albeit with an eye for exonerating his friend of ever ‘really’ having been a Manichaean), Constantius’ chief motivation was not the commandments of Mani, but a concern for Elect reputation. Most of the Elect leadership, as well as the majority of the Elect themselves, rejected it outright, presumably because it was contrary to their own interpretation of Mani’s letter. Even those who decided to follow Constantius disagreed concerning the details, causing conflict and the eventual collapse of the monastery. Augustine, of course, presents it as if the Elect were not able to endure the new regime, as per their usual wickedness. He may well have found support for this view among the Mattarian fraction, those who ‘wanted to persevere in them [i.e. the commandments]’. Presumably, they slept collectively on mats, while the ‘mainstream’ Manichaean Church continued to reject such sleeping arrangements. However, this does not mean that they did not maintain communal meeting places, facilitating daily Elect interaction.

3.3 The Kellis Evidence

The question of Manichaean monasteries in Egypt had already been broached by scholars before the excavations at Kellis, as Mani’s disciple Adda, who based himself in Alexandria, was depicted as founding monasteries in material from Turfan.80 Textual material from Kellis has been taken to provide definite proof: the editors of P.Kellis V, based on the evidence of Tithoes I and of the KAB (see below), maintained that ‘it seems certain that there was a Manichaean monastery in the environs of Kellis’, and argued that such a monastery would have been the ‘central focus of Elect life … where they lived whilst not away on evangelical work’.81 Still, there does not yet seem to be consensus among scholars on the issue regarding either their existence or their function. The former has, for instance, recently been rejected by Mattias Brand.82 Moreover, the material from P.Kellis VII needs to be taken into account. We therefore need to review the evidence in some detail.

Three main pieces of evidence may be put forward. First, and most evidently, there is the explicit mention of a monastery in the correspondence of Tithoes I and his son, Samoun. On the request of Samoun, Tithoes I states that he has sent the young Tithoes II to a ‘monastery’ – C. ϩⲉⲛⲉⲧⲉ (P.Kellis V Copt. 12, l.6), Gr. µονοστή[ριον] (P.Kellis I Gr. 12, ll.18–19) – together with ‘father’ Pebok, so that he may learn linen weaving.83 Brand states, regarding these letters, that ‘without strong Manichaean language in the letters, and with only weak prosopographical connections, it is most problematic to read these letters as evidence for the existence of a Manichaean monastery.’84 However, he does not take into account the Manichaean literary composition found in House 2, P.Kellis II Copt. 8, nor the strength of the ties between the Tithoes and Pamour families discussed in Chapter 4 (Section 1). Shared intimates included Psenpnouthes I and Kyria I, called ‘brother’/’sister’ by both Tithoes and Makarios and explicitly addressed as co-adherents by the latter, and Tapshai II, who herself uses cues indicating shared affiliation with Psais III in P.Kellis VII Copt. 116 (Chapter 6, Section 2). There is in other words strong evidence for the Manichaean affiliation of this family. A ‘Pebok’, furthermore, recurs in P.Kellis V Copt. 47, where the account author has acquired ‘wool of/for Pabok’ (ⲥ̣ⲁ̣ⲣ̣ⲧ̣ ⲛ̄ⲡ̣ⲁⲃⲱⲕ, l.24). The editors state that there is no particular reason to identify the two.85 Contra this, the contemporaneity of these two occurrences, the shared link to Tehat (by way of Tithoes I), and even shared involvement with textiles are all factors that support identifying them. There is, moreover, only one other occurrence of the name Pebok/Pabok at Kellis.86 The wool Tehat has acquired for(?) Pebok in P.Kellis V Copt. 47 may have been for a garment intended as alms, considering Tehat’s extensive concerns with agape elsewhere.87

It might be objected that a Manichaean institution is not thereby demonstrated. Pebok does not feature in other House 1–3 texts with Manichaean cues, and we cannot exclude that undogmatic Manichaeans cooperated with Christian monks, for instance for business purposes. Perhaps the fact that weaving was practiced in the monastery to which Tithoes II was sent could be taken as contrary to Elect prescripts, as they were ideally not to perform any profane work. This issue was not settled, however: some Elect considered textile work legitimate, as evinced by a letter found at Turfan by a local, ‘eastern’ Church official who complains about a newly-arrived, Syrian Electa who stitched garments.88 Elect supervision of textile work is evinced by the Father in P.Kellis V Copt. 32 and Saren in P.Kellis VII Copt. 58. The western Elect, at least those in more peripheral areas, may not have had the luxury of their brethren in Turfan to remain above every form of manual labour.

A second piece of evidence is the occurrence of a topos Mani in the KAB. It is mentioned twice in the KAB’s income accounts for olives and dates, showing that the topos leased land for cultivation from the KAB owner. In later entries, Petros ‘the monk’ pays rent for olives and dates on its behalf.89 Gr. τόπος was often used for shrines, and from the fourth century on it became a common term for monastic institutions.90 A monastic context here is clearly implied by the presence of Petros the ‘monk’ as a middleman. As previously argued, Petros can be identified as the man by that name occurring in the Petros letters from House 1–3, and so a specifically Manichaean monk. Questions remain regarding the form and significance of the term ‘Mani’ here, as Choat and Pedersen have pointed out.91 To be sure, we cannot be absolutely sure that the topos and the ‘monastery’ discussed above were one and the same, although both Petros and Pebok shared a connection with Tehat, who was responsible for agape.92 But on balance it seems more likely than not that we are dealing with a Manichaean institution.

While maintaining that the term topos Mani is not in itself sufficient, Choat has noted that ‘along with the reference in P. Kell. V Copt. 39.35 to “a little cell” (ⲧⲕⲟⲩⲓ̈ ⲛ̄ⲣⲓ, which can also refer to a room in a house, CD 288a), the confluence of evidence hints that the editors may be correct.’93 This ‘confluence of evidence’ constitutes the third argument for a monastic institution in Kellis or its vicinity. The editors highlighted two bodies of letters that may evince monastic settings: the letters of Ouales to Psais/Andreas (P.Kellis V Copt. 35–36) and the aforementioned Petros letters (P.Kellis V Copt. 38–41). The latter involve several ‘fathers’ and ‘brothers’, including ‘our brother’ Petros and ‘our brother’ Timotheos. Some passages may in fact contain explicit references to monks: the term ϩⲗⲗⲟ, which can mean both ‘old man’ and ‘monk’, appears twice in the correspondence.94 The letters in which ϩⲗⲗⲟ appears have other features that suggest a religious context. In P.Kellis V Copt. 40, the son says that he has arrived at a place where he is not able to rest, and refers (metaphorically?) to a quarrel with the ‘old man’ / ‘monk’: ‘For, since the day when I came, my body is restless; I have not given myself to sleep, for it is not the place! Like another one, with whom the old man (ϩⲗⲗⲟ) also fights […]’ (ll.9–13). The following passage is fragmented, but the son appears to be discussing an ongoing event related to the ‘other one’ and the ‘old man’. Further on, he says that he is ‘sick, since the day that I came’ (l.24). Then he makes an enigmatic statement suggesting healing: ‘[… another] year I will stay like this. I will come. There is no great […] disturbance, and not the body either, we being well of blindness (ⲃⲗⲗ̄ⲉ̣) […]’ (ll.29–30). It is unfortunately difficult to get a coherent picture from the two fragmented passages, one claiming a state of restlessness,95 the other seemingly referring to recovery from ‘blindness’ (spiritual sickness?). There is clearly a link between the son’s physical location and his spiritual state. To this we can add that in P.Kellis V Copt. 39, he discusses ‘the small cell’, noted by Choat above, but also a ‘charm’ (ⲫⲩⲗⲁⲕ̣ⲧⲏⲣⲓⲛ) and the writing of a letter and of ‘fragments’ (ⲛⲓⲡⲁϭⲉ)96 (ll.34–38). At the same time, the son is involved in selling textiles produced by the ‘mother’ (P.Kellis V Copt. 41) and making sure she pays for goods (P.Kellis V Copt. 38, 40), and so it could be argued that he is unlikely to be a monk himself, although the case of Petros and of the Father in P.Kellis V Copt. 32 show that Elect did not always shy away from economic matters. The monastery of the Tithoes correspondence was itself a place for producing textiles, and so is unlikely to have needed textiles shipped from the ‘mother’; but, then again, the ‘son’ is away from the ‘place’ where he can rest.

Turning to Ouales’ letter to Psais III, P.Kellis V Copt. 35, it has already been argued that he is situated in a specifically Manichaean scribal context, indicated by the oath he swears on the Paraclete, the spell he copied by his own hand, and the implications that he has other texts around him. To these we can add his great need for papyri, that he appears to have superiors responsible for ordering the ‘tetrads’, and that a ‘blessed one’ is responsible for mediating between Ouales and Psais. A Manichaean monastic scriptorium must be implied.97 It is linked to the other request for ‘tetrads’ by Pebos and Olbinos in P.Kellis VII Copt. 111, also to Psais III, a letter that shows centrally directed scribal activities for the production of religious texts, as discussed in Chapter 7. Furthermore, in P.Kellis VII Copt. 120, ‘father’ Pebos is associated with a place referred to as ⲡϣⲧⲟ, ‘the place of convalescence’.98 The author, Pekos, having first asked Pamour to send for the Gospel from father Pebo, asks him regarding certain items: ‘Take them down and put them inside the cell (ⲣⲓⲉ). Do not delay to go to the place for convalescence (ⲡϣⲧⲟ) to see the man, for they have gone after the father’ (ll.19–25). The father, clearly tied to this place, could well be father Pebos referred to initially. This indicates that we are dealing with a location of a religious function, where the Gospel is stored, congruent with the argument for an identification of Pebo as a presbyter (above). The term ⲡϣⲧⲟ can furthermore be restored, albeit uncertainly, in the Petros letter P.Kellis V Copt. 41, for a place where the mother is supposed to send someone.99 Admittedly, it is not, to my knowledge, found elsewhere for a Manichaean institution, but it is clearly reminiscent of the notion of ‘places of rest’ and ‘healing’ discussed above. The evidence strongly suggests that the letters to Psais III concerning tetrads emanate from Manichaean authorities, situated in a ‘house’ where alms and religious literature were stored. Presbyters were involved in this work. If they were primarily responsible for smaller groups of Elect, as suggested above, Pebos’ institution was probably not very large. It might have been situated in Hibis, as implied by P.Kellis VII Copt. 111.

Finally, some evidence for communal spaces is found in the Maria/Makarios circle. Makarios speaks of our ‘temple’ or ‘sanctuary’ in a fragmented passage: ‘How many […] these or our sanctuary (ⲡⲛ̄ⲣ̄ⲡⲉⲓ)?100 Are not you yourself a catechumen? For we are not retaliating against anyone in this place for what they are doing to us’ (P.Kellis V Copt. 22, ll.61–62). This was taken by the editors as a lay communal institution, akin to a church, rather than a monastery.101 But in the fragmented line immediately preceding this statement, Makarios quotes someone saying ‘I will rest’ (ϯⲛⲁⲙ̄ⲧⲁⲛ, l.60), and the lines immediately following discuss the copying of a book and the theft of a book (ll.63–66). The distinction between Elect monasteries and lay churches may not have been very rigid. In relation to this, we should consider the passage from Matthaios in P.Kellis V Copt. 25, where he related how the Teacher made Piene ‘read in church (ⲕⲁⲧ̣ⲁ̣ ⲉ̣ⲕ̣ⲕ̣ⲗ̣ⲏ̣ⲥ̣ⲓⲁ)’ in Alexandria.

To recapitulate: two letters provide explicit mentions of a monastery, and there is a suggestive occurrence of a topos Mani.102 In addition, several letters contain spatial terms associated with rest and recovery,103 the production and/or storing of religious texts,104 and Elect activity,105 all of which are suggestive of a monastery, but none of which are without some ambiguity. Terms such as ‘place’ or ‘house’, while featuring in Manichaean ecclesiastical discourse, are in and of themselves too ambiguous to prove the existence of monastic buildings. This vagueness of terminology may caution against drawing too strong conclusions, although the absence of technical terms in informal discourse should not come as a surprise, given the lack of technical vocabulary in the authoritative, Coptic Manichaean sources themselves. Nonetheless, the wealth of references to shared spaces, involving ‘rest’, and where religious literature is kept, strongly indicate that we are dealing with buildings reserved for the Church. It is supported by the fact that the instances of almsgiving from Kellis were intended for Elect collectives, as argued in Chapter 8, Section 2.5.

On balance, then, there is good evidence in the Kellis material for the existence of Manichaean communal centres, both in the vicinity of Kellis and elsewhere, as the editors of P.Kellis V maintained. The nature of this institution still raises questions. As we saw above, the editors suggested that the Elect spent their time in the monasteries. However, they also considered the possibility that they mainly interacted with the Auditors in church-buildings such as those excavated at Kellis, and broached the issue of two possible institutions:

[The question of agape deliveries] raises the question as to whether the Manichaeans in fourth century Egypt had two distinct types of religious building, i.e. monasteries and churches. The eastern literature certainly uses two parallel terms; and in this present volume we perhaps (the passage is fragmented) find Makarios making mention of ‘our sanctuary’ … Still, in general it seems reasonable to suppose that the Kellis Manichaeans may have had a religious building in the village, and that such a ‘church’ could have been in broad terms similar to that of the Christians.106

Yet, the terminology does not seem to be consistent enough to allow us to infer a clear division between lay and Elect buildings. It seems rather more likely that both Elect and laity met in the same ‘sanctuaries’. Here they stored literature and other communal valuables, and the Elect presumably spent most of their time (perhaps the better part of the day) performing the ‘work of the religion’, writing, praying, and eating, in the company of other Elect – when not preaching, visiting Auditors, or away on other travels. Whether the Elect also slept there cannot be known on present evidence, although it seems less likely, in light of the evidence from Medinet Madi and Augustine.

4 A Networked Manichaean Church

From the above sections, it emerges that the evidence from authoritative traditions, Augustine, and the papyri from Kellis complement each other well. Together, they suggest a larger degree of cohesion among Manichaean Elect than is often allowed for. A question that has hitherto only loomed in the background can now receive our attention: to what extent was the community evinced by the Kellis material linked to others? To put it another way, are we glimpsing one part of a single, interconnected Church, known respectively from Kellis, Medinet Madi, Augustine, and Mani’s own foundation?

The question may be considered somewhat speculative. It cannot be excluded that there were other, competing Manichaean groups in Egypt, taking their cue from Mani’s texts and proclaiming themselves the ‘Holy Church’. The evidence of Augustine concerning the Mattarians shows that such splinter groups did exist. But at the very least, the Kellis evidence indicates that the local community here belonged to an important strand: one that must have established itself reasonably early, extended across Egypt, and drew on practices and literary traditions very similar to those documented at Medinet Madi and by Augustine. It seems reasonable to assume that the extensive network led by Makarios’ Teacher represented the earliest and dominant Manichaean organisation in Egypt, even if it cannot be proven beyond doubt.

However, another challenge to an answer in the affirmative relates to whether, given ancient conditions of communication, it was in fact possible for the Church to have extended beyond Egypt, to other Manichaean groups in the Middle East and Roman Empire at large. That any voluntary, ‘non-state’ organisations could have maintained such a far-flung network may, on the face of it, seem unlikely. But there is to my mind no reason a priori to reject the existence of a trans-regional church network maintained into at least the mid – late fourth century. There are also, as we shall see, good reasons to think that there was such a network, highly organised by the standards of contemporary private religious associations. However, both the evidence for and the mechanisms that may have facilitated such a network need to be considered more closely.

4.1 The Literary Tradition

Attention has recently been re-focused on the issue of links between ‘eastern’ and ‘western’ Manichaeans, in particular by the work on the Dublin Kephalaia. In a preliminary publication on the contents of this codex, BeDuhn signalled that it sheds new light on important questions regarding the coherence of the movement, at least on the level of reproduction of literary traditions.107 A far-flung Church was certainly the ambition of Mani and his disciples. It is evident in Mani’s ‘international’ list of prophetic forerunners, found in the passage which introduced Chapter 1, as well as elsewhere, for instance in an oft-quoted passage from the Berlin Kephalaia:

I have chosen you, the good election, the holy church that I was sent to from the Father. I have sown the seed of life. I have […] from east to west […] my hope has gone toward the sunrise of the world, and every inhabited part; to the clime of the north, and the […] Not one among the apostles did ever do these things [… my hope] will remain in the world until [the return of Jesus in judgement, and he will place my] church on the right side [and the evildoers] on the left.108

The same work contains another frequently cited chapter, listing ten reasons why Mani’s Church is superior to all others. The first justification reads: ‘In this first matter my church surpasses the first churches: Because the first churches were chosen according to place, according to city. My church, mine: It is provided for it to go out from all cities, and its good news attains every country’.109 An ‘international’ outlook was of primary importance to the early Manichaean Church, also the one operating in Egypt. At the same time, we do not know whether any of the adherents in Kellis ever read or heard these words, or exactly how far they thought their ‘Church’ reached. Conversely, a worldwide ‘imagined community’ is certainly not dependent on the existence of an actual organisation seeking to maintain such contact in practice.

Yet, there is evidence that the Manichaeans worked to maintain trans- regional contact well beyond the initial missionary efforts, even if it did not attain every country. Manichaean texts from Turfan provide evidence for maintenance of trans-regional ties eastwards. From the early period, a letter from a church official (perhaps the archegos Sisinnios), located in Mesopotamia, to one of Mani’s disciples located in Merv (Mary in today’s Turkmenistan), Mar Ammo, shows close contact between the ‘central’ Church and its travelling missionaries in the late third century.110 Contact between the hierarchy in Mesopotamia and the churches established in Central Asia continued, although later ‘tainted’ by schism, and is found in sources as late as the ninth century.111 As for the western sphere, a church historical text from Turfan relates that Mani sent books – among them his own work, The Treasury of Life – to the disciple Adda who was working in Alexandria.112 The main piece of evidence for continued contact between Sasanian Mesopotamia and Roman Egypt is, however, the Medinet Madi archive itself. The Psalm-book contains psalms praising the archegos Sisinnios (Psalms 234, 241). A passage from the SNC refers to the death of Sisinnios under Bahram II (c.276–93) and the appointment of his successor, Innaios (Hom. 82.21–22).113 Preserved leaves from the Acts Codex recount narratives of the persecution of the Church and activities of Innaios in Mesopotamia during the reign of king Hormuz II (c.302–309).114 As the first Manichaean mission had arrived in Egypt at least by 270 CE, such literature must have been disseminated from Mesopotamia at a later date.115 They demonstrate that translation into Coptic of material stemming from the Mesopotamian hierarchy extended well into the fourth century.

It might be objected that the evidence cannot be taken to show regular links between Egypt and other areas. Gardner and Lieu suggested that the dissemination of the Medinet Madi texts could be attributed to Manichaeans fleeing persecutions in the Sasanian Empire.116 To my mind, this explanation is insufficient. The Syriac original of the Acts Codex – or at any rate the traditions contained within it, in case of later redaction in Egypt – can only have arrived in the second quarter of the fourth century, at the earliest, and likely later, depending on how far the narrative went and allowing time for composition and dissemination. Although little is known of the conditions for Manichaeans in the Sasanian Empire at this time, it is not particularly noted for persecutions.117 Furthermore, Manichaeans fleeing persecution in the Sasanian Empire must have had contact with those in the Roman Empire in order to have been able to shelter there.

4.2 Kellis and the Wider Church

The Kellis texts both shed light on the maintenance of contact within the Church, and provide a model for conceptualising it. To the first point, there is evidence to support the existence of trans-regional ties in the material from the village. The finds of Syriac – Coptic word-lists and remains of Syriac literature show that texts from the Manichaean centre were still being circulated and translated by adherents in Kellis around the mid-fourth century. The community apparently had a need for training Syriac ‘readers’ like Ision.118 I would suggest that these activities can be related to a continued effort to disseminate (relatively) recently-arrived books in Syriac from Mesopotamia, authored by disciples and church authorities who continued to maintain links to the Roman Empire, at least into the mid-fourth century.119 The occurrence of a book called Acts in P.Kellis VII Copt. 120 could even provide an example of such a text, if the church historical work known from the Acts Codex is intended.120 The Kellis material may indicate that Egypt provided a bridge for transmission of literature to, or support for, communities in the Latin-speaking parts of the Roman Empire: a westward connection could be inferred from the Teacher’s education of Piene in Latin, or at least in the Teacher’s own knowledge of that language, as documented by P.Kellis V Copt. 20. That Piene was to travel westward himself is unlikely, but he may have participated in translating literature. The editors note that Latin might have been of use for interaction with important Roman officials in Egypt, but this seems to me less probable.121

Secondly, the Kellis network provides a model for how we should conceptualise such inter-regional contact. As we have seen, the local networks of family, trade, and patronage at Kellis, and the regional trade in which they participated, was extensive. We find ties to local groups, such as the family in Thio and Ammon in Psbtnesis, but also to groups in Hibis in Khargeh Oasis, and groups in Aphrodito, Antinoopolis/Hermopolis, perhaps Lycopolis, and even Alexandria in the Nile Valley.122 Stronger ties between Upper and Lower Egypt would have been maintained by networks analogue to these, and likely much denser, considering the greater population and ease of transportation there. Contact was not only maintained by the laity: crucially, the documents demonstrate coordination by religious authorities in different localities. The Teacher travelled from Upper to Lower Egypt and back, visiting local congregations along the way, and his letter to Pebos and Ploutogenios shows concerns for maintaining contact with more distant officials that he could not meet in person. Saren the presbyter and the Father in P.Kellis V Copt. 31 used their ties to request alms from Oasis to Valley. This Elect activity was facilitated by the lay networks, as Elect could participate as social mediators, carrying news, blessings, and greetings, while also receiving shelter and alms. In turn, this enabled them to maintain regular links between distant communities.

Such local and regional networks could form the basis for far-flung communication networks. Trade and traffic between Alexandria and Antioch was frequent, and would have allowed the Manichaean network in Egypt to link up with that in Syria, while trade on the Red Sea could, for a while, have provided a more direct route to Mesopotamia.123 As for the Latin west, Augustine clearly implies that contact between Manichaeans in Rome and Carthage was a mundane affair.124 Faustus and the other African Elect visible in Augustine’s writings were highly mobile and, as argued above, reasonably well organised. Augustine himself utilised Manichaean ties when he moved from Carthage to Milano, as is often remarked. He may even provide evidence for an adherent from the Greek east who became active in the Latin sphere.125

This should suffice to show how series of partly overlapping local and regional clusters of lay adherents, paired with Elect practices, provided a day-to-day environment that could have facilitated long-distance contact, following the model of Mediterranean connectivity suggested by Horden and Purcell.126 In the case of Manichaeism, connectivity received impetus from Manichaean authorities who actively promoted long-distance contact, and whose itinerant regime was highly conductive to maintaining it. Higher Elect officials may even have been tasked with managing longer lines of communications: it seems unlikely to be a coincidence that the ‘Great Teacher’ frequented the route all the way from Antinoopolis to Alexandria, and even taught Latin himself, or that bishop Faustus spent so many years away from Carthage.

We should certainly not imagine that the Teacher(s) in Egypt regularly received orders from leaders in Mesopotamia, or that the latter planned missions or imposed doctrinal interpretations from afar. As a voluntary organisation in an increasingly tense environment, there were limits to how effective such links could be. Only a few groups or individuals would have traversed the entire distance between, for instance, Egypt and Mesopotamia, and the connectivity of the networks operating there was presumably not very high. But even occasional contact can serve to socialise distant groups into a shared cultural field, through what Granovetter has termed ‘weak tie diffusion’.127 Low intensity contact between different regions, with corresponding diffusion of information and text, would have been sufficient to create an inter-connected Manichaean world, a sense of belonging to a single Manichaean ‘Holy Church’.

5 Conclusions

In the previous chapter we saw that, as far as can be determined from the Kellis texts, alms were consumed collectively and at a distance from the Auditors, while also keeping regularly in touch with them. In the current chapter, we have found that Elect were committed to the familiar norm of itinerancy, but at the same time had mechanisms to ensure regular peer interaction. The Teacher concerned himself with internal discipline, while presbyters were involved in gathering alms, including, perhaps, religious texts. Moreover, there are ample indications from Kellis that the ‘Church’ maintained buildings set apart for religious purposes. This picture is complemented by the literary traditions. Adducing Manichaean traditions and Augustine’s writings, it has been argued that the upper officials, i.e. teachers and bishops, had overall responsibility for discipline and for larger Elect congregations, while presbyters supervised smaller Elect groups. Such groups probably made use of communal buildings, representing a Manichaean take on ‘monasteries’, for their everyday practice, while remaining highly mobile, travelling between such monasteries and between monasteries and lay homes. In turn, this Elect mobility would have intensified the connectivity of the Manichaean network, and helped to integrate the Kellis community into a larger Manichaean Church.


BeDuhn, ‘Domestic Setting’, 270–71.


Brown, ‘Diffusion of Manichaeism’, 101–2. Similarly, Baker-Brian describes the Elect-Auditor relations thus: ‘Hearers’ residences likely served as way-stations for the Elect who, under the guidance of their ordinances, became rootless wanderers, moving between different locations in the performance of their duties.’ Baker-Brian, Manichaeism, 130. At the same time, he maintains that they had a strong communal ethos, that ‘the self-identity of Manichaeans as an exceptional ecclesia lay in the collective expression of its commitment to the teachings of Mani, and to the sanctification of his memory’ Ibid., 131. However, he does not offer an opinion as to how such a self-identity was maintained.


Lim, ‘Unity and Diversity’, 239.


BeDuhn, ‘Domestic Setting’, 264–66. We return to this topic below.


See Arthur Vööbus, History of Asceticism in the Syrian Orient: A Contribution to the History of Culture in the Near East, 3 vols. (Louvain: Secrétariat du Corpus, 1958), 109–37; Julien Ries, ‘Commandments de la justice et vie missionaire dans l’Église de Mani’, in Gnosis and Gnosticism, ed. Martin Krause (Leiden: Brill, 1977), 101.


Athar, trans. Reeves, Prolegomena, 212.


Peter Nagel, ‘Die Psalmoi Sarakoton des manichäischen Psalmbuches’, Orientalistische Literaturzeitung 62, no. 1–6 (1967).


Kitab al-hayawan, see Reeves, Prolegomena, 206. One may perhaps compare the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (the Didache) by an anonymous early Christian author, which features an injunction for adherents not to let ‘prophets’ stay more than two or three nights (Did. 12). Vööbus (History of Asceticism, 116–17) states: ‘The rule never to pass two nights in the same place … seems to have been imposed by such scrupulous circles as those of Ruhban al-Zanadiqa, and were not, therefore, a general regulation.’


Al-Jahiz, Kitab al-hayawan, trans. Vööbus, History of Asceticism, 116–17. The source goes on to relate a story about two monks who came to Ahwaz in Iran. While at other times ambiguous, the term zindiq in this instance quite clearly relates to Manichaeans.


For Felix, see Retract. 2.8.35; for Faustus, the discussion of BeDeuhn, Augustine’s Manichaean Dilemma I, 108.


For Fortunatus, see Retract. 1.15.1; for such meetings, see De mor. 2.19.71–72 (cited in Chapter 8, Section 3.2) and 2.8.11.


De mor. 2.19.74 and c. Faust. 5.5.


For instance Lim, ‘Unity and Diversity’, 240.


De mor. 2.19.68, trans. Teske, The Manichaean Debate, 99–100.


De mor. 2.19.72, discussed below.


De mor. 2.16.52 and c. Fort. 3, respectively. Lim takes the latter passage to imply that ‘[t]he activities of the elect were shrouded in mystery, or at least we are not told much about them. Even Augustine himself who had been a Manichaean for quite some time could plausibly disavow knowledge of their activities when it suited him to do so.’ Lim, ‘Unity and diversity’, 239. However, Augustine states explicitly that he attended prayer with the Elect and found them inconspicuous, and says only: ‘I cannot, however, know what you, the Elect, do among yourselves. For I have often heard from you that you receive the eucharist, but the time when you received it was kept hidden from me, so how could I have known what you receive?’ (c. Fort. 3, trans. Teske, The Manichaean Debate, 146). Augustine clearly could not deny knowledge of their meetings, or even of their location – and elsewhere he does claim knowledge of Elect communal meals, as exhibited by his ‘graphic’ description of Elect eating together with their novices in De mor. (2.16.52). Instead, he takes the opportunity slyly to allude to the rumours that the Elect ate cakes containing human semen when there were only other Elect present, which Fortunatus does not deign to answer. Per this passage, it seems that Auditors in the west were not present at the meal itself: this was also the case with Auditors in the east. As we have seen, they could, if they wished, attend the donation ceremony, involving prayers, readings, and preaching – a ceremony which Augustine implies that he did attend – although, as he claims that he did not know the time meals were served, the donation ceremony was probably not continuous with the meal ritual, in contrast to in the east. See BeDuhn, The Manichaean Body, 131–33.


Lysimachos occasionally took to the road, per P.Kellis VII Copt. 82; and perhaps even made it all the way to Kellis, which could be restored in P.Kellis V Copt. 30. ‘Our brother’ Ision certainly made this journey in P.Kellis VII Copt. 80. The ‘Father in Egypt’ mentions a trip he made in P.Kellis V Copt. 31 (l.34), and the Father who wrote P.Kellis V Copt. 32 travelled between his own location and Eirene (and both mention agents on the road, an ‘our brother’ in P.Kellis V Copt. 32 and a ‘my son’ P.Kellis V Copt. 31, who could, perhaps, be Elect). Saren the presbyter informed Horion that he was about to travel in P.Kellis VII Copt. 58. ‘Our brother’ Petros is depicted as on the road in every Petros letter in which he appears, travelling back and forth between the ‘mother’ and ‘son’, together with ‘our brother’ Timotheos in P.Kellis V Copt. 39. Ouales specifically requested a ‘blessed one’ to be entrusted with texts in order to carry them from Psais III to him in P.Kellis V Copt. 35.


As implicit in the Weberian concept of ‘wandering charismatics’ and widely assumed. For a criticism of Theissen’s and later scholarly use of this concept, however, see Jonathan A. Draper, ‘Weber, Theissen, and “Wandering Charismatics” in the Didache’, Journal of Early Christian Studies 6, no. 4 (1998).


P.Kellis VII Copt. 61 opens: ‘The Teacher, and the brothers who are with me: to all the presbyters, my children, my loved ones; Ploutogenios and Pebo and all the others’ (ll.1–4). The ‘fathers’ all use the first-person plural: P.Kellis V Copt. 31 (l.25), 32 (l.24); P.Kellis I Gr. 63 (l.38), and the authors of P.Kellis V Copt. 31 and P.Kellis I Gr. 63 refer explicitly to brethren who are with them. Only P.Kellis V Copt. 38, relating to Petros, does not feature a companions, but Petros is found travelling with ‘out brother’ Timotheos in P.Kellis V Copt. 39.


J. H. Harrop, ‘A Christian Letter of Commendation’, The Journal of Egyptian Archaeology 48 (1962); for the identification, see Gardner, Nobbs, and Choat, ‘P. Harr. 107’; Gardner, ‘Once More on Mani’s Epistles’, 307.


P.Oxy. 2603, ll.26–28, trans. J. H. Harrop, ‘A Christian Letter’.


Gardner, ‘Once More on Mani’s Epistles’, 307–8. Assisting the Elect is equal to helping Christ himself, since the Elect participate in liberating the divine.




A theological explanation for these numbers has now been found in a passage attributed to Mani in the Dublin Kephalaia. See Jason D. BeDuhn, ‘Parallels between Coptic and Iranian Kephalaia: Goundesh and the King of Touran’, in Mani at the Court of the Persian Kings, ed. Iain Gardner, Jason D. BeDuhn, and Paul Dilley (Leiden: Brill, 2015), 69–70.


See, in particular, the SGW (Hom. 30.6–15) and keph. 73 (1 Ke. 179.30–180.18).


It may be added that, in Iranian texts, presbyters are often described as a ‘treasurers’, although it is not clear in what sense this epithet is to be understood. Leurini, The Manichaean Church, 219.


John C. Reeves, ‘The “Elchasaite” Sanhedrin of the Cologne Mani Codex in Light of Second Temple Jewish Sectarian Sources’, Journal of Jewish Studies 42 (1991): 68–91.


A word corresponding literally to ‘presbyter’, mahistag, is also found applied to this office in the MP material, used more rarely but occurring for instance in the important Book of Prayer and Confession. See, in general, Alois van Tongerloo, ‘La structure de la communauté manichéenne dans le Turkestan chinois à la lumière des emprunts Moyen-Iraniens en Ouigour’, Central Asiatic Journal 26, no. 3 (1982): 273–85.


Probably a high official, rather than the head of the Church. A similar non-technical usage is found in the Central Asian material for MP sār. See e.g. Sundermann, ‘Liturgical Instruction’, 205.


For a synchronised view of these various offices, see Tardieu, Manichaeism, 57–102.


For ‘readers’, see Chapter 8, Section 3.1. Deacons are at times equated with bishops by scholars, based on the Iranian etymology; so Tardieu (ibid., 58) and Leurini, The Manichaean Church, 190–212. This receives some support from Coptic texts such as keph. 9, where Mani commands: ‘make obeisance to the teachers (ⲛ̄ⲥⲁ ϩ), and the deacons (ⲛ̄ϣⲙϣⲉⲧⲉ) and the presbyters (ⲙⲡⲣⲉⲥⲃⲩⲧⲉⲣⲟⲥ), they whom I have laid hands on’ (1 Ke. 42.2–8). Still, minor officials also seem to have borne this title. Augustine asserted that ‘the bishops also have deacons’. De haer. 46.16, trans. Roland J. Teske, Arianism and Other Heresies (New York: New City Press, 1995), 45. How (or whether) to reconcile these sources, and what Augustine’s assignation of deacons to bishops in particular signifies, cannot be treated here, but deserves further attention, especially in light of the several hierarchy lists found in the CMC and the Medinet Madi texts. As pointed out in Chapter 7, Section 2.3.2, the terminology likely developed somewhat over time.


De haer. 46.16, trans. Teske, Arianism, 45.


Decret ‘Le manichéisme présentait-il’, 12–13.


W. H. C. Frend (1953), cited in Lim, ‘Unity and Diversity’, 238.


Lim, ‘Unity and Diversity’, 241.


Ibid., 237–43.


See De mor. 2.19.68–69.


De mor. 2.19.70, trans. Teske, The Manichaean Debate, 100.


De mor. 2.19.74, trans. ibid., 102.


C. Fort. 37.


I do not think that Augustine, in describing Felix, uses doctor in the technical sense of great Teacher (Retract. 2.34.1), as is often assumed – e.g. Decret, L’Afrique manichéenne, 363; Giulia S. Gasparro, ‘The Disputation with Felix: Themes and Modalities of Augustine’s Polemic’, in In Search of Truth, ed. Jacob van den Berg, et al. (Leiden: Brill, 2011). Lim expresses doubt in this regard (‘Unity and diversity’, 237), to my mind justified. See also BeDuhn, Augustine’s Manichaean Dilemma I, 306 n.23. If Felix had indeed been a ‘great Teacher’, this point would presumably have been stressed both by Augustine, who claimed victory in the debate, and especially by his biographer Possidius, who claimed that Felix converted afterwards – as is stated in the conclusion of the preserved manuscript tradition, although Augustine does not mention it. In De haer. 46.16, the second level of the hierarchy is called magister, not doctor. The Manichaeans certainly had informal ‘teachers’ and preachers.


De mor. 2.19.72, trans. Teske, The Manichaean Debate, 101.


See Reeves, Prolegomena, 264–66.


See De mor. 2.19.68, 2.20.74. In the latter, a rumour of misconduct had travelled from Rome to North Africa.


For the relation of ‘fragrance’ to ‘excellent conduct’, see Chapter 5, Section 4, n.69.


P.Kellis VII, 33. Compare, perhaps, P.Kellis VII Copt. 84.


However, very tentatively, one could note inv. P93.103 (ll.18–19), in Gardner and Worp, ‘A Most Remarkable letter’.


Or ‘the Epistle’? See P.Kellis VII, 256.


For a discussion of the ‘ditch’, a local geographical marker, see ibid., 229.


The editors note: ‘It is noticeable that Olbinos writes this extra text only down the side of his own ‘letter’, as if anxious not to intrude on what Pebo has said.’ Ibid.


Ibid., 87.


An exception may be the occurrence of another ‘brother’ Psais in both letters. See further Chapter 8, Section 1, n.18.


BeDuhn writes: ‘One of the recently discovered letters from the Manichaean cell in Kellis refers to a conflict arising out of the conduct of a “deacon” as observed and faulted by the layperson Makarios. As a result, the deacon was “turned away” and complained to Makarios, “What do you have against me?” The latter remonstrance was made “during his practice”, either of fasting or receiving confession, and Makarios adds this to his faults, that he was angry during his religious observances.’ BeDuhn, ‘Domestic Setting’, 264–65.


M 2, M 216c, and M 4579. See Werner Sundermann, ‘Studien zur kirchengeschichtlichen Literatur der iranischen Manichäer III’, Altorientalische Forschungen 14, no. 1 (1987): 71–72.


Asmussen, Xuāstvānīft, 260–61 n.14. This was modified by Sundermann, who (like Vööbus) suggested that while a Buddhist background is plausible, it would have been acquired already by the time of Mani. Werner Sundermann, ‘Manichaeism Meets Buddhism: The Problem of Buddhist Influence on Manichaeism’, in Bauddhavidyasudgakarah. Studies in Honour of Heinz Bechert on the Occasion of his 65th Birthday, ed. Petra Kieffer-Pülz and Jens-U. Hartmann (Swisttal-Odendorf: Indica et Tibetica, 1997), 653.


The term is found in a passage from the Synaxeis Codex, published by Wolf-Peter Funk, although the Coptic text is not given. See Funk, ‘Mani’s Account’, 120.


But cf. Brand, ‘Manichaeans of Kellis’, 241–42.


Funk tentatively suggests a different interpretation: ‘Wie sich “die Kirchen und die Häuser” sachlich in die Aussage einfügen, ist nicht ganz klar, viell. (?) hat man zu verstehen: “in ihnen genützt werden, das heißt, in den Kirchen und den Häusern, (nämlich) die Kleider” usw.’ Funk, Kephalaia I (lf. 17/18), 277 n.8. However, it does not seem so strange in light of keph. 80.


A parable text, M 47 II/v/4–5, contains an injunction regarding almsgiving (ruwānagān) for the Auditors to build monasteries for the Church (dēn): ‘Das sind die Almosenspenden. Die Hörer entrichten sie an die Kirche <und> bauen Klöster’ (ruwānagān ast niyōšāgān ō dēn kunēnd mānistān dēsēnd), trans. Sundermann, Mittelpersische und parthische kosmogonische und Parabeltexte, quoted in Leurini, Manichaean Church, 272.


For this translation, see Lieu, ‘Precept and Practices’, 85.


See also Lyndon A. Arden-Wong, ‘Some Thoughts on Manichaean Architecture and its Applications in the Eastern Uighur Khaganate’, in Between Rome and China: History, Religions and Material Culture of the Silk Road, ed. Samuel N. C. Lieu and Gunnar Mikkelsen (Turnhout: Brepols, 2016), 181–254.


T II D. 171R.26–37; see BeDuhn, The Manichaean Body, 183–84.


Bo Utas, ‘Manistan and Xanaqah’, in Papers in Honour of Professor Mary Boyce, ed. A. D. H. Bivar, Acta Iranica (Leiden: Brill, 1985), 657. For the possible theological significance of this term as ‘dwelling of the Light-Mind’, see Sundermann, ‘Studien III’, 71–72.


The term is ornangusi, from ornan-, ‘to place or install oneself, to be placed or installed’, which Zieme translates Siedlungsorte. Peter Zieme, ‘Mānīstān, „Kloster“ und manichäische Kolophone’, in Zur lichten Heimat: Studien zu Manichäismus, Iranistik und Zentralasienkunde im Gedenken an Werner Sundermann., ed. Team Turfanforschung (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2017), 742).


Utas, ‘Manistan and Xanaqah’, 663. It appears for instance in the Parthian hymn-cycle, Huyidagmān, which employs both ārām and mānistān. See M 625bv l.6a, in Tsui Chi, ‘Mo Ni Chiao Hsia Pu Tsan “The Lower (Second?) Section of the Manichæan Hymns”’, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 11, no. 1 (1943): 218.


Perhaps spiritual sicknesses, such as isolation, as well as physical ones, such as that described by a doubting Elect in keph. 86. Paul Pelliot suggested that the notion of spiritual trouble and doubt as ‘sickness’ could go back to a specific Epistle of Mani no. 67 in al-Nadim’s list, entitled ‘The healthy and the sick’. Pelliot and Chavannes, ‘Un traité manichéen’, 134 (10) n.1; see Dodge, The Fihrist, II, 801.


See Zieme, ‘Mānīstān’, 749. See also the conclusion of Utas, ‘Manistan and Xanaqah’, 664.


M501p+R6. Sundermann, ‘A Manichaean Collection’, 272 n.94.


Takao Moriyasu, Die Geschichte des uigurischen Manichäismus an der Seidenstrasse, trans. Christian Steineck (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2004), 75–77; and see Arden-Wong, ‘Some Thoughts’, 186–87.


The term is found in 2 Ps. 173.22, as a metaphor for the soul, and a fragmented passage of the SNC (Hom. 65.25).


C. Faust. 5.5, see below.


De mor. 2.20.74, trans. Teske, The Manichaean Debate, 102.


C. Faust. 5.5, trans. Teske, Answer to Faustus, 88.


Decret, ‘Le manichéisme présentait-il’, 13.


Lim, ‘Unity and Diversity’, 243.


See Lieu, ‘Precept and Practices’, 86, 90–96. Very speculatively, one may compare P93.104 (ll.23–27) in Gardner and Worp, ‘A Most Remarkable Papyrus’.


De mor. 2.19.68, cited more fully above.


See Decret, ‘Le manichéisme présentait-il’, 15. This tension can perhaps be found in prescriptions similar to the one found in the Chinese Compendium (quoted above), which stated that the Elect were to ‘live in common’, but also that they were forbidden from having their own sleeping compartments.


As also argued by Decret, ibid., 16–20.


See Koenen, ‘Manichäische Klöster’, and, in particular, Stroumsa, ‘The Manichaean Challenge’.


P.Kellis V, 76.


See Brand, ‘Manichaeans of Kellis’, 243–46.


See furthermore Iain Gardner, ‘“He Has Gone to the Monastery …”’, in Studia Manichaica: Proceedings of the IVth International Conference of Manichaean Studies, Berlin 1997, ed. Roland E. Emmerick, Werner Sundermann, and Peter Zieme (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 2000).


Brand, ‘Manichaeans of Kellis’, 245.


P.Kellis V, 35. The difference in variant of the name is unlikely to be significant: see for instance the variants of Pekysis (ⲡⲁϭⲱϣ/ⲡⲉϭⲱ ϣ) or Pebos (ⲡⲉⲃⲟ/ⲡⲁⲃⲟ).


The only other instance of this name is on an undated and otherwise uninscribed ostrakon from Shrine 3 at the Main Temple, O.Kellis I 250.


Alternately, Pebok may have provided the wool himself, as did, perhaps, Saren in P.Kellis VII Copt. 58 (l.25).


M112 + M146a + M336c (l.16), in Werner Sundermann, ‘Ein Re-Edition zweier manichäisch- soghdischer Briefe’, in Iranian Languages and Texts from Iran and Turan: Ronald E. Emmerick Memorial Volume, ed. Maria Macuch, Mauro Maggi, and Werner Sundermann (Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag, 2007), 408.


KAB 320 (Τό π() Μανι), 975–976 (Πέτρος µονα χ() αντι Μανι); see also 1109, 1433.


P.Kellis IV, 81–82.


Mani in Greek was usually written Μάνης or Μανιχαὶος, not Μανι. It might be an abbreviation, e.g. Τό π(ος) (τῶν) Μαν ι(χαίων), as suggested by Pedersen, although it lacks an abbreviation marker. See Pedersen, ‘Manichaean Self-Designations’, 189; Choat, ‘Monastic Letters’, 57 n.228.


Their names may, furthermore, occur together in O.Kellis I 121 from the West Church, which lists Petros and Bok (presumably for Pebok) alongside Psais the ‘monk’. See Chapter 4, Section 6.2 n.66.


Choat, ‘Monastic Letters’, 57 n.228.


P.Kellis V Copt. 39 (ll.26–27), 40 (l.13). The editors prudently translate both as ‘old man’, but see P.Kellis V, 240.


See P.Kellis V, 244.


The term can also mean ‘(book) section’, see Crum 286a.


Reservations are expressed in Mirecki, Gardner, and Alcock, ‘Magical Spell’, 30–31; but see P.Kellis V, 223.


For the term, probably derived from ϫ ⲧⲟ, meaning ‘lying down’, see P.Kellis V, 240; and Crum 595b, 792a.


P.Kellis V, 257. To this we can add that there are firm prosopographical links between the letters of Psais III and the Petros circle: notably ‘father’ Pini and ‘our brother’ Hom, but also Lammon and Heni.


For ⲣ̄ⲡⲉⲓ, lit. ‘temple’ (sometimes used for ‘church’), see Crum 298b. At the end of the same letter, Makarios greets ‘all at Pouapo’ (ⲡⲟⲩⲁⲡⲟ, i.e., ‘the great sanctuary’), which the editors take to be a toponym. P.Kellis V, 181.


Ibid., 78.


P.Kellis V Copt. 12, P.Kellis I Gr. 12, and the KAB, respectively.


P.Kellis V Copt. (22?), 40, [41?], P.Kellis VII Copt. 120.


P.Kellis V Copt. 22, 35, 39, P.Kellis VII Copt. (111?), 120.


P.Kellis V Copt. 25, 39, 40, P.Kellis VII Copt. (111?), (120?).


P.Kellis V, 78.


BeDuhn, ‘Parallels’, 52.


1 Ke. 15.24–16.17, trans. Gardner and Lieu, Manichaean Texts, 2.


1 Ke. 371.15–20, trans. ibid., 266.


Asmussen, Manichaean Literature, 23–24.


A Mesopotamian dominance in the early Church was asserted by the appointment of Sisinnios of Kashkar (on the Tigris River) as the first archegos; see Michel Tardieu, ‘La nisba de Sisinnios’, Altorientalische Forschungen 18, no. 1 (1991). Mesopotamia long retained primacy. Al-Nadim describes a schism that occurred in the late sixth century between Mesopotamian leaders and Central Asian (dīnāwarīya) Manichaeans over the location of the archegos: according to established Manichaean tradition, as related by al-Nadim, the archegos had to be located in Mesopotamia (Dodge, The Fihrist, II, 792). A reconciliation was arranged in the seventh century, but a new division occurred shortly after. The practical role of the central leadership is unknown. It could not have asserted authority very effectively, probably having to rely on the prestige and ordinances (whether real or invented) of Mani. On the other hand, ruptures would hardly have taken place if there was no preexisting coordination between these groups. A Sogdian letter, published and dated to the ninth century by Sundermann (‘Ein Re-Edition’, 408), shows that the Mesopotamian and the Central Asian communities still considered each other part of the same ‘Church’ despite the schism, and still had contact (or renewed their contact) in that century.


M 2 in Asmussen, Manichaean Literature; T II D + T II K in Sundermann, Mitteliranische manichäische Texte, 34–36; and id., ‘Studien III’, 70. For an argument for extensive contact between the communities at the time of Mani, see François Decret, ‘Le manichéisme en Afrique du Nord et ses rapports avec la secte en Orient’, ARAM 16 (2004).


For the date of Sisinnios’ death, see Iain Gardner, ‘New Readings in the Coptic Manichaean Homilies Codex’, Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik 205 (2018): 124–26.


See Pedersen, ‘A Manichaean Historical Text’.


Some texts (such as the Thomas psalms) were composed in Mesopotamia, while for instance the Berlin Kephalaia has been taken as an organically growing tradition that may have been edited in Egypt itself. See Gardner, The Kephalaia, xxiii–xiv. However, the Dublin Kephalaia contains material that must have been composed by people familiar with Sasanian social and political conditions, thus likely located in Mesopotamia, and there is moreover little reason to assume that the two Kephalaia codices belong to different traditions, as earlier proposed by Tardieu (‘La diffusion’). See Gardner, ‘An Introduction’; Dilley, ‘Mani’s Wisdom’.


Gardner and Lieu, ‘From Narmouthis’, 152.


An exception might be the persecution of Christians by Shapur II in 379, which might have hit Manichaeans as well; see Lieu, Manichaeism in the Roman Empire, 81–83.


An alternative explanation could be that Syriac remained a sacred language in the Church, as proposed by e.g. Leurini, The Manichaean Church, 79–85; and the discussion in Pedersen and Larsen, Manichaean Texts in Syriac, 11–12. Yet this seems unlikely, in light of the great emphasis on translation into local languages expounded by Manichaean authorities, by the Syriac-Coptic word-lists from Kellis as well as the finds of Manichaean literature (including Mani’s Epistles) translated into Coptic there. More tentatively, one may note the lack of care in preserving Syriac texts at Kellis, as evinced for instance by P.Kellis VII Copt. 57: a letter written in Coptic on a wooden board that had previously been used for a longer Syriac text. See P.Kellis VII, 18.


It may be that the differences in terminology pointed out by Lindt (Mythological Figures, 221–22), rather than different routes (see Chapter 2, Section 1, n.7), could reflect different periods of translation.


Unfortunately, the title of the Medinet Madi work is, to my knowledge, not preserved, while the term used by Pekos in P.Kellis VII Copt. 120 (ⲛⲓⲡⲣⲁⲝⲉⲓⲥ) may not necessarily reflect the official title of that work.


P.Kellis V, 170. All the highest civilian governors of Egypt known for the period 345–370 (from Nestorius I to Fl. Eutolmius Tatianus) were native to Greek-speaking areas; excepting only Italicianus, governor for three months in 359 – whom Libanius still addresses in Greek (Ep. 238) – and Gerontius 2, governor in 361/2, who was a native of Armenia, not the Latin-speaking west. See A. H. M. Jones, J. R. Martindale, and J. Morris, The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971), 1094–95, and their individual entries. Presumably, their staffs were also Greek-speakers.


A ‘house of Aristakenia’ associated with Assiut/Lycopolis is mentioned by Makarios in P.Kellis V Copt. 19, but she is not explicitly invoked as a religious affiliate (although see, perhaps, P.Kellis V Copt. 17).


Settlements such as Qana (Oman), Sumhuram/Khor Rori (Yemen), and sites on Socotra were important hubs that linked Egypt and the regions of the Persian Gulf into late antiquity. Eivind Seland, ‘Archaeology of Trade in the Western Indian Ocean, 300 BC to 700 AD’, Journal of Archaeological Research 22 (2014), 367–402.


See, for instance, De mor. 2.20.75.


When still a Manichaean, Augustine came to admire a Syrian-born rhetorician named Hierius, who had taught himself Latin and whose works circulated among Augustine’s friends (Conf. 4.14.21). This Hierius may well have been a Manichaean, based on his reputation in the circles that Augustine frequented as well as on the nature of the work that Augustine dedicated to him, as suggested by Brown, ‘Diffusion of Manichaeism’, 97.


See Horden and Purcell, The Corrupting Sea, esp. Ch. 5.


See, in particular, Granovetter, ‘Weak Ties Revisited’, 215–16.

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