The Manichaean Church in Kellis

Social Networks and Religious Identity in Late Antique Egypt


The Manichaean Church in Kellis presents an in-depth study of social organisation within the religious movement known as Manichaeism in Roman Egypt. In particular, it employs papyri from Kellis (Ismant el-Kharab), a village in the Dakhleh Oasis, to explore the socio-religious world of lay Manichaeans in the fourth century CE.
Manichaeism has often been perceived as an elitist, esoteric religion. Challenging this view, Teigen draws on social network theory and cultural sociology, and engages with the study of lived ancient religion, in order to apprehend how laypeople in Kellis appropriated Manichaean identity and practice in their everyday lives. This perspective, he argues, not only provides a better understanding of Manichaeism: it also has wider implications for how we understand late antique ‘religion’ as a social phenomenon
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Håkon Fiane Teigen, Ph.D. (2018), University of Bergen, is a historian of religion working within the fields of Manichaean studies and late antique religion.
List of Tables, Figures, and Network Charts
Abbreviations for Frequently Cited Sources
A Note on Citations and Translations

1 Introduction: Mani’s Church and Social Life
 1 Mani’s Church
 2 The Sources
 3 Manichaean Social Organisation
 4 Theoretical Framework

Part 1: The Social World of Fourth-Century Kellis

2 Life in Kellis: Society and Religion in an Oasis Town
 1 On the Road to the Oasis
 2 The Dakhleh Oasis
 3 The Village of Kellis
 4 Oasis Society and Religious Movements

3 The Pamour Family: Familial and Economic Networks
 1 The Circles of House 3
 2 The Pamour Family
 3 The Family Business
 4 Conclusions

4 Village Networks: The Small World of Fourth-Century Kellis
 1 Meet the Neighbours
 2 Oasis Notables
 3 The Village Elite
 4 Villagers in the Valley
 5 A Trade Association?
 6 The Village Network

Part 2: A Manichaean Church: The Light Mind at Kellis

5 Manichaean Cues: Religious Identity in Everyday Life
 1 Religious Identity and Lived Religion
 2 Signalling Identity: Religious Cues in Papyrus Letters
 3 Religious Cues in the Circles of House 3
 4 Manichaean Cues
 5 The Light Mind at Kellis
 6 Conclusions

6 Manichaean Networks: The Social Networks of the Laity at Kellis
 1 The Social Composition of Manichaeism
 2 Manichaean Social Networks
 3 Counting Manichaeans
 4 ‘Open’ or ‘Bounded’ Network?
 5 Networks, Dissemination, and Tensions

7 Manichaean Books: Textual Practices, Community, and the Literary Texts
 1 A Manichaean World
 2 Manichaean Literature
 3 Textual Practices
 4 Textual Community, Manichaean Identity

8 Manichaean Rituals: Elect and Laity at Kellis
 1 Identifying Elect
 2 Auditor Almsgiving
 3 Elect Services
 4 Conclusions

9 The Manichaean Church: Elect Organisation
 1 Itinerancy and Group-Making
 2 Hierarchy and Supervision
 3 Communal Spaces – ‘Monasteries’?
 4 A Networked Manichaean Church
 5 Conclusions

10 Conclusion: A Church in the World
 1 Manichaean Identity
 2 The Elite-Lay Dichotomy
 3 Reordering ‘Religion’
 4 The Fate of the Church


All interested in the history of Manichaeism, in late antique religion and religious change in the Roman Empire, the application of sociological theory to papyri, and the archaeology of Kellis.
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