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Journal of Early Christian Studies 11.2 (2003) 245-246

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Johannes van Oort, Otto Wermelinger, and Gregor Wurst, editors Augustine and Manichaeism in the Latin West: Proceedings of the Fribourg-Utrecht Symposium of the International Association of Manichaean Studies Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies 49 Leiden: Brill, 2001. Pp. x + 337.

This volume contains twenty-two papers, in German, French, and English, presented at a symposium held at Fribourg in 1998. The volume is remarkable for its focus on what shape Manichaean teachings assumed in the Latin speaking world, a shape that may be markedly different from that of Manichaeism as found in Mesopotamia and Iran and in Central Asia. Samuel Lieu provides an important discussion on the criteria used for the Dictionary of Manichaean Texts, of which the first volume, published by Brepols in 1999, is dedicated to texts from the Roman Empire in Syriac, Greek, Coptic, and Latin. Markus Stein previews his upcoming edition and translation of the Codex from Tebessa. Eugenia Smagina investigates the possible pre-Manichaean origin of the Cross of Light, and H. G. Schipper the Manichaean use of pre-Manichaean astrological systems. Two authors (Johannes van Oort and Giulia Sfameni-Gasparri) discuss the Letter of Secundinus the Manichee while Gregor Wurst looks at the genre of the Capitula of Faustus of Milevis. J├╝rgen Tubach-Mohsen Zakari suggests a fascinating transformation in the meaning of Mani's name from 'hidden vessel' in Aramaic to 'madman' in Greek.

In reconstructing the contours of Latin Manichaeism, Augustine as a Manichaean Hearer is an important witness, and so it is not surprising that many of the essays centre on the Bishop of Hippo. Kurt Rudolph provides an overview of the continuity [End Page 245] and change between Augustine the Manichaean Hearer and Augustine the Catholic. Kevin Coyle cautions us to ask what Augustine knew about Manichaeism and when he knew it. He suggests that Augustine would not have known much as a Manichaean Hearer but that some Manichaean books did come into his hands later on. There are essays on particular works of Augustine, viz. De mendacio and Contra Mendacium (Walter Beltz), De utilitate credendi (Isabelle Bochet), and De Genesi contra Manichaeos (Dorothea Weber)] as well as thematic studies which explore the continuity and differences in Augustine's thought. The latter include articles on the notions of understanding and belief (Andreas Hoffmann), on predestination (Aldo Magris), on Jesus as Savior (Julien Ries), and on creation versus emanation (Marie-Anne Vannier). Of course, no collection would be complete without a discussion of whether Julian of Eclanum was right that Augustine remained a Manichee (Mathijs Lamberigts).

From this rich feast I found most fascinating one theme that seemed to recur in several of the essays, the engagement that the Latin Manichees had with the Bible. Markus Stein suggests that they might have used the Old Latin version. Whatever the case, the Manichees took the Bible utterly seriously. Though they attacked Genesis for its version of the creation of the world, the Codex from Tebessa drew on the Gospel of Luke to argue for two levels of holiness, and Secundinus the Manichee made use of Paul, the Gospel of Matthew, and possibly the Diatessaron and the Gospel of Thomas. Particularly important in this connection is Hoffmann's insight that in the argumentation of Faustus of Milevis, passages from the New Testament must be read in the light of Mani's message to see if they are correct. Such use of an exterior hermeneutic principle resonates with the way Hebrew Scriptures were read by Christians. Thus, Manichaean readings of Christian Scriptures were part of the intellectual ferment in which Augustine developed.

This stimulating collection of essays should encourage further work on delineating the Christian face of Latin Manichaeism. It should be available in libraries with a solid interest in early Christian studies.


Robert Doran,
Amherst College