Mandaeans represent a religious sect that views Jesus as a deceiver and a false messiah but reveres John the Baptist as a true prophet, the last and greatest of the prophets of God, who, according to their doctrine, performed miracles of healing through baptism, which the Mandaeans of the first century viewed as a magical process giving immortality, purification, and physical health. There is historical evidence that the sect of the Mandaeans predated the first century of Christianity. Mandaeism or Mandaeanism since that time has professed a form of Gnosticism.
Most communities of Mandaeans actively practicing their faith have been found in Iraq and Iran. They have been persecuted for their faith by Islamic governments sponsoring fundamentalist and extremist terrorism.
Rejection of Jesus
Many of the followers of John the Baptist in A.D. the first century, who revered him as a true prophet of God, rejected Jesus as the Messiah. Their descendants have continued to this day as members of the sect of the Mandaeans.
John 10:41 presents the opposing eyewitness testimony of many observers that "John did no miracle: but all things that John spake of this man were true!" John the Apostle, who with Andrew the Apostle was a devoted follower of John the Baptizer, and was an eyewitness to his ministry and heard him preach, answered those who had not accepted Jesus as the Christ, the Messiah, but revered John the Baptist as a true prophet of God, by emphasizing in his Gospel the testimony that John the Baptizer himself had given about Jesus. All four Gospels bear witness to John's testimony to Jesus as the Messiah, "who takes away the sin of the world."
Testimony of John the Baptist to Jesus
- I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
- Then cometh Jesus from Galilee to Jordan unto John, to be baptized of him. But John forbad him, saying, I have need to be baptized of thee, and comest thou to me?
- And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him.
- And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway our of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
- And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.
- And it came to pass in those days, that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee, and was baptized of John in Jordan. And straightway coming up out of the water, he saw the heavens opened, and the Spirit like a dove descending upon him: And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Luke 3:15-17, 21-22
- And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not; John answered, saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: Whose fan is in his hand, and he will thoroughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable.
- Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased.
- And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?
- And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.
- And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet?
- And he answered, No.
- Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?
- He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.
- And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizes thou then, if thour be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?
- John answered them, sayhing, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose.
- These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.
- The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. And John bare record, saying, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. and I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God.
- Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; And looking upon Jesus as he walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God! And the two disciple heard him speak, and they followed Jesus.
- And they came unto John, and said unto him Rabbi, he that was with thee beyond Jordan, to whom thou barest witness, behold, the same baptized, and all men come to him.
- John answered and said, A man can receive nothing, except it be given him from heaven. Ye yourselves bear me witness, that I said, I am not the Christ, tut that I am sent before him. He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom's voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease.
- And he said unto them, Unto what then were ye baptized. And they said, Unto John's baptism.
- Then said Paul, John verily baptized with the baptism of repentance, saying unto the people, that they should believe on him which should come after him, that is, on Christ Jesus.
- When they heard this, they were baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. And when Paul had laid his hands upon them, the Holy Ghost came on them; and they spake with tongues, and prophesied
John's doubts about Jesus
Mandaeans teach that John the Baptizer ceased to believe in Jesus as the promised Messiah. They reason that if John had really believed in Jesus he would not have had to ask if he was the one to come. They reject the New Testament scriptures as false teachings about Jesus, and point Christians to the evidence of John's doubts about him in the Gospels.
- Now when John had heard in the prison the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples, And said unto him, Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?
- And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another? When the men were come unto him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come? or look we for another?
In both these passages Jesus responds by pointing to the fact that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and to the poor the gospel of the kingdom of God is preached.
Like the Jews, Mandaeans see no signs, no evidence, that Jesus was the Messiah foretold by John.
Prophets revered by Mandaeans
Among the more important extant Mandaean writings are:
- Because they never received Jesus as the true Messiah and therefore had never been believers in Him, they cannot be classed as heretics or apostates. They are believers in the God of Israel, but like the Jews are unbelievers in Christ.
- "floor". The threshing floor, an open area of ground, usually a large hard surface of hard ground or rock for winnowing grain, to separate the chaff from the wheat. The Temple of Jerusalem was originally built by Solomon on the threshing floor of Araunah/Ornan the Jebusite, situated atop a large rock plateau near the Kidron Valley. 2 Samuel 24:18-25; 1 Chronicles 21:18-28; 1 Kings 5:1-5.
- This "clearing of the floor and burning of the chaff" (see Psalm 1:4-6) was fulfilled in part by the burning of Jerusalem and the Temple in A.D. 70. See Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews Book VI.
- Mark traditionally represents the Gospel that was preached by Saint Peter, according to the testimony of Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History Book III, 24.
- Luke traditionally represents the Gospel that was preached by Saint Paul, according to the testimony of Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History Book III, 24.
- In 1 Corinthians 14:22 Paul states that "tongues are for a sign, not to them that believe, but to them that believe not".
- Acts 19:1-2 testifies that these were disciples, but that they had not believed in the Holy Spirit, because they had not heard that there is a Holy Spirit. The tongues were a sign to the believers in John who were disciples who believed in Jesus—who had not believed in the Holy Spirit—a sign of the truth of the Gospel that Paul taught them about John's testimony to Jesus and the need for Christian baptism into Jesus.
- In Acts 10:45 they of the circumcision party of the Jews who believed in Jesus "were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost."
- The tongues were a sign to the circumcised believers in Jesus—who did not believe in the salvation of the Gentiles—by the giving of the Holy Spirit to Gentiles, a sign of the truth revealed to Peter that even the Gentiles were granted salvation: "When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life." Acts 11:18. Thus tongues were a sign, not to those who believed, but "to those who believed not" (that to the Gentiles God had granted repentance unto life).
- See Genesis 10:22-23; 22:21; Numbers 23:7; 1 Chronicles 1:17; 2:23; Matthew 1:3-4; Luke 3:33.
- Mandaeanism - Britannica Encyclopedia (britannica.com)
- Mandaeism - Wikipedia
- Mandaeans, by Kurt Rudolf (gnosis.org)
- The Israelite Origins of the Mandaean People, paper by Richard Thomas, December 2007 (scholarsarchive.byu.edu) pdf
- The Seven Divinities or Archons of Universal Cosmic Order, D. Catherine, 2017 (decipherblogsite.wordpress.com) Gnostic elements in Mandaeism regarding John the Baptist, Jesus, and Mary the mother of Jesus
- Common Objections to Jesus as Messiah, By Steve Cohen - The Apple of His Eye Mission Society (appleofhiseye.org)
- Who Will Prove To Be The Very 'Last Prophet' That God Sends??? (Acts 3:19-23), article by Donald C. Burney - YORWW Bible Institute & Religious Studies (yorww.com)