Did Mar Mani reject the Old or New Testament?

Manichaeans believe that Mar Mani only rejected rabbinical law where it was not in harmony with the plain teaching of the Law of Israel. He also rejected much of the rabbinical interpretation of the Law. He never rejected the purity of the Law of Moses or the Old Testament. He quoted from the Psalms and based some of his own psalms on those of the Old Testament. He also quoted Paul and was in fact fond of the Apostle and his teaching style. It is also believed by Manichaeans that Paul did not reject the Law.

Compare these two passages: “Send down the springtide of the great Law to fertilise the ground of my Soul and let the flowers and fruits of my Soul flourish! Teach me the way of Life, and I shall come to thee rejoicing…” (Gospel of the Prophet Mani, 53:4, translation by Duncan Greenlees)

“Teach me, Lord (Yahweh), the way of your decrees (Laws), that I may follow it to the end. Give me understanding, so that I may keep your Law and obey it with all my heart. Direct me in the path of your commands, for there I find delight.” (Psalm 119:33-35, New International Version)

The Biblical terms for law and instruction in Manichaean culture are one and the same. The Aramaic term “Aurayta” for us means Torah/Law, and to us this means “instruction.” In the Religion of Light the Law of Moses carries with it the law of love. Since they are both from divine origin (revelation), there is no distinction for us in that regard. Thus, in the above verse from the Gospel, Mar Mani is speaking of both. We can not separate the love of God and Christ from that of the Law of Moses. With that said, however, it does not mean that Manichaeans have been called to be under Israel’s covenant. We respect the Law. We use the entire Old and New Testament and view it as divinely revealed, but its Law is for Israel and all those who come to Israel (conversion).

In part of a lecture series in Beijing, China, Dr. Yar, a Manichaean educator, said:

“Some scholars have claimed that the Prophet Mani and Manichaeans have traditionally rejected the Old and New Testament, even claiming anti-Semitism as part of the religious belief system of Manichaeism. This is based on the interpretation of what little manuscripts academics have access to today and upon what previous scholars and religious authors have said. This is especially noticeable when scholars attempt to quote Augustine, who became an apostate of the Manichaean religion… when viewing the writings attributed to Mar Mani with an open mind, he was quite familiar with and used the Jewish and Christian scriptures.”

To say that Mar Mani rejected the Old and New Testaments is a misinterpretation on the part of scholars and those “armchair scholars” who perpetuate such false theories.

Manichaeans have their own Scriptures in which they consider “God’s Word,” but Manichaeans also have deep respect for Judeo-Christian sacred texts such as the Bible, and other sacred texts.

We often use the Old and New Testaments in our readings, contemplation and study, as well as applying the teachings within them in our own lives. We believe the original manuscripts contain the words of God, and faithful translations can be helpful in understanding His word.

Our scriptures contain portions of the Hebrew and Aramaic texts of both the Old and New Testaments, along with texts unique to the Manichaean faith.