Manes

, Man!, or Manicileus, the founder of a remarkable sect of heretics, flourished towards the conclusion of the third century, and began about the year 267 to propagate his doctrines, which he had taken from the books of one Scythianus. Scythianus was an Arabian, educated upon the borders of Palestine, and extremely well skilled in all the learning of the Greeks. Afterwards he went to Alexandria, where he studied philosophy, and acquainted himself also with the learning of the Egyptians. Here he espoused the opinion of Empedocles, concerning two co-eternal principles, one good and the other bad; the former of which he called God and light, the latter matter and darkness; to which he joined many dogmas of the Pythagorean school. These he formed into a system, comprised in four books; one of which was called “Evangelium,” another “Capita,” a third “Mysteria,” and a | fourth “Thesauri.” After this he went to Jerusalem, ivhere he disputed with the Jews, and taught openly his opinions. Upon the death of Scythianus, his books and effects devolved by will to Terebinthus his disciple, who, however, soon quitted Palestine, and fled into Persia, where, to avoid the persecutions to which his doctrines exposed him, he took up his abode with a certain rich widow. Here he died, by a sudden and violent death, as it is commonly related. When, according to his usual way, he had ascended to the top of the house, in order to invoke the demons of the air, which custom the Manichees afterwards practised in their ceremonies, he was in a moment struck with a blow from heaven, which threw him headlong down and fractured his skull. St. Epiphanius says, that Scythianus had also met with the same fate before him. Here, however, it was that Manes became acquainted with the writings of Scythianus; for, having a handsome person and a ready wit, this widow, who had bought him, adopted him for her son, and took care to have him instructed by the magi in the discipline and philosophy of the Persians, in which he made so considerable a progress that he acquired the reputation of a very subtile and learned philosopher. When this lady died, the writings of Terebinthus, to whom she had been heir, or rather of Scythianus, from whom Terebinthus had received them, fell of course into the hands of Manes.

Manes now began to think of founding his system. He made what use he could of the writings of Scythianus; he selected from the heathen philosophy whatever was for his purpose, and he wrought it all up together with some institutes of Christianity; which made Socrates call his heresy a motley mixture of Christianity and Paganism. Although Manes wrote a great many pieces himself, we have nothing remaining, except a few fragments preserved in the writings of Epiphanius. Manes became famous all over Persia, engaged the attention of the court, and as he pretended to the gift of working miracles, he was called by king Sapor to cure his son, who was dangerously ill. This he undertook at the hazard of his life, and the undertaking in the end proved fatal to him. This bold impostor was no sooner called than he dismissed all the physicians who were about the young prince; and promised the king that he would recover him presently by the help of a few medicines, accompanied with his prayers: but the child | dying in his arms, the king, enraged to the last degree, caused him to be thrown into prison; whence by the force of bribes he made his escape, and fled into Mesopotamia. There he was taken again by persons sent in quest of him, and carried to Sapor, who caused him to be flead alive, and after that his body to be given to the dogs, and his skin to be stuffed with chaff, and hung before the city gates, where, Epiphanius tells us, it was remaining to his time. His death is supposed to have happened about the year 278.

Manicheism, as we have seen, is a. great deal older than Manes. The Gnostics, the Cordonians, the Marcionites, and several other sectaries, who introduced this doctrine into Christianity before Manes occasioned any contest about it, were by no means its inventors, but found it in the books of the heathen philosophers. In truth, the Manicheau doctrine was a system of philosophy rather than of religion. They made use of amulets, in imitation of the Basilidians; and are said to have made profession of astronomy and astrology. They denied that Jesus Christ, who was only God, assumed a true human body, and maintained it was only imaginary; and, therefore, they denied his incarnation, death, &c. They pretended that the law of Moses did not come from God, or the good principle, but from the evil one; and that for this reason it was abrogated. They rejected almost all the sacred books, in which Christians look for the sublime truths of their holy religion. They affirmed that the Old Testament was not the work of God, but of the prince of darkness, who was substituted by the Jews in the place of the true God. They abstained entirely from eating the flesh of any animal; following herein the doctrine of the ancient Pythagoreans: they also condemned marriage. The rest of their errors may be seen in St. Epiplianius and St. Augustin; which last, having been of their sect, may be presumed to have been thoroughly acquainted with them.

Though the Manichees professed to receive the books of the New Testament, yet, in effect, they only took so much of them as suited with their own opinions. They first formed to themselves a certain idea or scheme of Christianity, and to this adjusted the writings of the apostles; pretending that whatever was inconsistent with this, had been foisted into the New Testament by later writers, who were half Jews. On the other hand, they made fables and | apocryphal books pass for apostolical writings; and even are suspected to have forged several others, the better to maintain their errors. St. Epiphanius gives a catalogue of several pieces published by Manes, and adds extracts out of some of them. These are the Mysteries, Chapters, Gospel, and Treasury.

The rule of life and manners which Manes prescribed to his followers, was most extravagantly rigorous and severe. However, he divided his disciples into two classes; one of which comprehended the perfect Christians, under the name of the elect; and the other, the imperfect and feeble, under the title of auditors or hearers. The elect were obliged to a rigorous and entire abstinence from flesh, eggs, milk, fash, wine, all intoxicating drink, wedlock, and all amorous gratifications; and to live in a state of the severest penury, nourishing their emaciated bodies with bread, herbs, pulse, and melons, and depriving themselves of all the comforts that arise from the moderate indulgence of natural passions, and also from a variety of innocent and agreeable pursuits. The auditors were allowed to possess houses, lands, and wealth, to feed on flesh, to enter into the bonds of conjugal tenderness; but this liberty was granted them with many limitations, and under the strictest conditions of moderation and temperance. The general assembly of the Manieheans was headed by a president, who represented Jesus Christ. There was joined to him twelve rulers or masters, who were designed to represent the twelve apostles, and these were followed by seventytwo bishops, the images of the seventy-two disciples of our Lord. These bishops had presbyters or deacons under them, and all the members of these religious orders were chosen out of the class of the elect. Their worship was simple and plain; and consisted of prayers, reading the scriptures, and hearing public discourses, at which both the auditors and elect were allowed to be present. They also observed the Christian appointments of baptism of infants and the eucharist, communicating frequently in both kinds. They kept the Lord’s day, observing it as a fast and they likewise kept Easter and Pentecost. 1

1 Gen. Dict. Cave. D’Herbelot, Lardner. Mosheim.