Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers: Series I/Volume IV/Manichaean Controversy/Introductory Essay/The Relation of Manichaeism to Judaism
Chapter VII.—The Relation of Manichæism to Judaism.
So far as a relation existed it was one of the intensest hostility. Like the Gnostics in general, Manichæism looked upon the God of the Old Testament as an evil, or at least imperfect being. On this matter we do not learn so much from the Oriental as from the Western sources, but even from the former the radical antagonism is manifest.
The statement in the Fihrist’s narrative, that "Mani treated all the prophets disparagingly in his books, degraded them, accused them of lying, and maintained that devils had possessed them and that these spoke out of their mouths; nay, he goes so far as expressly to assert in some passages of his books that the prophets were themselves devils," is precisely in the line of the later Manichæan polemics against the Judaistic element in Christianity.
The Manichæan account of the creation shows some acquaintance with the Jewish Scriptures or with Jewish tradition, yet the complete perversion of the Biblical account is one of the clearest indications of hostility. It may be said in general that it is impossible to conceive of two systems of religion that have less in common, or more that is sharply antagonistic. One of the principal points of controversy between Manichæans and Christians was the defense of the Jewish Scriptures and religion by the latter. The Manichæan demanded the elimination from the current Christianity, and from the New Testament itself, of every vestige of Judaism. Their objections to the Old Testament Scriptures and religion were in general substantially the same as those made by other Gnostics, especially by the Marcionites. The Old Testament anthropomorphic representations seem to have been offensive to them, notwithstanding their own crude conceptions of the conflict between light and darkness, of the creation, etc. The relation of God to the conquest of Canaan is a point that those inclined to cavil have never failed to make the most of. The Old Testament encouragement of race propagation, the narratives of polygamy as practised by those that enjoyed the favor of the God of the Old Testament, the seeming approval of prevarication in several well-known cases, the institution of animal sacrifices, the allowing of the use of animal food, were among the standard objections that they raised against Judaism and against Christians who accepted the Old Testament. Judaism had, since the captivity, had many representatives in Mesopotamia, and Mani was doubtless brought up to abominate the Jews. Some of his extreme positions may have been primarily due to his radical anti-Judaistic tendencies. We shall see hereafter how Augustin met the Manichæan objections to the Old Testament.