Jewish Lore in Manichaean Cosmogony: Studies in the Book of Giants Traditions
(Monographs of the Hebrew Union College)
A Compelling Theory, May 9, 2000
In Jewish Lore…, Reeves posits an intriguing theory concerning the influence of Jewish mythological traditions (dating from the 2nd Temple Period and even earlier) and how those traditions influenced Mani as he constructed his "universal" religious tradition. The book is divided neatly into five main chapters, each building upon the earlier. In chapter one, Dr. Reeves traces the extant history of Manichaean texts in the ancient near east and even China and India. In Chapter two, Dr. Reeves provides a detailed discussion of the contents of various Qumran texts and texts from the Manichaean Book of Giants; here, the emphasis is to illustrate the similarity in content between the two. Chapter three is devoted to various quotations from an unknown Manichaean source by Severus of Antioch in the sixth century. In chapter four, Dr. Reeves gets to the crux of his argument: that the fundamentals of Manichaean cosmogony are directly linked to the Jewish renderings of Genesis 6:1-4 and how Mani may have been exposed to these applicable exegeses. In chapter five, Dr. Reeves summarizes and concludes his findings: that the beginnings of Manichaeism are greatly indebted to pre-existing Jewish lore. This is an excellent work for the reader who is already quite experienced in the academic field of religious studies. Exhaustive foot-noting and referencing make Dr. Reeves’ propositions all the more credible and supply the serious reader with extra potential readings. This is not a book, however, for the beginner religious studies student. Dr. Reeves uses large amounts of transliterated Hebrew, Aramaic, Chinese and Coptic text. He also utilizes numerous instances of inserted Greek, German and Arabic script. The use of these languages, of course, presupposes a knowledge of them. Less experienced students will have difficulty. This is the only reason a five-star rating is not warranted: because its readership is somewhat limited. However, the content of the work remains compelling. This would be an excellent text book for graduate level classes in religious studies or an intriguing read for religious studies professionals concentrating in the area of the ancient near east.