Translated from the Syriac text published in Theodore bar Konai, Liber Scholiorum (CSCO 55, 69; 2 vols.; ed. A[ddai] Scher; Paris: Carolus Poussielgue, 1910-12), 2:311.12-318.4. For textual notes, extended annotations, and discussion, see John C. Reeves, Jewish Lore in Manichaean Cosmogony: Studies in the Book of Giants Traditions (Cincinnati: Hebrew Union College Press, 1992), 185-206; idem, Heralds of That Good Realm: Syro-Mesopotamian Gnosis and Jewish Traditions (NHMS 41; Leiden: Brill, 1996), 67-109; idem, Prolegomena to a History of Islamicate Manichaeism (Sheffield and Oakville: Equinox, 2011), 29-30; 51-52; 146-52.
Many stories are related about this wicked one (i.e., Mani). Some have said that he was (originally) named Qūrqabyōs, and that he first learned the heresy of the ‘Pure Ones’ because they purchased him (as a slave). His hometown was named ’Abrūmya and his father was Paṭīq. But since the ‘Pure Ones’—those (also) called ‘the (wearers of) White Garment(s)’—were unable to endure him, they expelled him from among them, terming him a ‘vessel of evil’ (mānā de-bīštā), and it is from this (expression) that he is named ‘Mānī.’
There are others who say that he was manumitted (from the aforementioned sect) by the wife of (a certain) Budōs. Now this Budōs was the pupil of a man whose name was Sqūntyōs (Scythianus). He was one who accepted the teachings of the Egyptian philosophers, for he had gone thither (i.e., Egypt) in order to study with the sages who were in Egypt at that time. He became learned in Egyptian and Greek lore, and in the works of Pythagoras and <Empedocles>. He ventured to introduce the teachings of paganism into Christianity, and he furthermore taught that there are two principles, one Good and the other Evil, as also did <Empedocles> who gave to Evil the designation ‘conquest’ and to Good the designations ‘desire’ and ‘love.’
Scythianus had a student, Budōs, whom we mentioned above. This one (Budōs) was originally named Ṭerōbintōs (Terebinthus). Using the doctrines which he received from Scythianus, he authored four books: the first he called [Book of] Mysteries, the next Gospel, the third [Book of] Treasures, and the fourth [Book of] Kephalaia. After he composed these books, he went down to Babylon and led many astray. While celebrating certain secret magical rites, he was severely beaten by a spirit and (so) died. And that woman who lived with him <buried him>, for it was she that inherited everything that Budōs left. She acquired (from the aforementioned sect) a servant-boy who was about seven years old whose name was Qūrqabyōs, and after she freed him, she taught him letters, and he became learned in the books of Budōs. After his mistress died and he had come of age, he departed those places where Budōs had taught, changed his name, and called himself Mānī.
He declared that the four books of Budōs were his own (compositions), and claimed the teaching(s) (of Budōs) for himself. He was familiar with the art of healing, as well as that of magic, and although he reasoned about everything from a pagan point of view, he also sought to use the name of Christ (in his system), with the result that he was able to lead many astray. He taught that one should worship evil spirits as gods and adore the sun, moon, and stars, for he also cast destinies and horoscopes. He denied the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the God who was the giver of the Law. With regard to our Savior he said that it was only opinion that he (Jesus) was born and suffered, for in truth he was not a human being as he appeared to be. He said that human bodies derive from (the) Evil (principle), and he denied the resurrection. He taught about the world that part of it was from God and another part was from Matter, and he forbade the eating of that which was animate. All of the members of his group are wicked: they sacrifice human beings and impudently fornicate during (their) demonic mysteries. They are devoid of compassion and completely hopeless.
Shabūr the King flayed Mānī, stuffed his skin with straw, and fastened him before the gate of Bēth Lapaṭ, a city of the Elamites.
Regarding his abominable teaching:
It is however proper that we record in this book a little of the absurd blasphemy of the wicked Mānī in order to confound the Manichaeans. He (Mani) says that before heaven and earth and all that they contain came into being, there existed two entities: one Good and the other Evil. The Good entity dwelt in the Region of Light, and he terms him the Father of Greatness, and he says that there were dwelling (there) in addition to him (the Father) his five ‘shekinahs’: mind, knowledge, intellect, thought, (and) reflection. The Evil entity he terms the <King> of Darkness, and he says that he dwelt in the Land of Darkness with his five ‘aeons’: the aeon of smoke, the aeon of fire, the aeon of wind, the aeon of water, and the aeon of darkness. He says that when the <King> of Darkness contemplated ascending to the Region of Light, those five shekinahs (there) became agitated, and he says that at that time the Father of Greatness took thought and said: ‘I will not send from my worlds any of these five shekinahs to do battle because they were created by me for tranquility and peace. Instead, I myself will go and do battle.’
He says that the Father of Greatness evoked the Mother of Life, and the Mother of Life evoked the Primal Man, and Primal Man evoked his five sons, like a man who puts on armor for battle. He says that an angel whose name was Nḥšbṭ went out in front of him, holding in his hand a crown of victory, and he says that he spread (or shed) light before Primal Man. When the <King> of Darkness saw him, he (the King) took thought and said, ‘The thing that I desired which was distant, I have discovered nearby!’ Then Primal Man gave himself and his five sons as food to the five sons of Darkness, just as a man who has an enemy mixes deadly poison in a cake (and) gives (it) to him.
And he says that when they had eaten them, the reasoning power of the five luminous deities was removed, and they became like a man bitten by a rabid dog or a serpent due to the venom of the sons of Darkness. He says that Primal Man regained his rationality and prayed seven times to the Father of Greatness, and he (the Father) evoked the Second Evocation, the Beloved of the Lights. The Beloved of the Lights evoked the Great Ban, and the Great Ban evoked the Living Spirit. The Living Spirit evoked his five sons: the Ornament of Splendor from his mind, the Great King of Honor from his knowledge, the Adamos of Light from his intellect, the King of Glory from his thought, and the Porter from his reflection. They came to the Land of Darkness and found Primal Man and his five sons engulfed by Darkness. Then the Living Spirit cried out with his voice, and the voice of the Living Spirit was like a sharp sword, and it uncovered the form of Primal Man, and he said to him: ‘Greetings to you, O Excellent One among evil entities, O Luminous One in the midst of Darkness, O Divine One dwelling among wrathful beasts who have no knowledge of <his> glory!’ Then Primal Man answered him and said: ‘Come in peace, O bringer of the merchandise of tranquility and peace!’ And he said: ‘How do our Fathers, the sons of Light, fare in their city?’ The Caller answered him: ‘They are faring well!’ The Caller and the Respondent joined together and ascended to the Mother of Life and the Living Spirit. The Living Spirit clothed himself with the Caller, and the Mother of Life clothed herself with the Respondent, her beloved son, and they descended to the Land of Darkness where Primal Man and his sons were.
Then the Living Spirit commanded three of his sons, that each should kill and should skin the archons, the sons of Darkness, and bring (them) to the Mother of Life. The Mother of Life stretched out the heavens from their skins, and she made eleven heavens (sic!). They threw down their bodies to the Land of Darkness, and they made eight earths. And the five sons of the Living Spirit each completed their task—the Ornament of Splendor is the one who holds the five luminous deities by their loins, and below their loins the heavens were spread out, and the Porter is the one who bends upon one of his knees and supports the earths. After the heavens and earths were made, the Great King of Honor took a seat in the midst of the heavens and kept watch over the whole.
Then the Living Spirit revealed his forms (sic) to the sons of Darkness, and he strained out (some) light from the light that these had consumed from those five luminous deities, and made (from it) the sun and the moon, and from the light which remained (after making these) vessel(s) he made ‘wheels’ of wind, water, and fire. He descended (and) forged them near the Porter. The King of Glory evoked and raised over them a covering so that they (the sun and moon?) can ascend over those archons who are subjugated in the earths, so that they may serve the five luminous deities and not be harmed by the venom of the archons.
He says then the Mother of Life and Primal Man and the Living Spirit rose in prayer and beseeched the Father of Greatness. The Father of Greatness hearkened to them and evoked the Third Evocation, the Messenger. The Messenger evoked twelve virgins with their garments, crowns, and attributes—the first is majesty, the second wisdom, the third victory, the fourth persuasion, the fifth chastity, the sixth truth, the seventh faith, the eighth patience, the ninth uprightness, the tenth grace, the eleventh justice, and the twelfth light. When the Messenger came to those vessels (i.e., sun and moon), he appointed three servants to make the vessels move. He commanded the Great Ban to construct a new earth and three wheels for their (the vessels’) ascending. When the vessels moved and reached the midst of heaven, the Messenger then revealed his male and female forms and became visible to all the archons, the sons of Darkness, both male and female. At the appearance of the Messenger, who was attractive in his forms, all of the archons became excited with desire, the males for the female image and the females for the male image. Due to their lust, they began to eject the light which they had consumed from the five luminous deities. Then the sin that was in them devised a plan. It mixed itself with <the light> that came forth from the archons like a portion (of yeast) in bread-dough, and sought to enter within (the emitted light). Then the Messenger concealed his forms, and separated the light of the five luminous deities from the sin that was with them, and it (the sin) fell back upon the archons from whom it had issued, but they did not receive it back, just like a man who feels loathing for his own vomit. It (the sin) thereupon fell upon the earth, half of it upon moist ground and half of it upon dry. (The half which fell upon moist ground) became an odious beast in the likeness of the King of Darkness, and the Adamos of Light was sent against her (sic!) and he did battle with her and defeated her, and turned her over upon her back, and struck her <with a spear> in her heart, and thrust his shield over her mouth, and set one of his feet upon her thighs and the other upon her breast. That (half) which fell upon dry ground sprouted up into five trees.
He says that these daughters of Darkness were previously pregnant of their own nature, and when they beheld the attractive forms of the Messenger, their embryos aborted and fell to the earth. These ate the buds of the trees. Then the abortions took counsel together and recalled the form(s) of the Messenger that they had seen and said: ‘Where is the form(s) that we saw?’ And Ašaqlūn, son of the King of Darkness, said to the abortions: ‘Give me your sons and daughters, and I will make for you a form like the one you saw.’ They brought (them) and gave (them) to him. He ate the males, and the females he gave to <Namrāēl> his wife. Namrāēl and Ašaqlūn then united together, and she became pregnant from him and gave birth to a son, naming him Adam. She (again) became pregnant and bore a daughter, naming her Eve.
He (then) says that Jesus the Splendor approached the unsuspecting Adam and roused him from the sleep of death so that he might be delivered from the ‘Great Spirit.’ As (when) one who is righteous comes across a man possessed by a strong demon and calms him by his skill, so likewise it was with Adam when the Beloved One found him prostrate in deep sleep. He roused him, shook him, and woke him up. He chased the deceptive demon away from him, and bound the great (female) archon apart from him. Then Adam examined himself and recognized who he was, and (Jesus) showed him the Fathers on high, and (revealed to him) regarding his own self (i.e., Jesus’s) all that into which he (i.e., Jesus) had been cast—into the teeth of leopard(s) and the teeth of elephant(s), swallowed by voracious ones and absorbed by gulping ones, consumed by dogs, mixed and imprisoned in all that exists, and bound in the stench of Darkness. He (Mani) says that he (Jesus) raised him (Adam) up and made him taste of the Tree of Life. Then Adam saw and wept, and raised his voice loudly like a lion that roars and tears (prey). He cast (himself down), beat (his breast), and said: ‘Woe, woe to the one who formed my body, and to the one who bound my soul, and to the rebels who have enslaved me.’