Saturday, December 10, 2011


Manichean Avoidance of Arboricide

The Cologne Mani Codex (P. Colon. inv. nr. 4780) "Concerning the Origin of His Body", tr. Ron Cameron and Arthur J. Dewey (Missoula: Scholars Press, 1979), p. 11 (translating 7.2-4):
"If you keep the [pain] away from us (trees), (4) you will [not perish] with the murderer."
Id., p. 13 (translating 10.1-11):
...[it] wasted away, [wailing] like human beings, (4) and, as it were, like children. Alas! Alas! The blood was streaming down from the place cut by the pruning hook which (8) he held in his hands. And they were crying out in a human voice on account of their blows.
Id., p. 79 (translating 98.8-99.8):
Again he (Mani) points out that a date-palm tree spoke with Aianos, the Baptist from Koche, (12) and commanded him to say to <its> lord: "Don't cut (me) down because (16) my fruit is stolen, but grant me this [year]. And in [the] course of this year I shall give you (20) [fruit] proportionate to what has been stolen, [and in all] the [other years hereafter]." (99.1) But [it] also commanded (him) to say to that man who was stealing its fruit: (4) "Do not come at this season to steal my fruit away. If you come, I shall hurl you down (8) from my height and you will die."
I'm too lazy to transcribe the Greek text, which appears on the even-numbered pages in Cameron and Dewey, facing the English translation on the odd-numbered pages.

Ludwig Koenen, "Augustine and Manichaeism in Light of the Cologne Mani Codex," Illinois Classical Studies 3 (1978) 154-195 (176-187 on "Jesus Patibilis and Crux Lucis"), explains the theological basis for Manichean reluctance to injure plants and trees (at 176):
Manichean myths describe how particles of the divine Light, Augustine's substantia vitalis, fell to the earth and were tied up and kept captive in plants and trees.
Albert Henrichs, "'Thou Shalt Not Kill a Tree': Greek, Manichaean and Indian Tales," Bulletin of the American Society of Papyrologists 16 (1979) 85-108 (at 97-103), attributes this belief to Indian influences.

In the Latin-speaking world, at least, Manicheans buttressed their belief by an idiosyncratic translation and interpretation of Paul, Galatians 3.13 (who quotes Deuteronomy 21.23):
Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree.

Χριστὸς ἡμᾶς ἐξηγόρασεν ἐκ τῆς κατάρας τοῦ νόμου γενόμενος ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν κατάρα, ὅτι γέγραπται, Ἐπικατάρατος πᾶς ὁ κρεμάμενος ἐπὶ ξύλου.
The Manicheans seem to have translated πᾶς ὁ κρεμάμενος ἐπὶ ξύλου not, as one might expect, as omnis suspensus ex ligno, but rather as omni suspensus ex ligno (preserved in Augustine, Against Faustus 20.2). As Koenen points out (p. 179), "By the omission of one letter in the Latin text, the sentence taken from Paul and Deuteronomy came to express the sufferings of Christ in every tree and plant."

If there were such a thing as a Manichean translation of Galatians 3.13 into English, it might read something like this: "Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is he that hangeth on every tree."

Augustine often poured scorn on his former co-religionists, the followers of Mani, for this belief, e.g. On the Way of Life of the Manicheans 17.55 (tr. Donald A. Gallagher and Idella J. Gallagher):
However, lest someday, when you come to realize how these passages contradict your teachings, you should decide to say the same thing about them, I shall keep to my original plan and ask you, first of all — you who are so full of promises of evidence and truth — what harm is done to a tree if you pull it up? I do not mean if you pluck some leaves or fruit from it, although one would undoubtedly be condemned by you as a corrupter of the symbol if he did this intentionally and not accidentally, but if you tore it up roots and all. For the soul which exists in a tree, and which you consider to be rational, is freed from bondage when the tree is cut down — a bondage in which it suffered much affliction, but all to no avail. It is well known that you and, in fact, the founder of your sect himself, used to threaten as a serious punishment, if not the worst, the turning of a man into a tree. But can the soul of a tree become wiser as does the soul of a man?
Cf. also Augustine, Confessions 3.10.18 (tr. Henry Chadwick):
Gradually and unconsciously I was led to the absurd trivialities of believing that a fig weeps when it is picked, and that the fig tree its mother sheds milky tears.


<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?