BR 17:04, Aug 2001
Mani and the Dead Sea Scrolls
Manichaean mythology not only draws on Genesis, but also borrows from extrabiblical Jewish texts, including a Second Temple era account known as the Book of Giants. The Book of Giants includes an expanded version of Genesis 6:14, in which the sons of God mate with the daughters of man. The Book of Giants is known from only two literary collections: the Dead Sea Scrolls and the Manichaean scriptures, where it was considered canonical.
How did Mani and his followers know about this ancient Jewish book? Is there a connection between Mani and the Essenes, the Jewish sect often credited with producing and preserving the Qumran library?
Bishop Epiphanius of Salamis, a fourth-century C.E. expert on Christian heresies, suggests an intriguing link.
According to Epiphanius, who was intimately familiar with the late antique Palestinian landscape, the Dead Sea area was home to a Jewish sect of Ossaeans, a designation that is strikingly reminiscent of Essenes. Epiphanius reports: During the reign of the Emperor Trajan [98117 C.E.], these Ossaeans were joined by one called Elksai, who was a false prophet. According to Epiphanius, the Ossaean sect is now called Sampsaean, but elsewhere he states that the Sampsaeans are now called Elkesaites.