January 1, 2013
Did the Western Manichaeans call themselves 'Manichaean' and 'Christian'? A survey of the evidence, primarily Latin and Coptic, seems to show that the noun and adjective uses of 'Manichaean' were very rarely used and only in communication with non-Manichaeans. The use of 'Christian' is central in the Latin texts, which, however, is not written for internal use, but with a view to outsiders. The Coptic texts, on the other hand, are written for an internal audience; the word 'Christian' is only found twice and in fragmentary contexts, but it is suggested that some texts advocate a Christian self-understanding (Mani's Epistles, the Psalm-Book) whilst others (the Kephalaia) are striving to establish an independent identity. Hence, the Christian self-understanding may reflect both the earliest Manichaeism and its later Western form whilst the attempt to be independent may be a secondary development.