Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Nicholas Baker-Brian - 'Not Sacrament, but Sacrilege': Manichaean Women in Christian Heresiology

This paper will look at a central aspect of the theme of the proposed Workshop, ‘Women in Manichaeism’, by investigating references to female Manichaeans in Catholic heresiology with, inevitably, an especial focus on the anti-Manichaean writings of Augustine of Hippo. It intends to examine the central role which the polemical representation of female Manichaeans played in the wider Catholic defamation of Manichaeism, principally with regard to the way in which female affiliates of the religion were portrayed according to established literary models of indecency, sexualised passivity, and religious impurity - all aspects of Catholic invectio, the intention of which was to set up a false yet persuasive distinction between Manichaean immorality on the one hand, and the exemplary mores of Catholic Christianity on the other. This paper will argue that such accounts of nefarious Manichaean ritual practices as evidenced in heresiology offered, to quote David Frankfurter, ‘a case of smoke without the merest glint of fire’.  Nevertheless, issues relating to the formulation of gender distinctions within Manichaeism can arguably be glimpsed in the attempts of heresiologists to link the allegedly debased Manichaean rituals to the theogonic details of Mani’s myth, and this paper will attempt to unpick the strategies of Catholic invective with a view to refining Manichaean conceptions of the feminine and masculine in Manichaean theology. 

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