Thursday, July 30, 2015

ANF VI: Archelaus Disputation with Manes

Ante-Nicene Fathers Volume VI

Archelaus: The Acts of the Disputation with the Heresiarch Manes

This lengthy work is a supposed record of a series of debates held in front of important public officials between the Pastor of Caschar in Mesopotamia and Manes, the founder of the Manichean sect. In the text, Manes and Archelaus travel around the region debating the role of the body in the salvation of the human being. Is the body inherently wicked, and so salvation has to do with shedding the body in favor of the "good" spirit, as Manes claimed? Or, as Christians claim, are both body and soul made good, but fallen and so in need of redemption? Clearly many points of core Christian doctrine are going to come in to play here, including creation, the fall, the Incarnation, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. Even the doctrine of the Holy Spirit becomes relevant, since Manes claimed to be the Paraclete in person.

Though I don't think anyone would claim that we should read this as an actual direct transcript of an ancient debates (that's a literary form common in the ancient world, rather than an exact copy kept by a scribe of a debate between two religious leaders--though such debates did happen), this is still useful for seeing how Christian doctrine had developed in the farthest part of the Middle East. Over all, it's worth reading through, but don't bother getting bogged down--just skim over at a good clip.

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