Valentinianism was one of the major Gnostic Christian movements. Founded by Valentinus in the second century AD, its influence spread widely, not just within Rome, but from Northwest Africa to Egypt through to Asia Minor and Syria in the east. In the movement's history it broke into an Eastern and a Western school. Disciples of Valentinus continued to be active into the 4th century AD, after the Roman Empire was declared to be Christian. Valentinus and the Gnostic movement that bore his name were considered threats to proto-orthodox Christianity by church leaders and scholars, not only because of their influence, but because of their doctrine and beliefs. Gnostics were condemned as heretics, prominent Church fathers such as Irenaeus of Lyons and Hippolytus of Rome wrote against Gnosticism. Most evidence for the Valentinian theory comes from its critics and detractors, most notably Irenaeus, since he was concerned with refuting Valentinianism. Valentinus was born in 100 AD and died in Alexandria circa 180 AD.
According to Christian scholar Epiphanius of Salamis, he was born in Egypt and schooled in Alexandria. Clement of Alexandria, another Christian scholar and teacher, reports that Valentinus was taught by Theudas, a disciple of the apostle Paul, he was reputed to be an eloquent man who possessed a great deal of charisma and had an innate ability to attract people. He went to Rome some time between AD 136 and 140, in the time of Pope Hyginus, had risen to the peak of his teaching career between AD 150 and 155, during the time of Pius. Valentinus is said to have been a successful teacher, for some time in the mid-2nd century he was a prominent and well-respected member of the Catholic community in Rome. At one point during his career he had hoped to attain the office of bishop, it was after he was passed over for the position that he broke from the Catholic Church. Valentinus was said to have been a prolific writer. Most scholars believe that Valentinus wrote the Gospel of Truth, one of the Nag Hammadi texts.
Notable Valentinians included Heracleon, Florinus and Theodotus. The theology that Irenaeus attributed to Valentinus is complicated and difficult to follow. There is some skepticism among scholars that the system originated with him, many believe that the system Irenaeus was counteracting was the construct of Valentinians. According to Irenaeus, the Valentinians believed. At the centre of the Pleroma was the primal Father or Bythos, the beginning of all things who, after ages of silence and contemplation, projected thirty Aeons, heavenly archetypes representing fifteen syzygies or sexually complementary pairs. Among them was Sophia. Sophia's weakness and passion led to her fall from the Pleroma and the creation of the world and man, both of which are flawed. Valentinians identified the God of the Old Testament as the Demiurge, the imperfect creator of the material world. Man, the highest being in this material world, participates in both the spiritual and the material nature; the work of redemption consists in freeing the former from the latter.
One needed to recognize the Father, the depth of all being, as the true source of divine power in order to achieve gnosis. The Valentinians believed that the attainment of this knowledge by the human individual had positive consequences within the universal order and contributed to restoring that order, that gnosis, not faith, was the key to salvation. Clement wrote that the Valentinians regarded Catholic Christians “as simple people to whom they attributed faith, while they think that gnosis is in themselves. Through the excellent seed, to be found in them, they are by nature redeemed, their gnosis is as far removed from faith as the spiritual from the physical”; the superstructure of the celestial system, the celestial world of Aeons, is here developed in the most complicated way. These Aeons belong to the purely ideal, intelligible, or supersensible world. Together with the source from which they emanate they form the Pleroma; the transition from the immaterial to the material, from the noumenal to the sensible, is brought about by a flaw, or a passion, or a sin, in the female Aeon Sophia.
Epiphanius alleges that the Valentinians “set forth their thirty aeons in mythologic fashion, thinking that they conformed to the years of Jesus”. Of the eight celestial beings of the Ogdoad, four are peculiar to the Valentinian system; the third pair of Aeons and Zoe, occur only here, the place of this pair is not established, occur sometimes before and sometimes after the fourth pair of Aeons, the Anthropos and the Ekklesia. We cannot be far wrong in suspecting that Valentinus was influenced by the prologue of the fourth Gospel. In Valentinianism, Sophia always stands at the center of the system, in some sense she seems to represent the supreme female principle. Sophia is the youngest of the Aeons. Observing the multitude of Aeons and the power of begetting them, she hurries back into the depth of the Father, seeks to emulate him by producing offspring without conjugal intercourse, but only projects an abortion, a formless substance. Upon this she is cast out into the primal sub-stratum of matter.
In the Valentinian systems, the fall of Sophia appears in double guise. The higher Sophia still remains with
The Abrahamic religions referred to collectively as Abrahamism, are a group of Semitic-originated religious communities of faith that claim descent from the Judaism of the ancient Israelites and the worship of the God of Abraham. The Abrahamic religions are monotheistic, with the term deriving from the patriarch Abraham. Abrahamic religion spread globally through Christianity being adopted by the Roman Empire in the 4th century and Islam by the Islamic Empires from the 7th century. Today the Abrahamic religions are one of the major divisions in comparative religion; the major Abrahamic religions in chronological order of founding are Judaism in the 7th century BCE, Christianity in the 1st century CE, Islam in the 7th century CE. Christianity and Judaism are the Abrahamic religions with the greatest numbers of adherents. Abrahamic religions with fewer adherents include the faiths descended from Yazdânism, the Druze faith, Bábism, the Bahá'í Faith, Rastafari; as of 2005, estimates classified 54% of the world's population as adherents of an Abrahamic religion, about 32% as adherents of other religions, 16% as adherents of no organized religion.
Christianity claims 33% of the world's population, Islam has 21%, Judaism has 0.2% and the Bahá'í Faith represents around 0.1%. It was suggested by Louis Massignon that the phrase "Abrahamic religion" means that all these religions come from one spiritual source. Paul the Apostle referred to Abraham as the "father of us all". There is a Quranic term, millat Ibrahim,'religion of Ibrahim', indicating that Islam sees itself as standing in a tradition of religious practice from Abraham. Jewish tradition claims that the Jews are descended from Abraham, adherents of Judaism derive their spiritual identity from Abraham as the first of the three "fathers" or biblical Patriarchs: Abraham and Jacob. All the major Abrahamic religions claim a direct lineage to Abraham, although in Christianity this is understood in spiritual terms: Abraham is recorded in the Torah as the ancestor of the Israelites through his son Isaac, born to Sarah through a promise made in Genesis. Most Christians affirm the ancestral origin of the Jews in Abraham, but, as gentiles, they consider themselves as grafted into the family tree under the New Covenant: see significance of Abraham for Christians for details.
It is the Islamic tradition. Jewish tradition equates the descendants of Ishmael, with Arabs, while the descendants of Isaac by Jacob, later known as Israel, are the Israelites. Adam Dodds argues that the term "Abrahamic faiths", while helpful, can be considered misleading, as it conveys an unspecified historical and theological commonality, problematic on closer examination. While there is commonality among the religions, in large measure their shared ancestry is peripheral to their respective foundational beliefs and thus conceals crucial differences. For example, the common Christian beliefs of Incarnation and the resurrection of Jesus are not accepted by Judaism or Islam. There are key beliefs in both Islam and Judaism that are not shared by most of Christianity, key beliefs of Islam and the Bahá'í Faith not shared by Judaism; the appropriateness of grouping Judaism and Islam by the terms "Abrahamic religions" or "Abrahamic traditions" has been challenged. In 2012, Alan L. Berger, Professor of Judaic Studies at Florida Atlantic University, in his Preface to Trialogue and Terror: Judaism and Islam after 9/11 wrote that there are "commonalities", but "there are essential differences between the Abrahamic traditions" both "historical and theological".
Although "Judaism birthed both Christianity and Islam", the "three monotheistic faiths went their separate ways". The three faiths "understand the role of Abraham" in "differing ways", the relationships between Judaism and Christianity and between Judaism and Islam are "uneven"; the three traditions are "demographically unbalanced and ideologically diverse". In 2012, Aaron W. Hughes published a book about the category Abrahamic religions as an example of "abuses of history." He said that only the category "Abrahamic religions" has come into use and that it is a "vague referent." It is "largely a theological neologism" and "imprecise" term. Combining the Jewish and Muslim religions into this one category might serve the purpose of encouraging "interfaith trialogue", but it is not true to the "historical record". Abrahamic religions is "an ahistorical category". There are "certain family resemblances" among these three religions, but the "amorphous" term Abrahamic religions prevents an understanding of the "complex nature" of the interactions among them.
Furthermore, the three religions do not share the same story of Abraham. For these and other reasons, Hughes argued that the term should not be used, at least in academic circles. One of Judaism's primary texts is the Tanakh, an account of the Israelites' relationship with God from their earliest history until the building of the Second Temple. Abraham is hailed as the father of the Jewish people. One of his great-grandsons was Judah, from whom the religion gets its name; the Israelites were a number of tribes who lived in the Ki
In religion and theology, revelation is the revealing or disclosing of some form of truth or knowledge through communication with a deity or other supernatural entity or entities. Some religions have religious texts which they view as divinely or supernaturally revealed or inspired. For instance, Orthodox Jews and Muslims believe that the Torah was received from Yahweh on biblical Mount Sinai. Most Christians believe that both the New Testament were inspired by God. Muslims believe. In Hinduism, some Vedas are considered apauruṣeya, "not human compositions", are supposed to have been directly revealed, thus are called śruti, "what is heard"; the 15,000 handwritten pages produced by the mystic Maria Valtorta were represented as direct dictations from Jesus, while she attributed The Book of Azariah to her guardian angel. Aleister Crowley stated that The Book of the Law had been revealed to him through a higher being that called itself Aiwass. A revelation communicated by a supernatural entity reported as being present during the event is called a vision.
Direct conversations between the recipient and the supernatural entity, or physical marks such as stigmata, have been reported. In rare cases, such as that of Saint Juan Diego, physical artifacts accompany the revelation; the Roman Catholic concept of interior locution includes just an inner voice heard by the recipient. In the Abrahamic religions, the term is used to refer to the process by which God reveals knowledge of himself, his will, his divine providence to the world of human beings. In secondary usage, revelation refers to the resulting human knowledge about God and other divine things. Revelation from a supernatural source plays a less important role in some other religious traditions such as Buddhism and Taoism. Inspiration – such as that bestowed by God on the author of a sacred book – involves a special illumination of the mind, in virtue of which the recipient conceives such thoughts as God desires him to commit to writing, does not involve supernatural communication. With the Age of Enlightenment in Europe, beginning about the mid-17th century, the development of rationalism and atheism, the concept of supernatural revelation itself faced skepticism.
In The Age of Reason, Thomas Paine develops the theology of deism, rejecting the possibility of miracles and arguing that a revelation can be considered valid only for the original recipient, with all else being hearsay. Thomas Aquinas believed in two types of individual revelation from God, general revelation and special revelation. In general revelation, God reveals himself through his creation, such that at least some truths about God can be learned by the empirical study of nature, cosmology, etc. to an individual. Special revelation is the knowledge of God and spiritual matters which can be discovered through supernatural means, such as scripture or miracles, by individuals. Direct revelation refers to communication from God to someone in particular. Though one may deduce the existence of God and some of God's attributes through general revelation, certain specifics may be known only through special revelation. Aquinas believed; the major theological components of Christianity, such as the Trinity and the Incarnation, are revealed in the teachings of the church and the scriptures and may not otherwise be deduced.
Special revelation and natural revelation are complementary rather than contradictory in nature. "Continuous revelation" is a term for the theological position that God continues to reveal divine principles or commandments to humanity. In the 20th century, religious existentialists proposed that revelation held no content in and of itself but rather that God inspired people with his presence by coming into contact with them. Revelation is a human response; some religious groups believe a deity has been revealed or spoken to a large group of people or have legends to a similar effect. In the Book of Deuteronomy, Yahweh is said to have been revealed upon giving the Ten Commandments to the Israelites at Mount Sinai. In Christianity, the Book of Acts describes the Day of Pentecost wherein a large group of the followers of Jesus experienced mass revelation; the Lakota people believe Ptesáŋwiŋ spoke directly to the people in the establishment of Lakota religious traditions. Some versions of an Aztec legend tell of Huitzilopochtli speaking directly to the Aztec people upon their arrival at Anåhuac.
Some emperors, cult leaders, other figures have been deified and treated as though their words are themselves revelations. Some people hold that God can communicate with man in a way that gives direct, propositional content: This is termed verbal revelation. Orthodox Judaism and some forms of Christianity hold that the first five books of Moses were dictated by God in such a fashion. One school of thought holds that revelation is non-verbal and non-literal, yet it may have propositional content. People were divinely inspired by God with a message, but not in a verbal-like fashion. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel has written, "To convey what the prophets experienced, the Bible could either use terms of descriptions or terms of indication. Any description of the act of revelation in empirical categories would have produced a caricature; that is.
Christology "the understanding of Christ," is the study of the nature and work of Jesus Christ. It studies Jesus Christ's humanity and divinity, the relation between these two aspects; the earliest Christian writings gave several titles to Jesus, such as Son of Man, Son of God and Kyrios, which were all derived from the Hebrew scriptures. These terms centered around two themes, namely "Jesus as a preexistent figure who becomes human and returns to God," and "Jesus as a creature elected and'adopted' by God."From the second to the fifth century, the relation of the human and divine nature of Christ was a major focus of debates in the early church and at the first seven ecumenical councils. The Council of Chalcedon in 451 issued a formulation of the hypostatic union of the two natures of Christ, one human and one divine, "united with neither confusion nor division". Most of the major branches of Western Christianity and Eastern Orthodoxy subscribe to this formulation, while many branches of Oriental Orthodox Churches reject it, subscribing to miaphysitism.
Christology "the understanding of Christ," is the study of the nature and work of Jesus Christ. It studies Jesus Christ's humanity and divinity, the relation between these two aspects. "Ontological Christology" analyzes the being of Jesus Christ. "Functional Christology" analyzes the works of Jesus Christ, while "soteriological Christology" analyzes the "salvific" standpoints of Christology. Several approaches can be distinguished within Christology; the term "Christology from above" or "high Christology" refers to approaches that include aspects of divinity, such as Lord and Son of God, the idea of the pre-existence of Christ as the Logos, as expressed in the prologue to the Gospel of John. These approaches interpret the works of Christ in terms of his divinity. According to Pannenberg, Christology from above "was far more common in the ancient Church, beginning with Ignatius of Antioch and the second century Apologists." The term "Christology from below" or "low Christology" refers to approaches that begin with the human aspects and the ministry of Jesus and move towards his divinity and the mystery of incarnation.
A basic Christological teaching is that the person of Jesus Christ is both divine. The human and divine natures of Jesus Christ form a duality, as they coexist within one person. There are no direct discussions in the New Testament regarding the dual nature of the Person of Christ as both divine and human, since the early days of Christianity, theologians have debated various approaches to the understanding of these natures, at times resulting in ecumenical councils, schisms. Historical christological doctrines which gained broader support are Monophysitism, Miaphysitism and Monarchianism. Influential Christologies which were broadly condemned as heretical are Docetism and Nestorianism. In Christian theology, atonement is the method by which human beings can be reconciled to God through Christ's sacrificial suffering and death. Atonement is the forgiving or pardoning of sin in general and original sin in particular through the suffering and resurrection of Jesus, enabling the reconciliation between God and his creation.
Due to the influence of Gustaf Aulèn's Christus Victor, the various theories or paradigma's of atonement are grouped as "classical paradigm," "objective paradigm," and the "subjective paradigm": Classical paradigm:Ransom theory of atonement, which teaches that the death of Christ was a ransom sacrifice said to have been paid to Satan or to death itself, in some views paid to God the Father, in satisfaction for the bondage and debt on the souls of humanity as a result of inherited sin. Gustaf Aulén reinterpreted the ransom thory, calling it the Christus Victor doctrine, arguing that Christ's death was not a payment to the Devil, but defeated the powers of evil, which had held humankind in their dominion.. Theosis is a "corollary" of the recapitualtion. Objective paradigm: Satisfaction theory of atonement, developed by Anselm of Canterbury, which teaches that Jesus Christ suffered crucifixion as a substitute for human sin, satisfying God's just wrath against humankind's transgression due to Christ's infinite merit.
Penal substitution called "forensic theory" and "vicarious punishment,", a development by the Reformers of Anselm's satisfaction theory. Instead of considering sin as an affront to God's honour, it sees sin as the breaking of God's moral law. Penal substitution sees sinful man as being subject to God's wrath, with the essence of Jesus' saving work being his substitution in the sinner's place, bearing the curse in the place of man. Moral government theory, "which views God as both the loving creator and moral Governor of the universe." Subjective paradigm: Moral influence theory of atonement, developed, or most notably propagated, by Abelard, who argued that "Jesus died as the demonstration of God's love," a demonstration which can change the hearts and minds of the sinners, turning back to God. Moral example theory, developed by Faustus Socinus in his work De Jesu Christo servatore, who rejected the idea of "vicarious satisfaction." According to
Ismāʿīlism is a branch of Shia Islam. The Ismāʿīlī get their name from their acceptance of Imam Isma'il ibn Jafar as the appointed spiritual successor to Ja'far al-Sadiq, wherein they differ from the Twelvers who accept Musa al-Kadhim, younger brother of Isma'il, as the true Imām. Ismailism rose at one point to become the largest branch of Shī‘ism, climaxing as a political power with the Fatimid Caliphate in the tenth through twelfth centuries. Ismailis believe in the oneness of God, as well as the closing of divine revelation with Muhammad, whom they see as "the final Prophet and Messenger of God to all humanity"; the Ismāʿīlī and the Twelvers both accept the same initial Imams. After the death of Muhammad ibn Isma'il in the 8th century CE, the teachings of Ismailism further transformed into the belief system as it is known today, with an explicit concentration on the deeper, esoteric meaning of the Islamic religion. With the eventual development of Twelverism into the more literalistic oriented Akhbari and Usuli schools of thought, Shi'i Islam developed into two separate directions: the metaphorical Ismaili group focusing on the mystical path and nature of God, with the "Imām of the Time" representing the manifestation of esoteric truth and intelligible reality, with the more literalistic Twelver group focusing on divine law and the deeds and sayings of Muhammad and the Twelve Imams who were guides and a light to God.
Ismaili thought is influenced by neoplatonism. Though there are several paths within Ismailism, the term in today's vernacular refers to the Nizaris, who recognize Aga Khan IV as the 49th hereditary Imam and are the largest Ismaili group. In recent centuries Ismāʿīlīs have been a Pakistani and Indian community, but Ismailis are found in Bangladesh, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, East Africa, Angola and South Africa, have in recent years emigrated to Europe, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, Trinidad and Tobago. There are a significant number of Ismāʿīlīs in Central Asia. Ismailism shares its beginnings with other early Shi‘i sects that emerged during the succession crisis that spread throughout the early Muslim community. From the beginning, the Shia asserted the right of Ali, cousin of Muhammad, to have both political and spiritual control over the community; this included his two sons, who were the grandsons of Muhammad through his daughter Fatimah. The conflict remained peaceful between the partisans of ‘Ali and those who asserted a semi-democratic system of electing caliphs, until the third of the Rashidun caliphs, Uthman was killed, ‘Alī, with popular support, ascended to the caliphate.
Soon after his ascendancy, the third of the Prophet's wives, claimed along with Uthman's tribe, the Ummayads, that Ali should take Qisas from the people responsible for Uthman's death. ‘Ali voted against it as he believed that situation at that time demanded a peaceful resolution of the matter. Both parties could rightfully defend their claims, but due to escalated misunderstandings, the Battle of the Camel was fought and Aisha was defeated but was respectfully escorted to Medina by Ali. Following this battle, the Umayyad governor of Syria staged a revolt under the same pretences. ‘Ali led his forces against Muawiya until the side of Muawiya held copies of the Quran against their spears and demanded that the issue be decided by Islam's holy book. ‘Ali accepted this, an arbitration was done which ended in his favor. A group among Ali's army believed that subjecting his legitimate authority to arbitration was tantamount to apostasy, abandoned his forces; this group was known as the Khawarij and ‘Ali wished to defeat their forces before they reached the cities where they would be able to blend in with the rest of the population.
While he was unable to do this, he nonetheless defeated their forces in subsequent battles. Regardless of these defeats, the Kharijites survived and became a violently problematic group in Islamic history. After plotting an assassination against ‘Ali and the arbitrator of their conflict, only ‘Ali was assassinated in 661 CE, the Imāmate passed on to his son Hasan and later his son Husayn, or according to the Nizari Ismāʿīlī, the Imamate passed temporarily to Hasan, an Entrusted Imam, afterwards to Husayn, the Permanent Imam; the Entrusted Imam is an Imam in the full sense except that the lineage of the Imamate must continue through the Permanent Imam. However, the political caliphate was soon taken over by Muawiya, the only leader in the empire at that time with an army large enough to seize control; some of Ali's early followers regarded him as "an absolute and divinely guided leader who could demand of them the same kind of loyalty that would have been expected for the Prophet." For example, one of Ali's supporters, devoted to the Prophet said to him: "our opinion is your opinion and we are in the palm of your right hand."
The early followers of ‘Ali seem to have taken his guidance as "right guidance" deriving from Divine support. In other words, ‘Ali's guidance was seen to be the expression of God's will and the Qur'anic message; this spiritual and absolute authority of ‘Ali was known as walayah and it was inherited by his successors, the Imams. In the first century after the Prophet, the term sunnah was not defined as "Sunnah of the Prophet" but was used in connection to Abu Bakr, ‘Umar and some Umayyad Caliphs; the idea of "Hadith" or traditions ascribed to the Prophet was not mainstream nor was Hadith criticism. The
Mandaeism or Mandaeanism is a gnostic religion with a dualistic cosmology. Its adherents, the Mandaeans, revere Adam, Seth, Noah, Shem and John the Baptist; the Mandaeans speak a dialect of Eastern Aramaic known as Mandaic. The name'Mandaean' is said to come from the Aramaic manda meaning "knowledge". Within the Middle East, but outside of their community, the Mandaeans are more known as the Ṣubba or Sabians; the term Ṣubba is derived from the Aramaic root related to baptism, the neo-Mandaic is Ṣabi. In Islam, the "Sabians" are described several times in the Qur'an as People of the Book, alongside Jews and Christians. Mandaeans are called "Christians of Saint John". According to most scholars, Mandaeaism originated sometime in the first three centuries AD, in either southwestern Mesopotamia or the Syro-Palestinian area. However, some scholars dates from pre-Christian times; the religion has been practised around the lower Karun and Tigris and the rivers that surround the Shatt-al-Arab waterway, part of southern Iraq and Khuzestan Province in Iran.
There are thought to be between 70,000 Mandaeans worldwide. Until the 2003 Iraq war all of them lived in Iraq. Many Mandaean Iraqis have since fled their country because of the turmoil created by the 2003 invasion of Iraq and subsequent occupation by U. S. armed forces, the related rise in sectarian violence by Muslim extremists. By 2007, the population of Mandaeans in Iraq had fallen to 5,000; the Mandaeans have remained intensely private. Reports of them and of their religion have come from outsiders: from Julius Heinrich Petermann, a scholar in Iranian studies, as well as from Nicolas Siouffi, a Syrian Christian, the French vice-consul in Mosul in 1887, British cultural anthropologist Lady E. S. Drower. There is an early if prejudiced account by the French traveller Jean-Baptiste Tavernier from the 1650s; the term Mandaeism comes from Classical Mandaic Mandaiia and appears in Neo-Mandaic as Mandeyānā. On the basis of cognates in other Aramaic dialects, Semiticists such as Mark Lidzbarski and Rudolf Macuch have translated the term manda, from which Mandaiia derives, as "knowledge".
This etymology suggests that the Mandaeans may well be the only sect surviving from Late Antiquity to identify themselves explicitly as Gnostics. Other scholars derive the term mandaiia from Mandā d-Heyyi or from the word mandi, the cultic hut in which many Mandaean ceremonies are performed; this last term is to be derived from Pahlavi m’nd mānd. According to the Mandaean text the Haran Gawaita, the recorded history of the Mandaeans began when a group called the Nasoreans, left Palestine and migrated to Mesopotamia in the 1st century AD; the reason given for this was their persecution by the community in Jerusalem in the course of which the city was destroyed as a punishment. The emigrants went first to Haran, the Median hills in Iran, before settling in the southern provinces of Mesopotamia. At the beginning of the Muslim conquest of Mesopotamia, the leader of the Mandaeans, Anush son of Danqa appeared before Muslim authorities showing them a copy of the Ginza Rabba, the Mandaean holy book, proclaiming the chief Mandaean prophet to be John the Baptist, mentioned in the Quran.
This identified Mandaeans with the Sabians who are mentioned in the Quran as being counted among the Ahl al-Kitāb. This provided Mandaeans a status as a legal minority religion within the Muslim Empire; the Mandaeans were henceforth associated with the Sabians and the Jewish Christian group the Elcesaites, on account of the location of all three in Mesopotamia in the early centuries AD, the similarities in their beliefs. The importance of baptism in the rituals of all three is marked. Like the Mandaeans, the Sabians were said to be gnostics and descended from Noah. Mandaeans continue to be identified with Sabians up to the present day, but the exact relationship between the three groups remains unclear. Around 1290, a learned Dominican Catholic from Tuscany, Ricoldo da Montecroce, or Ricoldo Pennini, was in Mesopotamia where he met the Mandaeans, he described them as follows: A strange and singular people, in terms of their rituals, lives in the desert near Baghdad. Many of them begged me insistently to go and visit them.
They are a simple people and they claim to possess a secret law of God, which they preserve in beautiful books. Their writing is a sort of middle way between Arabic, they detest Abraham because of circumcision and they venerate John the Baptist above all. They live only near a few rivers in the desert, they wash day and night so as not to be condemned by God… Mandaeans were called "Christians of Saint John" by members of the Discalced Carmelite mission in Basra during the 16th century, based upon their preliminary reports. Some Portuguese Jesuits had met some "Saint John Christians" around the Strait of Hormuz in 1559, when the Portuguese fleet fought with the Ottoman Turkish army in Bahrain; these M
Merkabah/Merkavah mysticism is a school of early Jewish mysticism, c. 100 BCE – 1000 CE, centered on visions such as those found in the Book of Ezekiel chapter 1, or in the heikhalot literature, concerning stories of ascents to the heavenly palaces and the Throne of God. The main corpus of the Merkavah literature was composed in the period 200–700 CE, although references to the Chariot tradition can be found in the literature of the Chassidei Ashkenaz in the Middle Ages. A major text in this tradition is the Maaseh Merkavah; the noun merkabah/merkavah "thing to ride in, cart" is derived from the consonantal root r-k-b with the general meaning "to ride". The word "chariot" is found 44 times in the Masoretic text of the Hebrew Bible – most of them referring to normal chariots on earth, although the concept of the Merkabah is associated with Ezekiel's vision, the word is not explicitly written in Ezekiel 1. However, when left untranslated, in English the Hebrew term merkabah/merkavah relates to the throne-chariot of God in prophetic visions.
It is most associated with the vision in Ezekiel chapter 1 of the four-wheeled vehicle driven by four hayyot, each of which has four wings and the four faces of a man, lion, ox, eagle. According to the verses in Ezekiel and its attendant commentaries, his vision consists of a chariot made of many heavenly beings driven by the "Likeness of a Man"; the base structure of the chariot is composed of four beings. These beings are called the "living creatures"; the bodies of the creatures are "like that of a human being", but each of them has four faces, corresponding to the four directions the chariot can go. The faces are that of a lion, an ox and an eagle. Since there are four angels and each has four faces, there are a total of sixteen faces; each of the hayyot angels has four wings. Two of these wings spread across the length of the chariot and connect with the wings of the angel on the other side; this creates a sort of ` box' of wings. With the remaining two wings, each angel covers its own body.
Below, but not attached to, the feet of the hayyot angels are other angels that are shaped like wheels. These wheel angels, which are described as "a wheel inside of a wheel", are called "ophanim" אופנים; these wheels are nearby and along its perimeter. The angel with the face of the man is always on the east side and looks up at the "Likeness of a Man" that drives the chariot; the "Likeness of a Man" sits on a throne made of sapphire. The Bible makes mention of a third type of angel found in the Merkabah called "seraphim" angels; these angels appear like flashes of fire continuously descending. These seraphim angels power the movement of the chariot. In the hierarchy of these angels, seraphim are the highest, that is, closest to God, followed by the hayyot, which are followed by the ophanim; the chariot is in a constant state of motion, the energy behind this movement runs according to this hierarchy. The movement of the ophanim is controlled by the "Living creatures", or Hayyot, while the movement of the hayyot is controlled by the seraphim.
The movement of all the angels of the chariot is controlled by the "Likeness of a Man" on the Throne. Mark Verman has distinguished four periods in early Jewish mysticism, developing from Isaiah's and Ezekiel's visions of the Throne/Chariot, to extant merkabah mysticism texts: 800–500 BCE, mystical elements in Prophetic Judaism such as Ezekiel's chariot Beginning c. 530s BCE 300–100 BCE, Apocalyptic literature mysticism Beginning c. 100 BCE 1–130s CE, early Rabbinic merkabah mysticism referred to in exoteric Rabbinic literature such as the Pardes ascent. 1–200 CE, continuing till c. 1000 CE, merkabah mystical ascent accounts in the esoteric Merkabah-Hekhalot literature The earliest Rabbinic merkabah commentaries were exegetical expositions of the prophetic visions of God in the heavens, the divine retinue of angels and heavenly creatures surrounding God. The earliest evidence suggests that merkabah homiletics did not give rise to ascent experiences – as one rabbinic sage states: "Many have expounded upon the merkabah without seeing it."One mention of the merkabah in the Talmud notes the importance of the passage: "A great issue—the account of the merkavah.
The sages Rabbi Yochanan Ben Zakkai and Rabbi Akiva were involved in merkabah exegesis. Rabbi Akiva and his contemporary Rabbi Ishmael ben Elisha are most the protagonists of merkabah ascent literature; the Talmudic interdictions concerning merkabah speculation are numerous and held. Discussions concerning the merkabah were limited to only the most worthy sages, admonitory legends are preserved about the dangers of overzealous speculation concerning the merkabah. For example, the secret doctrines might not be discussed in public: "Seek not out the things that are too hard for thee, neither search the things that are above thy strength, but what is commanded thee, think thereupon with reverence. It must be studied only by exemplary scholars: "Ma'aseh Bereshit must not be explained before two, nor Ma'aseh Merkabah before one, unless he be wise and understands it by himself." Further commentary notes tha