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"Over them was King Ardban." History, narrative, the Haran Gawaita and the origin of the Mandaeans

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posted on 2022-08-23, 05:09 authored by Michael Deegan

The primary question of the long argued origin of the Mandaeans and the credibility of the defective text Haran Gawaita (HG) as evidence for their Palestinian origin is addressed in the present thesis. However, despite over three centuries of debate, there exists no irrefutable external textual evidence of the existence of Mandaeans outside of their present locations in Iran and Iraq. While various factors such as lexical terminology and features of ritual have been argued to support a migration to the East, since its publication in 1953, the HG has been argued to present a 'historical' account of a journey to Media. While debate about Mandaean origin has shifted from East to West and back again, a Palestinian origin has been favoured since the mid-twentieth century, although there have been voices of dissent. Notwithstanding its central role, HG has only been translated once and the many textual and linguistic problems addressed in a cursory and random manner, and a historical migration account has been read into several lines of the text. Therefore, a close reading of the text is a central features of the present study. The present exegesis not only addresses the many textual ambiguities in the text, but presents a new translation, an identification of the underlying sources and genres, a narratological analysis, and a sociological understanding of the importance of origin narratives to communities such as the Mandaeans. The study concludes that a Mandaean migration from Palestine to the East is not clearly supported by the Haran Gawaita, and the identification of 'history' in the text has been arbitrary. Alternative hypotheses are suggested such an earlier settlement in the West by a community of proto-Mandaeans who then returned East in the early centuries of the Common Era.


Table of Contents

1 Introduction: Mandaean origins and the Haran Gawaita. -- 2 The Mandaerfrage and scholarly debate. -- 3 The growth of the Haran Gawaita -- 4 The Haran Gawaita as narrative -- 5 The Haran Gawaita: an exegetical commentary. Introduction -- 6 The Nasoraeans in media. -- 7 Msiha and Miriai -- 8 The birth, life, ministry and death of Yahya Yuhana -- 9 Retribution against the Jews -- 10 The Nasoraean communities in Babylonia and Khuzistan -- 11 Apostasy in the community -- 12 The Mandaeans in the Parthian, Sasanian and Early Muslim periods -- 13 The teachings and prophecies of Hibil Ziwa -- 14 The scribal input of Zakia Zihrun -- 15 Final conclusions -- Appendix A: the physical characteristics of DC36 and DC9 -- Appendix B: genetics and the origin of the Mandaeans -- Bibliography -- Plates


A dissertation submitted in fulfilment of the requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), Macquarie University, Department of Ancient History, 2020

Department, Centre or School

Department of Ancient History

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Gunner Mikkelsen


Copyright: The Author Copyright disclaimer:




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