Mandaean Book of John
Drāšā ḏ-Yaḥyā
LanguageMandaic language
Periodcompiled c. 7th century[1]

The Mandaean Book of John (Classical Mandaic: ࡃࡓࡀࡔࡀ ࡖࡉࡀࡄࡉࡀ, romanized: Drāšā ḏ-Yaḥyā) is a Mandaean holy book in Mandaic Aramaic which Mandaeans attribute to their prophet John the Baptist.[2]

The book contains accounts of John's life and miracles, as well as a number of polemical conversations with Jesus and tractates where Anush Uthra (Enosh) performs miracles in the style of Jesus's deeds in Jerusalem.[3] It was compiled around the 7th century A.D. shortly after the Muslim conquest of Persia from various texts, many of which were composed several centuries earlier. It was translated into English in its entirety for the first time by Gelbert (2017) and Häberl & McGrath (2020).[4]


A German translation, Das Johannesbuch der Mandäer, was published by Mark Lidzbarski in 1905. Another German translation of chapters 18–33 (the "Yahya–Yuhana" chapters) was published by Gabriele Mayer in 2021.[5]

Charles G. Häberl and James F. McGrath published a full English translation of the Mandaean Book of John in 2020, which was printed alongside Mandaic text typesetted by Ardwan Al-Sabti.[1] Another English translation was published by Carlos Gelbert in 2017.[6]


See also: List of Mandaic manuscripts

Archived manuscripts of the Mandaean Book of John known to Western scholars include:[7]

Several folia (pages) in two manuscripts held at the British Library contain parts of the Mandaean Book of John:[1]

Buckley has also analyzed three manuscripts that are privately held by Mandaeans in the United States, including:[1][7]

In Ahvaz, Iran, there is a copy of the Mandaean Book of John with Mandaic text inscribed on lead plates (see also Mandaic lead rolls). Originally belonging to Abdullah Khaffagi, it was seen by Jorunn Jacobsen Buckley in 1973.[8]

In 2004, Salah Choheili finished a copy of the Mandaean Book of John. The colophon has been translated into English by Gelbert (2017).[6]

In the early 1900s, E. S. Drower had also transcribed the "Soul Fisher" chapters (36–39) from Sheikh Negm bar Zihrun.[1]


The chapters of the text are arranged according to their content, as opposed to their date, and the book as a whole may reflect five stages of redaction, which means that different chapters may date to different periods of time. The present form of the Mandaean Book of John dates no earlier than the Islamic conquests.[4] Linguistically, the Islamic-era material can be found to date to the later stages of the composition and redaction of the Book of John.[9]

The name "John" appears in the text as Yohannā or Yahyā. The former is pre-Islamic, whereas Yahyā is the form of the name known in the Quran.[10] However, besides the name Yahyā, as well as ʿAbdullah and Muḥammad, no Arabic-language influence on the Book of John is detectable.[11]: 445–448  It is possible that the book capitalizes, at least in part, on John and his prophethood in order to secure their status as a "People of the Book" in the Islamic era.[11]: 13  More recently, the elevated importance of John the Baptist and polemics against Jesus found across the Mandaean Book of John have been contextualized into Islamic-era inter-religious conflicts.[12] Another element of post-conquest influence is the (typically negative) references to Arab conquerors, such as in lines 28–34 of chapter 54:

28 My chosen ones!
29 I shall tell you about Arabs, that their book was taken from the Torah.
30 From the Torah, their book was taken, but they do not inform within the Torah.
31 They practice circumcision, like Jews, yet they heap curses upon the Jews,
32 not knowing that they are Jews.
33 Spirit has confused them, and sowed dissention among them.
34 Each one blames his companion, and they do not know whom they worship.

Chapter 22 also speaks extensively about Muhammad. Nevertheless, some date these sections to later stages of redaction in the Book of John.[11]: 245, 408  The eleventh chapter (which also contains the latest stage of the language in the book) refers to the "end of the Age of Mars,” which corresponds to June 4, 678 in the Mandaean calendar and indicates that this chapter in particular should date to 678 or later. Chapters 18 and 27 refer to qombā d-kāhni, "Dome of the Priests," which may be a reference to a Muslim dome (qubba), in particular the Dome of the Rock constructed in 691, but also might refer to a Zoroastrian dome (gumbad).[11]: 364, 445–448 

Other clues exist to help date other chapters. For example, one argument holds that chapter 30 is likely post-4th century due the presence of loanwords like follis, crux, and other oblique references to Latin Christianity that better fit when it became the sole religion of the Roman Empire, as well as its criticism to institutionalized celibacy. However, it is also likely pre-Islamic given the absence of Arabic influence or references to Islamic material.[11]: 378  A more recent analysis has identified an Arabic loanword in chapter 30, rumaia ("Roman") from Arabic rūmī, pushing back the date of this chapter to the Islamic era.[12] Chapter 43 contains material about the Second Temple and its priests which only fit a first-century environment and so must stem from this era, although it is unclear how this material entered the Book of John.[11]: 399 


There are 76 chapters (or tractates) in the Mandaean Book of John. Chapter titles from Gelbert (2017) (based on the titles in Lidzbarski 1920) are given by default, with alternative titles from Häberl and McGrath (2020) given in square brackets. The contents are:[1][6]

Chapters 19–33 begin with the formula:

Yahya teaches in the nights,
and Yuhana [teaches] in the evenings of the night.[1]

In Mandaic:

Iahia dariš b-liluia
Iuhana b-ramšia ḏ-lilia[5]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Haberl, Charles; McGrath, James (2020). The Mandaean Book of John: critical edition, translation, and commentary. Berlin: De Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-048651-3. OCLC 1129155601.
  2. ^ Buckley, Jorunn Jacobsen (2002), The Mandaeans: ancient texts and modern people, Oxford University Press, p. 31, ISBN 978-0-19-515385-9
  3. ^ Buckley 2002, p. 8
  4. ^ a b Haberl, Charles; McGrath, James (2020). The Mandaean Book of John: critical edition, translation, and commentary. Berlin: De Gruyter. pp. 4–8. ISBN 978-3-11-048651-3. OCLC 1129155601.
  5. ^ a b Mayer, Gabriele (2021). Im Namen des Großen Lebens: Johannes der Täufer im Johannesbuch der Mandäer (in German). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz Verlag. ISBN 978-3-447-11599-5. OCLC 1263355310.
  6. ^ a b c Gelbert, Carlos (2017). The Teachings of the Mandaean John the Baptist. Fairfield, NSW, Australia: Living Water Books. ISBN 9780958034678. OCLC 1000148487.
  7. ^ a b Buckley, Jorunn Jacobsen (2010). The great stem of souls: reconstructing Mandaean history. Piscataway, N.J: Gorgias Press. ISBN 978-1-59333-621-9.
  8. ^ Buckley, Jorunn Jacobsen (2023). 1800 Years of Encounters with Mandaeans. Gorgias Mandaean Studies. Vol. 5. Piscataway, NJ: Gorgias Press. ISBN 978-1-4632-4132-2. ISSN 1935-441X.
  9. ^ Häberl, Charles; Napiorkowska, Lidia (2015). "Tense, Aspect, and Mood in the Doctrine of John". In Khan, Geoffrey (ed.). Neo-Aramaic in its linguistic context. Gorgias Neo-Aramaic studies. Piscataway (New Jersey): Gorgias press. pp. 397–406. ISBN 978-1-4632-0410-5.
  10. ^ Bladel, Kevin Thomas van (2017). From Sasanian Mandaeans to Ṣābians of the marshes. Leiden studies in Islam and society. Leiden Boston (Mass.): Brill. pp. 55–56. ISBN 978-90-04-33943-9.
  11. ^ a b c d e f Haberl, Charles; McGrath, James (2020). The Mandaean Book of John: critical edition, translation, and commentary. Berlin: De Gruyter. ISBN 978-3-11-048651-3. OCLC 1129155601.
  12. ^ a b Labadie, Damien (2022). "Le Jésus mandéen: Entre mémoire nazoréenne et controverse religieuse à l'époque islamique". Judaïsme Ancien - Ancient Judaism (in French). 10: 167–210. doi:10.1484/J.JAAJ.5.133950. ISSN 2294-9321. S2CID 259442038.