In The Cavity of a Rock

In The Cavity of a Rock
Father Lehi

Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Vision of Mani and the Vision of Nephi

The Persian Prophet Mani
Over two years ago I did a blog post about a correlation between the Book of Mormon and the Narrative of Zosimus.  This was spawned by some of the research that I had read through by John Welch and his comparison between the two texts.  This post will continue on those same lines with a comparison between the Cologne Mani Codex and the Book of Mormon.  I would like to thank a colleague of mine Tyler Livingston President of the Book of Mormon Archaeological Forum for pointing this one out to me as well as another comparison between the Book of Mormon and the Pistis Sophia which will be forth coming in a blog post as well.  It is these resemblances and parallels that I love because they act as an accompanying witness or testimony in favor of the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon.  For the above mentioned Narrative of Zosimus correlations blog post please follow this link.

Manichaeism was a religion that was founded in modern day Iran by the prophet Mani around 216-276 AD.  It actually consisted of Zoroastrian, Dualism, Babylonian folklore, and Buddhism.  It survived as a popular religion in both the East and the West although it flourished mainly in the east Mesopotamia, Babylonia, Turkestan, China and Northern India through 1000 A.D. but eventually died out at an uncertain date. 
Mani is a title or term of respect rather than a personal name thought to mean “Light King” or “the illustrious”. It is assumed that he took the title and replaced his personal name.  Exactly what his personal name was is still unknown.  Two Latin versions have been handed down Cubricus and Ubricus.  Some scholars have stated that these are corrupt uses of the name Shuraik.  
At the age of 12 is when Mani received his first revelation. He was visited by an angel who appeared to him and advised him to leave the Mandaeans and live chastely but to wait another 12 years before proclaiming himself to the people. On Sunday March 20th 242 A.D. Mani finally proclaimed his gospel in the royal residence, Gundesapor, on the coronation day of Sapor I in Babylon.  He taught, “As once Buddha came to India, Zoroaster to Persia, and Jesus to the lands of the West, so came I in the present time, this prophecy through me, the Mani, to the land of Babylonia” a proclamation from this “Apostle of the true God”.  With limited success Mani left Babylon and set up Manichaean communities in Turkestan and India.  He did eventually return to Persia and converted the brother of Sapor I (Peroz).  During his travels Mani used epistles (encyclical letters) to spread his doctrine and teachings.  His popularity varied with different leaders of Persia.  He was later imprisoned by Sapor I, released by Ormuzd I but under his successor Bahram I he was crucified, had the corpse flayed, and the skin stuffed and hung up at the city gate as a warning to his followers in roughly 276-277 A.D.
The Prophet Nephi
Fast forward to 1969 when a group of four parchment palm sized pieces of vellum were purchased by the University of Cologne.  They were originally found in Asyut (Upper Egypt) at an undetermined date.  When translated these documents contained a Greek translation of the earliest Manichean teachings and the life of Mani including his youth and missionary activity and his introduction into the Elkesaite Baptist sect entitled “On the Origin of his Body”. 
The first translations were done in 1969 and the first English translations were done in 1979 roughly 149 years after Joseph Smith had translated the Book of Mormon.  I say this because there is an interesting comparison to the content of Mani and his visitation by an angelic being and Nephi from the Book of Mormon and his visitation from an angelic being.  In the Book of Mormon in the book of 1Nephi the prophet Nephi while pondering on the meaning of a vision his father Lehi had received was given the opportunity to have the same vision opened to him.  This took place in Jerusalem in roughly 600 B.C.  We will now compare similarities between what Mani experienced to what Nephi experienced.  In doing this I will put BOM next to the reference or scripture for 1 Nephi to represent the Book of Mormon and I will put CMC next to the Cologne Mani Codex reference for ease in comparison. 
BOM-For it came to pass after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen . . . as I sat pondering in mine heart (11:1)
CMC-I was reflecting about how all the works came to be. As I pondered (43) 

BOM-I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord (11:1)
CMC-The Spirit snatched me up (41)
Suddenly the living [Spirit] snatched me, [lifted me up] with greatest [force] (43)  

BOM-yea, into an exceedingly high mountain (11:1)
CMC-set me [down] on [the pinnacle] of a [very] high mountain (43)
…and carried me off to the mountain in silent power (41)  

BOM-And the Spirit said unto me: Behold, what desirest thou? (11:2) [Nephi wants to have the "mysteries of God" revealed to him (10:17, 19)]
CMC-Now he spoke with me and said: He who is eminently most powerful sent me to you so that I may reveal to you the secrets which you pondered (43) 

BOM-The Spirit cried with a loud voice, saying: Hosanna to the Lord, the most high God; for he is God over all the earth, yea, even above all (11:6)
CMC-The living [Spirit] . . . said to [me: . . .] give glory to the greatest King of honor (43) 

BOM-[Nephi beheld many things in a vision (11-14)]
 CMC-There many great [visions] were revealed to me (41) 

BOM-And it came to pass that I saw the heavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me (11:14)
|CMC-I saw a glorious throne room coming down from the highest height and a mighty angel standing by it (43)  

BOM-[Nephi beheld many places in his vision (11:13; 12:1; 13:1; 14:11-27), including other angels (11:30)]
CMC-[to the] north and I beheld there enormous mountains and angels and many places (43) 

BOM-[Nephi is questioned by the angel (11:14, 16, 21; 14:8)]
CMC-He beheld everything and carefully questioned the angels (47) 

BOM-[Nephi is forbidden to write many of the things which he sees since others have and will write them (14:28)]
 CMC-Now all these things that are hidden, write (43) 

BOM-The things which I have written sufficeth me [He writes only what the angel tells him he can write] (14:28)
 CMC-And whatever they said to him, he would inscribe in his writings (47) 

BOM-[Lehi's family has "plates of brass" (13:23). Nephi makes plates of ore (19:1-6). The Lord commands him to make another set of metal plates later in 2 Nephi 5:30]
CMC-Write upon bronze tablets (43) 

BOM-These things shall be hid up, to come forth unto the Gentiles, by the gift and power of the Lamb (13:35). [Records similar to Nephi's are "sealed up to come forth" in a latter time (14:26)]
CMC-And store them up in the desert land (43) 

BOM-[The Nephites] shall write many things which I shall minister unto them, which shall be plain and precious (13:35)
CMC-All that you write, write most clearly (43) 

BOM-[John sees "many things" which Nephi has seen, but Nephi only wrote "but a small part" of the things he saw (14:24, 28)]
CMC-[Now many other things] like these are in his writings, which tell about his rapture and revelation (43) 

BOM-These plates should be handed down from one generation to another (19:4)
 CMC-For all which he heard and saw he wrote down and bequeathed to all posterity of the Spirit of Truth (43)

BOM-[Following his vision Nephi is left weak from the experience and sorrows over his brothers' unbelief (15:1-6)]
CMC-My heart became heavy, all my limbs trembled, my backbone was shaken violently, and my feet did not stand on their pins (41) 

Although the comparison between these two visions shows many correspondences between them, critics may say that it doesn’t stand as physical evidence for the Book of Mormon.  They would be right if this were the only case but when it is combined with the above mentioned Narrative of Zosimus and other texts such as the next blog post on the Pistis Sophia we can begin to see the Lord working in similar manner to his prophets and apostles of old.  These texts work as literal voices from the dust within their own right.