The Mandaeans were in existence before the birth of Jesus. Their baptism rituals have remained pretty much unchanged for the last 2,000 years. They were known by the name Nasoraeans or Nazoraeans. They had no kingdom to claim their own nor were they a state religion. Their theology existed in many cities throughout the Palestine and Mesopotamian area.
The Nasoraean (Mandaean) theology existed before Jesus. The theology spilt into many sections. Some groups retained the name Nasoraeans but chose to follow Jesus and some retained the name Nasoraeans but chose to follow Jewish laws. Some of the Nasoraeans names were changed. The names Sabaeans, Masbuthaeans Sampsaeans, and Basmothaeans, all reflect the same origin Subbi- those who baptize. Some of these “Daily Bathers” became known as the Hemerobaptists who rose each morning to immerse in the cold river waters. A practice still performed today by the Mandaeans. These “Daily Bathers” were also
called the “Children of the Dawn” in the Qumran texts and are the Essenes of Josephus. Even though all these groups varied in theology to one degree or another they did all have one item in common. The fact they all use “bathing garments”. The same ritual clothing that is used by the Mandaeans today, the rasta. Unlike the traditional Jewish practice of “bathing” a la nude, all these groups mentions covering themselves before they ‘bathe”.
The Mandaean theology can be traced into the Naassenes, a combination between the Nasoraeans and Essenes. The Naassenes also had a variety of other influences that affected their writings. Egyptian, Greek, and Christian theology and views permeate the Naassenes beliefs. But throughout their beliefs it is still possible to pick out elements that are uniquely Mandaean. The Naassenes retained the idea that they are the “Priests” the same as the Mandaeans “Nasurai” are the priests. The ideas of “the good’ and the celestial Jordan are cornerstones found in the Mandaean theology. The complex theology of the “Standing One” can be traced from the Mandaeans through the Naassenes onto the Elchasaites and even in the Ebonites. And finally we know that the Naassenes retained the account of Mareim (Mariamne) (Mariam). She is the personification of the Mandaean religion. It is from Origen that we learn of a religious sect that is centered on “Mariamne”.
The Elchasaite base thelogy used Mandaeism as one of it legs but added strict Jewish laws to that base. The notion that the term Elchasai may be derived from the Mandaic word Kasia and the generic word El deserves much attention into the formation of the Elchasite theology.
This paper has not dealt with the comparison to the Ebonites and how they also fit into the Nasoraean theology. We still have the issue of why John the Baptist is called a Nazarite and why Jesus is said to have come from Nazareth but in reality is Jesus of the Nasoraeans. In the next paper I will cover these issues as will as trace the Nasoraeans back to the Nazarites and back again to the root NTR. This root comes from Egypt where the name means God.
These Nasurai – Nasoraeans – Nazarites became the watchers, keepers, and the guardians of the religion. Not the religion that we have been told to as belonging Nasoraeans or the Nazarites, but another religion.