The Living Gospel
was a 3rd century gnostic gospel written by Mani
Mani , of Iranian origin was the prophet and the founder of Manichaeism, a gnostic religion of Late Antiquity which was once widespread but is now extinct...
. It was originally written in Syriac and called the Evangelion
(Syriac: ܐܘܢܓܠܝܘܢ), from the Greek: Ευαγγελιον ("Evangel") and one of the seven original scriptures of Manichaeism
Manichaeism in Modern Persian Āyin e Māni; ) was one of the major Iranian Gnostic religions, originating in Sassanid Persia.Although most of the original writings of the founding prophet Mani have been lost, numerous translations and fragmentary texts have survived...
. A number of fragments are preserved in the Cologne Mani-Codex
The Cologne Mani-Codex is a minute papyrus codex, dated on paleographical evidence to the fifth century CE, found near Asyut , Egypt; it contains a Greek text describing the life of Mani, the founder of the religious Manichaeism...
(discovered 1969) and on manuscript fragments found in Turfan
beginning in 1904. Some Coptic manuscript fragments recovered at Fayyum appear to contain a sort of commentary or homily on the gospel.
Abū al-Rayḥān Muḥammad ibn Aḥmad al-BīrūnīArabic spelling. . The intermediate form Abū Rayḥān al-Bīrūnī is often used in academic literature...
, who still had access to the full text, commented that it was a "gospel of a special kind", unlike any of the gospels of the Christians, and that the Manichaeans insisted that theirs was the only true gospel, and that the various gospels of the Christians misrepresented the truth about the Messiah
A messiah is a redeemer figure expected or foretold in one form or another by a religion. Slightly more widely, a messiah is any redeemer figure. Messianic beliefs or theories generally relate to eschatological improvement of the state of humanity or the world, in other words the World to...
. There is a tendency in historical scholarship to confuse the Mani's Living Gospel with another of his works, known as Ertenk
The Arzhang was one of the holy books of the Manichaean religion, written and illustrated by its prophet Mani, in Syriac Aramaic. It was unique in that it contained numerous pictures designed to portray the events in the Manichaean description of the creation and history of the world.The book has...
(as it were Old Persian *artha-thanha
"message of truth"), the Persian equivalent of Greek euangelion
A gospel is an account, often written, that describes the life of Jesus of Nazareth. In a more general sense the term "gospel" may refer to the good news message of the New Testament. It is primarily used in reference to the four canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John...
". The Ardhang
was in fact a picture-book, given the name of Eikon
in Greek and Coptic. Photius (or pseudo-Photius) comments on the text, saying that it contains a falsified account some of the acts of Jesus, while Peter of Sicily
Petrus Siculus or Peter Sikeliotes was either a monk or a learned nobleman, who in 870 was sent as a legate from the Byzantine emperor Basil I to the Paulician leader Chrysocheir, negotiating for an exchange of prisoners. He stayed in the Paulician city of Tephrike/Tibrica, now Divrigi in Turkey,...
insists that it contained no such material.
It is known that the gospel had 22 parts, each labelled by a different letter of the Aramaic alphabet
The Aramaic alphabet is adapted from the Phoenician alphabet and became distinctive from it by the 8th century BC. The letters all represent consonants, some of which are matres lectionis, which also indicate long vowels....
. The combination of two Turfan fragments allows the reconstruction of the text of the first part (alaph
). The section deals with the nature of the "King of the World of Light" who resides at the "Navel of the World" but is also present on his whole earth, from without as from within, having no limits except where his earth borders on that of his enemy, the "Kingdom of Darkness". Schneemelcher (1990) suggests tentatively that the text may have been designed as a gospel of the gnostic type, perhaps intended to comment on or replace the Christian gospel.