Ginza Rabba

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Ginza Rabba
LanguageMandaic language
Period1st century
Salem Choheili reading the Left Ginza in Ahvaz, Iran
The Ginza Rabba (Mubaraki version) on the pulpit of a mandi

The Ginza Rabba (Classical Mandaic: ࡂࡉࡍࡆࡀ ࡓࡁࡀ, romanized: Ginzā Rbā, lit.'Great Treasury'), Ginza Rba, or Sidra Rabba (Classical Mandaic: ࡎࡉࡃࡓࡀ ࡓࡁࡀ, romanized: Sidrā Rbā, lit.'Great Book'), and formerly the Codex Nasaraeus,[1] is the longest and the most important holy scripture of Mandaeism.

The Ginza Raba is composed of two parts: the Right Ginza (GR) and the Left Ginza (GL). The GR is composed of eighteen tractates and covers a variety of themes and topics, whereas the three tractates that make up the GL are unified in their focus on the fate of the soul after death. The GL is also occasionally referred to as the Book of Adam.[1]

Language, dating and authorship[edit]

The language used is Classical Mandaic, a variety of Eastern Aramaic written in the Mandaic script (Parthian chancellory script), similar to the Syriac script. The authorship is unknown, and dating is a matter of debate, with estimates ranging from the first to third centuries.[2][3] Determining date and authorship is complicated by the late date of the earliest manuscripts, the potentially lengthy oral transmission of Mandaean religious texts prior to their being written, and that conclusions about the dating of some tractates or one either GR or GL may not carry over for material elsewhere in the Ginza.[4]: 20 

Third-century proposals[edit]

An influential argument by the Swedish scholar Torgny Säve-Söderbergh in 1949 was that the Coptic Manichaean Psalms of Thomas, which dates to the third century, has a dependence on the Left Ginza,[5] however a recent re-evaluation of the evidence suggests that both sources derived their shared material from a common source, perhaps from poetry originating among the Elcesaites.[6]: 76–78 

A more common argument for a dating of the Ginza to the third century or earlier, going back to an essay by Rudolph Macuch in 1965, concerns a tradition which says that a figure by the name of Zazai of Gawazta copied important Mandaean texts 368 years prior to the Arab conquest of Iraq c. 640, which would land at a date of 272.[7]: 4 [8]: 89  However, multiple problems have been identified with this argument. For one, this tradition is only attested in the colophon of one manuscript. Second, the statement of relevance does not actually state that the period of 368 years is prior to that of the conquest of 640, but turns out to be a generic phrase of Mandaean texts referring to an unspecified year of the hijri era. Third, the number 368 itself may be invented, a product of an unreliable (e.g. astrological) calculation, etc.[6]: 8–14 

Islamic-era context[edit]

The current form and final compilation of the Ginza as a whole must come from Islamic times as it contains numerous references to Muhammad, the Islamic conquests, and related. For example, the first tractate GR refers to Muhammad by the name of "Ahmad" (a common name for Muhammad in Mandaean literature) as the son of a sorcerer named Bizbat. The second tractate of GR claims that faith will disappear from the world after the coming of the Arab prophet Muhammad.[9] The seventh book of the Right Ginza, uses the name Yahyā for John, which is the form of the name John that appears in the Quran.[6]: 55–56  GR 9 speaks of how the Arab "Abdallah" (Muhammad) was given by Ruhba "the book and discourse" around which he rallies servants and takes over and sacks the world.[9] The eighteenth book of the Ginza Right syas that "after the Persian kings there will be Arabian kings. They will reign seventy-one years."[5] The Ginza may have been composed, at least partially, as a response to the Arab conquests, along with other pieces of Mandaean literature such as the Mandaean Book of John, and a study of the colophons of the Ginza date the emergence of the text to the second half of the seventh century.[9][10]


The Ginza Rabba is divided into two parts – the Right Ginza, containing 18 books, and the Left Ginza, containing 3 books. In Mandaic studies, the Right Ginza is commonly abbreviated as GR, while the Left Ginza is commonly abbreviated as GL.[11] Alternatively, sometimes the Right Ginza is abbreviated as GY after the Mandaic Ginza Yamin, while the Left Ginza is commonly abbreviated as GS after the Mandaic Ginza Smal.[12]

Ginza Rabba codices traditionally contain the Right Ginza on one side, and, when turned upside-down and back to front, contain the Left Ginza (the Left Ginza is also called "The Book of the Dead"). The Right Ginza part of the Ginza Rabba contains sections dealing with theology, creation, ethics, historical, and mythical narratives; its six colophons reveal that it was last redacted in the early Islamic Era. The Left Ginza section of Ginza Rabba deals with man's soul in the afterlife; its colophon reveals that it was redacted for the last time hundreds of years before the Islamic Era.[11][13]

There are various manuscript versions that differ from each other. The versions order chapters differently from each other, and textual content also differs.


The Ginza Rabba is a compilation of various oral teachings and written texts, most predating their editing into the two volumes. It includes literature on a wide variety of topics, including liturgy and hymns, theological texts, didactic texts, as well as both religious and secular poetry.[11]

For a comprehensive listing of summaries of each chapter in the Ginza Rabba, see the articles Right Ginza and Left Ginza.

Manuscript versions[edit]

Manuscript versions of the Ginza include the following. Two are held in the Bodleian Library at Oxford, three in the British Library in London, four in the Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris, and others are in private ownership.[8] All extant manuscripts of the Ginza appear to derive from a few copies that were produced around 1500.[14]

  • Bodleian Library manuscripts
  • British Library manuscripts catalogued under the same title, Liber Adami Mendaice
    • Add. 23,599 (copied by female priests during the 1700s)
    • Add. 23,600 (copied by Yahya Bihram bar Adam, of the Manduia and ‛Kuma clans, in 1735-6, who also copied Paris Ms. D)
    • Add. 23,601 (copied by Adam Yuhana bar Sam in 1824)
  • Paris manuscripts, Bibliothèque nationale de France (consulted by Lidzbarski for his 1925 German translation)
    • Paris Ms. A (copied by Ram Baktiar in 1560)
    • Paris Ms. B (copied by Baktiar Bulbul in 1632; also called the "Norberg version," since it was used by Norberg during the early 1800s)
    • Paris Ms. C (copied by Yahya Adam in 1680)
    • Paris Ms. D (copied by Yahya Bihram in the early 1700s)

For his 1925 German translation of the Ginza, Lidzbarski also consulted other Ginza manuscripts that were held at Leiden (complete) and Munich (fragmentary).[15]

Jorunn Jacobsen Buckley has also found Ginza manuscripts that are privately held by Mandaeans in the United States. Two are in San Diego, California, which belong to Lamea Abbas Amara; they were originally copied by Mhatam Zihrun (Sheikh Dakhil Aidan) in 1935, and by a copyist named Adam (Sheikh Aidan, father of Dakhil) in 1886, respectively.[16]: 54  One is in Flushing, New York, which belonged to Nasser Sobbi (1924–2018) and was originally copied by Adam Zihrun in 1928. Another one is in Lake Grove, New York and belongs to Mamoon Aldulaimi, which was originally given to him by Sheikh Abdullah, son of Sheikh Negm and was copied by Yahya Ram Zihrun in 1940.[8] A version of the Ginza by Mhatam Yuhana[17] was also used by Carlos Gelbert in his 2011 English translation of the Ginza. Another manuscript known to Gelbert is a privately owned Ginza manuscript in Ahvaz belonging to Shaikh Abdullah Khaffaji,[15] the grandson of Ram Zihrun.[7]

Printed versions of the Ginza in Mandaic include:

  • Norberg version (Mandaic): A printed Ginza in Mandaic was published by Matthias Norberg in 1816. Based on Code Sabéen 2 (Paris Ms. B). It was republished by Gorgias Press in 2007.[18]
  • Petermann version (Mandaic): In 1867, Julius Heinrich Petermann published Mandaic and Syriac transcriptions of the Ginza Rabba.[19] His work was based on four different Ginza manuscripts held at Paris, and relied most heavily on MS Paris A (also known as Code Sabéen 1). Only 100 copies were printed, 13 of which Petermann kept himself.[11] A three-volume set of Petermann's work was republished by Gorgias Press in 2007.[20][21][22][23]
  • Mubaraki version (Mandaic, also in Roman script): The full Ginza Rba in printed Mandaic script, compiled primarily from the Mhatam Zihrun br rbai Adam manuscript from Iraq (copied in 1898), was first published by Majid Fandi al-Mubaraki, Haitham Mahdi Saed (also known as Brikha Nasoraia), and Brian Mubaraki in Sydney, Australia in March 1998 during Parwanaya.[24] Two other Ginza versions were also consulted, including one copied by Ram Zihrun in Šuštar in 1843, and another one by Sam bar Zihrun, from the Manduia and ‛Kuma clans.[8]: 73  A Roman transliteration of the entire Ginza Rba was also published in 1998 by Majid Fandi Al-Mubaraki and Brian Mubaraki.[25][26] At present, there are two published Mandaic-language editions of the Ginza published by Mandaeans themselves. The Concordance of the Mandaean Ginza Rba was published by Brian Mubaraki and Majid Fandi Al-Mubaraki in 2004.[27]
  • Gelbert version (Mandaic, in Arabic script; derived from the Mhatam Yuhana version): The full Mhatam Yuhana Ginza manuscript from Ahvaz, Iran was transcribed in Arabic script by Carlos Gelbert in 2021. As the fourth edition of the Gelbert's Arabic Ginza, Gelbert (2021) contains an Arabic translation side by side with the Mandaic transcription.[28]
  • Al-Sabti version (Mandaic): In 2022, Rbai Rafid al-Sabti published a printed Mandaic version of the Ginza Rabba based on a comparison of 22 manuscripts.[29] The Al-Sabti Ginza contains 157 chapters, 602 pages, 111,684 words, and 560,825 letters.[30]


Notable translations and printed versions of the Ginza Rabba include:

  • Norberg version (Latin, 1816): From 1815 to 1816, Matthias Norberg published a Latin translation of the Ginza Rabba, titled Codex Nasaraeus liber Adami appellatus (3 volumes). The original Mandaic text, based on MS Paris B, was also printed alongside the Latin translation.[1]
  • Lidzbarski version (German, 1925): In 1925, Mark Lidzbarski published the German translation Der Ginza oder das grosse Buch der Mandäer.[31] Lidzbarski translated an edition of the Ginza by Julius Heinrich Petermann from the 1860s, which in turn relied upon four different Ginza manuscripts held at Paris. Lidzbarski was also able to include some material from a fifth Ginza which was held at Leiden.
  • Baghdad version (Arabic, abridged, 2001): An Arabic version of the Ginza Rabba, similar to that of the Al-Saadi (Drabsha) version, was first published in Baghdad in 2001.[32]
  • Al-Saadi (Drabsha) version (English, abridged, 2012): Under the official auspices of the Mandaean spiritual leadership, Drs. Qais Al-Saadi and Hamed Al-Saadi published an English translation of the Ginza Rabba: The Great Treasure in 2012. In 2019, the second edition was published by Drabsha in Germany. The translation, endorsed by the Mandaean rishamas Salah Choheili (Salah Jabbar Tawos) and Sattar Jabbar Hilo, is designed for contemporary use by the Mandaean community and is based on an Arabic translation of the Ginza Rabba that was published in Baghdad.[33][34][35] However, it has been criticized for being overly abridged and paraphrased.[36]
  • Gelbert version (English translation in 2011; Arabic translation in 2021): The first full English translation of the Ginza Rba was published by Carlos Gelbert in 2011, with the collaboration of Mark J. Lofts and other editors.[15] It is mostly based on the Mhatam Yuhana Ginza Rba from Iran (transcribed in the late 1990s and published in 2004 under the supervision of Mhatam Yuhana, the ganzibra or head-priest of the Mandaean Council of Ahvaz in Iran) and also on Mark Lidzbarski's 1925 German translation of the Ginza.[37] Gelbert's 2011 edition is currently the only full-length English translation of the Ginza that contains detailed commentary, with extensive footnotes and many original Mandaic phrases transcribed in the text. An Arabic translation (fourth edition) of the Ginza was also published by Gelbert in 2021, with the book also containing the original Mandaic text transcribed in Arabic script.[28]

Häberl (2022) is a translation of the Book of Kings, the final book of the Right Ginza.[38]

In 2021 (1400 A.H.), Salem Choheili completed a Persian translation of the Ginza Rabba.[39]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Norberg, Matthias. Codex Nasaraeus Liber Adami appellatus. 3 vols. London, 1815–16.
  2. ^ Drower, Ethel Stefana (1937). The Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran. Oxford At The Clarendon Press, pg. 20.
  3. ^ "Sod, The Son of the Man" Page iii, S. F. Dunlap, Williams and Norgate – 1861
  4. ^ Drower, Ethel Stefana (1937). The Mandaeans of Iraq and Iran. Oxford At The Clarendon Press.
  5. ^ a b Gündüz, Şinasi (1994). "The Problems of the Nature and Date of Mandaean Sources". Journal for the Study of the New Testament. 16 (53): 87–97. doi:10.1177/0142064X9401605305. ISSN 0142-064X. S2CID 162738440.
  6. ^ a b c Bladel, Kevin Thomas van (2017). From Sasanian Mandaeans to Ṣābians of the marshes. Leiden studies in Islam and society. Leiden Boston (Mass.): Brill. ISBN 978-90-04-33943-9.
  7. ^ a b Buckley, Jorunn Jacobsen (2002). The Mandaeans: ancient texts and modern people. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-515385-5. OCLC 65198443.
  8. ^ a b c d Buckley, Jorunn Jacobsen (2010). The great stem of souls: reconstructing Mandaean history. Piscataway, N.J: Gorgias Press. ISBN 978-1-59333-621-9.
  9. ^ a b c Hart, Jennifer (2009). "The Influence of Islam on the Development of Mandaean Literature". In Jacobsen, Anders-Christian (ed.). The Discursive Fight Over Religious Texts in Antiquity. Aarhus University Press. pp. 178–184.
  10. ^ Buckley, Jorunn Jacobsen (2006). The great stem of souls: reconstructing Mandaean history (Corrected 2. print ed.). Piscataway, NJ: Georgias Press. ISBN 978-1-59333-338-6.
  11. ^ a b c d Häberl, Charles G. (2007). Introduction to the New Edition, in The Great Treasure of the Mandaeans, a new edition of J. Heinrich Petermann's Thesaurus s. Liber Magni, with a new introduction and a translation of the original preface by Charles G. Häberl. Gorgias Press, LLC. doi:10.7282/T3C53J6P
  12. ^ Nasoraia, Brikha H.S. (2021). The Mandaean gnostic religion: worship practice and deep thought. New Delhi: Sterling. ISBN 978-81-950824-1-4. OCLC 1272858968.
  13. ^ Aldihisi, Sabah (2008). The story of creation in the Mandaean holy book in the Ginza Rba (PhD). University College London.
  14. ^ Buckley, Jorunn Jacobsen (2006). The great stem of souls: reconstructing Mandaean history (Corrected 2. print ed.). Piscataway, NJ: Georgias Press. p. 89. ISBN 978-1-59333-338-6.
  15. ^ a b c Gelbert, Carlos (2011). Ginza Rba. Sydney: Living Water Books. ISBN 9780958034630.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ Mhatam Yuhana, ed. (2004). Ginza Rba. Ahvaz: Mandaean Council of Ahvaz. (Right Ginza: 497 pp.; Left Ginza: 177 pp.)
  18. ^ Norberg, Matthaeus (2010). Lexidion et Onomasticon Codicis Nasaraei, cui Liber Adami Nomen. Syriac Studies Library. Vol. 139. Piscataway, New Jersey: Gorgias Press. ISBN 978-1-61719-398-9.
  19. ^ Petermann, Heinrich. 1867. Sidra Rabba: Thesaurus sive Liber Magnus vulgo "Liber Adami" appellatus, opus Mandaeorum summi ponderis. Vols. 1–2. Leipzig: Weigel.
  20. ^ Petermann, Julius Heinrich (31 December 2007). The Great Treasure or Great Book, commonly called "The Book of Adam," the Mandaeans' work of highest authority. Piscataway, NJ, USA: Gorgias Press. doi:10.31826/9781463212223. ISBN 978-1-4632-1222-3.
  21. ^ Petermann, Julius Heinrich (2007). The great treasure or great book, commonly called "The book of Adam," the Mandaeans' work of highest authority. Vol. 1. Piscataway, New Jersey: Gorgias Press. ISBN 978-1-59333-526-7.
  22. ^ Petermann, Julius Heinrich (2007). The great treasure or great book, commonly called "The book of Adam," the Mandaeans' work of highest authority. Vol. 2. Piscataway, New Jersey: Gorgias Press. ISBN 978-1-59333-527-4.
  23. ^ Petermann, Julius Heinrich (2007). The great treasure or great book, commonly called "The book of Adam," the Mandaeans' work of highest authority. Vol. 3. Piscataway, New Jersey: Gorgias Press. ISBN 978-1-59333-700-1.
  24. ^ Majid Fandi al-Mubaraki, Haitham Mahdi Saaed, and Brian Mubaraki (eds.) (1998). Ginza Rabba: The Great Treasure. Northbridge, New South Wales: The Mandaean Research Centre. ISBN 0-646-35222-9.
  25. ^ Al-Mubaraki, Majid Fandi; Al-Mubaraki, Brayan Majid (1998). Ginza Rba : English transliteration. Northbridge, New South Wales: The Mandaean Research Centre. ISBN 0-9585705-2-3.
  26. ^ Al-Mubaraki, Majid Fandi; Mubaraki, Brian, eds. (1998). Ginza Rba English Transliteration. Sydney. ISBN 0-9585705-2-3.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  27. ^ Mubaraki, Brian; Al-Mubaraki, Majid Fandi, eds. (2004). Concordance of the Mandaean Ginza Rba. Sydney. ISBN 1-876888-09-1.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  28. ^ a b Gelbert, Carlos (2021). گینزا ربَّا = Ginza Rba (in Arabic). Edensor Park, NSW, Australia: Living Water Books. ISBN 9780648795407.
  29. ^ Al-Sabti, Rabi Rafid, ed. (24 July 2022). The Treasure of Life: The holy book of the Mandaeans (ࡂࡉࡍࡆࡀ ࡖ ࡄࡉࡉࡀ) (1 ed.). Amsterdam. ISBN 978-9090360058. OCLC 1351435847.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  30. ^ "Holy book publication (RRC 6R); ࡂࡉࡍࡆࡀ ࡖ ࡄࡉࡉࡀ book design". Ardwan. 24 July 2022. Retrieved 16 December 2023.
  31. ^ Lidzbarski, Mark (1925). Ginza: Der Schatz oder Das große Buch der Mandäer. Göttingen: Vandenhoek & Ruprecht.
  32. ^ Yūsuf Mattī Qūzī; Ṣabīḥ Madlūl Suhayrī; ʻAbd al-Razzāq ʻAbd al-Wāḥid; Bashīr ʻAbd al-Wāḥid Yūsuf (2001). گنزا ربا = الكنز العظيم : الكتاب المقدس للصابئة المندائيين / Ginzā rabbā = al-Kanz al-ʻaẓīm: al-Kitāb al-muqaddas lil-Ṣābiʼah al-Mandāʼīyīn. Baghdad: اللجنة العليا المشرفة على ترجمة گنزا ربا / al-Lajnah al-ʻUlyā al-mushrifah ʻalá tarjamat Ginzā Rabbā. OCLC 122788344. (Pages 1–136 (2nd group: al-Yasār) are bound upside down according to Mandaean tradition.)
  33. ^ Al-Saadi, Qais Mughashghash; Al-Saadi, Hamed Mughashghash (2012). Ginza Rabba: The Great Treasure. An equivalent translation of the Mandaean Holy Book. Drabsha.
  34. ^ "Online Resources for the Mandaeans". Hieroi Logoi. 30 May 2013. Retrieved 27 December 2017.
  35. ^ Al-Saadi, Qais (27 September 2014). "Ginza Rabba "The Great Treasure" The Holy Book of the Mandaeans in English". Mandaean Associations Union. Retrieved 21 September 2021.
  36. ^ Gelbert, Carlos (2017). The Teachings of the Mandaean John the Baptist. Fairfield, NSW, Australia: Living Water Books. ISBN 9780958034678. OCLC 1000148487.
  37. ^ "About the author". Living Water Books. Retrieved 5 September 2021. He has translated Lidzbarski's books from the German to two different languages: English and Arabic.
  38. ^ Häberl, Charles (2022). The Book of Kings and the Explanations of This World: A Universal History from the Late Sasanian Empire. Liverpool: Liverpool University Press. doi:10.3828/9781800856271 (inactive 31 January 2024). ISBN 978-1-80085-627-1.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: DOI inactive as of January 2024 (link)
  39. ^ "سالم چحیلی". اطلس اقلیت‌های دینی ایران (in Persian). Retrieved 2 February 2024.

External links[edit]

Mandaean Network texts
Petermann Ginza
Paris Ginza manuscripts